Sunsets Waterfront Dining Re-Imagining Shem Creek

Mount Pleasant Restaurant & Sushi Bar Offering One of a Kind Dining Experience

Jeff Walker, Food & Beverage Writer

For more than five decades the village of Shem Creek off Coleman Blvd. in Mount Pleasant has been a dining destination for Charleston folks who crave seafood and everyday bar food. Ever since legendary lowcountry restaurateur Ronnie Boals left his imprint in the onetime fishing and shrimping village, it's been the scenic go to spot for food & beverage east of the Cooper River.

Over the past 50 years while eateries have come and gone, they have not strayed far from the norm, offering diners the same old menus just in different venues surrounding Shem Creek. However, a new food & beverage phoenix ironically has risen from the ashes at the former home of RB's, Boals most prominent seafood restaurant. Sunsets Waterfront Dining has totally transformed Boals' signature location, creating a dining experience literally taking greater Charleston by storm (pun-intended). aaaaaaaasunsetsarticle

Using a familiar fishing theme, Sunsets are hoping to 'Get Em' Hooked'. In other words they hope guests will be so enthralled by their eclectic menu and overall ambiance, that they will return time and time again, whether to enjoy epic food or to just appreciate sunsets from one of their two decks, all the while sipping on spectacular cocktails.

Before diving head first into their food and drink menu I'll admit Sunsets is meticulous, they've dotted every 'i' (innovative, inspiring, inviting, & instantly iconic) and crossed every 't' (tasty, tantalizing, thorough & trendsetting). Honestly, no positive review of Sunsets or word of mouth recommendation is going to convey how incredibly awesome this new dining establishment is. You must see, taste, and touch for yourself.

Sunsets has infused numerous soft and vibrant hues reflected in a sunrises and sunsets to cast a welcoming environment, additionally combining them with the historic colors found in Rainbow Row. Whether in the walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, staircases, solid stone bar tops, or the overall decor including artwork, Sunsets reflects picturesque radiance. Couple all that with oversized windows and Sunsets delights with illumination whether Mother Nature cooperates or not. aaaaaaaasunsets1

Okay, enough said about their historic location and Sunsets ambiance, let's drop a line in the water and talk about their incredible edibles, all under the exacting eye of Executive Chef Kevin Spencer. His two decade resume has taken Spencer from Dallas and Austin TX, to stints in Nashville and Orlando with the latter earning him the 2014 Orlando Life Silver Spoon Award for Most Creative Steakhouse Chef. Spencer's additional accolades include featured articles in Food & Wine and Southern Living. Clearly Sunsets feels if they want to be the best they need to employ the best.

Although the entire restaurant is aptly named Sunsets Waterfront Dining, they have two easily assessible dining halls with the first level called Sundown, allowing for a more comprehensive lunch and dinner menu, and the second floor Sun-Up designated as their sushi bar.aaaaaaaasunsets7 

Make no mistake, guests downstairs can dine on seasonal oysters, Peel n' Eat Shrimp, and a refreshing herb encrusted Tuna Poke presented in a melange of seabeans, sweet onions, and kumquat (zesty citrus), all in a wash of traditional poke dressing. Surprisingly for those who don't love raw seafood, the Tuna Poke is delightfully flavorsome. 

For those who prefer their food cooked I offer several mouthwatering options. One can easily make a meal out of the Slow Roll, a blend of gold rice grits and BBQ gulf coast shrimp wrapped in seasoned collards before being chicken-fried (flour batter), served with a red-eye gravy, a southern staple fusing dark brewed coffee and ham drippings. This could easily become a lowcountry standard.

I'm a big fan of Brussel sprouts and several Charleston area eateries have added them to their menus with great success. However, I may have found my new favorite spot to enjoy them. Sunsets' green BBQ rubbed Charred Brussels presented in a medley of green peanuts and sliced oranges surrounded by a whirl of sweet tea whipped feta is exhilarating. A solid stand up double, this dish could serve as a meal or an appetizer for the table. Delish! aaaaaaaasunsets9

Equally impressive are their three signature salads, under the Produce heading. The Citrus Salad teeming with blood oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and kumquats is made more zesty with whipped feta and key lime vinaigrette. Sunsets Grilled Lettuce Caesar comes with a twist topped with hushpuppy croutons and green goddess dressing.

My personal fav is the Grilled Peach & Tomato crafted amid a bed of radicchio (red leaf Italian chicory) and spiced pepita (nutritious squash or pumpkin seeds) for crunch, all deluged in a creamy and hearty buttermilk dressing. Who'd a thought this would work, only the creative genius of Chef Spencer. Lest we forget, even though the pulpy tomato is tagged as a vegetable, by definition it is a fruit.

A couple of hand held seafood delights gaining buzz are the BBQ Shrimp Wrap and t‏here Grilled Fish Tacos served with three corn torillas and an ample portion of local catch coated in an al pastor rub (primarily a mix of garlic, cumin, onion, coriander, chipotle, oregano, ancho, guajillo, salt, & annatto), presented with a side of charred pineapple pico. A pleasant build your own zesty taco treat. Ole!

Could be you don't fancy seafood or it's just not what you have in mind today when your group decided on Sunsets. Don't fret, they have a few non-seafood (three specifically) menu items that will excite the palate. Straight up burger lovers will relish in their twist on the ever popular smashburger aka two four ounce seared beef patties oozing in a pimento cheese fondue served standard with sidewinder fries. Worth every bit of $14.

aaaaaaaasunsets2On the other end of the 100 percent beef spectrum is Sunsets' Cowboy Cut. Aside from vegans, who doesn't love a great steak? We're talking an 18 oz. 2 inch thick bone in ribeye prepped in a seasoned bbq rub, cooked to desired perfection before being saturated in a herb infused whipped butter and beef fat medley to further enhance the FIF aka 'fat is flavor'. Succulent and impressive. Forget about the run of the mill baked potato side. The Cowboy Cut is served with a unique Cajun Creole vegetable and parmesan cheese enhanced dirty rice dish. Hold on cowboy, we're not done, your plate comes garnished with fried and dehydrated vegetable chips. Savor every bite!

Not in the mood for seafood or red meat, than I recommend their Beer Can Chicken. Don't knock it until you try it. A decades old recipe where the poulty marinates for 24 hours and is then cooked over a can of beer to soak up distinct flavors allowing for thorough moisture. Your half chicken dish comes complete with a hushpuppy batter waffle under a traditional Gullah chili-pecan sauce, and a side of zesty broccoli slaw. Tender, succulent, and original. A generous portion, so maybe split this main course. Trust me, you'll be talking about this meal for some time.

aaaaaaaasunsets3Have room for an post entree treat? Sunsets offer up a half dozen signature desserts meant to entice and appease your sweet tooth. My personal favorite is their 'not so average' extra tall Key Lime Pie. Forget about that store bought two inch slice with lime flavoring, we're talking a skyscraper version intensified with real lime juice and vanilla extracts on a ginger and graham cracker crust. To add an extra panache, the mile high slice comes topped with 'rum caviar' aka little pops of flavor that burst in your mouth. Just Sunsets way of thinking outside the normal dessert box.

When you're not pondering over the Key Lime Pie you can indulge in Cast Iron Cobbler made with seasonal fruits, or top your meal off with their chocolate ganache Cheerwine Bourbon Cake permeated with honey roasted peanuts. This is nothing new. Carbonated soft drinks have been known to add a little bit more merriment to dessert, and what better choice than CHEER!-WINE, the official cherry flavored soft drink of the Carolinas. Ideal with a hearty cup of coffee or a nice glass of wine.

Okay, that's a nice 'rundown on sundown' (pun intended), but as noted the there is much more dawning (pun also intended) overhead at Sun Up, where connoisseurs of sake (salmon), uni (urchin), ahi (tuna), unagi (freshwater eel), and other raw fish, sushi, nigiri, and sashimi gravitate too. At Sun Up you'll feast on a plethora of one of a kind seasoned uncooked seafood and freshwater delicacies including Spicy Tuna Bites in a soy paper bed or Yellow Tail Octopusaaaaaaaasunsets4

Their sushi bar offers up 13 individual Maki Rolls including The Shem (ode to the creek) with tempura lobster, jalapenos, avocado, spicy mayo, and salmon eggs, as well as the Sexy Roll stuffed with snow crab, shrimp, black caviar, cilantro, jalapenos, and mango with a slather of kimchi wasabi to add a little heat.

And although Sun Up and Sundown operate under the same roof, they are totally separate entities, with their own food and drink menu. While their beer and wine lists mirror each other, at Sun Up they serve up specialty cocktails such as Blacken Ol' Fashion (Virgil Kaine Ginger Whiskey, Creole Bitters & orange zest) and nine sake (rice wine) selections including Sho Chiku Bai and Hana White Peach. The high amino acid content in sake heightens the overall sushi experience. Inˈjoi Daniel-san!

Great food, great desserts, and great atmosphere can only be further complemented by great drink. As soon as you enter Sundown (first floor) if not being greeted by a lovely host, you'll find your way to the welcoming bar where master mixologists create a variety of alcohol inspired concoctions meant to chill or fascinate your mood.

If you enjoy nursing a killer frozen cocktail than you can't go wrong with their signature Sunset Slush crafted a delightful fruit-packed blend of Ketel One Botanical Peach with orange blossom, aperol (bitter apéritif), orange and lemon. Ooh la-la! This is one frozen adult beverage you'll want to appreciate sitting outside at a table watching the sunset.


The Solar Flower is a very sunny bloom of cocktail, prepared with Ten in One Rum, Ancho Reyes Verde (chile liqueur), Oleo, and Sunflower Seed Orgeat (nutty syrup) served with pineapple and lemon. Refreshing and invigorating, much like their Caipirinha, a sweet Brazilian inspired cocktail made with cachaca (Brazilian white rum), muddled lime and pure sugar cane.  Meant to be sipped!

You'll find a pleasant selection of IPAs, lagers, and ales at Sunset, with several from local craft breweries including Holy City, Park Circle, Munkle, Revelry, Edmunds Oast, and Palmetto Brewing. For those who fancy fruit of the vine Sunset carry a wide variety from an $11 glass of Storypoint Chardonnay and Anterra Pinot Grigio to a more upscale $25 glass of Freemark Abbey Cabernet. Celebrating at the table? Enjoy your vino by the bottle. Sunsets offer up red, white, rose, and sparkling wines to accommodate your commemorative mood.

Breaking it all down and bringing it all full circle, as if the food & beverage gods didn't have a sense of humor, Sunsets Waterfront Dining is located at the newly renamed 97 Ronnie Boals Blvd. in Mount Pleasant. Fate, destiny, or divine intervention? I don't know, but clearly a new food and beverage genesis is about to make their mark in historic Shem Creek.

Aside from the Cowboy Cut and market catch, prices run from the mid teens to around $40, depending on what you order, with most lunch items under $20. Fair dollar amount for remarkable food. Maybe start with the BBQ laced Lobster Deviled Eggs. Wait for it  'aaah-mazing'! aaaaaaaasunsets91

Much like Dorothy said 'we're not in Kansas anymore', when she emerged from her house after landing in Oz and the iconic movie went from black & white to technicolor, Sunsets carry the same vibe. 'Toto, we're not in 1970's Shem Creek anymore!' 

Sunsets Waterfront Dining are the bright new 21st century dining destination bringing sunshine, color, ambiance, epic views, good food & drink, and happiness to Shem Creek. 'There's no place like Sunsets, there's no place like Sunsets'. To experience the unexpected set sail for