Forget white awnings and wraparound porches, sleek and contemporary is here to stay. The stereotypical Charleston restaurant may not stay stereotypical for much longer. Welcome to Workshop.
Located far up King Street, the gourmet food court Workshop, sits in a nondescript office plaza. Complete with five restaurants and a coffee shop, Workshop offers everything from pizza to sliders to Indian cuisine. The pay-then-seat-yourself style screams mall snacks, but Workshop’s quality says otherwise. Scents of simmering meat, pungent spices and cheesy tacos mingle together and waft through the air, dispelling the cliché of greasy fast food.
Michael Shemtov opened Workshop in May 2017. Shemtov, owner of Butcher & Bee and The Daily, has a distinct style in Charleston. Visible similarities like copper accents and contemporary furniture link Workshop with his other restaurants. At five months old, the business is practically a newborn – but that doesn’t stop it from drawing customers through the doors. Every space in Workshop is rented out by restaurants for a few months at a time, encouraging them to experiment. “You can try it out for a short period of time and see how it goes. It’s kind of like a test kitchen,” said a Slider Gold employee. Currently, Bad Wolf Coffee, Slice Co., Pink Bellies, Juan Luis, Slider Gold and Sambar occupy each window of the food court.
Bad Wolf Coffee is the one place that isn’t meant to change ownership. Standing separate from the rest of the food court, Bad Wolf is a picture-perfect place to enjoy a steaming latte or iced Americano while getting work done. With a white tile backdrop, grey slate flooring and bright wooden tables, the boxy space sounds like it should feel cold and vacant. Yet the pops of blue in the mugs and the aroma of Californian coffee beans make the open room feel cozy. The rich flavor of a warm maple latte topped off with heart-shaped foam art welcomes customers at the first sip.
A few steps outside Bad Wolf Coffee is a tiny walk-up pizza window called Slice Co. “I like to call it 246 square feet of heaven” said Todd Lucey, owner of the joint. The space holds just Lucey, a brick pizza oven, a stove and a heater. Lucey makes everything from scratch and the only other employee is his wife. “It’s kind of a family business,” said Lucey as he prodded freshly crafted mozzarella. Their baby even joins the team at times. Lucey started his business in a food truck. When Workshop was getting started, they reached out to food trucks, offering Lucey the space for a pizzeria and he jumped at the chance. Slice Co. even does free delivery to the peninsula.
Lucey’s pizza is the real deal. As a New Yorker, Lucey knows what real pizza should taste like and his is nothing short of exceptional. The Grandma Pizza is one of his specialties. Complete with tomato, anchovy, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, parsley, scallion and oregano, each bite is a shock to your taste buds. Every ingredient works together to compliment the others with ease, bringing together the decadent flavor.
Next to the Indian cuisine of Sambar is Pink Bellies, a name familiar to most upperclassmen at College of Charleston. The Pink Bellies food truck used to sit on the corner of St. Philip and Calhoun almost every day. “The owner wanted to try something new, so he sold his food truck and rented out a space here,” said a Pink Bellies employee.
Slider Gold sits just next to the Vietnamese window. With a knack for Japanese cuisine, Chef Brian Emperor puts his skills to the test and offers various types of Japanese sliders and snacks. “Sliders” isn’t necessarily the first word that comes to mind when Japanese food is mentioned, but Emperor makes it work. The bestselling “Slider King” is small, but mighty in flavor. Through a concoction of sweet soy sauce marinated beef, Roma tomato and special sauces, the Slider King is a delectable combination of sweet, sour and rich in each bite. Although only large enough for about four bites, each is a pleasant explosion in your mouth, leaving you yearning for more. Garnishes of green and purple fill the space between the bun and patty, creating an Instagram-able meal with a powerful taste.
Charleston is a city unlike any other; Workshop is a food experience unlike any other. Forget the quaint rainbow colored houses with wrap around porches and welcome the open air contemporary style that is Workshop. Each offers great food with a different style. Workshop is all about creating – the space and food can attest to that. Pasted along one of the walls is a quote: “The world needs creators, those who dream fearlessly, pursue passions, believe. Creators need community, a place to build their vision, people to share it with. This is Workshop, where creators meet community and ideas meet the world.”