In its eight years of existence, Savannah Highway eatery The Glass Onion managed to gain the reverence associated with restaurants many times its age. With understated Southern dishes and a refined, casual atmosphere, the space became an instant Charleston classic. Chef/owner Chris Stewart recalls that when coming up with an idea for a concept nine years ago, "there were not a lot of mid-scale restaurants that put out quality food." Stewart started Glass Onion with partners Charles Vincent and Sarah O'Kelley with a focus on "responsibly sourcing ingredients and providing quality food at a responsible price." Not many restaurants were doing that at the time.
Glass Onion hit the mark right off the bat, as critic Robert Moss described his visit in 2008:
It's always a treat to find a new restaurant that under-promises and over-delivers. The Glass Onion on Savannah Highway is just that sort of place. The proprietors describe their offering as "midscale comfort food" and "soulful food." I would describe it as good, honest cooking. And that's something this town needs more of.
The eatery was a success with neighborhood folks, and then the word spread to other publications. National food magazine Saveur praised Glass Onion's fries with bearnaise by the end of 2009.
While Stewart has since bought out the other original partners, the primary goal of responsible sourcing remains. Today, however, it's easier to source the all-natural ingredients Stewart keeps on the menu. "We've always wanted to pull from as close to town as possible," he says, "When we first opened, we had to use meat from Niman Ranch, because that was the only natural beef we could get. Now most of the beef we serve is from Celeste [Albers] or a farming cooperative in Alabama. That's been a big change. It goes with purchasing power. The more purchasing power you have, the more the market will respond. There's more restaurants sourcing natural and the market is responding."
When asked what's planned for the eighth year, Stewart responds, "perhaps a refresh" on the look of the restaurant. With all the new neighbors on Savannah Highway, he thinks of maybe adding a fresh coat of paint to celebrate standing since 2008 — but don't worry, the food will remain the same fare that the Lowcountry has grown fond of.
Toast The Glass Onion's anniversary this week with a free glass of Coast HopArt at the restaurant.