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Flashback Fridays: Two Decades at 819 Coleman Boulevard 10.17.14

J. Bistro ReviewSeveral months have passed since the first signs of construction appeared at 819 Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant. And since then, we’ve heard rumors, followed by several articles featuring renderings of the concept to come.

Earlier this week, Eater Charleston caught up with the man behind the new project, John Adamson of The Rarebit and Big John’s, reporting that The Americano will open by the end of this month. Described as a “1940s beach bar,” The Americano will have a Latin American and Mexican menu with Cuban flavors. The photographs reveal splashes of vibrant colors against a white backdrop, contemporary furnishings, vintage touches and plenty of greenery.

The Americano could prove to be a rather unique concept to call this location home in the past two decades. Looking back through our library of old reviews, we found one for J. Bistro, along with evidence of several restaurants that have since come and gone at this spot.

In 1995, Jane Kronsberg reviewed J. Bistro, a restaurant that was previously Jimmy Lou’s. J. Bistro was described as an affordable and tasteful spot featuring traditional menu items and newer concepts, from chicken pot pie to glazed goat cheese terrine. James Burns was the chef and owner of the restaurant. Gil Schuler, a mainstay of Charleston’s design industry and good friend of Limehouse Produce, did the logo and design work.

“The entire space is a pleasure to experience,” wrote Kronsberg, ending her piece by summarizing, “J. Bistro is a comfortable, interesting restaurant with a good menu and very reasonable prices.” The establishment did well in the neighborhood for several years, but eventually would close, starting an unfortunate trend for the location during the next decade.

SamosIn 2009, Samos Taverna appeared on the scene. Offering a Mediterranean and Greek-style tapas menu, the restaurant’s cuisine was described as that of the Greek island of Samos, complete with Greek wines. Samos shuttered after about two years.

 

Next Door

Next at 819 Colemand Boulevard came Next Door Bistro. Opening in August of 2011, Next Door was the project of executive chef and owner Ben Berryhill, who has Red Drum down the street. The Bistro was part pizza place, part Italian restaurant, and part French bistro. And just as fast as it appeared, Next Door Bistro disappeared, closing after a final night of service on October 5, 2012.

The Americano is not part Italian, not part French, nor was it a bistro or tavern. Perhaps this new concept that calls upon the nostalgia of the 40s will break the streak of turnover at this address. See the latest on The Americano here

We hope the best to anyone who shares our love for classic convertibles!

 

 

 

 

Limehouse Produce and Clemson University Partnership Leads to USDA GAP Certification for Several Local Farms 10.6.14

CHARLESTON, SC – October 6, 2014 –Limehouse Produce and Clemson University created a partnership three years ago to address the obstacles facing local farms seeking GAP certification. GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) are specific methods determined by the USDA to create food for consumers that is safe and wholesome through documentation of farm procedures and traceability of the product throughout the food system. The costs associated with achieving this voluntary certification have historically been too great for businesses that already face heightened financial pressures. By streamlining the process and subsidizing the costs, Clemson and Limehouse have made it possible for smaller farms to improve their food safety. To date, the partnership has resulted in successful certification of nine farms located in Charleston County at little to no expense to the farms.

Increasingly stringent food safety oversight has led most grocery chains and distributors like Limehouse to require GAP certification from their suppliers, cutting uncertified farms off from needed revenue. Thanks to Limehouse and Clemson, local farms that previously could not afford to complete the process, now have a viable means of attaining certification, thereby opening new and larger markets for their goods. “The most significant impact of this partnership is to allow local products into hospitals, schools and grocery stores that did not previously have access to food grown in their communities,” says Andrea Limehouse.

The increased marketability of local produce at the consumer level should provide encouragement for more local farms to seek and achieve GAP certification through this program. “Research shows that shoppers are willing to pay up to 20-percent more for items that are locally produced,” said Harry Crissy, Extension Agent for Clemson University. “GAP is allowing certified local farmers to bring their products to market in new ways that derive more revenue for their businesses and strengthen our local food system. The traceability system is giving retailers and wholesalers the confidence to offer consumers the local products they demand.”

 Certified Farms to date:

  • Rosebank Farms
  • Thackeray Farms
  • Rawl Farms
  • McCoy Farms
  • Edisto Produce
  • Mepkin Abbey
  • Southern Moon Farms
  • Adaptive Gardens
  • Joseph Fields Farms

 Farms in the process of being certified:

  • Freeman Farms (in process)
  • Holy City Farms (in process)
  • Sweetgrass Garden (in process)

 

To learn more, visit www.limehouseproduce.com.

 

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Flashback Fridays: The Woodlands, with Chef Ken Vedrinski 10.3.14

The WoodlandsReview Date: July 27, 1995

“Woodlands means excellence. Period.” The title of Jane Kronsberg’s 1995 review of The Woodlands Resort & Inn codified the entirety of the dining experience—the food, the ambience, and the service.  The Woodlands, located in Summerville, SC, was fine dining at its best. It was recognized as such by a multitude of awards that came in years following this review, including the only Mobile Five-Stars awarded in the state, and the only perfect score for food by Conde Nast Travel in 2002.

At the helm was Chef Ken Vedrinski, who, Kronsberg wrote, “is a master of his craft.” Coming from the acclaimed SwissÔtel Atlanta, Vedrinski brought principles of flawless execution kept lively with creativity and introduction of local, seasonal ingredients and an early adoption of the farm-to-table philosophy, a practice that earned him a place on The Today Show.

After a wildly successful start to his culinary career in the Lowcountry, Vedrinski left The Woodlands to build a restaurant of his own. He opened Sienna in Daniel Island, SC, and thus began his career as a restaurant owner and chef of Italian cuisine.

Recently, we checked in with Chef Vedrinski to talk about the development of his career, his Italian influences, and to get his take on the restaurant industry in Charleston.

Chef Ken Vedrinski

Chef Ken Vedrinski

The review of The Woodlands was written in 1995, how has the restaurant industry changed since then?

Ken Vedrinski (KV): Charleston wasn’t known as a culinary town. Back when I was at The Woodlands, there were only a few fine dining restaurants, Restaurant Million being one. Frank Lee and a few others were making marks downtown, but Charleston’s well-known chefs of today had not come to town, some weren’t even born yet.

Back then, most restaurants were still pretty basic; we questioned whether Charleston was ready to move beyond shrimp and grits and Frogmore stew. We found success with a modest number of local foodies supported by a steady stream of travelers from outside the region. The Woodlands was the first in the area to receive national accolades, and I believe it was part of what put Charleston on the map, along with the work of Marlene and Louis Osteen and the Salute to Southern Chefs. That’s when things began to change for the city.

The result of this work, and perhaps the most profound change for Charleston, Vedrinski said, has been the recent exponential increase in restaurants. He commented that the influx of new places is adding pressure to kitchen staff and front-of-house staff, as well. The lack of service and back-of-house staff has been reported on already, but Vedrinski went as far as to warn of a potential decline if businesses cannot find enough high quality, professional cooks to support their chefs, or adequately trained waitstaff to attend to their diners. “What we don’t want is to look back years from now and see a restaurant graveyard,” Vedrinski stated.

Vedrinski left The Woodlands to open Sienna, his first Italian-only venture, where he wore the chef’s hat along with the weighty responsibilities of a first-time owner.  

KV: I learned how to be a restaurateur by going through it—chefs and owners are two very different things. Chefs don’t need to know anything about HR, insurance, and the like. Chef-owners need to be business savvy and understand every single vendor they work with, or they pay the price. As a chef, I never really knew where the money went, but when I opened Sienna, I quickly learned where it was being spent, and especially became aware when it wasn’t there.

Recalling hard lessons, Vedrinski shared the first time he had to pass on purchasing a special, high-priced ingredient because the money was not available, and sorrowfully recalled the moment when he could not make payroll on time. “Chefs have to learn by going through the ordeal of seeing what everything costs. Now, you’re no longer just cooking, you need to be well-rounded and understand every aspect of the business,” he said. Vedrinski lamented, “The world is full of great chefs who’ve lost great restaurants.”

After handing over the reins at Sienna, Vedrinski looked to the Charleston peninsula for a second course of Italian cuisine. In 2008, he opened Trattoria Lucca as the sole owner, chef, and sommelier. Noticing the rareness of a chef who is also a sommelier, we asked Vedrinski what his understanding of wine brings to his cooking. 

KV: Italian cuisine has great synergy between food and wine – wine is a huge part of the Italian food scene, and the pairings are important. You can sit down with someone else, a hired sommelier, but it can sometimes feel like you’re speaking Chinese when talking about the ingredients and the flavors of your food. Besides, who knows the chef’s food better than the chef? Being a sommelier makes choosing and pairing the wines so much better.

I also love to drink Italian wine and took a huge interest in it. During trips to Italy, I went to the winemakers and saw what they were doing. I know the makers of about half the wines on our list and have been to their vineyards. This helps me understand the nuances of flavors, where they come from, and how they will work with my dishes. I can also help our guests choose a wine while telling them the story of the winemakers and their vineyards—and I think this adds tremendously to the experience at Lucca.

Vedrinski opened Lucca contented with the idea that it would be his focus for the foreseeable future; however, the opportunity arose for a new location well beyond the peninsula, one that he saw as a challenge in authenticity. He opened Coda del Pesce in 2013 on the Isle of Palms, a small beach community outside the city that typically catered to tourists.

Cultivated from his Italian heritage and travels to Italy, Vedrinski’s understanding of true and authentic Italian cuisine is rooted in the traditional ways of the people in the region—the cuisine is curated by the trades of the Italian people and their use of the land and its resources. He was adamant about maintaining this level of fidelity in what he served, regardless of the address.

KV: Italian food is peasant food, a humble and simple cuisine, and each town or region has its own style. They use uncomplicated ingredients from the farmers and artisans nearby, a practice that was once done here with the use of rice and other grains in traditional Gullah cuisine. I see the return of this in Charleston—farming, craftsmanship, and artisanal products coming back—as a very good thing for the culinary industry. But we’re not there yet. Italian in America is mostly “Americanized,” with overly ground meats, cheap ingredients, and the use of too much cheese. Even on the beach, I was not going to do this. I’d go broke before cooking like that.

As the sole proprietor of Coda del Pesce, Vedrinski is unencumbered by the influence of an owner or investor and is not driven by the bottom line—a freedom that allowed him to take a chance putting an Italian restaurant in a southern beach town. He is determined to share with Charleston and its many visitors the pleasantness of genuine Italian fare, whether through the use of Italian ingredients, Italian wine, or by showcasing the Italian application of being content preparing simple ingredients found around you. “There is a little luck involved, but if it tastes good and there’s value in it, people will come.”

 

During our talk, Chef Vedrinski humbly abridged more than two decades of restaurant experience through his eyes as a chef, owner, and sommelier. We hope to continue learning and sharing teachings from Ken and other industry veterans as the culinary environment grows and evolves.  

FlashBack Fridays: The Goodie House 9.12.14

 

Goodie House

The Goodie House Review
January 22, 1998

Finding the Post and Courier restaurant review for the Goodie House unearthed memories of small cafes and shiny diners with round leather barstools, familiar faces, and other nostalgia from back when Charleston’s culinary scene was more like a quiet front porch than a global performance stage.

The original Goodie House many will recall was in a humble cottage-like structure on Calhoun Street. Now a Starbucks, the building sees throngs of visitors and College of Charleston students every day. While the exterior of the building has remained the same, much around it has been built up, sighting the college’s new multi-level science and arts buildings, and the recent tagging by artist Shepard Fairey of the dormitory across the street.

But before all of that, the Goodie House served comfort food to regulars, some of whom stopped in on a daily basis. Despite the modesty of the Goodie House, the chili, burgers, and especially the pies were “legendary,” to quote Jane Kronsberg, who reviewed the reincarnation of the Goodie House in 1998 at its Ashley River Road location.

During her late dinner (they arrive 45 minutes prior to closing time), Kronsberg summoned the famous burger and the pie. The wait staff was forthcoming that the hamburger had been cooked earlier in the day and warmed up for the late night service. As one would imagine, it was not stellar. And the pie? It was nowhere to be found, as they do not make pies at the end of the day because they don’t keep well overnight.

In today’s world of critic reviews, 24-hour and instant social media postings, restaurants can easily be pressured into performing well beyond their means or original intentions to please a handful of occasional patrons. The performance by the Goodie House on the night of Kronsberg’s review might seem by today’s standards detrimental or even incendiary; however, might it simply be that the Goodie House wanted to be authentically portrayed—no matter who was sitting at the counter?

Near the end of the write up, Kronsberg noted, “All in all, things were just as I had expected.” And isn’t that the charm and draw of diners and neighborhood cafés? They remain the same, they stay true to their original recipes, no matter what chatter or changes are taking place around them.

We hope our readers will find a moment to enjoy a neighborhood café or old fashion diner for what it is and ask nothing more. Or better yet, become a regular somewhere and experience the joy of seeing familiar faces behind the counter each time you go.

FlashBack Fridays: Through the Years at 14 North Market Street 8.22.14

Market East BistroCharleston is a burgeoning town with a food industry to match. The city experiences a steady inhale and exhale of residents and visitors alike pining to partake in this culinary metropolis and driving the need for diverse options to quell their hunger.

With this sentiment in mind, we searched through the old restaurant reviews from The Post and Courier. Among them we found the write up for Market East Bistro and were curious to uncover what types of establishments have occupied this location–14 North Market Street–over the years.

The review of Market East Bistro written by Jane Kronsberg ran on Thursday, February 13, 1997. This was Konsberg’s second review of the bistro since its opening, and she wrote fondly of her experience once again. The lunch and dinner selections highlighted the many seafood options available at this accessible but refined bistro. As one patron was quoted in the review, the food and service were good and the prices “extremely reasonable.”

After the closure of Market East Bistro, Vintage Restaurant and Wine Bar took over the spot. Owned by Kevin Kelley, who was also the wine director, the restaurant boasted hundreds of bottles to pair with Executive Chef Thomas Clayton’s Provencal-style cuisine. Contrary to many establishments in the neighborhood, Vintage did not showcase typical Lowcountry dishes, rather offering diners a taste of France.

Cordavi then took up residence at 14 N. Market. Turning the dial to fine dining, Cordavi became known as one of Charleston’s top restaurants in its opening year, earning Esquire magazine’s nod for Top 20 New Restaurants in 2006. The establishment was written about as a leader in sophisticated haute cuisine with the potential to launch Charleston onto the culinary scene with longtime cosmopolitan players. Described as a maverick in the local dining scene, Cordavi showcased cutting edge culinary arts and was unapologetically “un-Southern,” regularly calling international ingredients to the table. Perhaps with the same surprise invoked by its creative approach, Cordavi closed leaving many lamenting a too-short stay. Read more about Cordavi in the City Paper review by writer Jeff Allen.

Another 14 N. Market Street establishment was Gilligan’s Seafood Restaurant. Gilligan’s, a family-friendly casual spot, brought a fun and lively atmosphere to the historical market and served as great place for traveling groups to dine. The bar at Gilligan’s stayed open well into the night, hosting late-night revelers in search of an affordable good time.

And finally, Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill is the current resident of 14 N. Market Street. An expansive establishment, the owners exposed the hidden history of the space by removing drywall to reveal 1800s-era cypress walls, paying homage to Market Street’s rich past. Bringing a modern twist to the traditional steakhouse, Burwell’s uses a 1,400 degree wood-fire grill and is promising an experience divergent from the overly masculine characteristics common of steakhouses. Read more about Burwell’s in this write up in the City Paper.

Looking back on the many restaurants that once called 14 N. Market Street home, we see a wide spectrum of culinary approaches. And with the diversity of palates in Charleston, coming from world travelers, vacationing families, long-time locals, and new residents, we are sure there is a place for just as many restaurant styles, themes, and cuisines and look forward to what the future might bring.

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