Every new restaurant brings something different to the Charleston-area dining scene, but it’s the rare venue that doesn’t have some sort of local precedent. To celebrate the newcomers and honor the stalwarts, we’ll look at a few of them side-by-side in this column over the coming weeks. The setup isn’t competitive: While you may prefer one place over another, the idea here is to showcase the many options available to eaters and drinkers here.
Second-floor drinking nooks
Parcel 32’s upstairs bar officially debuted on New Year’s Eve with an event that was promoted as a party, but reportedly felt more like a tasteful reception to guests who were happy to escape the mayhem mounting toward midnight on King Street.
Although its name is Britishized, The Parlour seems destined to function as parlors have throughout American history. Namely, it’s a calm refuge where style isn’t neglected, and the fluctuations of daily life are smoothed over by codes of behavior. At The Parlour, for instance, the bartenders mix boulevardiers, martinis and daiquiris. Even teetotalers would recognize every drink name on its very classic cocktail menu.
The Parlour also serves beer, wine and snacks from the restaurant’s accomplished kitchen, although it’s hard to square drippy burgers and cheese-slathered waffle fries with the tidy upholstery. The room is interspersed with throw pillows and framed pictures, so it feels more like a home dressed up than a restaurant relaxing.
Of course, most homes today don’t have parlors, as Lillian Hart Tryon fretted back in 1916. “We are fast becoming a parlorless nation,” she wrote. “The accidental limitations of space and of service in modern life, and the increased expenses of buildings. …We could not get our parlors back if we tried.” Parcel 32 deserves credit for not just trying, but succeeding. 442 King St., 843-722-3474, parcel32.com
In places where people don’t drink at all, or only drink where judging eyes can’t see, it’s considered a cry for help to hold a baby shower in a barroom.
But so long as community sentiment doesn’t stand in the way, a bar is the ideal place to gather guests, especially when it’s the kind of bar that’s treated like a clubhouse by workers in the neighborhood. That’s presumably why most of the tables upstairs at Halo were recently decked out with “It’s a Boy!” decorations.
“We really try to be part of the MUSC community, and to offer a safe, relaxing spot (away) from the craziness at the hospital and schools,” says owner Geoff Chewning, who almost exactly five years ago debuted the bar portion of his then-four-year-old cafe.
During the day, all of Halo’s business is conducted from its first-floor counter. It’s a popular source of salads, sandwiches and soups. Its second-floor bar clicks into gear at 3 p.m. on weekdays, serving dishes that don’t fit neatly into a 10-minute lunch break, such as fried pickles and mac-and-cheese bites.
Halo is primarily a beer bar, pouring 30 craft and local beers. Except when a baby shower’s dominating the room, most people sit around tables, since there are just five stools at the bar. And then they head home. Halo closes at 8 p.m. 170 Ashley Ave., 843-297-8842, halocharleston.com