A.C.’S BAR & GRILL
Downtown. 338 King St.
577-6742

Up all night. That’s the slogan of A.C.’s, the gritty hipster’s nirvana, which gets its name from the initials of its early owners. Like the relaxed nomenclature, there’s not a pretentious air about the place. In fact, there’s not much air at all. Cough, cough, hack. A photograph of a young Pope John Paul II watches over the patrons, which is appropriate since the Holy See is tied symbolically to smoke, and, well, A.C.’s is one damn smoky joint. Squint hard enough and you can just make out the pressed tin ceiling through the haze, with its tobacco-stained patina, which is but one of the many subtle delights found in this den of urban cognoscenti. Other facets of this gem? The old school Frogger arcade game, dim lighting, a genial staff, fair prices, and the colorful history lessons you may inadvertently stumble upon if you sit next to a happy hour regular.

Loyal patrons are hardcore and embody the Greenwich Village meets Anna Sui vibe that hangs heavy in the air, as they bitterly debate over which indie bands have sold out.

Some of the stool pigeons I encountered, like William Dohrmann, were a veritable wealth of curmudgeonly knowledge, claiming allegiance to A.C.’s for close to 20 years, dating back to when the bar used to roost on King Street near George. A fire in the kitchen closed the doors of that location, but A.C.’s found a new home in the heart of the upper King Street revival.

“People are here all day long,” says bartender Brett Hawkins, who slings drinks on Friday and Saturday nights. When asked for the most popular orders, Hawkins rattles off a quick list: Grand Ma, Zambuca, Apple Kamikaze, Jager Bombs, Red Headed Sluts, and Royal Flushes.

The beer of the month is always $2, and Guinness is the current draw. The champagne list features four primo vintages: Miller High Life, Miller High Life, Miller High Life, and — you guessed it — Miller High Life ($2). PBR also runs $2, while a Fosters Oil Can will set you back $5.75. A smorgasbord of fried delights satisfies the cravings of patrons till 1:30 a.m. The grilled cheese claims to be “Like yo’ Momma used to make! Bread, butter, and American cheese” for a paltry $2.50.

“We get all shapes and sizes,” says Hawkins. “You name it. Skate kids. Food and bev folks come in late night. Everyone.” And right he was. As I was leaving, a gal dressed in taffeta (bless her heart) snorted a tad too loud for proper decorum when she spotted me snapping a few photographs of the exterior sign. “Look!” she shrieked as though her panties were on fire. “She’s taking a picture like it’s a landmark!”

Yes, a landmark indeed. Welcome to A.C.’s.


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