Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Fleet Landing
Charleston, NC
Review by SuSu, MaceVindaloo, Wraith6, dieFledermaus

We saw a banner hanging off a dock in the distance. All it said was "Restaurant & Bar." We were standing on another dock (the one closest to Ft. Sumter) and had recently been dissed by Hominy Grill, even though we had arrived at that place on time. From a distance, it looked like dock or hangar ... and we found out, that's exactly what it was.

It was formerly the dock for the Atlantic Fleet from way back in World War I. Previous to that, the dock was a ferry landing. The building itself dates from 1942, and was used for offloading stuff from Navy ships, including supplies, personnel, and prisoners destined for the brig. And then it lay abandoned for about 30 years when the Port Authority leased it and the restaurant and bar took it over.

The cavernous space is about the size of a football field and it's located above the water. There is seating for nearly 300, including space on the deck outside. On this particular day, it was near-freezing, so we sat inside. (It was warmer up north than it was in the deep south!)

You can see that any asbestos and roof tiling was scoured out and the shell left behind. It's an interesting (in a good way) choice decoratively, in that there is the feeling that anything that happens here is okay. It's a way to project that it's a partyshack, not your grandmother's living room.

Fortunately, that's the extent of the slapdash attitude. The booths are very comfortable and substantial, and though the construction is diner-like, it doesn't feel like a diner. Perhaps that's due to the very open space, and the hipster lamps. We like the chart maps under the glass on the tables, and the life preservers on the walls. The bathrooms have air blowers for drying your hands after washing, and they give off such a fast stream of air that your skin wrinkles and buckles like a James Bond G-force shot!

The menu is thankfully southern. We'd been to parties just previous that touted a lot of food that wasn't southern in the least. And if you are going to serve food that isn't your area's strongpoint, would you choose German food? Anyway, that's not this place ... they had updated versions of grits, shrimp, sandwiches, etc.

We happily ordered a bunch of appetizers. It would not be long to dinner (it was like 4pm at this point), and we'd spent the past few days overeating. But southern food — when done properly — is very rich and tasty, so we crossed our fingers that this would be the case here. We ordered shrimp and grits, served with keilbasa-style sausage; an oyster po-boy; she-crab soup; and a fried fish sandwich.

Just the photos of the food will set off salivation now! It was all so flavorful, so rich, so creamy, so crispy ... all at its correct time and place. The grits were creamy and had good texture, meaning you still knew it was made from a grain and were not trying to copy mashed potatoes. The shrimp were large and perfectly cooked, and the kielbasa was cut the same size as the shrimp — surprisingly, this is an often neglected detail. The dark broth beneath was really tasty, and we asked for bread to mop up the last bits. Both the po-boy and the fish sandwich had freshly fried seafood within, dressed with finely shredded vegetables. This is important, in that fish is often too delicate to stand up to whole leaves; we've all had the sandwich where the meat slithers out too soon, or falls apart. And the creamy mayo-style dressings were seasoned very nicely and complemented the crunch of the coatings. The she-crab soup did not contain the crab roe, but it had all the essence of crab. It made us feel better, knowing that the eggs were hopefully out there creating more yummy crabs, to be tinted with the flavors of sherry, cream, and hot spices. It was really delectable, and again, we mopped up everything we could.

The service was prompt and not at all nosey. It was before the dinner hour, and we watched as staff prepared cutlery and napkins for the meal rush. They seemed to be having fun, but were not inattentive. And when we came in to ask if we could be seated, they were very accommodating and nice, and left us alone to enjoy our meal.

We got to watch the glow of the sun setting (we were facing east, so couldn't really witness it directly), and it made us love the south again. This experience was so perfect that we have to wonder if we could ever return, and would it ever be this perfect again? We think it will!

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