• Steven Keith

Secret Sandwich on hold in Charleston, breaking ground in Fayetteville

Coco's Kitchen + Cafe on Hale Street downtown is also under new ownership.

Secret Sandwich Society
Secret Sandwich Society

Well, the Secret is out – and it’s not good news for local foodies.


Plans to open a Charleston location of Fayetteville’s popular Secret Sandwich Society have been put on hold while owners of the downtown building where the restaurant was going now look for other possible tenants for that space.


A “for lease” sign on the front of the former Charleston School of Beauty Culture at 210 Capitol St. (where the restaurant was planned) raised eyebrows last week, and owner David Bailey confirmed the news this weekend.


Burger and beer from the original Fayetteville location
Burger and beer from the original Fayetteville location

“At the current time we are looking at other tenants for our Charleston building,” said David Bailey, who founded Secret Sandwich Society and was a co-founder of Fayetteville’s Pies & Pints as well. “This doesn’t mean a hard no for Secret Sandwich in Charleston, but we are weighing our options.”


I asked him if that meant it’s less likely than previously hoped.


“It’s uncertain at the moment,” he explained. “We have two young kids and it’s so much work to build out a new restaurant. We’re still trying to figure it all out.”


Secret Sandwich fans rejoiced when I first reported over a year ago that the founder of the original Fayetteville location had purchased space in downtown Charleston to open a third location there as early as this year. (There’s already a second location in Richmond, VA.)


That news was even more welcomed after a devastating fire destroyed the original Fayetteville restaurant on Nov. 5, 2020, causing it to be demolished and leaving its future in doubt. Pile on a never-ending health pandemic and the limited availability (or skyrocketing price) of construction materials, and it seemed as if Secret Sandwich might not exist in either city.


But I also confirmed over the weekend that the Fayetteville rebuild, its owner said, “is 100% happening.” In fact, they’re breaking ground on construction this month that will not only bring the restaurant back in the same location – but also bigger and better than before – with an anticipated reopening later this year.


Braised short ribs from 1010 Bridge
Braised short ribs from 1010 Bridge

“We’ve had a few delays, but it’s definitely a done deal,” said Lewis Rhinehart, owner of the Fayetteville location.


“We’ve already ordered all our kitchen and bar equipment and we’ll have big construction equipment moving onto the site any day. We expect to be pouring the foundation in early March.”


Rhinehart told me Casey Construction out of Ravenswood has done a full design of the new restaurant, which will retain a similar layout and much of the same vibe as the original spot so many people fell in love with.


But since he also owned (and gained) additional property next door, the new Secret Sandwich will have more to offer fans in a longer stretch of property right along Keller Avenue.


“It’s going to look and feel a lot like the same place, but updated,” he added. “We’ll still have a large wraparound porch and, without giving too much away, we’re also adding a covered beer garden outside.”


And as much as he’d love the new place to be open by this summer, he’s thinking the fall might be more realistic.


“We’re asking folks to bear with us on that opening date because so much can happen. But we’re not messing around and this IS happening. I’ve already signed my life away,” Rhinehart said, with a laugh,” so it’s definitely a done deal.”


• • •


In other local restaurant news, Coco’s Kitchen + Café on Hale Street in downtown Charleston is now under new ownership.


Herb-crusted salmon from 1010 Bridge
Herb-crusted salmon from 1010 Bridge

Chasity Thomas, the owner of caterer Tastefully Dun on Bigley Avenue, and Coco’s chef Jesse Lyons bought the cheery Hale Street breakfast and lunch café from founder Cary Charbonniez, effective Jan. 1 of this year.


In a Facebook post announcing the acquisition, Thomas said she and Lyons plan to honor the work and success Charbonniez created there, but also hope to grow the business even more. “New things are coming,” she teased. “Keep following us on this journey!”


And fans of Tastefully Dun needn’t worry, she said. That popular business will continue as well.


• • •


Although I wasn’t able to score a table at 1010 Bridge during Charleston Restaurant Week, we did squeeze in this past Wednesday when the South Hills restaurant extended the same special menu a few extra days.


As always, the place was hopping and the food was on fire.


Seafood bisque from 1010 Bridge
Seafood bisque from 1010 Bridge

We loved the silky texture and earthy flavor of the herb anchovy vinaigrette that bathed our Caesar salad with baby Romaine, charred tomatoes, garlic croutons and parmesan custard. We adored the tangy crunch of the Dijon dill crust on our salmon and the buttery potato souffle and roasted squash alongside it.


We praised the tenderness of our braised beef short ribs, couldn’t get enough of the roasted corn and scallion grits surrounding them, and darn near licked the red wine demi-glace off the plate. And although we both thought the coffee donut cheesecake was a little underwhelming, the luscious chocolate silk tart on a graham-cracker crust with J.Q. Dickinson salted caramel and toasted marshmallow more than made up for it.


From 1010’s food and service to an ambiance and value befitting its quality, I’ve never had anything less than a stellar experience there – and have heard nothing but the same from others.


• • •


Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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