[To read part 1 of my Charleston adventures, click here.]

On the second to last night of our workshop, Helene arranged a very special treat for us.  We were to have dinner at a fantastic Charleston restaurant, Lana, courtesy of chef and owner John Ondo.  Lana is well known and respected for their reputation of serving excellent seasonally inspired Mediterranean cuisine made with local ingredients in a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere.  I was really looking forward to experiencing Lana’s offerings so you can imagine my surprise when we arrived and I realized I had dined there before!  I had interviewed in Charleston a few years back and my hosts took me to Lana for lunch.  I recognized it immediately, and was even more excited because that lunch has always stood out to me as a memorable meal.

As if dinner at Lana wasn’t good enough, we also had permission to photograph our meal and some of the restaurant happenings as well.  Though I love dining out, I tend to agree with the general consensus that it isn’t really the most polite thing to whip out a big dSLR camera and start clicking away (or worse, restyling the chef’s hard work) so I refrain.  It was definitely a unique and rare experience to have the opportunity to photograph to our hearts’ content with the chef’s blessing.  (I must admit however, that even with permission, I was quite uncomfortable shooting in this setting and worked very hard to be unobtrusive.)

Though I was uncomfortable shooting in this setting, I was also glad to have the opportunity because it was very challenging to try to get decent shots while staying out of the way of diners, staff, etc. and also to take photos as the light was fading fast.  I tend to enjoy a challenge so though a bit stressful, it was a gratifying experience.  Working to tell a story through photos was an emphasis of this session, and I loved seeing the story told through all our different viewpoints.

But enough about that – let’s talk about the rest of the meal!  Most good meals start with bread, right?  Right.

This lovely lady is Pam from Portland, OR.  She is just delightful and I loved getting to know her over the course of the weekend.

Our group was offered a slightly abbreviated menu but even so, it was very difficult to decide what to order because everything sounded amazing.  Thankfully having dinner with a group of foodies means lots of sharing and tasting of everything, so we were still able to sample the items we didn’t order.  I started with this shrimp over eggplant caponata with basil pesto.  It was stellar.  (I might be drooling a little just thinking about it again.  Maybe.)

I also sat next to Helene who ordered the pear gorgonzola salad.  While this didn’t grab my attention initially, I was definitely a little envious when I saw it arrive.

While we enjoyed the first course, the chefs back in the kitchen were working hard to get the entrees out.

Soon our entrees arrived and we got down to the business of eating some truly fabulous food.  Though I generally make it a rule not to order chicken in a restaurant because I make it all the time at home, I changed my mind when I heard this pan-roasted chicken was their specialty.  I don’t regret my choice one bit.  Plus it came with a fanci-fied version of hush puppies.  Get out!  (The mushroom gnocchi that Josie ordered was also really amazing.  Oh, so good!)

Even when a meal is stellar, the thing that makes it truly great is the company you enjoy it with.  Our gaggle of women (plus Joe, Clare’s husband – such a good sport) was a fun group to dine with.  The conversation never stopped!   We chatted about all kinds of things, both serious and light-hearted.  It seemed to go on and on, just a comfortable dinner with friends.  The best kind.

Yep, it was pretty much a perfect evening for me.

To end the evening on a high note, we all enjoyed this gorgeous tiramisu.  Beautiful presentation!

Chef John came out to check on our group after the meal.  We quite embarrassed him with a round of applause, but he was a good sport.  He is one very humble, extremely talented dude.

Clare and Joe are truly genuine, down-to-earth, all around awesome people.  I am so glad to have met them.

Stay tuned next week for the final installment in my Charleston adventures!

  • Great lighting inside for a restaurant! I so need to try making hush puppies at home.

  • Ashley C

    Looks like you had a great time…and looks delicious!

  • isn’t lana fabulous!? i am lucky enough to live in charleston and to be surrounded by such fabulous food!

  • Ksheybany

    Reminds me of a spread from the old Gourmet Magazine..

  • annieseats

    Thank you!

  • bc in edmond

    what is the “sauce” they served with the bread? looks yummy :)

  • annieseats

    Olive oil :)

  • I have sort of a funny question. I would really like to start highlighting local Columbus restaurants on my blog, but I always feel really awkward and slightly inappropriate pulling out my big ol’ camera in a nice restaurant. What do you do in situations like this? Do you typically talk to your waiter or a manager about it first? Tell them you’d like to feature their restaurant on a blog? Or do you just dive in and go for it?

  • Chelsea

    Annie, I’m traveling to Charleston in October for my friend’s wedding, and I’ve been looking for great restaurants. Thanks for this recommendation! The photo of the chefs in the kitchen is really amazing, too, great job!

  • You really captured your experience at the restaurant superbly! I feel like I was there… and can almost taste it, too. :)

  • annieseats

    You should definitely clear it with some of the staff. I would ask the wait staff when you arrive and they can put you in touch with whoever you should consult. Some restaurants have strict policies about it.

  • Amazing photography! You look like you had a great time!

  • Carol Mattox

    Awesome review! If I ever get back to Charleston….on my list…

  • pat1645

    Some truly great pictures of a memorable meal. Looked like a great time. Thanks for letting us enjoy it through your eyes, er um lens.

  • Marcus S

    I was down in Charleston a few months ago and ate at Lana as well. I had the same chicken dish that you had, and LOVEEEEEEEDDD those “hush puppies” maybe you can discover how to duplicate them, cus I would love to make those at home… They were like mashed potatoe balls that were deep fried… Crispy on the outside but soooooo tender on the inside… my mouth is water just thinking about it

  • Lisa@Cluttercafe

    I am so envious! I carry Helene’s book like a bible. Beautiful photos and the food looks amazing!

  • That food looks amazing! I’d love to have some of that tiramisu! It looks like you had a great time. If I’m ever in S.C., I’m going to have to eat there!

  • Judithwllms

    I’ve written the name of this restaurant in my notebook for my next trip to charleston. Well, really Kiawah, but we always take a trip to the big city at some point during the week. Thanks for the lovely story.

  • Thank you! I will definitely do that.

  • Sarah K

    I am loving your bw pictures. Do you remember how you processed them? What did you shoot with? I know it’s a food blog, but you really have an amazing knack for photography too!

  • annieseats

    I edit in Lightroom and process each photo individually. My camera info is on the About Annie page. Hope that helps, and glad you like the photos :)

  • I simply wanted to say I have truly enjoyed looking at all of your photos. I especially love how you mixed both color and black and white in this post. Thank you for sharing.