East Bay and Broad; these are the streets that shape our city. Geographically, they split the peninsula into boroughs, namely Ansonborough and South of Broad. Historically, they signify Charleston’s great centers of commerce and jurisdiction. And culturally, they define and complicate this beautiful city we live in.
King Street and Battery Park clog tourist pamphlets and receive notoriety for their commercial beauty and charm, but as we Charlestonians know, there is so much more to this peninsula held on the backs of these boroughs and their less nationally acclaimed locations.
Anyone can feel it, walking down King, Broad, East Bay or Meeting – that premonition that each side street passed is a missed opportunity, capable of both sunny sojourns and twilight secrets, a “maybe later,” a forlorn feeling. And this doesn’t stop at strolling, shopping or, of course, eating. There are restaurants and specialty shops from Bay to Broad that the neighbors know, and are waiting for you to visit…
East Bay St., originally just “Bay,” has a certain marshy stillness to it, as if you drove and drove miles to the shore and you arrived to a quietness. But in Charleston, this happens in a matter of minutes and intersections. As you walk down Calhoun towards East Bay, there isn’t a single hint that you’re coming closer to the edge until you look straight ahead and the buildings start to grow larger and more sparse. East Bay and its surrounding Ansonborough have a subtlety found less so on the rest of the peninsula. There is no air of pretension or as many historic porticos, but there are wealths of local seafood and meats.
Ted’s Butcherblock sits back in a strip mall off East Bay, and looks anything but charming. But as you walk in, you see the packed cases of meats and realize you’re not just in any sandwich shop or deli. Owner Ted Dombrowski stocks the shop with cheese, artisanal bacon (for the bacon of the month BLT) and a selection of wines. The bbq pulled pork panini stands out as the customer favorite, with house-smoked heritage pork, cheddar cheese slaw and house bbq sauce. And of course, their gouda mac & cheese, stuffed into plastic cups on almost every customer’s table.
Making your way down the street, you’ll find that 289 East Bay is no longer painted the color of orange juice, but white with steel, now
167 Raw. CofC alumni, Jesse Sandole and Kyle Norton, opened their gourmet seafood market and cafe as a second location and companion to their family seafood market in Nantucket. Sandole states, “Charleston has an incredible food culture, [and] we wanted to bring the concept of a fish market/restaurant to town because it’s a bit different than what people are used to experiencing…we’re bringing in all the best seafood we can find from up and down the East Coast which makes for an exciting dynamic in our kitchen. Our menu is small and simple but by having the seafood case at our disposal we’re able to change it everyday.” And they do. Customers come by cars and by foot to 167 Raw to scope out the case and take home boxes of scallops or tuna poke and chips for dinner, or to serve as sides. Its Ansonborough’s neighborhood seafood jaunt, and it feels very at home there.
Broad Street is stately, there’s no denying it. Maybe it’s the large churches, or the Greek Revival of the Four Corners of Law, but most likely it’s because (at least historically) it has the broadest streets in Charleston. Art galleries feel dignified here, and so does really every building that seems to tower over you, making walking down the street a humbling experience.
Tucked onto Church Street, right off of Broad under a black awning is the very quaint fromagerie, goat. sheep. cow. The shop carries over 200 types of cheeses from both the U.S. and Europe, and with cheese lovers in and out daily, goat. sheep. cow. began to make a “sandwich of the day” to appease them. Patty Floersheimer, a co-owner, commented, “It seem[ed] to work as we did not want to become a sandwich shop but still wanted to give our clientele what they asked for.” Daily sandwiches with ingredients like Finocchiona, marinated feta cheese, roasted red peppers and local arugula are now hot-items at goat.sheep.cow., and while most of their sandwich customers “were regulars who live[d] and work[ed] in the neighborhood,” Floersheimer said, “Now we seem to reach well beyond these boundaries.”
A couple blocks away on Broad, Gaulart & Maliclet, known lovingly as “Fast and French,” is really anything but fast and plainly French. In an interview with Manager Lawrence Mitchell covering everything from gazpacho to the original founders’ philosophies, he divulged the nickname is less about the food and more of a play on a certain artistic lifestyle. Mitchell states, “We continue to want to be the place that people can come to every day.” At community tables with a total of 33 seats in house, there are “students, artists, tourists, and then you have jurors, clergy, and lawyers. We don’t stick to a category, but it’s really an interesting place where all that mingles…the whole place is designed as a social experiment – bringing people together.” With low prices (Try the Croq’ Monsieur for $4.10 or the O’Rye for $8.25), and a wide variety, Fast and French is 30 years strong and somewhat of a Broad Street institution. Mitchell said, “We’re always thinking about how to take care of the [Fast and French] building. We’re married to our building. We’d never leave.”
This article first appeared in the October 2014 issue of The Yard.