Charleston Wine + Food (W+F) returns this weekend for another year of indulging in great local food and drinks, as well as discovering the massive talent the area’s industry has to offer. The festival took a break in 2021 but returned in a big way last year with a revamped and relocated Culinary Village that moved from downtown to Riverfront Park, included free family events and had an extensive list of special dinners and chefs.
Last year also saw a change of leadership. Longtime W+F Director Gillian Zettler announced her departure after the festival’s return, leading to communications director Alyssa Maute Smith acting as interim executive director.
Maute Smith officially took the helm as executive director in January, and under her leadership, W+F is emphasizing its focus on residents, the food and beverage (F&B) community and professionals in hospitality. This new direction is seen in the participants, as well as the programming and special community-focused events like the first-ever Street Fest with the City of Charleston and a new partnership with Charleston County School District, Maute Smith said.
Revamped Culinary Village
Last year saw the relocation of the event’s Culinary Village from Marion Square to Riverfront Park with a larger set up and free access to a food truck rodeo just outside the entrance.
This year, the Culinary Village is getting another facelift by splitting into four “neighborhoods,” Maute Smith said. These neighborhoods in different sections of Riverfront Park highlight different cuisine styles, she added.
“Each one of those neighborhoods tells something about how we eat here,” she said.
One neighborhood, “Shucktown,” is focused on seafood, oysters, shrimp and other coastal cuisine. Next is the “Grillin’ and Chillin’ ” neighborhood, dedicated to Lowcountry barbecue, outdoor and live fire cooking. “Street Eats” is a call to the festival’s Saturday night internationally themed signature event, which will celebrate the variety of world cuisines that Charleston offers. Finally, local farmers and purveyors will get a chance to shine and show off their goods in the “Farm Fresh’’ neighborhood.
A food truck rodeo will no longer sit outside the entrance of the Culinary Village but instead is integrated into the Village in related neighborhoods.
Each neighborhood will also have a small demonstration stage for two chefs, restaurants or caterers to offer “bite-sized demos” of interactive, live cooking with guests. And moving across the Village and into each neighborhood throughout the weekend are three snack carts, provided by Lowe’s Foods. While the bite-sized demos, snack carts and some vendors offer samples of food, Maute Smith said the food trucks and other vendors will offer full meals to stuff your belly even more.
Culinary Village is open 1-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for the Village are $135. A shuttle from the Charleston Visitor Center & Bus Shed in downtown Charleston to the Village is available for an additional $28.
Free Street Fest event
The City of Charleston is celebrating its culinary culture with an inaugural Street Fest in partnership with W+F. Three blocks of upper King Street from John to Mary streets with an extension on Ann Street will be blocked off from 6-9 p.m. on March 2.
The free, family friendly event will feature live music and for-purchase food and beverages from local vendors, food trucks and businesses along King Street. Part of Ann Street will be dedicated for a 21-and-over wine and beer garden for attendees.
“This is just an exciting thing because upper King Street doesn’t get shut down very often,” Maute Smith said.
All of the brick and mortar restaurants on that section of King Street have been invited to “spill out” onto the street, according to Maute Smith, along with retail shops and food trucks and pop-ups like Lola’s Lumpia and Bert & T’s Desserts.
In partnership with Holy City Brewing, W+F will have its own special brew, available at the biergarten on Ann Street during the Street Fest, and all weekend at Holy City Brewing and Culinary Village.
“Making our festival more accessible and inclusive is a major goal for Wine + Food,” Maute Smith said. “Partnering with the city and our sponsors makes that possible, and we are excited to present our first-ever free feast and fest.”
Guiding the future
In addition to partnerships with Lowe’s Foods, the City of Charleston and Holy City Brewing, W+F is launching its Charleston County School District (CCSD) and Charleston Wine + Food Scholars Program with public high schools in Charleston County. Students from culinary programs at Wando, West Ashley, Burke, Military Magnet and North Charleston high schools will be on-site throughout the festival weekend. They’ll work during opening night, Culinary Village and in the prep kitchen for a paid internship.
“This is a way that we can continue to regenerate our local F&B industry and keep really good talent here in Charleston,” Maute Smith said. “And it’s a great way to really meet that educational pillar that’s in our mission and just one of the ways that we work with the community around. But I’m personally very excited about having the opportunity to influence young students and get them excited about culinary and hospitality and the opportunities they could have in those fields.”
18 Charleston-area restaurants in Charleston Wine + Food
It’s Charleston Wine + Food weekend which means thousands of people will visit the Lowcountry to check out what Charleston-area eateries have to offer. It’s a chance to check out new places, meet new people and learn what Lowcountry cuisine is all about.
Here are 18 restaurants participating in W+F signature dinner events. While signature dinners are likely to be sold out, you can still check out these eateries during the festival weekend. There’s a reason these chefs and restaurants have a signature dinner tied to their name, after all. —Michael Pham
babas on meeting
804 Meeting St. (Downtown)
224 King St. (Downtown)
Delaney Oyster House
115 Calhoun St. (Downtown)
Frannie & the Fox
181 Church St. (Downtown)
106 Grove St. (Downtown)
76 Queen St. (Downtown)
185 E Bay St. (Downtown)
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
1622 Highland Ave.
17 Broad St. (Downtown)
463 King St. (Downtown)
595 King St. (Downtown)
101 Pitt St. (Mount Pleasant)
Sullivan’s Fish Camp
2019 Middle St.
4 Cannon St. (Downtown)
32 River Landing Drive
207-A St Philip St.
1067 E Montague Ave.
Welton’s Fine Foods
682 King St. (Downtown)
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Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.