Charleston’s culinary scene continues to evolve, and we checked in with a veteran local planner to get a taste of the city’s best group dining spots.
Thirty years ago, restaurants were so few in Charleston—perhaps five white cloth establishments and the yacht and country clubs. Today, private dining has become very chic with the combination of savvy restaurateurs and chefs who understand that groups are no longer “banquets” and expect an experience.
Here are some of my favorite restaurants that feature private dining, both old and new:
One of the first private dining rooms in Charleston, Magnolias opened its second-floor rooms to complement each other, making certain that the full dining room downstairs maintains itself as a separate experience. Commissioned artwork from American artist Rod Gobel, each piece an interpretation of a Magnolia, dresses the room. Expansive menu selections make this a favorite. Guests start with plates of hot chips topped with Clemson blue cheese, setting the tone of the evening.
Just a block down from Magnolias is a room that gives me chills, and that is the Long Room at McCrady’s. I have produced events [here] through the terms of four administrations of chefs.
Currently under the reign of James Beard “Best Chef Southeast” award-winner Sean Brock, this room, where President George Washington was entertained during his 1791 tour through Charleston, is the place where our clients are drawn to for the essence of “Old Charleston”. Chef Brock brings a 21st century flair to the cuisine, but honors the treasured traditions of researching actual types of vegetables to bring back varieties that are historically significant as possible, along with the pouring of the Rare Wine Company’s Sercial Madeira, made today in the dry style that Charlestonians enjoyed in the 18th century.
Chef Kevin Johnson’s new restaurant, The Grocery is just a step off of Upper King Street and features a grand scaled room which large windows overlooking the corner of King and Cannon Streets. It offers a local flavor in each course that just reeks “farm to table” without being contrived. His private room seats 24 or so and is just perfect for groups to enjoy and then sojourn down King Street for a well-crafted cocktail at places such as the Cocktail Club, the Belmont, or PROOF!
There are several private dining options at Circa 1886, from an intimate room for 12 to a classic Charleston-designed interior space for 38 with vistas of the garden. Chef Marc Collins always creates a menu with very subtle hints of international interest. Groups love to arrive after a half-hour carriage tour and find this jewel nestled in a neighborhood off the normal tourist path.