Charleston might be late to the gastropub game, but now that local restaurateurs have taken an interest in the genre, the city is benefiting, big time. Red Drum Gastropub kickstarted proceedings in 2005, Closed For Business followed suit in 2009, and in 2010, the Tattooed Moose got into the act thanks to owners Jennifer and Mike Kulick. They duo already owned Voodoo Tiki Bar and decided to replace Kitty’s Fine Foods in an emerging area of Charleston for their encore.
During the visit with my father, the Moose’s walls hosted deer heads sporting Santa hats and a bag of vintage golf clubs. Yes, they have a stuffed moose head behind the bar, including an accompanying gun rack crafted from shorn hooves. A classy touch to be sure, and one that would inevitably send PETA adherents into a frenzy, not that there are many of those people in South Carolina. A school bus-yellow duck crossing sign and kitschy signs like one that reads – “We don’t serve women here. You have to bring your own” – round out the space’s unique look.
Until recently, the Moose only offered the locally famous “duck club” and the option to build your own sandwich. On December 15, they added a number of custom sandwiches, further cementing the pub’s destination status.
It seems that in order to own a gastropub in the Lowcountry, it’s vital to have a signature sandwich. Closed For Business has the pork slap sandwich, and the Tattooed Moose has an equally devastating option, Mike’s Famous “Duck Club” ($13.50). The Kulicks clearly don’t skimp on hyperbole, as their menu reads, “It’s been said to be the best sandwich ever made!” Umm, I don’t know about that, but it might sneak into my all-time Top 10. The triple-decker beast of a sandwich comes on soft, sweet Hawaiian bread with overflowing duck confit, applewood smoked bacon, smoked cheddar, oozing garlic aioli, lettuce, tomato and red onion. Duck cooked in its own fat WITH bacon WITH garlicky mayo?! You know it.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens to the excess duck fat after a restaurant prepares confit, one possible solution lies in the fries. The Tattooed Moose fries their glistening French fries in duck fat, and they only cost an extra $1.75. If you value flavor, it’s a total no-brainer.
The Tattooed Moose also offers a Reuben ($7.50) with crusty, greasy sheets of house-made corned beef. The grilled rye also hosts Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut, which in theory should help to cut the richness with vinegar-licked acidity. Not in this case, but what did help were the lip-puckering green tomato pickles and garlicky dill pickles.
The Tattooed Moose is generous with their add-ons. If you order a sandwich, they offer a side of BBQ baked beans or cilantro-lime slaw for only $1. We added the latter, featuring fresh cabbage, red onion and cilantro tossed with tangy lime vinaigrette.
There were only two of us, and the duck club, Reuben and craft beer (in this case, Duck Rabbit Milk Stout, out of North Carolina) already inflicted more than enough damage, so things like Grandma’s meatballs, the Kansas City-style brisket sandwich and Thanksgiving “Leftovers” Sammy will have to wait until my next visit. When it comes to that second visit, there is no doubt.