Woodward Tavern offers milkshakes and bar food galore — at a not-so-sweet price (Charleston City Paper) Aug01


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Woodward Tavern offers milkshakes and bar food galore — at a not-so-sweet price (Charleston City Paper)

In 1994, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction introduced the world to the concept of expensive milkshakes.

“I’ll have the Durwood Kirby burger — bloody — and a five-dollar shake.”

“Did you just order a five-dollar shake?”

“Sure did.”

“A shake? Milk and ice cream?”

Flash-forward 24 years, and with inflation, that milk and ice cream would run you $8.45, minus a dance contest and a waiter dressed as Buddy Holly. However, should you pop into the new Woodward Tavern off the Isle of Palms Connector in Mt. Pleasant, the strawberry shortcake milkshake will set you back a cool $10.99.

What arrives is straight off a Candy Land board, with a classic glass surrounded by a cloud of whipped cream and coated in cake frosting, both of which are heavily embellished with rainbow sprinkles. Mine was served sans any discernible shortcake elements, but the strawberry shake and related adornments were still powerfully sweet. If a sugar high is what you crave, this will get you there.

“A lot of our customers like to order one before their meal and then get another one afterward,” our waiter cheerfully shared. Whoa, Nelly. That’s living on the edge. I don’t know who these people are or how they maintain their insulin levels, but hats off.

Set in the Shoppes at Seaside Farms, Woodward Tavern’s airy interior is stark and generic, with white shiplap walls framed by black ceilings and window trim. The only decorations of note are the 10 large flat-screen TVs mounted throughout the space. On a recent weeknight, one was off and the other nine all tuned to the same baseball game, an experience bordering on an art installation.

The menu aims to please, with a mix of familiar favorites and classic bar food. It takes about half an hour, but when the fried green tomatoes ($7.99) arrive, they’re plated on a mound of creamy coleslaw. The four tomatoes are crisply fried and tender inside, yet the ‘tangy honey mustard’ drizzled over the top drags it down. Sweet and vinegary, it’s hard to taste much else.

Meanwhile, the side of fries with dipping sauce ($3.99 on the menu, $4.99 on my receipt) are as expected, featuring a bowl filled with thin, straight-cut potatoes cooked to a nice crisp. The dipping sauce? Well, that’s what the fine folks at Heinz call ketchup.

The warm cast iron burrata skillet ($11.99) seemed so promising, but what arrives is … strange. Here, a dollop of melted burrata is surrounded by a pool of pesto and a sprinkle of pine nuts. Although theoretically delicious, the pesto is predominantly bland oil and the ‘garlic crostini’ appears to be a sliced, toasted hamburger bun.

The spinach and artichoke salad ($9.99) sounded fresh and innovative, but was also underwhelming. The problems began right out of the gate, as I floundered to choose a dressing. Apparently there is no recommendation from the kitchen, so faced with the options of ranch, Thousand Island, or more of the tangy honey mustard, balsamic vinaigrette seemed the right call. “It’s Asian,” the waiter explained, “because it’s made with sesame oil.” I went with ranch. The salad itself features a layer of raw spinach topped with marinated grilled artichokes, red onion slices, pimentos, and super sweet cornbread crumbles. The marinade on the artichokes adds a strong oregano flavor, but all told, it’s another case of promising-sounding ingredients failing to hit the mark.

On the upside, Woodward Tavern’s soundtrack is eclectic and engaging, with everything from The Rolling Stones to Frank Zappa playing overhead. Our waiter was friendly and well-intentioned, but also seemed thoroughly overwhelmed. Disappearing for long stretches, our tiny water glasses were never once refilled.

There’s a long bar offering draft beer, wines by the glass, and speciality cocktails like the Woodward 75 ($10) crafted with lavender-infused vodka, cucumber, and cava. There’s also a pineapple daiquiri ($8) or a classic old fashioned ($8), which the menu indicates can be made with anything from aged rum to mezcal.

The menu features a variety of burgers, and the burger bomb ($14.49) sounded appealing. Although the meat was cooked to medium as ordered, the patty is small, leaving a solid inch of empty bun around the circumference. The sauteed peppers and onions are cut into chunks, omelet style, and quickly fall all over the place. Topped with a fried egg, two slices of bacon, and American cheese, it turns out the ‘bomb’ is the runny yolk. Aim away from your companions or anything requiring dry cleaning and hopefully there won’t be any casualties.

Non-burger people will note the menu’s ‘alternatives’ section, with options such as fish and chips ($12.99) and steak and fries ($21.99) with more of the tangy honey mustard ladled on the meat. The chicken and waffle ($12.99) delivers two small, sweet waffles that taste uncannily like Golden Grahams. Topped with three generic, fried chicken fingers and coated with a Tabasco-honey sauce, it’s about how it sounds.

Last up, the pulled pork tacos ($7.99) were a surprise, but not the good kind. Two stiff flour tortillas are filled with shredded lettuce, monterey jack cheese, sriracha mayo, and a few chunks of house made pork. Although it would have been perfectly fine — preferable even — to stop there, it’s then coated in a regrettably thick layer of overpoweringly sweet and spicy barbecue sauce that’s in no way referenced on the menu.

A top contender for the I Just Don’t Get It® championships, it’s also hard to imagine other people getting it either. Across the way from — and owned by — Crave, Woodward Tavern was apparently meant to fill a more casual, less expensive niche. However, considering the $11 shakes or the fact that adding avocado to your barbecue sauce tacos costs $1.50 at Crave and $3 at Woodward Tavern, well, I just don’t get it.