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Lobsters Top One of the Lowcountry's Most Extravagant Burgers

Writer Brian Wilder leaves his burger comfort zone and plunges into the indulgent world of lobster-topped burgers.

The Surf and Turf at Palmetto Cafe.
The Surf and Turf at Palmetto Cafe.
Eater Charleston

To preface this recount, my experiences with the hamburger have, by and large, been practices in disciplined discretion. Historically, a truly good burger was never prepared with any inherent pretense or unnecessary pomp and circumstance.

Essentially, as long as the ingredients were modest and the preparer unassuming, the rest would fall into place. The Surf and Turf burger at Palmetto Cafe changed all of that within the first few bites.

I'm not sure what I was supposed to expect while walking through the gilded halls of Belmond Charleston Place, on my way to sample one of the more decadent burger options the Holy City has to offer. Part of me felt like something of a traitor; turning my back on the countless Big Macs and Krystal burgers that shaped my early palate for something far more high brow? It felt, well, wrong.

According to chef Steven Manall, the Surf and Turf started as a punchline among kitchen staff (as most of the best inventions do), and made its way onto the menu as the opposing, yet delicious, answer to the restaurant's perennial mainstay, the 21 Burger. Where most will find a traditional, steadfastness in the 21, an almost obsequious sentiment looms over the Surf and Turf.

What's in it?

Well, 10 ounces of a proprietary blend of ground chuck and brisket, house-made bearnaise, fresh tomato, Bibb lettuce, toasted brioche bun, oh, and a [sic] healthy topping of lobster claw meat rounds out this $29, edible Sword of Damocles.

It was good — excessive, but damned good. But even after I expressed my gratitude to the chef and waitstaff, I still couldn't shake that feeling that I had violated some sort of everyman's code.

The hamburger has long been a symbol of solidarity, and if you ask me, deserving of a place among the likes of hot dogs, ‘65 Mustangs, and apple pie as an icon of Americana. So it's difficult not to question the societal shelf life of bistro burgers like the Surf and Turf. No matter how many truffles you slice onto it or exotic meats you pack the patty to the gills with, the simple pleasures will undoubtedly reign supreme.

But it never hurts to indulge every once in a while, especially when there's lobster thrown into the mix.

Palmetto Cafe

205 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-2337 Visit Website

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