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What was the Biggest Dining Surprise of 2018?

Local food writers share their thoughts on the year

Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas.

In keeping with Eater tradition, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. To kick it off in Charleston, Eater asked the group eight questions, ranging from the restaurants they frequent most to the biggest surprises of the year. Responses are in no particular order, and readers are encouraged to leave answers in the comments.

Q. What was the biggest dining surprise of 2018?

Hanna Raskin, Food writer and critic for the Post & Courier:
Surprise is probably too happy-sounding a word for it, but I wouldn’t have guessed in advance how tightly the restaurant community would close ranks following Mike Ray being charged with indecent exposure. Unlike so many acts which have come to light since the start of the #metoo movement, this act was documented; non-consensual and illegal. Plus, it had a direct and measurable effect on women’s careers. In other words, examples of men abusing their power in the food-and-beverage sphere don’t come much clearer. Yet only one or two hospitality professionals were willing to publicly condemn the behavior, and they were berated for it. That’s not just discouraging: It bodes terribly for women in the industry coping with mistreatment that doesn’t check every possible box.

Parker Milner, Eater Charleston contributor:
The amount of restaurants that popped up with a focus on pizza was astonishing. Even more crazy was how each one managed to offer something that the others did not.

Stephanie Burt, writer and founder of The Southern Fork:
That EO Brewing’s wings gave Home Team’s a run for their money. That’s not a huge reveal, but still worth noting.

Marion Sullivan, Food editor Charleston Magazine:
Sean Brock separating from McCrady’s.

Robert Donovan, photographer and contributor to Eater Charleston:
I guess it’s not really a surprise but seems that many of the new openings are catering to those seeking glitzy spaces while sacrificing innovative menus. Or maybe I’m just jaded and grumpy.

Peg Moore, contributor and food critic for The Mercury:
Tradd’s is the best surprise. Very good sign that Charleston does not shares the national obsession for burgers, barbecue, and weirdness but still cherishes restaurants that celebrate our respect for the traditional. As Julia Child once said, it is chicken that exemplifies a restaurant’s standards. Tradd’s chicken is excellence itself, both the quality of the breed and what the chef did with it.

Erin Perkins, editor Eater Charleston:
Sean Brock’s departure from Charleston was a big surprise, but I began to suspect something was up after he quickly opened additional Husk restaurants in Greenville and Savannah.