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Food Talk: Up the ladder to the roof

By Kathleen Parramore

The Citrus Club at the top of Hotel Dewberry. Photos by the author.

Today, we all love to climb to the top and hang out there, but a century ago the only thing on a rooftop was wet laundry. Almost a century ago, the theaters of New York were stifling during the summertime. Rudolph Anson, a musician and performer, decided to follow what he had seen in Europe by creating a performance space on top of his building on Broadway. Thus started the craze of rooftop gardens and performance spaces to get away from the din and heat of the city.

Moving into the Instagrammable moments era, we now have rooftop bars that offer stunning views of our Lowcountry skyline including bridges, beaches, church steeples and wide vistas of downtown or less populated but tranquil land views.

I sampled a few of these rooftops and could not recommend highly enough an afternoon or evening with drinks and friends at any of these locations.

Looking for views of historic Charleston, terrific cocktails and a cascading pool and resort-like atmosphere? The Pavilion Bar at the top of Market Pavilion Hotel would be the place. The rooftop is set up with plexiglass shielding against any high winds, allowing for more days and times one can enjoy the space. This also allows for a feeling of a more intimate space; though beware of those bridesmaids get-togethers that are only fun if you are one of them! There are nine (yes, nine) specialty martinis on the menu. Of the specialty drinks I liked, the Cooper River Margarita, which is more a traditional margarita, takes the cake. The Tuna Tower with ahi tuna, crabmeat and avocado is a standout.

Left, Market Pavilion. Right, Fiat Lux.

Want outstanding views and a seductive setting? Head to the Citrus Club at the Hotel Dewberry. The Dewberry is a local landmark with beautiful period furnishings and “thought provoking” works of art. The Citrus Club is the highest rooftop bar in Charleston and the views are spectacular. From classic cocktails and daiquiris to inventive concoctions, the Citrus Club has a wide array of choices, including the nonalcoholic Salted Cherry Lemonade. For something alcoholic, different and addictive, try the Long-Time Listener, a mix of Reposado Tequila, lemon juice, lemon syrup, St. Germaine and bitters ... delicious! From market catch crudo and lobster rolls to veggie tacos and salads, the Citrus Club has something for every taste and time of day.

Want a beautiful place to start an evening? Head to Fiat Lux in the Bennett Hotel. Views of Marion Square and Ravenel Bridge accompanied by the bells of St. Matthews are yours while sitting in a super luxe bar with a friendly staff that follows through in the whole Hotel Bennett experience. Only here could you get a drink that has gold, edible star glitter on it! My food recommendation goes to the hand-cut parmesan fries and the amazing mezze platter, a seasonal offering that includes red pea hummus, feta, olives, cucumbers, falafel and pepperonata — just a wonderful combination served beautifully.

The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits sits above the boutique Restoration Hotel off King Street. Go here for the 360-degree view — even if it’s raining; the view is accessible from inside as well. Church steeples, bridges, beaches ... it’s all there. The cocktails are inventive as well as the names, from Pirates Handshake to Pebbles & BammBamm, with lots of infused drinks and interesting ingredients. I had to look up the ingredient “cinnamon demerara.” The Watch offers a large menu of fish, snacks and share plates. I loved the Watch Burger with Fried Brussels for the table. Don’t miss the Honey Cake for dessert. Hope you have our same waiter, Caleb … the best.

Stars Rooftop and Grill Room presents another 360-degree view of the Lowcountry. There are a lot of volume spikes with people having just drinks before or after dinner, but the bar and staff handle it well. The frozen cocktails seem to make a hit with the mostly youngish crowd, though the single malt and blended scotch offerings are well represented on the menu at reasonable prices. The menu and chef have changed since I was last here and I’ve got to find out the recipe for the Lowcountry Frogmore Chowder, as it was over-the-top fabulous. It’s not a large menu, but everyone in my crowd was happy with their choices.

Head up to what the Grand Bohemian calls “the secret garden,” Élevé, for beautiful views (day or night) of the historic district. Recline on a settee, enjoy an herb-infused cocktail and listen to some live music (check on this before you go because it is not every night). At night, there is lovely lighting on this rooftop. I enjoyed the Wagyu beef carpaccio, though there are heavier options as well as salads and light bites. I enjoyed a wonderful martini, but those infused cocktails looked amazing: from interpretations of classics like the Old Fashioned to the wholly creative Bohemian Sunset, a mixture of Tito’s vodka, Limoncello, Lillet Blanc, cranberry, citrus soda and fresh raspberries.

For my last stop, I headed over the bridge to Shem Creek and the Mill Street Tavern. Views of the Ravenel Bridge and those beautiful marshes can be enjoyed from this rooftop. Try to get here for the sunset and you will be wowed regardless of the time of year. Mill Street has a wide selection on their menu including salads, burgers, sushi snacks and entrees. Two of my all-time favorite purveyors, Tarvin Seafood and Marsh Hen Mill (which I mentioned in January’s Food Talk article on grits) provide ingredients for the menu. Mill Street feels like what it is, a local tavern and place to enjoy good food, drinks, local beer and shakes!

These are only a sampling of places I would recommend. There are many more and, hopefully, in this gorgeous weather, you can find more than one place you would enjoy.

Remember, look for those local ingredients, which are more plentiful as the weather warms.

After 25 years in the technology field, Kathleen Parramore earned an MSc in nutrition from University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and then a degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Tech. She is a writer, consultant and dinner party caterer in the Charleston area.


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