Built by Edward McCrady in 1788, the building that holds Charleston, South Carolina’s McCrady’s Restaurant was originally a four-story Georgian public house that once served as a charming reprise for notable Charlestonians after the Revolutionary War. New owners restored the property to its original grandeur in 1982. McCrady’s Restaurant, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Landmarks, represents the best of the amalgam that is new southern fine dining concomitantly serving as a canvas for postmodern gastronomy.
The city of Charleston is certainly no wallflower. In 1776, the port city successfully defended itself against the British, went on in 1860 to become the first state to declare independence from the Union, and in 1861 fired the first shot to start the Civil War.
Bentel & Bentel executed the remodel, fittingly; they were the firm to design Danny Meyer’s The Modern in Manhattan. The restaurant floor plan consists of a maze of rooms: the Bar, the Dining Room, the Chef’s Room which links to the Society Room, the Long Room and the Gallery Room.
Perhaps best exemplifying the dichotomy of tradition and postmodernism are the Bar and the Chef’s Room. The Bar, once home to horse and buggy stalls, is now a grouping of arched brick “rooms” for seating four to eight guests. Leather banquettes and bluestone tile were added, making the room both contemporary and respectfully traditional. A glass and wood wall that spans the height of two floors embodies form and function; it encases the Wine Spectator “Best Of” Award of Excellence-winning wine collection, filled with boutique and hard-to-find varietals from around the world. At bar height is a row of three-gallon glass pickling jars filled with house-infused spirits and an impressive collection of rare liquors.
The Chef’s Room affords a more intimate relationship between the guest and the sommelier and chef. The room is used exclusively for private occasions and guests who require the utmost in service and, at times, discretion (i.e., hidden pocket doors and a separate entrance off East Bay Street). Mahogany paneling and a Baccarat crystal chandelier embrace the inlaid mahogany dining table that seats 12. Chef Sean Brock carefully crafts the menu with guests prior to arrival and plates courses on fine bone china. Sommelier Clint Sloan serves the wines in Riedel Sommelier Series glassware.
The Long Room, as the grand second story dining room is referred, is a picture of the past. The room has striking 15-foot ceilings and offers views of historic Unity Alley. Elegant and gracefully-styled, this room has hosted many Charleston weddings. George Washington, while on his Southern Tour, dined in the room in 1791. Since the 18th century, the Long Room has set the standard for fine dining spaces in the American south. McCrady’s Restaurant has three separate working kitchens. The Long Room is served by the second-story kitchen, which was constructed to handle service for large groups. A new kitchen is being constructed for serving private gatherings in the Gallery Room. The main kitchen accommodates the Dining Room, the Bar, the Society Room and the Chef’s Room.
The original structure, erected by Edward McCrady in 1788, was a four-story Georgian manse, which served as a collective retreat for notable Charlestonians after the Revolutionary War. After imprisonment in the port city of St. Augustine, Florida, McCrady returned to Charleston and built Two Unity Alley. The new building connected to McCrady’s Tavern via a second-story double piazza. McCrady’s death in 1801 led to the building passing through many owners, with various purposes for its use, including a tavern, coffee house, warehouse, and its eventual abandonment.
In 1982, new owners with a keen appreciation for the history of the building and for Charleston set about to restore the property to its original grandeur. McCrady’s Restaurant had the bones to become the pinnacle of iconic southern fine dining.
McCrady’s Restaurant now enjoys designation on the National Register of Historic Places and Landmarks.