What exactly is a gastropub? The trendy moniker evolved in the 1990s to describe neighborhood taverns in pursuit of setting themselves apart gastronomically.
Casandra Young, general manager at The Original 46 Gastropub, which opened last month on Hwy. 46 between Walmart and the Bluffton Parkway traffic circle, said she and Executive Chef Dustin Ricker want everybody to be comfortable in the pub-like atmosphere. "We have something for everybody," she said, "but with an element to the service and presentation that gives an upscale, fine-dining feel, yet is still casual."
The completely renovated space features a warm, comfortable main dining room, an all-season covered patio with live entertainment at 7 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and a new bar custom built by Jonathan Lancaster of Bluffton Millworks, complete with a 14-foot library ladder.
Gastropubs encourage the sharing of several small portions to allow patrons to experience inventive dishes, along with a selection of pub classics - steaks, fries, mussels, sausages, deviled eggs and the like.
Shared Plates range from $4.46 for Fried Pickles (kosher dill chips with chipotle aioli) to $14.46 for Benne Seared Tuna, Steak Tartare or Charcuterie & Cheese. Custom Blend Burgers are available "naked, partially dressed or perfectly dressed," from $7.46 (burger, bun, pickle) to $18.46 for the 46 Gastro Stack (foie gras, pepper jelly, haystack onions, sunny huevo, pickle).
Pub Favorites, $14.46 to $24.46, feature comfort food classics with a modern twist - bolder, spicier and artistically prepared: Lobstah Mac, Chicken & Waffles, Fish & Chips, Mixed Grill of pork tenderloin, andouille sausage, cheesy grits, bourbon carrots and house-made BBQ sauce.
Even Sandwiches ($8.46 to $18.46) and Sides ($2.46 to $5.46) reflect Ricker's passionate attention to detail and execution: gruyere cheese and house-crafted IPA mustard on the Rueben on artisan rye, hand-cut fries and hand-mashed potatoes (with bacon gravy) made with Kennebec potatoes, grown in the rich soil of the chef's native Maine.
"For me it's caring about the ingredients, trying to buy seasonality - things available at their peak," said Ricker. He otherwise highlights quality, locally sourced ingredients and offers seafood specials, such as a locally caught 1 ½-pound yellowtail snapper served whole at the table. "Again, it's about the integrity of the product," he said.
Options abound at the bar, where 20 American craft beers are on tap in 5-, 10- or 16-ounce pours and mixologist Ann-Marie Barrera executes high-end craft cocktails with a deft touch, along with a massive collection of bourbon and 25 wines available by the glass or bottle.
Gastropub 46 is open from 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For reservations, highly recommended on weekends, call 843-757-4646.
Freelance writer Pam Gallagher was a copy editor at USA Today and a staff writer and fashion editor for the Asbury Park Press.