An East Bay Street restaurant which helped build the first wave of Charleston’s current culinary renaissance closed Sunday night with little warning.
According to Blossom employees, they learned on Thursday that the restaurant was set to close permanently following dinner on Sunday. Restaurant representatives did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment but confirmed via Instagram Monday morning the restaurant had served its last meal.
“We appreciate all of you that have supported us through the years,” the post read.
Magnolias, the first entry in Hospitality Management Group, Inc.’s portfolio, is now the company’s only remaining restaurant. It shut down Cypress and Artisan Meat Share in 2017.
"We were told Thursday at lineup (that) Sunday would be our last day," says server Mark Casias, who joined Blossom in 1995. "Business has been slow, after initially doing OK since we reopened in May. I'm very disappointed we didn't have a chance to work the holidays."
When Blossom Café opened in 1993, two years after HMGI partners Thomas Parsell and Donald Barickman introduced Magnolias, it was hailed by The Post and Courier as “the hottest spot in town.” Just before its debut, executive chef Barickman described the guest experience he envisioned:
“As you walk in, you smell the fresh-baked breads from our bakery that’s right at our entrance,” he told a reporter. “Walk the length of our copper and mahogany bar … and there’s our exhibition kitchen, serving homemade pastas, imaginative salads and sandwiches, oak-roasted chicken and other specialties from our wood-burning pizza oven.”
Critics carped that Barickman failed to preview the dining room’s decibel level, lifted by the excitement of a no-reservations crowd, but they lavished praise on its Italian-spiced olives, grilled yellowfin tuna and orange blossom cake.
“It was cool and young and hip,” Casias told a Southern Foodways Alliance oral historian last year. “Our slogan at the time was ‘Innovative Cuisine,’ so there were all kinds of ingredients which I’ve never heard of.”
Reminiscing about the lengthy wine list, fresh seafood and sophisticated veal dishes, Casias added, “The restaurant scene was really just starting to get big here, and places had to set themselves apart.”
From 2006 to 2018, Blossom’s kitchen was overseen by executive chef Adam Close. Brandon Buck, formerly executive chef at Tradd’s, the short-lived restaurant which succeeded Cypress after HMGI gave up the address, was in the role when Blossom closed.
In its final months, Blossom pushed snow crab leg specials and various delivery deals, but its next-to-last Instagram post featured grilled salmon over gnocchi, a dish that wouldn’t have been out of place at Blossom in its heyday.
"Our current menu was one of the best in my time there," Casias says. "Give them credit for hanging in there."
Still, Casias says over the course of his 25-year career at the restaurant, he never pictured it ending this way.