Photos by Ruta Smith

Charleston Flair

A downtown building that used to churn out handmade pastas and Italian favorites is now an eatery serving inventive cocktails and cuisine that imparts Indian flavors into classic Charleston dishes like shrimp and grits and chicken bog. Now open on Warren Street, Coterie is the latest restaurant to land in downtown Charleston. 

Coterie is a collaborative effort between cocktail specialist Jeremy Buck and experienced chef Viraj Borkar, who after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, helped open restaurants in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. After serving as a culinary director at Rasika, a well-known D.C. Indian restaurant, Borkar co-founded Inday, a New York-based fast casual Indian concept with five locations. When Buck approached him about opening a restaurant in Charleston, Borkar was all in. 

“Charleston has a big food scene — it’s evolving, so I think this will be a good time to introduce something that’s Indian-inspired,” Borkar said, describing Coterie’s menu as having “Charleston flair.” 

“I thought about doing something that’s midway, that connects the dots.”

The restaurant’s okra flower logo points to this approach, highlighting an ingredient that’s widely used in Southern and Indian food — the majority of Coterie’s dishes will bridge the gap between these two types of cuisines, Borkar said.  

Coterie chef/partner Viraj Borkar’s menu imparts Indian flavors into Southern dishes | Photos by Ruta Smith

“We have shrimp and grits, but shrimps that are tossed in mustard seeds sitting on top of grits that are tempered with curry leaves,” he said. “It’s an all-day menu, so it’s all small plates, and the idea is to share.” 

“I also wanted to introduce different breads — everyone is familiar with naan,” added Borkar, who will serve whole wheat chapati and paratha, a multi-layered flatbread. “They’re all griddled breads rather than cooked in a tandoor. There are hundreds of breads in India, and everyone knows just the naan.”

Look for more Indian-Southern fusion on Coterie’s menu, which will change with the seasons. “Bombay shrimp and grits,” ribs makhni, chicken tikka and okra with yogurt sauce are some of the dishes that will be executed daily by Coterie chef de cuisine Brian Gibson, a 20-year industry veteran who previously spent time in the kitchen at Barsa, Poogan’s Porch and Sermet’s, among others. Borkar will visit Charleston monthly to meet with local farmers and tweak the menu, he said. 

Located in the space previously occupied by Italian restaurant Pan E Vino, which closed during the pandemic, Coterie is open for outdoor dining on its spacious, partially covered courtyard while Buck completes renovations inside, where there will be modern decor such as an installation with three-dimensional okra flowers and a mural painted by Amrisa Niranjan, who has worked on pieces in Wynwood, Miami’s arts district.

Buck’s fancy cocktails will add to Coterie’s contemporary vibe, with options like a masala mule made with spice-infused Sweatman’s All Natural ginger beer and The Audible, a combination of pulled-pork-washed dark rum and charred pina syrup. 

“Because okra is in our logo, we’re using it as the inspiration piece that brings Charleston and India together,” said Buck, who has developed beverage programs in Boston, New York, Mumbai and Charleston for all-vegan spot Neon Tiger. “We’re going to do an okra negroni, and besides that, we’ll do a lot of cool stuff that isn’t really done in Charleston very much.”  

Each drink will showcase Buck’s talent behind the bar, and cocktails calling for a large cube of ice will be stamped with Coterie’s logo. Cocktail enthusiasts will be able to order from the restaurant’s regular lineup or its “Coterie Features” menu offering specialty recipes submitted by bartenders from other cities.

There’s a lot going on at Coterie, and that’s by design, Buck said. He hopes it can be a place unlike anywhere else in Charleston. 

“Coterie is (a group of) like-minded people with shared dreams and aspirations, so the idea is bringing all these people together,” Buck said. “Just continuing to expand and have a lot of influences in one place.”   

Coterie is open for outdoor dining on its partially covered patio 5-11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, follow on Instagram @coterie_chs.