For more than 20 years, Hennessy's has turned first dates into second dates and IRS audits into first dates with its sumptuous lunch and dinner menus. Mid-day office escapees can celebrate with a starter of Hennessy's Maryland crabcakes in warm green Tabasco cream sauce ($7.95) before getting discordant taste buds to harmonize together with mango barbecue Atlantic salmon ($9.95). Dinner diners, meanwhile, can munch on baked brie drizzled with honey and almonds ($8.95), then dive-tackle a cinnamon-red chile black Angus beef filet ($26.95). A glass of wine provides a lovely foreground to the restaurant's romantic backdrop of florid scarlet wallpaper, turreted leatherbound seats, and billowing white tablecloths. And if your sweet tooth refuses to turn off its obnoxious alarm, finish your feast at Hennessy's with a dessert of bread pudding drenched in Grand Marnier sauce.
Saluda's Restaurant celebrates many histories. Its solid mahogany bar was part of Philadelphia's Blakely Hotel in the late 1800s, its walls sport vintage European posters advertising festive drinks, and its menu pays homage to timeless Southern staples, from shrimp and grits to artfully grilled rib eyes. Perhaps the greatest nod to the past is the building itself, which was constructed after World War I as a VFW officers club. There, veterans would gather to carouse and reminisce, fostering a convivial tradition that Saluda's has since restored and nurtured.
Executive chef Blake Fairies fuels the animated atmosphere with dishes whose down-home roots benefit from French and Italian influences. His prime concern is freshness—in an interview with Undefined magazine, he revealed how his fish du jour is often prepped the day after his friend Mark, a member of Abundant Seafood in Charleston, lures it onto his boat with promises of a free tropical time share. Like much of the kitchen's produce, chef Blake’s flash-fried green tomatoes come from local farms, and his entrees incorporate seasonal ingredients to complement ones imported from across the world. The results are plates that blend classic taste with inventive zest: steaks in black-truffle butter, helpings of handmade pasta, and pork chops brined in sweet tea. At the bar, guests can peruse more than 300 wines as well as cocktails and small-batch bourbon.
Wine Times 4 obviates lackadaisical sommeliery by offering customers a chance to pair more than 70 kinds of vino with an assortment of light tapas. Escort your fermented grapes to the table for by-the-glass swishing and sipping ($8–$9 on average) while you nibble on samples from the menu, which features quiche ($5.95), cheese plates ($10.95–$14.95), flatbread pizzettas ($9), and more. Wine Times 4 provides free WiFi to streamline emergency conference calls or keep your friends distracted as you steal their wine.
North Charleston runs in the blood of Cannon Bar & Kitchen’s proprietor, Tradd Ashley Gibbs, whose South Carolina roots stretch back for generations. As the seasons change, so do the dishes and the ingredients that go into his menu of southern-style comfort fare and seafood. Sauces smother wild-caught North Atlantic salmon. Executive chef and North Carolina native Heather Edwards mixes up hearty pots of shrimp and cheedar grits with tasso and andouille gravy, and use seasonal veggies to adorn dishes with all the flair of a peacock wearing a tropical fruit hat.
Located in Shelter Cove Marina, Bistro 17 serves up French-inspired eats with spectacular waterfront spectacles. Explore the cushiony depths of the chicken crêpes with carmelized onions and roasted garlic cream sauce ($15), or tongue-curtsy with the béchamel-sauce-bedecked Croque Madame ($14). Keep canine cravings safely leashed with offerings from the puppy menu, which serves dogs of all ages human-grade, specially formulated meals ($6, half of which is donated to a local animal charity). The breakfast menu, a selection or crêpes, sandwiches, and waffles, includes free mimosas, a surefire way to get your champagne-fueled doppelgänger out of your bed in the morning.
The walls of the warmly lit dining room where chef Paul Colella serves up mouth-watering entrees—such as cabernet-reduction prime filet mignon ($30) and tangy papaya-salsa-topped Carribean snapper ($29)—double as an art gallery for the colorful figurative paintings of his wife, Lunonia. The sight of Lunonia slathering oils on canvas in the dining room, or the sounds of guitarist Armand DeMille's retro rock ballads each Friday and Saturday night, may whip guests into a creative fervor, but the restaurant's list of 70 red and white wines and specialty coffee drinks rewards lingerers who don't drop their forks immediately to consecrate their lives to artistic creation and the careful maintenance of unicorn-hair paintbrushes.