Patrick Panella has a bad habit of checking the local real estate listings. "It's like looking at cars," he says. "If you keep looking, you're eventually going to end up buying a car."
Such is the case for him with restaurant spaces. Several years ago, he and his wife and business partner Fanny purchased a house tucked down a driveway on Coming Street to be their residence, but then they decided to partner with chef Jill Mathias and her husband Juan Cassallet to open a restaurant in the space. Chez Nous was born in 2015 and is considered by the partnership group to be Mathias' dream restaurant.
When Panella stumbled across a real estate listing for the former Artisan Meat Share space at 22 Spring Street in downtown Charleston, he at first tried to ignore it.
"I told Fanny, 'Ooh, look at this. Artisan Meat Share is for sale,'" he says. "And then it was, 'We should call.' 'Do not call!' But we did and it's perfect for what we want to do."
What they want to do is let Cassalett open his own dream place, a Spanish-style taperia and market. Malagón, named for Casselet's Spanish grandfather, will sell Spanish staples like wine, olive oil, ham, cheese, sherry vinegar, saffron, cuttlefish ink and a variety of paprika. Malagón will also be a taperia, with a focus on small plates of classic Spanish fare.
The Chez Nous group spent a couple weeks in Spain this summer as part of their annual vacation trip. "When we planned the trip, we did not have the space," says Panella. "But then we got it about two weeks before, so we really had to beef up our research on the trip."
The Panellas said their trip, where they dined at modernist restaurants like Disfrutar and Succulent, along with taperias like Cal Pep in Barcelona, solidified their desire to do Spanish food. "Spain has always been on the cutting edge of cuisine," says Panella. "The products are excellent. There's an element to Spanish food and dining that's festive, casual and playful. We've gotten the best service in Europe in Spain."
"We want to bring a little Spain to Charleston," adds Fanny. "But we don't want to be a cliched or canned version of it."
As part of the planning process, the partners meet weekly for about eight hours and taste food to decide what will be on the menu. "There are certain standards in a taperia," says Fanny. "But we want them to be special."
Expect to see lots of seafood along with classics like croquettes, grilled octopus and patatas bravas.
Cassalett has been an integral part of Chez Nous, but the Panellas say that Mathias is excited for her husband to have his own restaurant.
They are hoping to debut Malagon by the end of the year.