If you’re hungry past 10 p.m. in Charleston, best of luck to you. Though the city is known for its abundance of different cuisines, there’s not many choices available when destinations in Spain are just getting started. And if you work in the restaurant industry, your best bet at finding something other than leftovers at your place of employment might be McDonald’s or Waffle House when you clock out for the night.
“The lack of late-night food in Charleston is really rough for night workers,” said Alexander Peters, a career bartender from Moxy and Doar Bros. on Meeting Street. He’s previously worked at Church & Union and the Belmont, which closes at 2 a.m.
“There’s not really much of a difference” with wrapping up at midnight or 2 a.m., Peters said. “After midnight you basically have the halal guys’ meat carts. At 3 a.m. there’s nothing to eat. It would be great if there was at least one solid food spot late night in downtown.”
Fellow career bartender Gabriel Welch, who also works at Moxy, said at midnight, “there are quite a few options between Palace Hotel, The Royal American, A.C.’s Bar & Grill and Suna Restaurant.”
But imagine if you started a shift at 5 p.m. and ended at 3 a.m. with no available meal option for your break at 11 p.m. Bartenders like Peters and Welch, who are often on this schedule, have limited meal options when they take a pre-midnight break.
“I typically eat before my shift,” Welch said. “I used to bring food to eat at work, but working in F&B, odds are someone is gonna throw your food away, there’s nowhere to store it or the employee storage is filthy.”
Peters added, “Usually on late shifts I would grab a quick bite early on and eat the leftovers after my shift when it was cold, or just bring my own food from home.”
Getting a meal from UberEats is also an option, according to Welch, but isn’t the smartest move financially.
“I try to avoid UberEats more than once a week because the fees add up, and it’s generally unsatisfying to eat during shift,” he said.
Burning the midnight oil
A few places are starting to change limited options for the late-night party crowd.
Recently opened South Street Cheesesteak & Subs on Spring Street encourages late-night customers and fellow nighttime restaurant workers to swing by for a bite to eat past 10 p.m. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday until 2:30 a.m., offering takeout sandwiches and chips to midnight diners.
“I never anticipated myself owning a takeout restaurant at night,” said owner Jason Kaviani. “The reason why I stay open late at night is not by choice. It’s because the market demand outweighs me. And it’s the hardest, most brutal hours.”
The late-night joint specializes in cheesesteaks, a childhood food Kaviani grew up with while living in Philadelphia. And being a Philly native, he wanted to represent what a cheesesteak could really be, using freshly cut beef and freshly baked rolls to craft what he considers the ideal Philly cheesesteak.
Because the space is takeout only, you have to follow protocol when you arrive: Knock on the door, and Kaviani will take the order. But if you’re a late-night worker like Peters or Welch, both of whom don’t get off until 3 a.m. after South Street closes, it’s available on UberEats, so you can still snag a sandwich while at work.
Other pop-ups and bars are starting to stay open later -— but not as late as South Street Cheesesteaks. Puerto Rican concept Caribo Flip and burger smashers Patty Daddy and Blackout Burger often pop-up at newer bars like Sugey’s on King Street and Lucky Luchador on Hanover Street until 1 a.m.
And another recently launched concept, The Wedge — a food truck specializing in New York deli-style sandwiches — is also dipping into serving the late night crowd. The Wedge can be found at places like the Floor ‘N Decor parking lot in North Charleston, Mount Pleasant’s Hobcaw Brewing, House of Brews in West Ashley or Cooper River Brewing downtown in the early afternoon.
“I know from working F&B and getting out late, there’s little to no options at those hours,” said chef and owner Gerry Meehan. Prior to opening The Wedge, Meehan worked at places like Pink Bellies and the now-closed Monza.
“I’ve been getting lots of customers that work during my normal scheduled hours,” he added. “And they’re glad that I am doing some times that aren’t usual food truck hours around Charleston.”
Though Meehan typically prepares sandwiches during lunch hours across the Lowcountry, he said he wanted to pick some of those late-night shifts because “it’s something I wish there was, even just food to soak up a night out.”
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