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Saying goodbye to a favorite restaurant is never easy

A Fond Farewell




I'll never forget my first visit to Spero, as it was the first restaurant my son (just under 1 year old at the time) liked. I remember it like it was yesterday – we started with a clay pea salad with a soft egg and lemon zest and the next thing you know, little man was taking down peas like it was his job. Without hesitation, Rob brought out another side of peas and gave him a fist bump. Needless to say, it was the first time we didn't have to resort to pouch of pureed fruit.

That first visit, followed by many more, led me to declare that Spero is where you should eat right now. That was back in April of 2015.

A few months later, I decided it was time to bring my writing days to a close. When I began writing for the City Paper, I was a bachelor immersed in the Charleston dining scene. I got married, had a kid, and much like Rob and RJ I made the decision to spend more time with family.

My time on the peninsula dwindled. What was once time spent exploring new restaurants and visiting the vast amount of standbys soon became trips to the Aquarium and picnics in the park.

These days, when I do make it out to eat, we're either trying out the new flavor of the week or staying somewhere close to home.

The last time I was at Spero, a group of us from the Charleston Brown Water Society sampled and selected a barrel of Medley Brothers bourbon to bottle. Knowing this task could not be completed on empty stomachs, RJ and Rob prepared a gluttonous feast of bo ssam — a Korean dish of slow roast pork shoulder — with all the fixins. There was escarole sautéed with lemon, star anise sausage with cabbage and pears, and what seemed to be endless amounts of sea island red peas. We were blessed with a spicy carrot kimchi and a milder kimchi that brought the funk to the party. Stacks upon stacks of Geechie Boy cornmeal hoe cakes sopped everything up. Oh, and there was freshly baked bread – no visit to Spero is complete without some freshly baked bread. It was a family meal out without the fuss.

Yes, I was skeptical of the oysters with pickles and mustard - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Yes, I was skeptical of the oysters with pickles and mustard

That was one of many meals had at the low key establishment on Meeting Street. I remember falling in love with the cornbread with burnt miso butter and having serious concerns about the oysters topped with bread and butter pickles and French's classic yellow mustard, only to be proved wrong – they were delicious. I won't forget the mussels with kimchi and pork skin and the pierogies of confit beef with sauerkraut and horseradish crème. The list goes on: Edisto clams with miso cream, Scotch egg with house sausage and herb salad, and a crostini with cured fatback and lemon preserves.

I once witnessed my friend, Bear, tie a Spero record by drinking two forties of High Life, by way of a champagne flute, over lunch. Shortly after I left, he finished two more, breaking the record. I don't know if that still holds, but I sure hope so.

In the wake of the news that Spero will be closing for good this week, these are the memories popping into my head, and there are likely more to come. The food that everyone loved, the heartwarming hospitality, and the leftover Korean sandwich wrapped in a tinfoil bird will never be forgotten.

I don't blame Rob and RJ for the decision they made. I've been there. But every now and then I get that itch, and just like I'm writing this right now, I hope that they get the itch to serve us again.

Today, my message is no different than it was three years ago: Spero is where you should eat right now.

Rob and RJ, I'll see you tomorrow.

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