Even though Charleston is a city in size, “it’s really like a little village,” says Erin Reitz, founder of E.M. Reitz, her label of tailored, designed-in-Charleston womenswear. The entire city is easily walkable, with streets graced by centuries-old cobblestone and draping Spanish moss that lays on the Southern charm thick. While Erin and her husband, Brooks Reitz, have lived here for more than 15 years, she says, “It still feels like our little secret sometimes.”
Despite Charleston’s intimacy, the couple firmly believes the cultural and culinary scenes compete with cities much larger. “There is a strong community of creatives and entrepreneurs that feed our drive and inspire us,” says Brooks, co-founder of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and co-owner of some of the city’s buzziest bistros and restaurants, including Leon’s Oyster Shop, Little Jack’s Tavern and Melfi’s.
So where does this cool couple spend date nights, weekends and other off-duty moments? You’ll find them at excellent local boutiques, Parisian-Ish patios and one of the city’s largest green spaces. Here are their must-visits for your next trip to Charleston.
For leisurely lunching: Chez Nous
This is the couple’s top spot in the city for a “proper grown-up meal,” says Erin. “The restaurant is in an old Charleston single house, renovated gently to offer a couple of petite dining rooms and a small patio.” The menu is short but mighty, with six items daily that seldom repeat. Expect “European-inflected, simple plates that focus on excellent sourcing, seafood, and vegetables done with a light touch,” she says. “It’s the best for a long lunch on a sunny day, ideally with lots of Chablis.”
“The gallery is our favourite cultural excursion,” says Brooks. “Their shows are well considered and always surprising, like a recent exhibition of William Eggleston photographs from a local collector.” The couple likes to make it one of their Saturday stops — they’ll head out for a leisurely lunch, then bike over to the gallery. (Charleston has a Lime e-bike share program if you’d like to do the same.)
For all-day snacking: Babas
Whether you want an early morning pick-me-up or a late afternoon unwinding, Babas’ two locations are “community favourites,” says Brooks. “We love it for coffee in the morning, but they also make great cocktails — including one of the better martinis in the city. All their drinks are smart and fun.” The food menu also includes pickled shrimp with toasty baguettes, caviar sandwiches, onion dips and jamón Ibérico by the ounce, plus “great baked goods and fun snacks at happy hour.”
For independent designer labels: Worthwhile
Erin is keen on Worthwhile, a nearly 30-year-old, multibrand designer boutique selling women’s clothing and small giftable items. “They’ve been around for good reasons: a sharp edit, knowledgeable staff and a distinct point of view,” she says. Housed in a beautifully restored, 19th-century building close to King Street (the city’s main shopping drag), it’s full of pieces from your next favourite small brands.
“Charleston has no shortage of breweries — by my last count, there were over 30 within city limits,” says Brooks. But their favourite continues to be Munkle, specifically for their clean, crisp, bitter Pilsner. “Their lineup skews to lighter, brighter styles, making them well suited to Charleston’s weather,” he continues. “The brewery also backs up to an active railway, so we love to head there in the afternoon to drink a cold beer in the sun while our son takes in the excitement of the passing trains.”
For weekend brunching: Vern’s
“Vern’s is a great new entry into Charleston’s booming dining scene, recently opened by a husband-and-wife duo with longtime roots in Charleston,” says Erin. They head there for Saturday brunch (“when the lovely, sunlit room is a bit quieter and more low-key,” she notes) for benne seed pancakes and an omelette. Says Brooks, “While many of Charleston’s restaurants are dotted along King Street, Vern’s is tucked into a charming corner space in the Elliotborough neighbourhood, just down the street from another local favourite of ours: Chubby Fish.”
For a breather in nature: Hampton Park
Consider this Charleston’s version of Central Park, with greenery stretching across 60 acres in the city centre. “It’s become our second living room,” says Erin. “We love taking our son to the playground and lounging near the pond for a picnic on a nice day.” The other biggest draw for the duo is the mile-long loop at the perimeter. “In the spring, it is lined with azaleas and makes a beautiful backdrop for a run,” says Brooks.
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