Brooks Reitz Talks About What Makes Leon’s Chicken Special

leonsCharleston doesn’t want for fried chicken. But Brooks Reitz thinks it’s time to start thinking more broadly about the genre: Just as whole hog sauced with vinegar doesn’t represent the totality of barbecue, chicken with craggy, slip-off skin shouldn’t be considered the only fried chicken.

“There are different styles,” says the co-owner of Leon’s Oyster Shop, set to open this weekend.

Fried chicken is one of two menu pillars at Leon’s (as the name suggests, the other is oysters, available chargrilled and raw. Shucking will be supervised by Mike Rogers, who manned the legendary bar at New Orleans’ late Uglesich’s: Stories from the New York Times and USA Today celebrating his past achievements are already framed and hung behind the stand-up oyster station.) Reitz maintains the chicken is locally unique.

“I’d say the style it bears the most resemblance to is Nashville fried chicken, but without the hot,” Reitz says. “It’s brined and breaded. And I think the magic occurs in the time it sits. The skin almost becomes one with the chicken.” Continue reading

Sherry Gets Chance to Shine at Brooks Reitz’s New Cafe

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Sherry has lately enjoyed a very minor resurgence in big city bars – the New York Times a few months ago noted “a renewed interest” – but the craze hasn’t yet overtaken Charleston. On a recent visit to Barsa, a bartender told me the Spanish-themed restaurant didn’t have the single sherry on its by-the-glass list.

In a 2012 New York Times column, wine critic Eric Asimov conceded that sherry is “often consigned in the public imagination to the stuffy, dusty sitting room, or to the after-dinner drinks selection.” But that perception hasn’t slowed the growth of sherry bars in London, where drinkers have taken up the continental tradition of sipping sherry with Marcona almonds and Spanish ham.

Brooks Reitz, former manager of The Ordinary, thinks sherry is equally suited to a culture seeped in boiled peanuts and barbecue. He’s devising a “decent selection” of sherries for St. Alban, the European-style café he’s hoping to open at 710 King Street before year’s end. Continue reading