Sandlapper Society

Winter 2010

A Lowcountry Leap of Faith

Rivertown Bistro has established itself as Conway’s go-to destination for everything from first dates to family celebrations, where the warm service has a way of easing nerves.

And while Rivertown Bistro is known for its comfortable but sophisticated atmosphere, approachable wine list and fun bar scene, it’s the food that keeps people coming back. Although owner Darren Smith is a self-taught chef, years behind the stove at Lowcountry kitchens honed his natural ability; innate curiosity about food has given his menus big-city style. A few dishes, such as Lowcountry Spring Rolls, which pack spinach, chicken and a duo of gooey cheeses into a wonton wrapper, have been on the menu almost since day one. Others, such as grilled local fish topped with a seasonally-seasoned compound butter— this summer’s offering paired grouper with risotto studded with sweet local corn, okra and asparagus— are developed in tandem with the seasons. “My late brother was a chef and also my inspiration,” says Darren. “He taught me so much about locally sourcing what you can, being creative and even some techniques. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him.”

* * *

Rivertown Bistro's Coffee-rubbed Salmon with Grits and Benton Ham Red-eye Gravy

(Serves 4)
4 salmon filets
2 teaspoons finely ground coffee
2 teaspoons Bistro All-purpose Blend (available at the Bistro) or your favorite seasoned salt
2 tablespoons olive oil


¼ cup julienned Benton ham (or other good-quality
country ham)
1 small onion, diced
¾ cup freshly brewed coffee
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon clarified butter*
1 tablespoon water

For gravy:

Place olive oil in medium saucepan and cook onions over medium-high heat until lightly browned and limp. Add ham, then the coffee, stirring to scrape up any browned bits clinging to the pan. Add chicken stock. Taste for seasoning. Take off heat, then stir in the butter and water, and simmer to gravy consistency.

For salmon:

Season filets with coffee and all-purpose blend. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high-heat, add salmon and cook until done but not dried out, about 5 or 6 minutes per side. To serve, place salmon filets over cooked grits and top with red-eye gravy.
* To clarify butter, melt a stick of butter gently over low heat until it separates. Carefully pour off the clear yellow butter. Discard the solids. This butter keeps for a month in the refrigerator.


Back to the top