One of the primary reasons we booked our trip to Charleston, South Carolina was to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday. We had many moments planned throughout the trip to toast to her, but we also asked if she had any special requests. She listed a few things, including a dinner out with just the girls.
My cousin, who has been living in Charleston for the past three years, sent a fantastic list of restaurants for the birthday queen to choose from and her top choice was Stella's on St. Philip Street downtown.
The entrance to the restaurant reminded me so much of Metropolis Cafe in the South End in Boston. There's something about those celestial logo designs and light fixtures that feels wonderfully similar.
Though we were going to be sitting inside, Stella's also has a small outdoor patio on the back side of the restaurant.
As we settled in, I took a look at the cocktail menu and decided to order a drink called the Santorini. It was Tito's vodka, simple syrup, lemon, ginger and pomegranate, garnished with a handful of fresh blueberries.
I took one sip and knew this drink would taste incredible frozen into a popsicle! I could have that all summer long.
While we were strategizing about what to eat, our waiter brought over a basket of bread and a side of olive oil. The bread was so soft and pillowy. My sister and I both guessed that it must be potato bread.
Since we all love Greek food, we decided to order a few appetizers to share. The first to arrive was the trio of dips: tzatziki, melitzanosalata (eggplant) and taramosalata (fish roe).
My mom commented right away, "They are pretty stingy with the dips! These are such small portions." I have to agree, it was disappointing how little dip there was in each small bowl, especially since we were sharing between five adults.
Next we tried the spanikopita, which was excellent. The phyllo dough on the outside was flaky and expertly crisped, and the spinach and feta inside was really tasty. You can always tell when these are made with frozen spinach, and Stella's version was definitely fresh.
Our third starter was the zucchini fritters. I don't know what I was expecting, but these were the size of hockey pucks! The outside was lightly breaded and fried, and inside was the most decadent zucchini mixture.
This was everyone's favorite dish, hands down. It didn't hurt that it came with a heaping scoop of tzatziki on the side.
Along with her entree, my mom decided to order a cup of avgolemono soup, which is the traditional Greek egg lemon soup with chicken and rice. Though it may not look like much, it warmed her from the inside out.
For the main course, she and my sister shared pan seared salmon over rice. They cleared their plate! Not a single grain of rice left.
I went with the village salad (which is basically Greek salad without the lettuce) and my cousin opted for the lentil soup.
The best part of my salad was the two huge blocks of feta cheese. Can you ever have too much feta?
My cousin also ordered a side of roasted beets which came with a feta cheese creme fraiche. We were all expecting red beets, but when the plate arrived with golden yellow beets, my cousin was even happier. Those are apparently her favorite. She loved these and took home what she couldn't finish.
Since we were celebrating a birthday, naturally we had to have dessert. Our waiter suggested their flourless chocolate cake with brandy-soaked cherries and fresh whipped cream. As you can see, my mom was quite content!
The cake was rich, without being too over the top. The cherries helped to cut the density of the chocolate.
We had a different flourless cake earlier in the week from Mercantile & Mash, and I have to say, that may be the best flourless chocolate cake I've ever had. If you're planning a visit to Charleston, be sure to pop in there.
We were so full by the time we left Stella's, it felt like we might have to roll home!
I kept thinking that if I lived in Charleston, Stella's would be a place I made reservations at often. The bar area is a great for one or two people, they have lots of cozy booths (perfect for a date), and they are clearly used to serving large parties. Now, if only they could deliver those zucchini fritters to Boston!