First-time restauranteurs Daniel “Dano” and Bethany Heinze are dashing around to prepare the dining room in their forthcoming project Vern’s (41 Bogard Street, Charleston). A vendor delivered a big shipment of wine right before their Eater photoshoot, and cardboard boxes are everywhere. It’s all hands in to clear the debris, shine the windows, and light the candles dotting the room. Once the commotion clears, and the room comes into focus — it’s a vision of a modern upscale, casual, and cool restaurant.
Opening on Thursday, July 14, Vern’s is meant to be a neighborhood American bistro; it’s nestled in the mostly residential area of Cannonborough/Elliotborough. “We wanted this space because of the corner location,” says Dano, “We like the small, tightness of the restaurant — it helps to create the vibe we’re looking for. We want it lively with good music playing.”
The couple spent the past year and a half thrifting mismatched French chairs, redoing the tables they inherited from former Italian spot Trattoria Lucca, and picking up pieces to make the room come together. “New stuff is cool in the kitchen,” says Dano, “but old stuff is cool in the dining room.”
While this might be the Heinze’s first restaurant, they are absolute pros in the food and beverage industry. Dano was the chef de cuisine at Charleston institution McCrady’s and Bethany ran the bar, before they departed for Los Angeles in 2016 to work with famed restaurateurs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal and Jon & Vinny’s ). The couple returned to the Lowcountry in 2021, ready to contribute to the Charleston community.
In the kitchen, Dano draws from his work with hyper-local produce at McCrady’s, ingredient-based cooking in California, and travels through Europe with Bethany. He describes the food as “sharable American-style cuisine.” The menu is split into three sections: small plates, including a sourdough flatbread made to order; a vegetable-heavy and pasta section; and larger format proteins.
When asked to give an example dish that he knows will be on the opening menu, Dano says, “One of my favorite things is roast chicken. So there will be a whole-roasted poisson, brined overnight, pan-roasted, and served with a brown-butter chicken jus. It will be covered with dandelion greens that have been tossed in olive oil and black pepper.” There’s no set menu yet (as of the publication of this article), but it will be updated daily with limited-availability specials featuring super local produce.
“We wanted to be really intentional,” says Bethany, “We wanted a restaurant that felt personal and genuine. We didn’t want to be ‘conceptual,’ we wanted to showcase the creativity of our staff and food and wine we enjoy eating on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.”
In addition to dinner service, Vern’s will offer brunch on the weekends. Dano calls it “a lighter brighter brunch than we’re all used to,” so think omelets, sandwiches, and lots of vegetables, instead of biscuits and gravy.
Behind the bar, Vern’s focuses on wine, wine-based cocktails featuring sherries and vermouths, and a rotating list of local beers and a few of the couple’s international favorites. “Our wine list is an adventurous selection from around the world with no specific region or varietal to box it in,” says Bethany, “It’s wine that’s made in ways in the same ethos that we expect from our food purveyors.” The wine selections are also expected to rotate quickly.
“This restaurant is literally Bethany and I,“ says Dano, “This is coming out the way we wanted. It’s been really fun to see how it’s come along. Just now, we saw the dining room together for the first time. And it looks great. All in all, this is a full representation of us and our journey and in our mind what we wanted our first restaurant to be.”
The Heinze’s led up to this opening with sell-out pop-ups across town, so it’s easy to imagine that reservations will go just as fast. After July 14, Vern’s will open Thursday through Monday for dinner, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday for brunch, from noon to 2:30 p.m.