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As my server battled with errant extension cords and flounced about the mostly empty dining room in a state of controlled chaos, I thought back to my last visit to Red’s and I realized something: the place is a certifiable hot mess.

The thing is, they kind of rocked out with it. The random decor and haphazard style is suitably bohemian and worthy of an old-school coffee shop. I think they are always in the weeds a little bit, always playing things by ear and improvising. At one point, the restaurant’s cupcake baker came out of the kitchen and offered, I believe, cups of frosting to the few customers. Maybe she meant something else, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.

And that’s saying nothing of the hobo-looking gent who came in off the street, ordered a beer, sat down at the piano, and tickled the ivories with remarkable skill. I guess they have a regular piano guy sometimes...but, still!

Anyways, the food was actually pretty good when it was good. I dug the pork cracklins ($4) and the jambalaya ($13). The latter was a mess of chicken, sausage, and grains piled without ceremony in a little crock and served with toast. Including wild rice and other grains gave the dish some character.

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Sadly for shrimp and grits, Red’s joined the rogues gallery of places that don’t get the dish right. With weak grits and a watery sauce poured over the top, the dish appealed little. When will I get an awesome shrimp and grits? When? I should have gotten the shrimp etoufee and stuck with the Cajun/Creole theme instead of venturing into the Carolina Low Country.

Red’s deserves a commendation for inexpensive wine. Glasses were all of average price ($7-$10), but bottles were often priced under $20! Had I half a mind, I could have gotten indulgent with wine. Instead, I had a Bloody Mary for, like, $4. It was made with some kind of partially distilled wine, because the restau doesn’t have a full liquor license, but it was still a Bloody Mary for $4!

I have to say, though it was a weird experience, I would totally go back to Red’s for dinner. I liked that there was a place I could hang out and eat some casual grub, maybe drink a glass of wine or a beer. I’m often left wanting something between “coffee shop” and “full-on restaurant,” and I think Red’s fits the bill. Even if it is super kooky.

1017 Rosecrans Street
619-523-5540
Open daily 5AM-11PM

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