Roaring Good Eats on Canton Street: 1920 Tavern’s Summer Menu

Written by Colleen Ann McNally | photography courtesy of Heidi Geldhauser; Colleen Ann McNally

Bar 3As I scooted into the first dark brown wood and leather banquette inside 1920 Tavern at Opulent, I turned my back to bustling Canton Street outside and faced inward to soak up the modern speakeasy’s atmosphere. Painted on the antique mirror to my left was food for thought from Humphrey Bogart: “The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.” So when the waitress arrived, I made the “Southern Sour” Pama liquor summer cocktail my first request, per the late actor’s advice.

By the time the happy pink concoction arrived to my table, along with an order of oysters arranged artfully on a wood board covered in sea salt, any problems at all escaped my mind. An ideal way to start the meal at the seafood tavern, my table struggled to choose a favorite after sampling 1920 menu staples – Oysters Rockefeller with local bacon, spinach and Pernod, the char grilled oysters prepared with the andouille, Parmesan and Tabasco or the uniquely fried Gulf variety presented on Wakame seaweed salad and wasabi yuzu crema. Other noteworthy appetite teasers included playing Russian Roulette with a bowl of blistered Shisito peppers or snacking on the crisp eggplant fries, tempura fried and dusted in Parmesan reggiano cheese.

photo 2 After being agreeably distracted by these starters, but before I ran out of room in my stomach, it was time to get down to business with the new menu additions for summer. Behind 1920 Tavern’s juxtaposition of classic dishes and handcrafted modern twists, all with an incredible attention to detail, is mastermind Chef Bob McDonough. He created the seasonal “Market Fish” menu with offerings featuring fire-grilled, pan-roasted or blackened North Carolina shrimp, Mahi Mahi, Scottish salmon and swordfish. You can count on fresh fish to be flown in daily (with exceptions on Sundays) – a standard for taste as much as necessity since the small basement cooler is shared with the neighboring Salt Factory and fellow member of F&F Food Trading Group. Once narrowing that down, guests can choose from one of four preparations: Fire-grilled, Meuniere, Asian Style or Mediterranean Style. Seize the chance to forgo your usual shrimp and grits or Amazing Burger and try the Mediterranean-style: pan-seared with green or Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, fennel, potato-purée, lemon and first-press Spanish olive oil. Another noteworthy seafood specialty is the Parmesan crusted Carolina flounder with broccoli raab, garlic herbed potatoes and burnt lemon.

photo 1If the Gatsby-era atmosphere hasn’t already relaxed you into ordering dessert, now is the time to indulge in the self-named opulence. Don’t miss the one-of-a-kind raspberry goat cheese pound cake and gelato offerings. With three flavors to enjoy – a salty maple bacon, berry-drizzled scoop and basil gelato – why not stay into the night, with the bright white bulbs glowing above your table, and catch up to Bogart too?