The City Magazine Since 1975

Caviar & Bananas

Caviar & Bananas
May 2009

At Caviar & Bananas, you’re the maestro, whether of a picnic for two or a party for 12. Located a stone’s throw from the College of Charleston, this sparkling George Street gourmet market and café is run by creative husband-and-wife team Kris and Margaret Furniss and provides endless possibilities for an impromptu lunch or casual dinner, takeaway hors d’oeuvres, or breakfast on the run. Chef Jason Ulak helps to orchestrate the creation and production of the colorful daily array, including made-to-order and prepared foods, ranging from soup to Nutella. Flooded with natural light and good cheer, the space easily accommodates casual seating amidst well-ordered displays of sandwiches, salads, soups, entrées, and desserts, while several tables in the courtyard provide comfortable outdoor dining. Cruising the expansive food displays is half the enjoyment of a visit to Caviar & Bananas, but as always, the proof is in the pudding. Tried and true selections include build-your-own salads and sandwiches. Personal favorites are the Boston Bibb salad with applewood-smoked bacon and pimiento ranch dressing and the duck confit sandwich made with aged Gouda and fig preserves. The memorable chopstick salad blends green tea-smoked chicken with peanut dressing and wonton crisps. Grilled wild salmon and luxurious black truffle mac’ and cheese have also made many a fine meal. For a quick beginning, one of the well-chosen boutique wines is an excellent partner for house-made edamame hummus, pimiento cheese, kalamata olives, or a selection of artisanal cheeses with a freshly baked baguette. The house-made sushi is wildly popular, as are the delicious Tavalon teas, prepared by a master tea sommelier and steeped to order, and Counter Culture coffees, roasted and packaged specifically for the proprietors by a master roaster. For a special kick, try the Taro Tornado tea with tapioca bubbles. A recent celebration brought the opportunity for a spontaneous dinner at home and thus a chance to fill our basket with new choices, beginning with a colorful salad sampler. Divinely refreshing quinoa, dried cranberries, and Split Creek Farm feta tossed in cabernet vinaigrette; tender farrow made with Mepkin Abbey oyster mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, and truffled Champagne vinaigrette tossed with arugula; and roasted beet and goat cheese salads comprised this glorious trio. Succulent organic Springer Mountain chicken marinated in buttermilk, fried in blue-corn batter, and finished with an ancho chili drizzle paired well with sides of roasted asparagus with preserved lemon and white bean salad seasoned with pancetta and mint, as did the eggplant parmigiana with delicate layers of breaded eggplant, three cheeses, and a rich tomato sauce. Desserts, a crowning glory, include a variety of daily offerings both made in house and assembled from the city’s finest bakers, including irresistible three-chocolate Ulak brownies created by chef Ulak’s father, cookies and cupcakes from Charleston Cookie Company and Ashley Bakery, and other treats from bakeshops such as Sugar and Sublime Pies and Cakes. In addition to the Ulak brownie, we couldn’t pass up Aunt Sassy’s Pistachio Surprise cake from Baked—a light pistachio-infused cake with vanilla-honey buttercream icing. The surprise for me: that I was able to resist devouring every last bite on the spot and save some for later. On the way out of this jam-packed emporium, I easily assembled a gift basket that included a complete pasta dinner for two. There’s no doubt that we’ll be making frequent return trips, whether to pick up on-the-go treats, indulge in beer by the glass or bottle (check on pending Sunday options) while surfing the Wi-Fi connection, or join friends for one of the Thursday evening wine tastings. Caviar & Bananas 51 George St., (843) 577-7757, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Average sandwich or salad: $8 Average prepared entrée: $12