One of Broad Street's newest addresses is home to a restaurant determined to upend the status quo—not exactly what its name suggests. Just shy of a year ago, The Establishment hung its shingle amid those of lawyers and bankers in Charleston's traditional business district. It was an unlikely location for an eatery. The focus would be seafood, but in a sprawling setting that reads more like upscale steak house than fish house.
"We wanted to build a restaurant with enough seating so we could accommodate last-minute reservations," explains The Establishment's general manager, Brad Mogan. He says the large footprint also enables the management team to host events in a private dining room that shares space with a 3,000-bottle wine collection.
The design plan was led by Atlanta-based The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry. The result is a spacious venue that showcases the property's historical elements against a modern, "visually stunning" setting. The nearly two-year renovation began with the demolition of the walls that separated the historic James Gregorie House, built circa 1791, and an adjacent building.
The team brought new life to the property while adhering to the Department of Interior Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings. Entry to the restaurant is through an original wrought-iron gate that opens to a slate-floored hallway. Overhead is a stunning arched ceiling that was restored during the buildout. The unique feature greets guests with a sense of warm welcome. Inside, The Establishment exudes a "big city" attitude, with dark wood paneling and soft lighting setting a tone of drama and intimacy throughout the space. Rustic timber-beamed ceilings and exposed old Charleston brick contrast with contemporary elements, such as concrete-covered walls and sleek furnishings. Sophisticated yet approachable, the open floor plan consists of various seating arrangements, each with its own visual personality. In the expansive bar area, a monolithic video wall streams scenic landscapes from around the world. Original art by local artists floats on other walls.
"There's a view from every seat," notes Mogan, a graduate of the Johnson & Wales hospitality and tourism management program. "You can enjoy a distinct experience in the bar or in the elegant dining room with a view of Broad Street while our pianist plays in the background."
With enough seating for a small audience, The Establishment's open kitchen provides food aficionados with a front row view of the culinary team's nightly performance. Executive chef Matt Canter says he found the pressure of the kitchen "a natural fit." He washed dishes as a teen and, after high school, segued into The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
"I thrive in an environment of creativity-making decisions on the fly," notes the Maryland native, who went on to work in several kitchens of The Ritz-Carlton after completing an externship at the luxury hotel's Amelia Island, Florida, property. "The company is very professional, really focused on guest satisfaction," he says, adding that a similar culture at The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island led him to Charleston and eventually to FIG, where he worked under lauded chef-owner Mike Lata.
The Establishment wants to expand their menu into the homes of their customers, offering up customized menus for each client and event. "We have been consistently doing multiple dinners every week," said restaurant general manager Brad Morgan.
While Georgia might officially be named the Peach State, "South Carolina actually produces far more peaches," asserts The Establishment's Executive Chef Matt Canter. It was from this nugget of truth that Chef Canter decided to make The Establishment's new summer dish focus on our most popular fruit.