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


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

Magnolias Plans Monthlong Closure for Renovations

magnoliasIf the design firm charged with “refreshing” Magnolias is successful, patrons won’t be taken aback by any of the changes they notice when the restaurant reopens in February after a monthlong renovation hiatus – unless they use the bathroom.

“The restrooms are going to be completely changed,” promises Bill Johnson, the Charleston native who heads up The Johnson Studio. “The restrooms were very, very plain.”

Beyond the restrooms, the tweaks will be less dramatic. The dining room will gain “softer seating to make it more comfortable,” and its acoustics will be upgraded to reflect contemporary technology. An antique mirrored wall with sconces and a banquette will be set against the back wall. Still, Johnson predicts guests will be struck mostly by the “crisp and clean” look of the spruced-up space. Continue reading

S&S Cafeteria Reopens Two Months After Damaging Fire

sscafeteriaS&S Cafeteria is wearing its holiday best for its reopening tomorrow, a restaurant spokeswoman says.

“After two months of intense renovation due to a fire, we are excited to be able to invite all of our friends and customers to come in and enjoy our delicious Southern meals,” Rita Kiser writes.

Kiser is urging patrons to “dine in and relax in our renovated facilities, complete with Christmas decorations.” (Although she adds that the take-out shop is reopening too.)

The area’s last surviving cafeteria, S&S Cafeteria on Oct. 2 was badly damaged by an early morning laundry room fire. General manager Mike DeLaney initially forecast the restaurant would require a few weeks to rebuild, but it took months before loyal customers were given another crack at deviled eggs; broiled chicken livers; ambrosia and turnip greens. Continue reading

Ernie’s Closes This Month For Renovations

erniesErnie’s Restaurant is preparing to renovate, necessitating the longest closure the owner’s nephew can recall.

Antoine Kinloch says he’s not sure how the many customers who dine at the soul food joint on a daily basis will handle the Oct. 7-Oct. 31 stretch.

“I can’t really say,” he says. “I wish we could do something for them.”

Ernie’s, a peerless source of turkey necks and lima beans, opened in 1982. According to a 2007 City Paper review, the restaurant’s never advertised. Two years later, Roadfood’s Michael Stern noted its lack of signage, writing, “Nothing about its exterior other than the smell of pork chops and stewed chicken suggests that it is a place to eat.” Stern described Ernie’s as purveyor of “one of the most satisfying low-cost dinners in all of Charleston,” praising its okra soup, white rice and bread pudding. Continue reading