Newly Renovated Big John’s Prepares to Re-Open This Week

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New lamp, new table, new benches, same stickers.

“We have a side bet that people are going to come in and not know what we’ve changed,” says Robert Hightower, who — along with fellow Rarebit restaurateur John Adamson – last fall assumed responsibility for resurrecting Big John’s, which is scheduled to reopen this week  Monday at 7 p.m.

Big John’s owner Ryan Condon partnered with Adamson after taking over the 60-year old bar’s management from his nephews, who he felt had betrayed the soul of the legendary watering hole; Condon particularly disapproved of an arrangement allowing Roti Rolls’ Cory Burke to serve kimchi and cow’s head in a venue formerly renowned for its pickled eggs and cold sandwiches.

Under the leadership of The Rarebit’s team, the bar will focus on more mainstream items from the grill, although it will offer a much more extensive menu than Big John’s did in its heyday. “Our intention is to be a viable lunch place,” Hightower says. Continue reading

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Citadel Alums Worry About Renovation of Big John’s Tavern

Ryan Condon has repeatedly referenced his plans to remake Big John’s Tavern as the bar he remembers, but his use of the word “renovation” in an interview apparently alarmed fellow members of the tradition-minded crowd.

“We want to know what’s going to happen to the nametags,” says Scott Sutter, a 2001 Citadel graduate, who called me from Connecticut on behalf of the many classmates who’d contacted him.

The nametags, Condon confirms, are safe.

“We don’t intend on removing any memorabilia,” Condon says. “We’d like to add more to it.” Continue reading

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Big John’s Owner Wants to Restore the Big John’s of His Youth

newbigjohnDespite rumors which swirled after the announcement of The Green Door’s imminent closing, bar owner Ryan Condon says he’s not only keeping Big John’s Tavern open: He’s planning to return the 59-year old institution to its former status as a traditional watering hole, where the TVs tuned to football are a bigger draw than the fish head curry.

“I want to return Big John’s to what Big John’s was when I started going there,” says Condon, who started hanging out at Big John’s as a high schooler. “If Big John would ever have seen The Green Door, he would have rolled over in his grave. I don’t even know what the hell grilled kimchee is; I just want to restore Big John’s the way it was.”

Condon says he evicted The Green Door from Big John’s Tavern because the concept didn’t square with the institution he vowed to protect when he bought it from football great John Cannady in 1991. Continue reading

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The Green Door to Close on Oct. 31

gdoorThe minds behind Charleston’s most reliably inventive restaurant will now have to think creatively about location, since Big John’s Tavern is booting out The Green Door at month’s end.

The Roti Rolls spinoff late last year took up residence in the downtown dive bar, which was then run by brothers Chris and Jim Condon. But unbeknownst to Green Door owner Cory Burke, the building belonged to their uncle, Ryan, co-owner of The Crab Shack, a local seafood chain. When Ryan Condon took over Big John’s operations, doing away with braised pig heads and kimchi grilled cheese sandwiches was high on his priority list, Burke says.

“He apparently never liked Green Door,” Burke says. “He doesn’t like our food. He hates everything we’ve done.”

Ryan Condon did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Continue reading

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