Much ado was made about the passage of the so-called “Stone Bill” into law last summer, allowing breweries with licensed kitchens to serve beyond the state’s three-pint limit on their premises. We covered it in the Beer Issue, and it even passed the litmus test for our “Top Stories of 2014.” In the Beer Issue specifically we focused on Holy City Brewing, the Lowcountry’s (and perhaps the state’s) first brewery to take advantage of the law. Their small kitchen, dubbed “Struggle’s Really Slow Food,” has been churning out burritos prepped by chef and friend-of-the-brewery Shay MacDonald ever since.
But team Holy City is about to raise the bar. Chef MacDonald is moving from HoM to the brewery. The menu is expanding. It’s full-fledged brewery/restaurant time, people, and they’re calling the updated kitchen Suelto.
“Shay is going to start working at Holy City in February as the Holy City Brewing Chef, full-time,” says Chris Brown, head brewer and co-owner. The chef will have access to an expanded kitchen, both inside and outside of the current set-up. After adding a door to the rear of the kitchen, a mobile food trailer parked directly behind it will house most of the brass tacks. “It has a full kitchen set-up including grill, flat top, burners, oven, and two fryers, along with some prep space,” adds Brown. The current interior kitchen will be more for prep and storage.
Like the kitchen’s name, Spanish for “loose,” the menu is still a work in progress, but Chef MacDonald is absolutely at the helm. As Brown puts it, “we’re letting Shay do whatever he wants,” but the general goal is a small menu that gives patrons the opportunity to grab a snack or dinner while imbibing, as well as brunch, “and hopefully lunch down the road.”
Shay, meanwhile, is excited by the possibilities. “The menu is always going to be changing, especially at first. When we first started talking about me providing food for the patrons at the brewery, I was ready to make a menu that only worked off of a toaster oven and a panini press, and just make it a one-man show,” says Shay. “That plan has been rapidly evolving.” That evolution does not yet guarantee a kitchen staff, but Shay can see the writing on the wall. “I don’t think my one man show is going to last for too long,” he says.
Diners can expect “sandwiches, a burger or two, and maybe some smaller entrée-like items on the changing menu” from Shay. Beer will show up as an ingredient where it makes sense, but not in a way that limits the kitchen’s options, or plays like a gimmick. “It will all be delicious with a beer, though,” adds the chef. Brunch fans need not be concerned, because as Shay sees it, “What’s better than kegs and eggs?”
Speaking of burgers, Shay is confident that he’s leaving HoM in a good place. “I love HoM and everyone that owns and works there. They will always be family.” HoM will promote from within, putting Chef Hugo Vera in charge of the kitchen. “Hugo has been working with me for the past two years, has earned his new position, and is very eager to do the job,” says Shay.
Some of Suelto’s details are still in the works, including the role of food trucks going forward. Holy City has traditionally had numerous trucks every week, but that may change with the expanded kitchen program as Brown and his partners “want a consistent food option that the brewery.”
Look for Suelto at Holy City Brewing to crank up in early February, just in time for their annual pre-Brewvival Fish Fry, and if Holy City fans are lucky, an epic post-Brewvival recovery brunch.
Timmons Pettigrew is the author of Charleston Beer: A High-Gravity History of Lowcountry Brewing, and co-founder/editor of CHSBeer.org. Follow him on Twitter @CHSBeer
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