Sunset-watching season is in full swing in Charleston, so what better time to go rooftop hopping in search of refreshing beverages and shareable snacks. Balao is the Lowcountry’s newest hidden gem — until now — for just that.
Wait, Where’s Balao?
Balao is located on Market Street on the roof of Burwell’s. Don’t be confused by the signage, as patrons must walk through the stone-fired grill to enter the new seafood establishment. The roof is airy and quaint, despite it lacking an ocean view. A bar sits on the right-hand side, and there is an additional small dining area located inside.
Executive chef Nathan Davenport is Charleston through and through. The Mount Pleasant native worked at several Charleston restaurants in high school before enrolling in the Culinary Institute of Charleston. Davenport later joined the Husk team prior to the 2010 opening and eventually served as executive sous chef alongside Sean Brock. While working as the corporate chef at Burwell’s, Davenport and the management team developed the rooftop concept for Balao, aiming to set themselves apart by offering a sustainable, local seafood offering.
Rolling With the Catch
Davenport told Eater that the menu theme would remain the same, but dishes would change based on the available catch from local purveyors like Abundant Seafood and Crosby’s. There will always be a raw and roasted oyster option, and ceviche will be a standby featuring a fresh catch — black bass has been the selection as of late.
Comfort Food From the Sea
The crew at Balao finds a way to make diners feel better about indulging, as fresh ingredients help liven up comfort classics. Expect dishes like fried calamari topped with a lightly dressed arugula salad or nachos layered with lightly seared ahi tuna, bright corn pico de gallo, and homemade queso — the staff informed Eater that this fan favorite will stay on the menu. Davenport also isn’t afraid to mess around with the Lowcountry’s favorite shrimp and grits. The grits served with the current offering are black from the addition of squid ink and doused in a rich duck gravy.
Cocktails Built for Rooftop Season
Balao’s cocktails have that cooling taste ideal for a warm night. The featured Summer Rose is both refreshing and booze-heavy, as the drink combines a rosé-soaked watermelon concoction with tequila and Aperol. The Irie also mixes fruit and alcohol — this time, cinnamon-dusted pineapple accompanies a combination of dark rum, coconut water, and Frangelicao. Beware — these delicious libations contain copious amounts of alcohol that can be hard to detect.