Strolling the grounds of Drayton Hall with a glass of wine, formerly an experience reserved for special events, will become a regular feature of guest visits with the opening this week of Rudi’s Café.
Located in the site’s new visitors center, Rudi’s will serve coffee, pastries, sandwiches, cheese plates, charcuterie, beer and wine. The café is operated by Rudi’s Old Village Wine Shop, which two years ago opened in Mount Pleasant.
“We think it’s going to bring such a great opportunity to Drayton Hall, because there aren’t many places to eat on 61,” Drayton’s retail director, Kate Ludwig, says.
Tourists increasingly expect something to eat when they tour cultural sites: As recently reported by The Post and Courier, the Gibbes Museum of Art added a café during its 2014-2016 renovation to pacify the many people who didn’t want to leave the property when they got hungry. The Daily at the Gibbes has been so successful that the museum this summer adjusted its hours to match up with its schedule.
At Drayton Hall, where the nearest restaurant, Charleston Coffee Exchange, is 2.7 miles from the plantation home’s front door, guests’ demands were even more intense.
“We were constantly being asked, ‘Where can we go? Where can we go?’” Ludwig says. “We would have loved to have given them an option.”
According to Ludwig, there’s limited seating at the café, but ticketed guests may picnic in just about any public outdoor area. The café is also open to visitors who haven’t purchased tickets, but they’re restricted from roaming the grounds.
In addition to providing counter service, Rudi’s will also prepare boxed lunches for groups and serve as the site’s exclusive caterer. The café will also mix the mimosas for a November yoga series planned for Drayton’s lawn.
Drayton considered a number of potential partners to run its café, but Ludwig says Rudi’s emerged as the best fit, in part because its existing retail space is approximately the same size as the visitor’s center café. “We’re really excited about them,” she says.
Because Rudi’s hasn’t yet received its beer and wine permit, it won’t offer alcoholic beverages right away. “But the end goal is you can come out and have a glass of wine in the courtyard,” Ludwig says.