Farm to Fork

05 Mar 2024

Slightly North of Broad stays true to its culinary roots

By Wendy Swat Snyder

Photos by James Stefiuk

It's been thirty years since Slightly North of Broad opened for business in an 18th century building on East Bay Street. Charleston had bounced back from Hurricane Hugo better than ever, and was becoming known nationally as a dining destination.

Then—as now—S.N.O.B., as the eatery is affectionately known, was at the forefront of sourcing ingredients locally, before farm-to-table was a catch phrase. S.N.O.B. executive chef Russ Moore was mentored by renowned chef Frank Lee, a S.N.O.B. founding partner and Lowcountry legend. Along with a small cadre of local chefs, Lee advocated for South Carolina farmers and raised awareness of the value they brought to the table.

“I was hired by Frank Lee in 2002 and worked with him for 15 years,” says Moore, who worked his way up from line cook/ dishwasher after earning a degree in culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University. “We get along great. I run the kitchen very differently than he did but our philosophy on food is almost identical, so it turned out to be a very good fit.”

Lee handed over chef duties to Moore around 2008. In 2015, Hall Management Group purchased S.N.O.B. and sister restaurants High Cotton and Old Village Post House. Lee retired soon afterward.

Moore got his start in hospitality as a teen, cooking in a restaurant in Pensacola, Florida.

“I loved the culture—it's a very dynamic, constantly evolving work environment,” he said.

Moore says his culinary approach revolves around sourcing product from a purveyor that you know, a tenet shared by Lee, who, in the early 1970's, opened a vegetarian restaurant and natural foods co-op in Columbia, SC, offering produce from area farmers he'd built relationships with.

“The objective is to take those raw ingredients and put them through a process that day, and get them out to the table that night,” explains Moore. “S.N.O.B. really shines when produce and fish are coming in that morning, and we take those ingredients and apply some technique to them, combine them with a few other ingredients and get them out to the guest. It's all about showcasing the fresh, local product.”

“It's really cool to be able to work at a restaurant that was so instrumental in kickstarting

farm to table, and the Charleston culinary scene as we know it,” says S.N.O.B. general manager Allison Carey. “And S.N.O.B. is still so relevant today—it's definitely an honor to work here, and to have the responsibility of stewarding the restaurant forward.”

The Atlanta native graduated from the College of Charleston with majors in hospitality and tourism management and business administration. Her first restaurant stint was as a server at High Cotton, when it was still owned by Maverick Southern Kitchens and Frank Lee was still overseeing culinary operations.

Carey worked her way up to management there, rising to assistant general manager at the Old Village Post House before transferring to S.N.O.B. In 2021, she took over as general manager.

“I'd had conversations with the Halls about opportunities to grow my career,” said Carey. “When a position opened at S.N.O.B., they offered it, and I jumped on it. They're a great family to work for. They give us everything they can to help us succeed.”

Inside S.N.O.B., the historic building's original brick archway showcases an open exhibition kitchen. The cozy space features oriental rugs and hardwoods; white cloth tables and banquettes assure comfortable seating. Striking large format artwork by local artists cover sunny hued walls. My dinner guest and I were greeted by Danielle McNeeley, whose cheerful disposition and solid knowledge made our experience a pleasure.

We munched on moist buns made in-house with corn meal from Adluh Bros. Milling Co. and sipped Berry Mystic mocktails as we studied the evening's offerings. Still on the menu after three decades is the S.N.O.B. version of the Lowcountry staple, shrimp and grits. The current iteration was redolent with North Carolina country ham and sausage made in-house with pork from Keegan-Filion Farms in Walterboro, SC. Shrimp are hauled in from Crosby's Seafood and Marsh Hen Mill in Edisto Island provided the heirloom grits. Housemade shrimp stock boosted the rich flavor profile of the savory sauce. Moore participates in the Good Catch program, an initiative of the South Carolina Aquarium that promotes local, sustainable seafood practices.

BBQ tuna featuring sustainable Yellowfin, also from Crosby's, is another longstanding menu favorite. The tender fish was lightly dressed with a tangy mustard-based sauce, a salty country ham butter, and topped with tiny local oysters deep fried to a crispy crunch.

We also sampled a couple of small plates, excited to see a steamed clam dish featuring bivalves from Charleston aqua culture pioneer “Clammer Dave.” Tender, tiny clams floated in a roasted garlic cream enriched with wine and the steamers' own brine. We needed extra baguette to mop up the amazing sauce.

The carpaccio was built around grass-fed beef from North Carolina-based Brasstown Beef, a heritage cattle ranch owned by the Whitmire family—recognized for additive-free, highest quality beef and sustainable practices. A bracing dijonaise aioli, parmesan and beautifully charred baguette completed the delicate dish.

The perfectly roasted duck breast was served with a classic a l'orange gastrique—a flavor-forward sauce laden with orange zest and sherry vinegar. A rich cannellini bean puree and  crispy Brussels sprouts finished the lovely presentation. Ambrose Family Farm supplies the kitchen's local produce.

The dessert list offered decadent pies—banana cream and sour cream apple—and a rich, velvety pot du crème, our favorite, and chef's, as well.

“We use a bitter chocolate that balances out the sweetness of the custard base,” says Moore. “We sprinkle the top with a pinch of local sea salt from Bull's Bay Saltworks.” Free-range eggs used in the custard hail from Storey Farms, and dairy product is from upstate farm Hickory Hill. Moore says he sources cream and crème fraîche from Lowcountry Creamery.

Staying true to the pillars on which it was founded, S.N.O.B. celebrates Charleston's food culture through exemplary service, relationships with farmers and respect for all things local.

 

Slightly North of Broad

192 East Bay Street, Charleston

843-723-3424

www.snobcharleston.com

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