An architect and a foodie walk into a bar.....
My pal Miguel Buencamino and I have been looking for an excuse to collaborate on a blog. Miguel is the mastermind behind Holy City Handcraft: a blog that focuses on the Charleston food and drink scene. Miguel is also a kick-ass photographer which you will see from some of the photos.
We figured that a restaurant review would be the perfect way to collaborate. I will focus on the design and architecture and Miguel will focus on the food and drink. I hope this works!
The title of this new blog series is Design and Dine and for Episode 1 we are reviewing:
Leon's is a funky little restaurant in the North Central neighborhood of Charleston. Although it is located on Charleston's famous King Street, this is a part of King not formerly known for its fine cuisine. That is starting to change...
Owners Brooks Reitz and Tim Mink opened the restaurant in the summer of 2014 in the former home of Leon's Body Shop. And just to clarify....the kind of body shop that fixed cars, not the kind that sells lotion and cosmetics.
This restaurant is a great example of how exterior dining can energize a street. Unfortunately, most Charleston sidewalks are too narrow for sidewalk cafes, which is a real shame. Leon's just spills right out adding so much life. I love it!
The Architect's Vision
When I asked architect Kevan Hoertdoerfer about the design vision for the project Kevan said that they wanted to create a fish shack that capitalized on the industrial aesthetic of the existing building (exposed CMU block walls, steel windows, wood truss roof, concrete floor).
Kevan said they also wanted to make a strong indoor/outdoor dining connection.
And to have the kitchen and bar activity as open and exposed as possible.
I would say that Kevan and the owner team were very successful at their goals. The existing building has such great texture and character and seems to be a perfect compliment to the oysters and chicken featured on the menu.
The outdoor seating with rollup garage doors are a home run. There is just a great buzz that is created by the openness and activity. Good stuff!
The Oyster Shed
But wait....there's more! There is a little hidden gem behind Leon's that goes by the name of the Oyster Shed. The Oyster Shed is a historic single house that can be rented for event space.
Similar to the restaurant, the raw nature of the building has been preserved and featured The plaster and lathe has been stripped away revealing the beautiful timber framing beneath.
The 2nd floor has been removed and steel tension cables have been added creating a very unique 2 story space. That is something you don't see everyday.
There is no need for additional frou-frou and decoration.
This is just a cool space. Miguel took some great detail shots.
Steve's Final Wrap Up
I am definitely a fan of Leon's. Kudos to Kevan Hoertdoerfer and the owner team.
The formula for Leon's works well and it stands out among the competitive Charleston Food Scene. It is a fun place to eat and there is some great people watching.
It is also important to point out that Brooks Reitz and Tim Mink took a bit of a risk by putting a restaurant in this location. They were definitely pioneers as this spot is a bit isolated from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area.
I don't think it is any coincidence that this little stretch is now seeing a bit of a food renaissance. Within a stone's throw from Leon's, you have the brand new Little Jack's Tavern and a new Tex-Mex restaurant under construction.
And they have soft serve!
How about the food?
Oh yeah. Restaurants are about food. Now I will turn it over to Miguel Buencamino.
For a review of the food at Leon's check out:
For more on my pal Miguel:
The Charleston-based bad-boy/heartthrob and blogger, Miguel, is the man behind Holy City Handcraft. He works as a Software Analyst by day and is a food and cocktail blogger by night, making him one of the worst super heroes I've ever heard of. As a Charleston transplant, originally from Orlando, FL, Miguel's blog focuses on anything from whiskey reviews and original cocktail recipes to Charleston restaurant reviews and event coverage around Chucktown. He has recently become an avid photographer and is very much into Charleston's local food and drink scene, he will even occasionally share his personal recipes in collaboration with locally made products.
You can contact Miguel for any inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on social media:
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