If after last semester’s finals week you packed up your things and headed back to the comfort of your dog and hometown, or even if you did have the pleasure of living on the peninsula last summer, you probably missed the opening of one of Charleston’s newest culinary hot spots. Whether your stomach leads you to Southern chow or international fare, you will find yourself with some great new food with that traditional Charleston touch.
The Westendorff: Historic oasis for modern life
Hungry patrons travel back in time at Westendorff, a historic oasis located amidst the bustle of modern downtown life on St. Philip and Warren St. Owners Steven Niketas and Michael Routzahn brought down a nearly 19 year old company, Café International/MOSAIC, from Virginia into the location of the Westendorff’s century old hardware store. However, there haven’t been any hammers on the premise since the doors officially opened on July 24 after five years of renovation – work that recently received the highest honor for restoration by The Historic Charleston Foundation.
The owners are satisfied with their accomplishments since opening, saying they “have been very pleased with the response from the community.” Many customers come for the highly anticipated renovations but stay for the food, including the bestselling smoke–braised Heritage Farms pork spare ribs with Asian slaw, nuoc cham, peanuts and crispy potatoes. Customers also love their operating hours, as they are the only restaurant downtown open for dinner and brunch daily.
In addition to first floor historic dining, the venue boasts a second floor banquet room that seats 65 guests and a fully furnished third floor apartment that can accommodate five overnight guests or hold events for up to 25 people.
Breizh Pan’ Crepes: Charleston-casual French dining
Across campus from the Westendorff at Breizh Pan’ Crepes, owners Patrice and Celine Rombaut have been serving up sweet and savory pancake-like dishes since May 18 – and have lured in long lines ever since. Their success stems from both spouses’ attendance at Ecole des Chefs and years of experience in French restaurants. Patrice’s trip from Europe to the east coast inspired him to move to Charleston last February – wife and daughter in tow – and open his own restaurant.
Though you may have had crepes at IHOP or a kiosk in the mall, you have never had them like this. Delicate and delectable, these Brittanny-style crepes are made with gluten-free buckwheat that is imported from France 300 pounds at a time. According to the owners, buckwheat can be purchased six times cheaper in the United States, “but it just isn’t the same.” Not only is each crepe made with only the finest ingredients, but the ingredients are kept simple and limited, making their crepes tasty and surprisingly healthy.
Patrice recommends his most popular Crepe #15, more commonly known as La Complete: the perfect combination of ham, Swiss cheese and egg. A sweeter customer favorite, La Phare, is filled with fresh strawberries, homemade chocolate, bananas and Chantilly cream.
Smoke: Better Than Barbecue
It was mid June when Roland and Michael Feldman, brothers and Charleston natives, made the move from food truck to restaurant, settling down on King Street with their new joint, Smoke. Their “elevated barbecue” is likely to be famous by next year, claims Roland, the duo’s culinary mastermind. His brother and business partner, Michael, is the front of house manager.
At Smoke, Feldman never takes the easy way out. His personal recommendation, the Ruben, is smoked for hours in-house and served with homemade pickles and dressing. The meat is cooked with red beets, giving the sandwich a taste that pops. He also recommends their best-selling chicken wings, which are brined before smoking. Another crowd favorite is the beef and cheddar, which is their twist on a fast food favorite. Feldman ensures you cannot go wrong on the menu because nearly everything is carefully homemade and kept simple.
It is no surprise the owners have been so pleased with their success due to their thorough cooking styles and great appreciation for quality. But Smoke has more to offer than food; the restaurant has a full service bar as well as incredible art from local Sean Williams. They even occasionally bring in live music.
The Feldmans are more than happy to incorporate others into their line of work whether they be artists or, as Roland mentioned, College of Charleston students. Roland is looking for ways to develop a partnership with the school for fundraisers or catering opportunities. The brothers strive not only for quality food, but a quality experience.
Tricera Coffee: Local Lattes
Tricera owners Robbie and Esther Dietrich embarked on their coffee journey years ago and have been selling coffee at the weekly farmers market as well as to over 15 businesses downtown ever since, but it was not until February that they took the buriness to the next level. The couple opened their coffee shop with their 2-month-old daughter and love for coffee in tow.
As soon as you walk into the quirkily decorated coffee house, you are immersed in a community where neighboring business owners drop in to say hi and supply cabinets are stocked only with local goods. If a menu item is not made in store, it came no farther than Charleston Spice Company or Bagel Café on James Island. Deitrich claims he only uses the best, and to him that means local.
Dietrich happily states that business has been wonderful, but he owes a big thank you to students who supported him and his wife since opening. Dietrich says most of the time, students order an iced coffee to make studying for math more tolerable. However, if you’re in the mood for something special, try their signature saffron latte to elevate coffee to a whole new experience. And waffle connoisseurs, be sure to try their prosciutto and bourbon waffles with grapefruit syrup.
*This article first appeared in the October 2015 issue of The Yard