The foundation of fine dining in America was built on steak. Chop houses had existed in London since the 1700s, but in the mid-19th century they suddenly blossomed in U.S. cities such as New York and Chicago. The best of those establishments—Old Homestead, Keens, Peter Luger—are still flourishing today.
Despite the proliferation of trendy restaurants with tasting menus and curated wine pairings, there are more steak houses now than ever before. Critics of the steak house experience contend that all of them basically offer the same limited options: a huge slab of beef, a side dish of creamed spinach or fries, and a monster bottle of red wine. The challenge for the modern steak house is threading the needle between satisfying man’s primal urges and creating an elegant, upscale dining experience.
Halls Chophouse does exactly that. It is a great restaurant that just happens to serve steak. Those steaks are USDA Prime from Allen Brothers of Chicago, and they are offered as wet aged, dry aged or grass fed. There is wagyu, served by the ounce ($26 per ounce sounds more palatable than $208 for an eight-ounce filet). The seafood is nothing short of spectacular, particularly the tender, perfectly cooked miniature lobster tails available as an appetizer, the ahi tuna or the seared scallops. A formidable battery of sides and sauces complements the main courses.
Like most other steak houses, the wine list is heavy on California. Some are offered at hefty prices, but there are relative bargains: Far Niente Chardonnay ($70), Mira Cabernet ($82) and Robert Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel ($88). For those who want to go large, there is a nice selection of magnums and double magnums.
Halls is a family-operated restaurant in the truest sense of the word, and there were three family members present on the night of our visit. They visited every table and engaged in personalized conversation with guests. This level of solicitude naturally filters down to the service staff, who are universally friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. The Hall family owns other restaurants in Charleston (Slightly North of Broad and High Cotton), but their hearts are clearly in this one.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is now available from Black Opal Books. For more information, go to amazon.com.