Leon’s Oyster Shop is sexy.
At this new Charleston, South Carolina spot, Delta Blues is the soundtrack for the dining room, which is illuminated mainly from cool light through glass block windows. The scent of fresh shucked oysters, salty and briny, fill one end of the bar, and from the direction of the open kitchen, the scent of fried chicken with a bit of spice wafts over diners. A mix of textures makes the place feel lived in, and when the old garage door is open to the patio beyond, it’s the kind of place that beckons to help you turn a late afternoon into evening.
The menu is simple, it’s easy, and it feels good. You feel good just deciding what to order. But if you think the experience ends there, you’re wrong.
The char-grilled oysters are so good you should get two orders out of the gate. And the fried chicken gives my late Granny a run for her fried chicken legacy. I do not write those words lightly.
My grandmother Madeline prepared amazing fried chicken. It was a labor of love for birthdays and picnics beside her favorite mountain streams. She deboned each piece before cooking, and I can still recall the image of a heaping plate of it on her bar counter. She cooked it at a lower temperature than I ever cook, and yet, it was tender and juicy and not greasy.
Leon’s chicken is a study in contrasts, fried hot and crispy, and with a bit of a spicy kick. It’s evident that there is pre-brining involved, and the skin is cooked to a deeper golden brown than Madeline’s.
I. Ate. Every. Bite.