Holistic Soul Food
From Calhoun, take Meeting Street toward North Chuck and turn left at Burris Liquors onto Reid. Just about 100 feet further on your right, you’ll find the most amazing feel-good eatery in Charleston. Lauded by Oprah Winfrey, Travel + Leisure, Southern Living and local newspapers and magazines, there are many reasons to dine at Alluette’s Cafe. What brought us was the shrimp – specifically Magwood shrimp.
For chef/owner Alluette Jones-Smalls, food is a religion, and the preparation and consumption of it are holy rituals not to be entered into without conviction – and Alluette’s conviction is strong. Her menu is a reflection of what is local, sustainable and seasonal. Even more, her food has a face. Take her shrimp, for instance. If it’s available, it comes from Magwood and Sons on Shem Creek. Alluette’s brother, Billy Jones, and Captain Wayne Magwood have a history: they once went to school together. As for Alluette, if she doesn’t know exactly where her food comes from, she doesn’t buy it.
In the kitchen, Alluette gives the food the same reverence and respect she reserves for her Lowcountry purveyors. Raised East of the Cooper, she brings local flavor and family traditions to the plate. From Aunt Mary’s iced tea sweetened with fruit juices to the savory yet light and spicy organic lima bean soup to the local shrimp salad dressed in Geechi Girl vinaigrette, the flavors are alive, crisp and assertive. You can tell the difference between what you get here and processed and genetically modified food. But there is something more, something almost indefinable. Alluette’s dishes are endowed with her very soul. She is the ultimate umami – the fifth basic taste, beyond sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
It was damp and dreary the day we experienced Alluette’s Cafe for the first time, and, except for us, the restaurant was empty. Instead of feeling apprehensive about the lack of diners, we immediately sensed the vital soul of the space. The vibrant warmth of the creamy yellow walls embraced us. The eclectic décor – a mix of abstract, island, African, Egyptian and local art – infused us with energy and curiosity. The outside world was an empty gray, but inside was ablaze with life in all its colors.
And if you’re ever feeling under the weather, we highly recommend the lima bean soup as a curative for all that ails you.
80 A Reid St., Charleston, S.C.
Lunch • Monday - Saturday • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dinner • Monday - Saturday • 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Late night brunch • Thursday - Saturday • 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
by Antonia M. Krenza & Laney Roberts