Berkeley’s owners Marc and Elizabeth Hudacsko are passionate about the no-frills fare they grew up eating in New Jersey, and their new Huger Street restaurant — named after Elizabeth’s hometown — is “inspired by the diners, greasy spoons and red sauce joints we grew up eating,” Marc said. But, don’t expect to only find Northern eats at Berkeley’s, which opened June 25.
“We don’t want to be pigeonholed as the New Jersey people,” he said. “We’re Charleston people, and this is where we call home. The real thing for us is we love this neighborhood — we’ve always loved this neighborhood.”
The concept for Berkeley’s stems in part from the days when the Hudacskos’ We Flew South pop-up traveled around the Lowcountry on and off for three years, finishing with a short stint at The Daily for five weeks in winter 2020.
Berkeley’s expansive menu will feature some We Flew South favorites, like the cheesesteak and meatball parmesan sandwich, and the rest of the offering was curated by Marc, Elizabeth and Berkeley’s executive chef Chad Healey after the Hudacskos took over the Huger Street space in August 2020.
Look for appetizers and entrees like fried clams, a shaved ribeye French dip sandwich and panko-crusted roasted salmon that are designed to be “a little nicer,” Marc said. Take Berkeley’s porchetta, which is served over a romesco sauce made using roasted peppers, cashews, arugula and sherry vinegar.
“We’re taking the pork belly, and we’re seasoning it with a rub, and we let it sit in that, so it really permeates the flavor,” said Marc, who starts by roasting the belly low and slow. “Then, we take it and cut it into a square and throw it back into the oven. Taking something that can be really rich and how do we make it light and enjoyable.”
Berkeley’s uses that same philosophy for small plates like hummus, which is topped with feta mousse, artichoke and kale gratin and spicy roasted shrimp with polenta. High-quality ingredients meet minimalist, detailed preparations, Marc said.
“When I think about our food, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “Simple food made the best way we know how.”
That technique is again on display with Berkeley’s entrees, which resemble an elevated version of something you might find at Grandma’s house — think chicken parmesan and hanger steak with fries. In the sandwich section, fans of We Flew South will be thrilled to find the shaved ribeye cheesesteak, and the trio of chicken cutlet sammies — classic, parmesan and buffalo — will be staples, Marc said.
To make the chicken cutlet, Berkeley’s chefs start by pounding the chicken breast until it’s super-thin, setting it aside before submerging it in a brine.
“It’s all about the flavors you choose. By brining that chicken, you get this flavor all the way through,” said Marc, who dredges the chicken in buttermilk before dipping it in a Japanese panko breadcrumb and parmesan cheese mixture. “It’s not complicated, but it’s all those little touches that I think elevates it.”
For drinks, look for multiple regional craft beers and a curated wine list.
“We have a pretty extensive program with over 15 wines poured by the glass. There are a couple of really fun wines on the list, but most of it is very approachable,” Marc said. “We took a similar approach with the beer. We wanted to balance local and regional breweries with some classic beers from around the world. There will definitely be a couple beers on the list that people don’t see all the time.”
Since taking over the building previously occupied by Uneeda Sicilian, the Hudacskos have fully remodeled the space, adding a brand new kitchen, formal dining area, indoor-outdoor bar and patio seating. The eatery promises to have the neighborhood feel of New Jersey spots the Hudacskos frequented as kids; places where “the mayor’s in the corner talking to the fire chief, who happens to be your kid’s baseball coach,” Marc said.
And while Berkeley’s is named after New Jersey’s Berkeley Heights because “what’s more comfortable than where you grew up,” Marc said, don’t let the Northern-inspired name fool you — since opening, Berkeley’s has strived to provide the Southern hospitality the Hudacskos have fallen in love with since flying south.
“We’re building a home,” Marc said. “I really hope people like it because I think we’re building a place that people will be really happy in. Community is really important to us — that includes our neighborhood, of course, but also our staff. We couldn’t imagine doing this without them.”