A couple of weeks ago we found ourselves down on the lower end of busy King Street in Downtown Charleston. We quickly realized that we had decided to walk to our lunch spot during the hottest part of the day. Upon entering @QueenStreetGrocery, we were drawn to the refrigerators filled with a variety of cold beverages to choose from. The AC quickly gave us a feeling of relief and our noses were filled with a comforting and savory aroma. We had barely been inside the corner store for 2 minutes, and already, the first impression had intrigued us more than we had expected.
We started off at the counter by the front door where we ordered our food. With a selection of menus to please every person that walks through the door, we were not sure what to order. We wanted one of everything, due to so much sounding delicious. Luckily, Rob Bouton (@robbouton), the owner of Queen Street Grocery, had set us up with a selection of different dishes to try. Each selection was from a various parts of his menu. As we cooled down and lunch was prepared, we took a look around the store and familiarized ourselves with all of its different aspects.
After walking through the main area, we found ourselves at the back of the store under a sign reading, “Groceries & Specialty Beers.” A room filled with your every day selection of corner store goods with a variety of unique beers. Of course, they also offer wine and champagne for you (crazy) non beer drinkers.
Who would I be without taking one of my signature shoe shots? 😉
Shortly after, we sat down and had four great looking dishes presented to us. At the same time, Rob walked in the door and sat down to have lunch with us.
Rob made us feel right at home by sitting down with us like we had known each other for years. He started telling us about the dishes in front of us. Before we knew it, we were having a “family style” lunch. We started with the restaurants special of the day. A dish that changes every single day and is featured on their Instagram account every morning, @QueenStreetGrocery.
The special of the day was a Frisee Salad. The salad was tossed in a Dijon & herb goat cheese vinaigrette and topped with toasted prosciutto and curry pickled red onion. To finish off the fresh salad, there was hard boiled eggs and freshly squeezed lemon juice. The salad was the perfect way to kick off our meal. It was very light and refreshing, perfect for the hot summer day.
Next, we all went for Rob’s favorite dish on the menu, El Cubano and learned a little more about the man behind Queen Street Grocery. The hot pressed sammie, on a local cuban roll is filled with pulled pork, ham, Swiss, dijon mustard, and dill pickle. The perfectly toasted Cuban roll created the perfect crunchy shell for a juicy sammie. The flavors from each ingredient instantly filled our mouths and satisfied our taste buds.
As we continued to much on the Cuban, Rob told us about his time in Charleston. He has been living in Charleston for 4 years and travels a lot. Aside from being a huge foodie, he is also an actor. This allows him to spend time in New York, but he loves being in Charleston for the summer.
Queen Street Grocery, as he described it, is his baby. He enjoys coming home to meet all the people that come into his establishment. People from all walks of life; celebrities, tourists, locals, etc, come in to try his flavorful menu. The variety of people who talk about Queen Street Grocery, along with the social engineering that Rob has established, is what has made the business so successful. He is proof that a restaurant does no’t have to do any big advertising or marketing. Rob has organically built the culture of Queen Street Grocery and depended on the good words of everyone that comes in the door. The location of the corner store is definitely an added bonus to its ambiance. Queen Street Grocery gives people the Charleston experience and makes everyone feel right at home. Away from the busy king street hustle and bustle, on the corner of Queen Street and Logan Street, it really is a hidden gem.
Queen Street Grocery may be a corner store, but it is definitely more than your average corner store. A hashtag that they have acquired to define the culture and experience of QSG. From their all day breakfast, their local produce and bread, to their partnerships with local businesses. For example, their Cuban Roll is made with a roll from Brown’s Court Bakery a couple streets away from the corner store. Brown’s Court delivers the rolls every day right off the press. Rob is all about showcasing local and it is a clear part of the culture and mission at Queen Street Grocery.
The next hot sammie that we tried was clearly speaking to me. Any guesses why? One word, avocado. You all know I am a sucker for dishes that incorporate avocados in the final product. There were so many aspects to this sammie that I really enjoyed. First, it is presented on my favorite bred, ciabatta. Inside, one will find turkey, brie cheese, green apples, sprouts, and honey basil aioli. The mix of the turkey, brie cheese, and green apples was enough to catch my attention. The combination had my taste buds filled with curiosity. Lets just say that it was love at first bite. Along with the bread, the sprouts also gave great texture to the initial bite. The brie cheese and turkey provided the sammie with a great amount of saltiness, while the avocado and apples help balance out the sandwich.
Rob then continued to tell us about his love for the community. From the 2 year old down the street to the 92 year old around the corner, Rob has made some great community ties. With a Day school being right down the street, it is common to see kids running down the street, with money in hand, into the store. Picking up a cold soda and his favorite candy is something Rob remembers doing as a kid. The sense of empowerment and independence is something we can all connect to and how great those feelings are as a young kid. Rob has found that the meeting and connecting with the diversity of people that come into his store is one of the most rewarding things about owning Queen Street Grocery
Our last dish was the, Murray, named after the man himself, Bill Murray. This famous crepe is tied up with the Tenacious Turkey as my favorite dish of the meal. The crepe is filled with turkey, brie cheese, green apples, spinach, sriracha, and basil pesto. I also love me some pesto, so that got my taste buds going right away. Also, who does not love themselves a good crepe? If you say you don’t, you’re lying or you haven’t had this one! The amount of brie cheese in this crepe is probably what made it rank so high on my list.
We then learned about how QSG is more than your average corner store. The delicious food may be a huge aspect of it, but there is definitely more to it than that. Rob carries art from various local artists. From the musicians and murals by @Reese.designs to the pieces by @deanevbowers who salvages items from around town and creates recycled art. You’ll see her signature bird houses and fish on the walls of QSG. Rob likes to showcase local artist who do not want to be in large galleries, and who wouldn’t want to be displayed inside QSG? With over 200 people walking through the door a day, the art is sure to get some attention. Funny enough, a group of guys were sitting having lunch while we were and bought one of the pieces hung on the walls of QSG. It was never Rob’s intention to turn his walls into a selling spot, but when he started selling 10 pieces of art in a week, it was inevitable.
So where did the fantastic menu for Queen Street Grocery come from? Their menu has been the same and was created uniquely to QSG from their opening day. Salads, smoothies, crepes, and breakfast are all menus that they have available to choose from, but as Rob puts it, these are just suggestions. Once you become a regular, you may get to learn more about some of the secrets within QSG, for example their secret menu. Its definitely an aspect that adds a little bit of penache. During our conversation, we talked about how every experience at QSG is made to be different. Yes, they offer a great variety. Yes, their daily specials make you want to drive to QSG the moment you see or hear about them. That is their purpose. While at some restaurants you go in knowing exactly what you are going to get and can taste it even before you sit down for your meal, QSG encourages to try something different every time or create something different to make your experience that much more unique.
Queen Street Grocery definitely gets my stamp of being #BTGApproved! I have been back several times since our lunch there and tried something new each time. I am sucker for their special of the day, but I recommend going with friends and sharing a little bit of everything. A big thank you to Rob and the team at Queen Street Grocery for hosting us for a great lunch and making us feel right at home!
Queen Street Grocery
133 Queen Street
Charleston, SC 29401