Chef’s Tour: Nico Romo’s Charleston in Five Meals
When Nico Romo isn’t working as an ambassador for ocean-friendly seafood (or serving up some of the same in his own restaurant, Fish) this master chef is exploring the best the Lowcountry has to offer.
Charleston resident Nico Romo, the youngest-ever chef to be inducted as a Master Chef of France, is best known for showcasing his skills with seafood at the Asian-French fusion restaurant, Fish, as well as his commitment to local fishermen and sustainable harvesting. Interestingly, when dining in his home town, he goes for something other than scales and shells.
"I do seafood, so when I go out, I’m not going for [that]," says Romo. “The Charleston chef community is small and we all know each other. It is fun to go out [and to] let my friends cook!”
Travel + Leisure sat down with the European-bred Southern transplant for a look at where the chef dines in one of the most dynamic food cities below the Mason-Dixon Line. “Just in the past five years, more than 50 new restaurants have opened up around upper King Street area, making it Charleston’s destination for dining," Romo tells us. "Southern cuisine [may] always be our number one, but you can find a variety of ethnicities here."
From classic biscuits to quintessential Italian meats, here are Romo's picks for a full day bill-of-fare in Charleston.
“Like most chefs, I am not a morning person. But I do enjoy a leisurely breakfast with my wife and daughter on my day off. My favorite place is Hominy Grill—I've been coming to here since I moved to Charleston. It isn’t far from Fish and I love their High-Rise biscuits with sausage gravy. The pork is from a local farm. If the weather is nice, we love to sit out on the patio.”
“Tough one. Artisan Meat Share. Craig Deihl’s charcuteries are out of this world. I really respect what he is doing there, and I especially like his beef speck, coppa, genoa, and Tuscan salami. I will also pick up one of his sandwiches to go if I am running errands, like the Italian with house-cured meats and Auricchio provolone.”
One of my favorites is Trattoria Lucca. It’s a great Italian restaurant. Even though I was born and raised in France, I'm half Italian. I grew up with my grandmother always making fresh pasta. I also have a grandmother that is Spanish, but that is another story. Chef Ken Vedrinski makes everything from scratch, and I've had some of my best meals there. While his menu changes seasonally, both the Bucatini with forged mushrooms and soft Jordan egg, as well as the Fusilli with house-made duck sausage and smoked almonds, are two of my new favorites.
I like the Warehouse Restaurant and Bar. My wife and I like to go there after dinner with friends for a drink (they're open until 2 a.m.). I’m a scotch drinker, and they have a great selection. My go-to drinks are the Glenlivet or Macallan, both 12-year-olds scotches. One of the co-owners, James Groetzinger, was a bartender at Fish. That man knows how to make a great cocktail! Oh, and I am addicted to the deviled eggs!
Red Drum Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant, just across the bridge. They only serve brunch on Sundays, so make a reservation! I go a lot and always seem to order the Huevos Rancheros, with eggs over-easy. Chef Berryhill does a great job blending Texan and Southern cuisine. I also really like the fried, warm sugar and cinnamon donuts for dessert with an espresso.