There was a time when one felt compelled to make special dispensations when dining out on the beach islands. No one really expected to find food on Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms that could hold a candle to what was served in the snazzy joints downtown. It was victory enough if you could enjoy a passable upscale meal and a good glass of wine on a porch in the warm ocean breeze.
No longer. Over the past 18 months, the bar for fine dining on the islands has been raised quite high as, one by one, older establishments have closed their doors and new incarnations have taken their places, offering a more contemporary atmosphere and a more ambitious mode of cooking.
As I’ve visited each of these new spots, I’ve walked away feeling encouraged. The arrival of The Obstinate Daughter, which took over the old Atlanticville on Sullivan’s earlier this year, now makes the beach transformation complete. The style of food is right in line with the stuff being dished out in downtown Charleston, and the quality is every bit up there as well.
The restaurant’s curious name comes from a London political cartoon created after William Moultrie repulsed the first British assault on Charleston during the Revolutionary War. It depicts “Miss Carolina Sullivan, one of the obstinate daughters of America.” At first, the name doesn’t seem to fit, since from the moment you step in the front door the restaurant seems bright and cheery. But it doesn’t take long for the daughter’s willfulness to show through — a firm determination to do things her own way, even in the midst of a tourist-driven beach market.
The menu, for instance, isn’t grouped by appetizers and entrees. Instead, the left side of the laminated page lists just “Plates”: 17 dishes of various sizes arranged by price, starting with Geechie fries with salsa rosa ($5) and ranging up to the seared local catch with farro and boiled peanut-kale pesto ($18). The right side offers a half dozen pasta choices followed by seven pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven. There’s no steak or fried green tomatoes to be found.
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