Going from four dining rooms and 1,000-cover brunch services at High Cotton in Charleston to the newly opened 99-seat neighborhood restaurant Fork & Plough is exactly the change of pace executive chef Shawn Kelly says he needed.
On the second night of service, Kelly emerged from the kitchen to mingle with the friends and family who had shown up as willing guinea pigs to give the staff practice before the restaurant at 1629 E. North St. officially opened at 11 a.m. June 15.
When asked his thoughts about finally opening more than a year after the restaurant was announced, Kelly responded in the genuinely honest fashion those who know him well are accustomed to.
“How am I not feeling?” he said, listing a wide variety of current moods, including relieved, terrified, worried, excited.
Fork & Plough, as the name suggests, is a partnership between two farmers, Chad Bishop and Roddy Pick of Greenbrier Farms, and Kelly. The concept is also the intersection of three concepts – restaurant, grocery store, and butcher shop – with the intention of serving the surrounding neighborhood and showcasing local ingredients in a casual and approachable atmosphere for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.
The atmosphere is family friendly with a covered outdoor patio that sits above street level on the side of the building.
Adding to the neighborhood feel, at least three of Fork & Plough’s employees live in walking distance of the restaurant, and ownership hopes that number grows.
Kelly’s menu and the decor are similar – unpretentious with well-appointed details.
The menu, written on brown paper rolls behind the order counter, will change weekly, depending on what ingredients are available. Greenbrier Farms beef and pork will be a mainstay and are also available at the butcher counter.
Opening weekend featured local ingredients prepared in a global way, which Kelly has said would be his menu style since the beginning of this venture.
Starters ranging in cost from $6-16 included chilled cucumber and artichoke soup with blue crab and lemon oil; two salads; a grass-fed beef carpaccio; PEI mussels with a Westbrook Gose, garlic, olive oil, and parsley broth and toast; crispy fried oysters; and a potato and chive gnocchi with duck confit, Carolina mushrooms, green peas, and parmesan.
Mains in the $12-24 range continued the world tour hitting Europe, Asia, and the Southeast with a shiitake Swiss burger; a banh mi with fried pistachio pate, carrot and daikon salad, cilantro, Duke’s mayo, and cucumber salad; seared Carolina mahi mahi with cauliflower puree, asparagus, and mushroom conserva; and a panko-encrusted Greenbrier Farms pork shoulder with country-style yellow squash and peach chutney.
Desserts were simple and fresh – peach and blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream, strawberry shortcake with whipped cream, and chocolate chip cookie with chocolate moose.
A five-item kids menu is also available, as are a variety of nonalcoholic bottled beverages and a self-serve station with iced tea and coffee.
The bar program serves only beer and wine, with a variety of both, along with mocktails made with fortified wine to mimic liquor-based standards, such as a Manhattan or gin and tonic.
Father’s Day brunch, which Kelly said would be “simple,” included freshly baked cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins, biscuits with tasso ham gravy, garden omelet, French toast, huevos rancheros, shrimp and grits, and a steak sandwich, along with some of the menu items from the previous lunch and dinner.
A daily rotation of grab-and-go menu items is also available in the cooler along with cheeses, cured meats, local eggs, and produce. The grocery shelves feature a curated selection of accompaniments for a balanced charcuterie board, a variety of wine, bags of Carolina Gold rice, pasta, and other pantry staples.
Fork & Plough is open six days a week (closed Tuesday). Hours of operation are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.
Follow @forkandplough on social media for daily menu updates.