By the time he was in middle school, Miguel Morales was already cooking entire meals for his family in his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. His love of cooking and food has guided him throughout his entire professional life, and culminated this June with the opening of his St. Elmo restaurant, 1885 Grill.
By Julianne Hale
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Named in honor of the year the community of St. Elmo was established, 1885 Grill is situated just a stone’s throw from the base of the Incline Railway. The quaint establishment features a large outdoor patio where diners come to enjoy cocktails (such as the popular Blueberry Mojito) or a cold beer from the restaurant’s extensive beer list. The patio has a casual neighborhood feel to it. Small dogs on leashes snooze at their owners’ feet, and diners call the wait staff by name.
When we sat down, our waiter Casey, an affable foodie, offered us a few beer suggestions along with some samples. We settled on a yummy porter and got down to business perusing the menu. Refreshingly simple, 1885’s menu includes appetizers, salads, sides, items from the grill, coastal favorites, sandwiches, and even a kids’ menu. There are reasonably priced options in every category, and I could envision my family enjoying a weekend dinner here while remaining within our budget.
Our first dish was a classic Southern appetizer with a distinctly 1885 twist—fried green tomatoes topped with chow-chow and pimento cheese. There was only one tomato left when Casey carried the plate away, and it took every ounce of self-control not to scarf that one down. But alas, there was more food to come and we had to make sacrifices.
Next up was the tortilla soup. Packed with flavorful veggie chunks, this was the perfect dish to warm the body and soothe the soul on a cold day. In keeping with Morales’s goal to accommodate the dietary needs of all diners, Chef Charlie Loomis uses tortillas to thicken the soup instead of flour, making it a delicious option for the gluten-free crowd.
A staple of 1885 Grill’s menu is the burger, and after tasting one, I understood why. Topped with pimento cheese, fried pickles and—wait for it—bacon jam, this was no ordinary burger. This dish was the favorite at our table and we savored each bite of its unbeatable flavor. Morales says to watch for more unique flavor combinations in the future—he has big plans for his burgers.
Our next stop was a staple of Southern Coastal cuisine—shrimp and grits. Topped with capers, large juicy shrimp, and warm cheese sauce, these grits had more depth of flavor and texture than the average grits. That plate was empty when Casey took it away.
As the weather changes, the menu at 1885 Grill will shift, Morales explains, in keeping with the custom of the South Carolina kitchens of his childhood. “In South Carolina, cooking boils down to practicality,” Morales says. “In the summer when it is hot, we cook everything outside on the grill to keep the house cool. In the winter, we move our culinary operations indoors to keep the house warm. Our menu will evolve. Expect lots of soups, slow cooked meats, and root vegetables to make an appearance during the cooler months.”