August 20, 2015

McCrady's Restaurant in Charleston

McCrady's Restaurant interior

photo by: Andrew Celbulka

McCrady's bar room -- formerly home to horses and stage coaches -- is covered by a skylight along its full length.

There’s something so undeniably charming about Charleston it almost makes your heart hurt. The key lime pie and the soft, salty kiss off the sea air are definitely part of it, but it’s the architecture and the attitude that make any trip to Charleston a travel through not just space, but time.

McCrady’s is the kind of place that makes this happen.

McCrady's Restaurant dining room

photo by: Andrew Celbulka

McCrady's Long Room hosted George Washington for a dinner party in 1791.

Let’s get this straight right off the bat. You are not getting wasted here. You are not ordering shots. You are not doing anything other behaving like a gentleman (or gentle lady).

McCrady’s, as you’ll see, is not that kind of place. Here’s the backstory.

The Georgian house on East Bay Street appeared (in public record, at least) in 1767. Eleven years later, a barber by the name of McCrady bought the spot and opened it as a tavern.

As a leader of the local militia, McCrady was shipped off to St. Augustine after the Brits sacked the city during the Revolutionary War, but by 1788, he returned and added what locals call a “long room” to the back of the tavern. Once a popular way to add to the occupancy of any venue, it’s now the only remaining structure of its kind in Charleston from that period.

McCrady's Restaurant bar

photo by: Andrew Celbulka

McCrady's is known for hand-crafted cocktails and hard-to-find wines.

The Long Room was a hub for the city’s social scene. It hosted parties, plays, banquets, and debates, all at a time when Charleston was one of America’s leading cities. On May 4, 1791, the Long Room hosted President George Washington and other dignitaries for a 30-course dinner banquet.

McCrady passed in 1801, but the tavern kept on. Later, the building served as a coffee house, warehouse, and paper company. After a fire tore through in the early 1900s, the property sat vacant until it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

In 2006, the current owners restored the building as McCrady’s Restaurant.

The restaurant’s bar area boasts a wood-panel and glass wall, arched brick horse-stalls-turned-dining-cubbies, historic lanterns, and a walnut bar top. There is a separate dining room with original fireplaces and exposed brick walls. And the famed Long Room is back in action with 15-foot ceilings, Venetian chandeliers, and padded silk walls.

This place is the pinnacle of the Southern fine dining experience. You may have heard of their chef, Sean Brock, who, on top of also being the head chef at Charleston’s Husk -- one of the nation’s most acclaimed eateries -- has a trophy case full of James Beard awards and nominations.

McCrady's Restaurant salad

photo by: Andrew Celbulka

McCrady's chef Sean Brock is highly lauded. Behold his salad of green strawberries, radish, buttermilk ricotta, and lemon balm.

Oh, and did I mention they serve hand-crafted cocktails and hard-to-find wines as well?

Location: 2 Unity Alley, Charleston, SC 29401

Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 5:00 – 9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday: 5:00 – 10:30 p.m.

You’re Having: Anything they offer

Best Yelp Review: "This was the best meal I've ever had. The flavor combinations were amazing, the attention to detail was impressive, and the service was excellent." – Allie W.

David Weible is the content specialist at the National Trust, previously with Preservation and Outside magazines. His interest in historic preservation was inspired by the ‘20s-era architecture, streetcar neighborhoods, and bars of his hometown of Cleveland.

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