Local cheer: Neighborhood hangouts make patrons feel at home with laid-back atmosphere

Customers enjoy the view along Shem Creek during happy house at Red's Ice House.

Christina Elmore

Editor's note: We are looking for all types of local hangouts that create a sense of community. If you have one, send us information at yournews@postandcourier.com.

NORM!

Like on TV's "Cheers," sometimes people just want to go where everybody knows their name, especially during the holidays.

And in those moments, the difference between an ordinary restaurant and a local watering hole becomes clear.

If you're looking for a hangout that places just as much emphasis on the kitchen as it does the bar, and still comes complete with a sense of community, here are a few places to take your family after the big Turkey Day is over.

Downtown Charleston

If Mike Tronoski wasn't sure how much Moe's Crosstown Tavern was loved before, he said he found out while the vintage pub was closed for almost a year for renovations.

Tronoski said Moe's reopened two weeks ago to customers who were happy to see an updated yet familiar version of the bar they've grown to love.

"Everything went really well when we reopened. The customers were happy to see that nothing really changed. It was just a newer, cleaner version of what they already knew," Tronoski said.

Moe's Crosstown is a staple in the Wagener Terrace neighborhood. The bar sits comfortably at Rutledge Avenue and Francis Street downtown, within walking distance for residents from the surrounding community.

While Moe's, with several television sets, appeals to sports aficionados, Tronoski said he wouldn't call the establishment a sports bar.

"The atmosphere here is really just that of a neighborhood bar. It's like Cheers, as cliche as that may sound," he said.

Tronoski said Moe's has a consistent crowd size as customers pop in throughout their day, but the busiest times often fall during happy hour and during Tuesday night and Sunday morning specials.

From 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays, Moe's offers its signature half-off burgers, which Tronoski said is always a crowd-pleaser. And on Sundays, brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. also proves to be a neighborhood favorite.

But what Moe's regular Colleen O'Connor, 32, said keeps her coming back has more to do with the community she finds there than anything else.

"I just really like the vibe. You see a lot of the same faces the more you come. And it's a small neighborhood, so a lot of the people just kind of know each other. It's just a good place to meet friends and have a good time," O'Connor said.

Mount Pleasant

It comes as no surprise that Red's Ice House used to be a fish-packaging business.

The restaurant's open deck along Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant helps keep that sense of history alive. But that same feature also provides one of the restaurant's signature touches: the view.

A chance to watch the sunset from Red's is enough to keep anyone coming back, but regular Sean Sullivan said the seafood, bar and friendly staff don't hurt either.

"The food's all good, and of course there's the bar, but the staff is so friendly. They take the time to talk to you, and they know your name. You never feel like a stranger here," Sullivan said.

Much of Red's is open to the elements. But for that reason, General Manager Barrett Perdue said the establishment can be somewhat tied to the seasons.

"Our busiest time is usually between Memorial and Labor days, when it's a bit warmer out. When it gets cold, people don't usually want to come out and sit by the water as much," Perdue said.

The venue does have plenty of enclosed space for those days when the weather is less cooperative, including an area for live music acts to serenade customers.

Perdue said the crowd at Red's is consistently diverse, with families and people of all ages among its many regulars.

Sullivan, 65, said it's that diversity that makes it easy for anyone to feel comfortable becoming a member of the restaurant's community.

"This isn't a college bar. Anybody's welcome," Sullivan said.

Summerville

Santi's Restaurante Mexicano in Summerville is somewhat hidden and can be easy to miss if you don't already know it's there.

But once customers discover the venue, restaurant facilitator Daniel Oyola said, they keep coming back for more.

Santi's is known for having some of the most authentic and freshest Mexican food in town, but Oyola said the restaurant isn't doing anything special to pursue that image.

"We're not comparing ourselves to anyone else. We just do things differently and serve the food that we like to serve," Oyola said.

While the food is important, he said, the bar is just as essential in creating the venue's laid-back atmosphere.

"We have great food, a great bar, great music. Everything works together to create that atmosphere" Oyola said.

That along with the free chips makes the venue an ideal spot for happy hour or a quick bite to eat.

"We come here to get away from the kids for a little while, and it helps that the prices are great," customer Carol Ross said while dining with friends.

Oyola said Summerville doesn't have as many bars or hangouts as some other areas, which makes Santi's valued in the community.

"There really aren't that many places to go. So our customers really like that we're here, and they continue to come back," Oyola said.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.