After a Christmas Eve kitchen fire shuttered Anson restaurant two years ago, people began to question whether the Charleston institution would ever re-open. We struggled to get details from the owners, the Balish family, only eeking out a few facts last September when Donna Balish Moeckel told our reporter that it was under construction and would re-open in February.
In typical Charleston fashion, February turned into November, and Anson quietly and surprisingly unlocked its doors on Thanksgiving Day. But all that time was worth it, at least aesthetically speaking. What now stands at 12 Anson St. is a beautiful space that looks like the offspring of Ralph Lauren and Scarlett O’Hara.
Designer Michael DeLoach handled all of the interior work and framed the majority of the restaurant in cypress. Antique French doors were mirrored and placed in a small, upstairs dining room, while hand-painted murals by Stuart Coleman Budd surround the large upstairs dining room.
Anson’s chef Jeremy Holst has returned as well and now gets to operate out of an entirely new, state-of-the-art kitchen. “Other chefs have been stopping by and are jealous,” he says. From his new headquarters, Holst is preparing classic dishes like shrimp and grits, crispy flounder, collard greens, and baked cheddar cheese grits. Holst stayed on with the Balish family following the fire and worked at their sister restaurants, The Olde Pink House and Garibaldi’s in Savannah, but he admits he was eager to get back to his own restaurant.
Guests may recognize other familiar faces as well. Longtime bartender Jeremy Martin is back as well as GM Phil Pettus. And with that veteran crew in place, it appears, aside from the look, little has changed. “We’re open every day of the year except Super Bowl Sunday,” says maître d’ Sam Marlow.
And as for plans for their other Charleston venture, Farmers & Exchange in the space once occupied by Charlie’s Little Bar, that’s still happening. “I thought we’d do Anson and Farmers & Exchange at the same time,” says Moeckel. “But we ended up doing this first.”
Plans to create a “Casablanca”-inspired restaurant at 141 East Bay St. still stand. “Right now we’re using it as storage, but we plan to have a baby grand and we have a friend who has film stills from ‘Casablanca,’ so we’re looking at those,” says Moeckel. Don’t expact that project to open any time soon however. It poses it’s own architectural challenges — “It’s just 21-feet wide,” says Balish.
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