The team behind Sichuan restaurant Kwei Fei (1977 Maybank Highway, Charleston) opened their downtown spot Beautiful South (128 Columbus Street) earlier this month, with a fun new space to explore the menu items from southern China. While Kwei Fei’s atmosphere leads with “loud hot vibes,” Beautiful South is more subtle and feminine.
Co-owner Tina Heath-Schuttenberg transformed the previously blank concrete cavern to the dining room seen today. She worked with a color palette of jade and navy to subtly reflect the waterways of the Lowcountry and China. Heath-Schuttenberg wanted to create a softer, more luxurious feeling in the industrial space, so she brought in banquettes upholstered in velour and tweed, rich wood-tone furniture, and pops of neon from the art and signage.
When chef David Schuttenberg came up with the opening menu, he already had a rotation of American-style takeout Chinese classics he had tested at Kwei Fei and various pop-ups around Charleston. And while the beef and broccoli option remains popular, Schuttenberg says that many of the customers are most excited about the regional Cantonese dishes appearing on the menu. There are plans for whole-roasted duck and dim sum in the future.
“My biggest worry was that we would lose a little bit of our identity as a funky little punk rock Sichuan place on James Island,” says Schuttenberg, “But this is kind of the grown-up version down here at Beautiful South.”
The couple has also created an advisory board for the restaurant with members from the East Side community, a family from Chengdu, and leaders from the Alliance for Full Acceptance. They say that they did this to create a group of diverse voices to hold them accountable and serve as guidance through decision-making. “We strive for inclusivity across the board, from the guests to employees,” says Schuttenberg, “And as a cis, white male, I need to be told when I’m missing some missing the mark on something.” They say they ask the board to dine at Beautiful South regularly and let them know how they are doing and to ensure that they are honoring the community around them and the cuisines of southern China.
Beautiful South is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., with plans to add lunch and takeout in the future. Also, look out for dim sum and whole roasted duck to hit the menu sometime soon.