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

Bay Street Biergarten is Now Open

baystreetTouting its pretzels and convivial atmosphere, Bay Street Biergarten opened today, giving drinkers four days to celebrate one of the year’s beeriest months in Bavarian style.

(Munich’s Oktoberfest wrapped up weeks ago, but football and Halloween help keep stateside beer consumption healthy — so to speak — during October.)

Although the bar at 549 E. Bay Street took menu and decor inspiration from traditional beer halls, Bay Street Biergarten has modernized the concept with on-table, self-service taps. Beers now on rotation include ales from Palmetto, Westbrook and Holy City. Continue reading

Summerville’s Mellow Mushroom Opening Next Week

mellow3Michael Shemtov, owner of Butcher & Bee and the downtown and Avondale Mellow Mushrooms, recently sent over the above picture of the newest addition to his local pizza empire.

Although Shemtov didn’t provide a caption to accompany the photo of the Summervile Mellow Mushroom, it appears to have been shot during a staff training session. That makes sense, since the restaurant at 1306 N. Main St. is scheduled to open sometime next week.

According to Shemtov, the new restaurant seats 150 people, and features a “big patio”, 24 beers on taps and murals by local artist Douglas Panzone. For opening updates, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Egan & Sons to Open Next Week

Get your fill of leprechauns now, because you won't find them at Egan & Sons / gruntzooki

Get your fill of leprechauns now, because you won’t find them at Egan & Sons / gruntzooki

The owner of the forthcoming Egan & Sons says the rustic cooking style which chef Kyle Yarborough perfected at the now-defunct La Fourchette is an especially good fit for the forthcoming downtown Irish pub.

“That French country cooking is close to Irish country cooking, with the root vegetables, casseroles and stews,” Chris Egan says.

Egan’s also looking forward to Yarborough using animal parts which don’t fly at his restaurants in New Jersey, where eaters insist on chops and filets.

“In other regions, people are kind of snobby about other cuts of meat,” Egan says. “I love the South because it’s not that way.” Continue reading

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

Lowcountry Olive Oil Finds Permanent Home Downtown

oilbottlesTwo years after starting to sell their infused oils and vinegars at area farmer and artisan markets, Laurie and Jason Benjamin are opening a Lowcountry Olive Oil retail store downtown.

Laurie Benjamin stresses that Lowcountry shouldn’t be confused with the 99 percent of gourmet olive oil shops nationwide which are supplied by the same California outfit. Lowcountry buys bulk quantities of picholine oil from growers in Turkey and Morocco, and then adds various herbs and fruits for flavoring.

“It’s a wonderful oil for infusing because of its light, mild flavor,” Benjamin says, adding that the store will also stock “bolder varietal oils from around the world and the U.S.”, locally-made pastas, spices and cheeses. Continue reading

Charleston to Wait a Few More Days For Lebanese Cooking (And, Possibly, Armenian Singing)

Leyla will not open this weekend, as previously announced, but the downtown Lebanese restaurant is aiming to have its doors open by Wednesday.

“I was hoping,” says owner Dolly Awkar, a first-time restaurateur who switched from selling rugs to hawking hummus because her accent prompted so many customers to ask where they could find food from her native country. “I did my best.”

The Labor Day holiday delayed the issuance of a certificate of occupancy; Leyla is scheduled for city inspection on Tuesday.

Awkar and her husband, Joseph, have spent much of the last month training servers, many of whom have no previous experience with Middle Eastern cookery, and tasting dishes created by chef Vatche Meguerdichian. Meguerdichian previously helmed Los Angeles’ Alcazar, named one of the city’s 99 essential restaurants in 2011 by critic Jonathan Gold. Continue reading