Ep. 87: Justin Croxall & Matt Tunstall, Stems & Skins

photo : jwkpec

photo : jwkpec

Although it’s tough to say, Charleston, SC is not all postcards and porch living. It’s a city that is fighting decaying infrastructure, gentrification, the pressure of tourists, and traffic, traffic, traffic as an average of 75 people move here a day. So it can be a beautiful place but a hard place to live, to work, and to build a business. And thus begins the story of Stems & Skins, a wine bar turned bar turned a hangout with great food and great beverages located in Park Circle in North Charleston. Owners Matt Tunstall and Justin Croxall have solid resumes -- Matt was the somm at Husk and Justin owned Bull Street Gourmet -- but when the two teamed up, they couldn’t make a downtown location work. Still, in the greatest stroke of luck by choosing Park Circle, they became a locals haunt of the highest proportions, something that was their goal from the beginning. I love this place, and I always see someone I know, and we share tinned seafood, natural wines, fresh cocktails, and plenty more far away from the sound of carriage rides and tour guides. On the day I visited, rain pelted the roof so loudly that you’ll wonder what that sound is around the 5 minute mark. Just hold on. It’s only fitting it’s part of this interview because flooded streets and old-fashioned gullywashers are part of living in Charleston too. Welcome to the locals spot, which despite being in Bon Appetit, is still a bit of a secret, at least for now. Learn how a neighborhood hot spot is born.

Episode 87 ›

 

 

Julia Grant, Linda Pinckney, & Sharon Coakley, Bertha's Kitchen 

Photo: stephanie burt

Photo: stephanie burt

There is never a time where there is not a line at Bertha’s Kitchen in North Charleston, SC. That means that you’ll have plenty of time to decide what all you want for your meal (hint: you want lima beans), and you’ll also have time to read the mentions in Southern Living and Garden and Gun hanging on the wall. Owners Julia Grant, Linda Pinckney, and Sharon Coakley cook just like their mother, Bertha, taught them to, and that line from doors open to close existed long before the 2017 James Beard Foundation America Classic Award. Still, the award illustrates what locals have known for a long time: this is the place to get fed. And by fed, I mean much more than just the food on your tray. Bertha’s is the place to go when you need to know that some things, like red rice and green beans, don’t need an update, that no matter what kind of day you had, the fried chicken will be fresh for you until the doors close, that you’ll have a hefty dose of love and an occasional “baby” and “how you been” when you get to the front of the line. Bertha’s is what home tastes like, and these ladies know it. This restaurant is my comfort spot, which I admit here, along with the fact that I like sugar in my cornbread. Go ahead and make your judgement. While you are fighting about the ingredients in cornbread, I’m going to sneak another helping. Join us at the upstairs table, won’t you?

Episode 88 >

Sarah Simmons & Aaron Hoskins, Rise Bakeshop and the Library Cafe 

photo: rise bakeshop

photo: rise bakeshop

Biscuits, business, bubbles. Chefs Sarah Simmons and Aaron Hoskins have made a life together in the midst of all of it, from Birds & Bubbles restaurant in New York, to Rise Bakeshop and the about-to be open Library Cafe in Columbia, SC. They live life on full tilt -- opening businesses, doing events, traveling, and even creating pop-up restaurants in Hong Kong to translate Southern fried chicken and biscuits on another continent. This kind of life has a lot of highs, but the two have experienced their share of lows as well, from the closing of Birds & Bubbles to labor shortages and long-distance relationship stresses. Sarah and Aaron get animated when they talk about the sexy subjects of margins, wine lists, and back of house systems, so it must be love. I know; I was a guest at their spontaneous wedding earlier this year. It’s all in a day’s work for this couple, who have decided to come home to Columbia to stay. They still have some fried chicken and biscuit tricks up their sleeves, and a love of French butter in their hearts, so I caught them in a breather moment in the Columbia library. Yep, you heard that right. A library interview is a first for me too.   

Episode 89 >