The Brew Master
Synopsis:: John wasn't an IPA guy. Not anymore. Ever since the end of his brief summer affair with Stokes Macyntire in Central Washington, the funky smell of hops made his heartache. In fact, he'd almost given up on beer and love altogether following the gut-wrenching break-up. That is until John's brewery sent him on a sales trip to Charleston. It was a hot night in the Holy City when he stumbled into a local watering hole and saw him, Ron. Like a dam broken, when the bartender poured John a session beer, Ron poured out his heart.
This is not a list of the best patios in Charleston. Or the best bars. This is your roadmap to a summer sampler of boozy patios where you can have it all — midnight tot nachos, top-shelf rosé, and a $4 happy hour burger that would be cheap at triple the price. One day it's Britney Brunch at the Biergarten, the next it's Coronas at Red's Ice House as you watch the sun dunk into Shem Creek. Hell, try a few in a day. Charleston, of all places, is a city made by and for patio drinking.
Avondale Wine & Cheese
813 Savannah Hwy # B
Didn't know there was a respectable patio tucked behind the quaint red facade? There wasn't until a month or two ago. A mullet of a wine bar, Avondale Wine & Cheese keeps the business in front and the parties out back on a newly fenced-in patio that'll make you forget you're in an alleyway that dead ends into a thrift store. The rosé helps too. Every Saturday this summer you can taste three rosés for $7. This is Avondale's classy little secret, an enclosed wood area so intimate it seems like there should be a gazebo and a hot tub.
Location Details Avondale Wine and Cheese
Bay Street Biergarten
549 E Bay St.
Only on Bay Street Biergarten's expansive day-sipping arbor could Britney Spears, kielbasa, a Belgian Gulden Draak, and an English Banana Bread bier all get along. It is a testament to the power of this patio that the Biergarten can host sold-out Britney and Beyonce brunches while still billing itself as Bavarian-inspired and not pissing everyone off. Say what you will about its flawed beer card system, you'll be hard-pressed to find another Charleston patio with such inventive brunches, 60 taps, or this country-hopping beer list. Not to mention the wooden bear greeting sign. Having just spent spring with my Uncle Franz and Aunt Uli in Bavaria, I can confidently say there's very little that's Bavarian about Biergarten. But that's not necessarily a fault. Get the $7 kielbasa and pimento cheese during Trivia night, sip a punchy vodka and lime Blitzkrieg, and belt out Britney bitch like no Germans are watching.
Location Details Bay Street Biergarten
36 Broad St.
There will be second-wave gentrifiers who will never know a Blind Tiger with more than the one taxidermy head. For them, the recently-reincarnated Tiger will only ever have the faintest scent of mildew and a patio befitting the refined warm salmon salad that now graces its menu. Don't cry for the former Tiger. Enjoy the cream upholstered patio furniture and lovers'-sized dining tables under the brick arches and bushy palms. Grab a glass of $5 wine on draft during happy hour and drink until the duck sandwich is a genius idea, which won't take more than a sip.
Location Details Blind Tiger
14 N Market St.
When locals say they love Burwell's, they likely mean that they've discovered its seven-day happy hour and surprisingly intimate rooftop nirvana, where you can watch the sun set while savoring Wagyu flat iron off a 700-degree cooking stone. In the summertime, the restaurant is more of a brick-and-mortar support for the rooftop patio. It is cozy up there and easily crowded if the Market Street tourists get wind, but the harbor views make up for any cruise crowds and the $7 prime burger at happy hour (4-7 p.m. daily) hits like a farm-raised Xanax. Given enough $5 cocktails swirled with the spicy house-brewed ginger beer, everyone will feel like they live here, or wish they did.
Location Details Burwell's Stone Fire Grill
Charleston Pour House
1977 Maybank Hwy.
Destitution never was so enticing. You could easily spend all your money on cold drafts and carefully-curated concerts at Pour House until you enjoyed yourself right into its namesake without any regrets. Thanks to $2 tallboys at happy hour and free deck stage concerts, that won't be necessary. On a sprawling lot off Maybank Highway, this Charleston institution juggles more bands and events per week than any other live music venue in town, plus the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market, kids camps, and yoga classes. On the patio, murals of Jimmy Hendrix, the Hindu deity Ganesha, and grey whales surround communally swaying crowds on weekend nights. It's nice enough out there you'll probably forget you were actually here to watch a show on the main stage.
Location Details Charleston Pour House
122 E Ashley Ave.
Like a glorious middle finger to city life and growing old, Chico Feo is the Neverland of patio bars. In fact, the bar is all patio. Kick off your flip-flops, pray they haven't run out of pork tacos and wait out the traffic with a beer while watching live music on a stage that resembles a trailer park front porch. Here, time melts. The menu is more of a game plan than a guarantee. Tacos and sangria are subject to availability and that changes with the tides of beachgoers on any given day. You'll take what you can get and you'll like it. Really though, you will. The goat curry and rotating noodle bowls are legendary and the PBRs come as cold as you can stand 'em. Everyone is sweaty, sandy, and blissed out, including some cat that inevitably wanders in. Like chilling at your buddy's beach shack, this is front-porch living turned communal.
Location Details Chico Feo
1081 Morrison Drive
Unequivocally one of the best patios in a city of patio bars, Edmund's Oast balances its hipster coolness with genuine good deals for a summer sanctuary. On a lot so large it deserves city park status, the patio is a California mission-style courtyard containing an armada of picnic tables beside the covered bar. While the halcyon days of La Morra Pizzeria pop-ups are over for the summer, happy hour is still going strong. If you balk at Oast's $12 cocktails — the benedictine-laced Tchoupitoulas Sling is totally worth it — consider the $4 happy hour menu your salvation. With a dry-aged tiny burger in one hand and an old fashioned in the other, this is possibly the best way you could spend $10 and priceless hours on a summer night.
Location Details Edmund's Oast
Famulari's Pizzeria BrewPub
1291 Folly Road, Ste 101
Yes, stopping short of Folly for a patio that shares parking with Gold's Gym sounds about as appealing as sitting in beach traffic on a Friday without air conditioning. But behind the strip mall storefront of Famulari's fifth location, there is one of Folly's least likely Edenic patios. The pub's sinfully cheese-laden menu, on-site brewery and shuffleboard make it a nice retreat from the folly of Folly. Like all beach retreats though, it's just an excuse to be outside. The Brewpub's massive patio is a sea of intimate tables, brightly-colored lawn chairs, and cocktail tables made from industrial size wooden spools. From the covered bar in the middle of it all, the staff, fledgling though they may be, sling a damn good strawberry-jalapeño margarita with house-infused vodka. Order the brandy-spiked sangria and laugh at the gym-goers and beach traffic eeking by.
Location Details Fam's Brewing Co.
289 Huger St.
It's tempting to dismiss Palmetto Brewery as a means to an end, a tasting room pre-game for King Street's late night scene. But consider the patio at Palmetto a destination in itself. With an entrance that resembles a gated community in Vegas—wrought iron gate; twin palm trees; stucco—this brewery delivers panache rarely seen on Huger Street. The patio is like a secret garden, flanked by the brewery on both sides to create a haven for Wednesday burger nights and the Friday loading dock concert series. With rotating local acts, plenty of space for furry friends and diet-blasting inventions like the texas toast melt or kimcheeseburger, Palmetto's patio might just be the new summer destination.
Location Details Palmetto Brewing Co.
Recovery Room Tavern
685 King St.
In the shadow of the freeway, in a zone under-served by patios, the Rec Room is easy to pigeonhole as a dive. But a dive-y patio beneath a freeway overpass is still a patio. While the bar inside is legendary for its PBR sales and pinball, in summer months it feels almost like a staging area for a patio hang where you can nosh tater nachos and breakfast all day. Beneath the surface of this hard-luck dive, it's a refuge from the new Charleston creep working its way up King Street. Here happy hour goes 'til eight so you can watch the street lights turn on with a can of PBR for $1.25 and a plate of half price wings. This is one of the rare King Street bars to still have hair on its chest and maybe it's time to show the newbies what a patio can really be.
Location Details The Recovery Room
Red's Ice House
98 Church St.
As much as we hate to agree with Thrillist, Red's really does stand above most patios, and not just by merit of its triple-decker outside bar. This is the type of polo shirt venue you'll end up in to watch the screens on game day and write off as a sports bar. But all you can eat crab legs on Mondays, three dollar Corona Fridays, live music more days than not, and the unobstructed Shem Creek view will change your mind. Unless you're afraid of heights. By the time you climb to the top of the bar, with its triple-decker patio tiered like a Miami dance club, your glutes might mistake Red's for a Stairmaster at the gym. Never fear, $2 vodka Tuesdays will erase the pain.
Location Details Red's Ice House
217 Huger St.
Taco Boy's patio is a junker's market meets circus tent, in the very best way. Speckled with multicolor string lights, bathtubs repurposed into planters, and corrugated iron tchotchkes, it's not a place we see Wonder Woman dropping in soon. But this ole boy's endearing kitsch does draw a superhuman crowd. Nothing brings together bachelorette parties, Hell's Angels, white collar techpreneurs and yoga moms like chunky guac and smoothly blended screwdrivers. Sure, grab one of the house infused margs — served in a goblet so it's, you know, classy — and a handful of little foil-wrapped tacos, but no matter what you do: Mexican Street Corn. Mic drop.
Location Details Taco Boy
Tavern & Table
100 Church St.
Two years ago we predicted that Tavern & Table was just about to take off in City Paper's annual Dish guide. With this year's visit from Beau MacMillan and IronChef Eats, it's safe to say T&T has reached cruising altitude and we're all free to move to the patio, loosen our belts, and toast at the tables where everyone gets a window seat view of Shem Creek. This covered deck and couch-lined, dockside patio are a suave summer perch with house-made charcuterie and an insider wine club. It's practically drinking on a yacht with less risk of seasickness. The fresh Grapefruit Rosemary Collins ($9) is an easy choice, but if you crave sweet take a chance on the banana rum and chai tea concoction called Nowhere To Go Nowhere To Be and do just that.
Location Details Tavern & Table
19 Vendue Range
The Vendue welcomes all comers, in all seasons. But as far as locals are concerned, the hotel might as well be just a rooftop. Locals and hotel guests alike are rewarded for waiting for the clown car elevator with one of the best sunset views in Charleston at the top. By afternoon, the multi-bar, multi-level deck is perfect for sipping a peach mule ($11) or strawberry basil lemonade ($10) and lounging in one of the couch nooks. After watching the sunset and nursing a basket of chips and house-made salsa ($13), prepare for the party to start. Then again, one of the most raucous impromptu bar crawls I've witnessed began with rosé on a Sunday afternoon on this rooftop.