There is no shortage of good places to eat in Charleston. You can barely walk down the street without finding an out-of-the-way bakery with out-of-this-world pastries, the locals’ favorite pizza spot, and a throwback parlor serving up deluxe versions of ice cream, hot dogs, and tots. That street—Saint Philip—actually exists, and I’m only describing a few blocks of it. Turn the corner and there’s more where that came from.
But sometimes you find a spot that’s special, that feels like home (if your home churned out sweet potato ice cream), where everyone feels like an old friend. When you call and say, “This is Jen, can you save me a bird?” they know not only who you are, but also that you’re probably going to want a little kale salad to go with that bird—a.k.a. the magically delicious whole fried chicken they serve up every now and again.
That place is Spero and you should go there while you still can, before the word gets out and finding a table in its cozy space becomes pretty near impossible. [Note: It’s probably too late. Spero was just named Charleston’s best new restaurant . . . the secret it out!]
What makes Spero so special? Well, not to be too obvious, but the food is pretty amazing. A fried chicken sandwich that will bring tears to your eyes. Local clams taking a swim in a sweet and smoky broth (you’ll want extra bread to soak up every last bit). Roasted sweet potatoes and an aioli that is so good you may find yourself cleaning the bowl with your fingers. Not that I would know.
The menu changes often, which can be bittersweet. Something new to love? Yes. Always. Mourning the loss of brisket-filled steamed buns from heaven? Yes. Something tells me I will find a way to go on, though.
It’s not just the food, though. It’s the fact that everyone who works there is having a good time and wants you to do the same; that the Beastie Boys and George Clinton both make appearances on the menu; and that the wine list includes an insane muscadet alongside flights of Miller High Life. Executive Chef R.J. Moody and self-appointed El Jefe Rob Laudicina are clearly having a ball. Why not join them?
Spero is fun, a little irreverant, and the place I take everyone: my teenage daughters, my hip friends from Brooklyn, and—soon!—my 77-year-old, 100% Southern dad. He’ll love it. Everyone does.
Spero, Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; 616 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403; limited reservations: 843.203.3255; www.sperocharleston.com. Fabulous photos courtesy of Jonathan Boncek.