The Ordinary is the recently opened seafood and raw bar concept from James Beard Award winning chef Mike Lata and Adam Nemirow – the pair behind Charleston dinging staple FIG. Brooks Reitz who we feature in the lookbook for our Charleston Short Run Collection served as General Manager of FIG before his current position as General Manager at The Ordinary. After the shoot, we caught up with Brooks to talk about food, music, and mixing great cocktails.
Where are some of your favorite places to go to in Charleston?
This is a long list – I usually gravitate towards eating and drinking because this is what I know the best. FIG is my favorite restaurant but I don’t get to go as often as I would like. My other favorites would be Two Boroughs Larder, which is a really cool market and restaurant with incredible food, Closed For Business for their stellar lineup of beers, and the Gin Joint for cocktails. This is a short list but I could really go on.
In such a vibrant culinary scene, how does The Ordinary stand out from the other restaurants in Charleston?
Before we opened, there were other seafood restaurants in town but we felt like there weren’t any with chef driven concepts that celebrated the fishermen, oyster-men, and crabbers of the East Coast. We set out to do that. We’re representing East Coast oysters, crabs, clams, Maine lobster, and all the great fish that our local fishermen bring us. For this reason we stand out and we’re bringing a different experience to Charleston dining.
The Ordinary is located in the Upper King section of town, which is beginning to become more developed. Why move here versus an already established area of the city?
Upper King was formerly unexplored territory but over the last two to three years, new places started opening further and further up King Street. The decision to open on Upper King was made for us in that the building we are in became available for purchase. I think we have a built in advantage because the room is so breath taking just by itself. Chef Mike Lata and Adam Nemirow had the vision that Upper King was going to become an anchor in the near future of downtown Charleston, so there was a lot of foresight to this decision.
When we had dinner at FIG, we noticed that a single album was playing rather than a playlist. Is this something that has carried over to The Ordinary?
I’m happy you noticed that because I would like to claim this as my idea. You go to most restaurants and they just put on a Pandora station and then suddenly you hear the same songs that you hear at every modern restaurant. We started to put more thought into what we were playing and then decided to play full albums. I think it really resonated because most of the time, albums have a particular theme or feeling that is consistent throughout the entire album. It’s an all-important detail of the dining experience. Why trust a computer to randomly generate some song? Instead, curate a playlist or choose an album that will add to that experience. The tradition of playing an album all the way through has carried over to The Ordinary.
What are you listening to now?
I’m always listening to music. There’s a guy named Chris Bathgate that I’ve been enjoying lately. I like a lot of old soul music, so every Sunday I put on Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. I also love Sister Rosetta Tharpe who was an old gospel singer who played electric guitar.
Outside of the restaurant, you have your own premium cocktail mixer company, how did this come about?
Yeah, Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. This is something I had been making privately for several years and started bottling since moving to Charleston. People enjoyed it so much when I was serving it that they would ask if they could buy it to take home. I started bottling it and selling it around Charleston and next thing I knew I was being featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and a handful of magazines. It just kind of took off and was kind of a perfect storm.
One final question, what is the secret to mixing a great cocktail?
The biggest tip would be to measure. Too many people just start popping the bottles and pour the ingredients into a shaker. If you invest $5 into a jigger – the measuring tool for making cocktails – it will change your entire cocktail game. Have a jigger, and five select bottles – bourbon, gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, Cointreau and you can make so many killer cocktails. There are a number of cocktail books you can get and if you use that jigger, you’re off to the races.
The Ordinary is a fantastic restaurant and we definitely recommend a visit while in Charleston. For more information, visit their website and ‘Like‘ their page on Facebook. Our Charleston Short Run Collection is now available.
*Photographs courtesy of The Ordinary