Ritual Celebrating Latin Themed Food & Beverage on Marion Square
Casual Late Day Lunch & Dinner Spot Becomes Lively After Hours Night Spot
Jeff Walker, Restaurant Review
Arguably the most unique eatery to join the greater Charleston food and beverage family in 2022 resides at 145 Calhoun Street in downtown Charleston. While the Holy City is a food lovers community, many of the restaurants offer varying spins on the same menu items. To make it in Charleston's ever evolving food and beverage industry you most definitely have to set yourself apart.
Restaurateurs Matt Kenner and Madison 'Madi' Donnan have done exactly that, turning the once Carolina Ale House across from Marion Square into a food and drink oasis. The couple spent the better part of a decade establishing themselves in Raleigh, North Carolina before deciding they wanted to make their mark in the low country of South Carolina.
Building on their diverse backgrounds and frequent pleasure trips to Tulum, Mexico, the two decided to open Ritual, a Latin themed restaurant like no other in the Holy City. Situated three floors above Calhoun Street with an epic view of Marion Square, Ritual is equal parts affordable eclectic dining during the day and early evening, combined with an upscale and vibrant late night (Thurs-Sat) gathering spot, where patrons get VIP Table service while DJ's pump out Top 40 and electronic dance music until 2am.
Although Matt and Madi wanted to embrace the history and culture of Charleston, they equally wanted to offer a place that was contemporary and inviting. By deciding to call their new venture Ritual they hoped their new eatery would encompass the long standing heritage the Holy City has to offer, as well as becoming known as a more modern day restaurant destination with its own character.
The best way to describe Ritual is south beach Miami meets present day Charleston with a hint of the Yucatan peninsula. The menu is a blend of several continental Latin themed dishes and craft cocktails meant to arouse the the taste buds. Although they are 20 minutes from the beach and several miles from any waterway, Ritual has a seaside feel, further enhanced by their unparalleled panoramic vista of Marion Square.
Considering their downtown location Ritual checks all the right boxes including atmosphere, customer service, affordability, and most of all spectacular food with an extensive drink menu including signature cocktails, premium wines, and popular beers. From shareable plates (light bites) to main entrees Ritual present nearly two dozen incredible edibles that are not only delectable put equally eye appealing, and all priced under $30, excluding market fresh fish.
Begin your culinary journey simply with Guacamole & Chips. Lightly seasoned tortilla chips served with a avocado blend of serrano pepper, cilantro, lime and cotija (aged Mexican cheese). The Crispy Brussels Sprouts come with a Mediterranean feel, cloaked in chorizo (cured pork) and pickled onions, served with a luscious black bean hummus. Want something with a bit more bite, try the Crispy Yucatan Wings coated in a savory chipotle lime agave glaze. Exhilarating!
Ritual has a Grilled Lamb Chops plate that will easily make you forget you're eating lamb. Prepared with roasted mixed peppers, pumpkin seeds, and tajin (a blend of natural chili peppers, lime & sea salt) your shareable plate comes complete with their black bean hummus. Their signature Shrimp & Scallop Ceviche is a cool and refreshing blend of seafood favorites blanketed in cucumber, pickled onion, hazelnut, with a hint of serrano pepper. Best experienced with their crispy tortillas.
Off their plate menu you can enjoy 10 original entrees, several that celebrate the Yucatan coast with a few designed to please everyday meat lovers. The Crab Tostada is an epicurean delight, a colorful melange of avocado, pickled red onion, and sweet corn relish immersed in a zesty basil lime aioli. Light and packed with flavor.
Diehard carnivores might find the Braised Beef Empanada a pungent alternative with it's sharp blend of chipotle (smoke-dried jalapeño chili pepper), smoke gouda, and chimichurri (a piquant sauce) enriched barbecued beef all tucked nicely in a flaky crust. Think of it as a Latin hot-pocket. It will arouse the taste buds. Want something a tad lighter that still carries a little snap and fervor, chow down on either the Crispy Chicken or Shrimp Tacos, each teeming with appropriate seasonings, fruit, or veggies, meant to further enhance your selection.
For those who want to stay closer to the Carolina coast but still sample menu items with a hint of Latin flavor I suggest the flavorful Grilled Hangar Steak laced in a marinade of lime, garlic, coriander, and chimichurri.
Or maybe go for the Baha influenced Angus Beef Burger complete with sliced guacamole, seasoned coriander lime, and crispy chorizo oozing with queso fresco (creamy white cheese). Appropriately priced at $17. Great with a cold brew or served with a side of diced Potatos Bravas, uniquely golden fried and seasoned to perfection with a zesty dipping sauce. Delicioso!
Empanadas aren't just stuffed pockets for succulent meat, on the dessert menu they're a golden fried pastry similar to a turnover filled with decadent flavors. Ritual serve up an awesome banana, white chocolate, and hazelnut blend, drizzled with dulce de leche (milky-caramelized sauce). Simply luscious!
Sparkling, white, red, and rose, Ritual has select fruits of the vine that appeal to a variety of wine connoisseurs. Enjoy a lively Spanish pale gold Pazo Cilleiro Albarino 2021 for $11 a glass or a bold and intense 2019 Bodega Numanthia Termes for just $12. Additional grapes from France, Italy, and Northern California. Appreciate by the glass or by the bottle.
Ritual's brunch menu (served weekends noon-3pm) is meant to tantalize both the sweet and savory taste buds. The Brunch Burger is similar to the Angus Beef with fried egg on a toasted bun. Their Huevos Tulum carries a Caribbean feel. Simply eggs sunny side up presented in a medley of black beans & bacon, charred tomato, and quacamole on a crispy tortilla.
Partnering with their downstairs neighbor Hero Donuts, Ritual serves up Chicken Sandwich Sliders on their delectable glazed donuts slathered with red pepper jelly and pickled cucumbers. Or maybe just satisfy your sweet tooth with a Cinnamon Roll complete with Apple Bacon Crumble. The crab filled Deviled Eggs or the Grilled Shrimp & Avocado Toast will equally delight the palate. Enjoy any brunch item with a fruit infused $6 mimosa! Heavenly!
What about the cocktails. An extensive list of your favorites for around $14 per. Ritual's Bloody Mary is crafted with Tito's Vodka. Add shrimp for $2. I recommend the Tepache Betty, a delightful citrus infused (pineapple & lime) probiotic beverage stirred gingerly with Tito's Vodka. It invites a lot of tropical zing to the taste buds!
An Old Fashioned Yucutan is unique blend of Rittenhouse Rye, laced with Allspice Dram (hint of pimento), banana, and demerara (light brown culinary sugar). It's the best of both world flavors. Simply superb! Over a dozen Latin themed hand-crafted cocktails just waiting for discerning adult beverage lovers to order up including a cinnamon, lemon and banana infused bourbon elixir they call a Mayan Sour. Ooh la-la! Premium Gold Digger shots for just $8.
On a warm and sunny day enjoying a late lunch or early dinner on their open air covered patio or afternoon cocktails at their adjacent jungle themed roof top bar complete with comfy sofas is an absolute pleasure. The overall ambiance is exquisite. Dining alfresco (outdoors) allows for grandiose views of the square, historic church steeples, luxury hotels, as well as the double diamonds on the Cooper River Bridge. All made more magnificent on a moonlit night.
From the interior and exterior decor, the entire third floor exudes a tropical destination, where diners or late night party goers can escape the daily grind while enjoying food and drink in tranquil surroundings. Enjoy a light bite with a glass of wine on the veranda while watching the sunset, or maybe nurse a cocktail with friends under the stars on the adjoining rooftop deck.
The afternoon and evening atmosphere are as different as day and night. Enjoy weekend brunch, early or late dinner roughly until 9pm before Ritual transforms into a high energy nightclub paradise (Thurs-Sat) where patrons can rent the entire space to accommodate up to 300 guests, or just book a VIP Table for a wedding, bachelor, bachelorette, or corporate party. From the Latin food lover to the upscale late night reveler, Ritual has something for everyone who enjoy good food, good drinks, and good times in an exotic setting. Ritual is open Mon-Wed 4pm-late, Thurs-Sat noon-1:30am, and Sun noon-late. For more visit https://www.ritualchs.com/