How did Edmund's Oast come about? And how many years did you plan?
Shor: It was years — several years. Ever since The Charleston Beer Exchange existed [November 15, 2008], Rich Carley and I talked about starting a small beer bar with an on-premise equivalent of the store. It was going to be a small place where you could drink all our beers. Then we started talking about a beer bar with a small food program. And then it became a beer bar/restaurant. And then it became a beer bar, restaurant, cocktail bar, and wine bar. And then it became a beer bar, restaurant, cocktail bar, wine bar, brewpub, with a big space, an indoor/outdoor dining room, an impressive charcuterie program, and, in my opinion, a world-class chef, an incredible beverage director, and incredible head bartender. So, it really grew.
... then it became a beer bar, restaurant, cocktail bar, wine bar, brewpub ...It was this really dynamic process that took place over four years, and that was the actual strategizing, not just the pipe dream phase. The thing that really locked in the magnitude of what we were going to do, was when we found this location and this space. We're big believers of letting the space have an influence on what you do. We needed to be flexible. Whether it's going bigger or smaller, you have to find the place you're committed to, and your heart is in it, because you could be there for the next 10 or 15 years, hopefully 20. You let that space have a say in the direction you go. That was a big part of the final Edmund's package. We settled on this spot — it's big— it was big enough for a brewpub, not a production brewery. It was big enough to have a substantial kitchen that Andy designed. It was big enough to incorporate this whole charcuterie program, which takes a lot of space — space that we're fortunate to have here. We're very fortunate.
The space really dictated the design too. When it was going to be smaller, it was going to be more cavernous and dark, more like a Belgian basement bar. But then when we got into here, with a big building and incredible natural light — it was a totally different ball game. You have to embrace and accentuate that.
Edmund's Oast was really just a perfect storm that came together and here we are.
Henderson: When we first talked, a year before the restaurant opened, we talked about an 85-seat restaurant. I remember when we got the first blueprint of this space, and our architect very casually said it would hold 140 seats, and we were a little surprised. But we said, "Alright. It's a little different than what we imagined, but let's do it."
How has the restaurant changed?
Henderson: We had so much time in training, that we were very comfortable in the kitchen on day one. That was the best, first day experience working in a restaurant. It was stressful, but with our amount of training, it was very approachable. We were busy in the beginning, and since adding The Bower, we're doing 30 percent more business than we were — almost overnight. That's what the kitchen was designed for. Honestly, for us, it was the difference of one more cook in the kitchen, and we're just as comfortable as we were two months ago. Learning as we grow, to accept the volume, and embrace it, while keeping the level of quality high is a challenge, but an invited challenge. And, for me, a fun challenge. We maintain a balance of high volume and maintaining high quality. That's my job, and I love that aspect of it.
It blows my mind, and I watch it every single day.
Shor: It's a fascinating equation here, as the non-kitchen side, and as an observer. We epitomize, slow, artisanal food. Conceptually, I think a lot of people think our food is at war with the amount of covers we do on busy weekend nights, but Andy has an amazing way of making that symphony play beautifully. It's crazy. It blows minds. It blows my mind, and I watch it every single day. For other friends that come in, in this business, they ask how we do this food on this scale.
Henderson: A lot of chefs don't get it. They ask how I maintain quality with over 100 people in the restaurant, and I say, "It's not easy, and it takes a lot of work and dedication." We have to be here as much as we can — within physical limits.
Shor: We all work a lot.
Henderson: We work our asses off, but it shows. It shows in the food, and it shows in the service. There's nothing that we could be more proud of.
We work our asses off, but it shows.
What's the best-selling dish and was it a surprise?
Henderson: The pickled shrimp or the burger. Neither one surprised me.
Shor: The pickled shrimp is the surprise to the guest. If people haven't had it or haven't heard about it, they read pickled shrimp on the menu and think of something else, like a jar of pickled shrimp. Now, it's one of our best-selling dishes.
Henderson: Just last night, Jacques Larson was in and said he didn't order it because he's had pickled shrimp before. So, I sent him one, and it became his favorite dish. And I love that.
Eater contributor Timmons Pettigrew wants to ask, why aren't you selling growlers?
Shor: That's a good question. We intended to start selling growlers months ago, and we keep saying, "It's going to be another month. It's going to be another month." And the real reason is, beer sales are too good. We struggle to keep up with demand for house brewed beers in the restaurant, so if we added to-go growlers, we would run out of everything all the time. We're trying to up production, but we have a finite amount of equipment back there. I thought we were close a few times, but then we'll have a huge weekend and the supplies are depleted.
Henderson: It goes back to the production schedule and learning to adjust the volumes. It's the same thing for the charcuterie. There's been times we'll be sitting on a half ton of cured meats. Literally, 1000 pounds at one time, ready to go, and we think we're good, but then we'll have two weekends, and we realize we're actually behind. We're still fine tuning the right amount to produce and how to do it.
Was the initial attention for Edmund's Oast surprising?
Shor: It sounds weird, but I came into this with no expectations. I was in the unique position of not being a seasoned restaurateur or a restaurateur at all. I didn't have any preconceived notions of how this would go or whether or not we'd be busy. I was just following my heart and something it wanted to do. I was very fortunate to surround myself with incredibly talented people to make this whole thing work. The whole team coming together the way it did is mind-blowing.
I was very fortunate to surround myself with incredibly talented people to make this whole thing work.
Sometimes I step back and look around and think about, how do we have all these amazingly talented people under this one roof? The people that helped us get it open, like Andrew Fallis, were incredible helpful. Having Jess [Nicoles] on board with Cameron [Read], Jayce [McConnell], and Andy's team is extremely humbling. I'm so grateful all these people came together at the right time to make this place what it is and what it's growing into.
From day one, we're always trying to get better at what we do.
Henderson: It's a very communal effort: Front to back and top to bottom. We're always thinking, "What can we do to make it better every day?"
Edmund's Oast is celebrating its first anniversary this evening, Monday, February 16, with food and drink specials. Popular items, like the Red Wedding cocktail or the pickled shrimp, will be priced at half-off.