Every few months, it seems, another Charleston, South Carolina, chef opens a buzzed-about new spot downtown. Jacques Larson isn’t all that eager to push his way in. A veteran of several downtown establishments, he now cooks on the fringes of town at the rustic Johns Island restaurant Wild Olive and at the brand-new Obstinate Daughter, wedged between the grand old beach houses on quiet Sullivan’s Island. Just blocks from the Atlantic, the Obstinate Daughter takes some cues from the Italian menu at its sister restaurant, but even more from its surroundings. “First and foremost, it’s a Southern restaurant,” Larson says. “We’re borrowing from Italian cuisine, but the menu is rooted in local produce.”
That means pastas and wood-fired pizzas topped with Lowcountry mushrooms, clams, and greens; South Carolina oysters paired with ramekins of scuppernong mignonette; and North Carolina squid stuffed with house-made chorizo. And the chalkboard displays more than just the day’s specials. Larson and his cooks also use it to sell fresh-off-the-boat ingredients that might only feed a couple of tables. “What goes on the board doesn’t have to be a daily item,” he says. “It can be an hourly item. If somebody drops off twelve pounds of stone crab claw, I can put that up for four hours. And then it’s over, and the next item goes up.”
You can sample the the menu anywhere in the country with a tray of Larson’s superlative shrimp rolls. A tip: Try them with fresh-cut french fries and a pitcher of cold sweet tea.