Our Favorite Charleston Restaurants for Takeout
Cuban Gypsy Pantry will not renew the lease at its downtown location, situated between King and Meeting streets at 141 Calhoun St. But nearby, the block will get an Alabama-based newcomer serving inventive doughnuts and midday comfort food.
The pint-sized downtown Cuban Gypsy Pantry location, which had patio seating alongside the building, opened in 2016 when owners Chloe and Will Vivas turned their food truck into a brick-and-mortar destination.
The couple cited high downtown rents as the main reason for choosing not to renew.
According to Chloe, they decided to, “close downtown in December so we (could) focus on our other locations.”
The Summerville location, called Gypsy Parlor, opened last fall, while the North Charleston Cuban Gypsy Pantry is undergoing significant renovations after Chloe and Will decided to turn half of the 4,200-square-foot restaurant into an “incubator” featuring a rotating cast of concepts.
The first concept, an Italian eatery called Bar Za, was set to open on Jan. 22, but the project is delayed, Chloe told the City Paper Tuesday.
“We have pushed back the Bar Za soft launch to keep building out the area inside of Gypsy, but will be hiring for staff ASAP,” she said. “We are shooting for early March.”
Around that same time, Hero Doughnuts & Buns is expected to open at 145 Calhoun St., formerly home to a Panera Bread outpost. Once open, the Alabama-based shop, which has two Alabama locations and another in Atlanta, will serve doughnuts, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, nitro cold brew, and more daily from 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cuban Gypsy Pantry owner Chloe Vivas’ third location is now open in Summerville. Gypsy Parlor, located at 106 E. Doty Ave., serves many of the classic plates and sandwiches patrons find at the downtown and North Charleston Cuban Gypsy Pantry locations along with some new seasonal vegetarian dishes, Vivas said.
“The parlor is our cafe concept. We spotted this place over a year ago, and it was currently under lease,” Vivas said. The incoming tenant decided not to move forward, so the building’s owner reached out to Vivas in March. Pandemic or none, she knew it was the right spot for her third location.
“I loved the cottage so much that I wanted to make sure we could move forward with it,” she said. The outdoor, partially covered “cottage” can seat up to 68 customers. She’s also using it to host private events with personalized menus.
After guests grab a bite to eat, Vivas invites them to visit her spiritual store called Botanica De La Gitana, which means “store of the gypsy” in Spanish. Vivas does tarot readings and sells incense, jewelry, and metaphysical resources inside the shop located above the Gypsy Parlor.
Gypsy Parlor is open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Be sure to stop by on the first Friday of each month when the cafe hosts its “Gypsy Market” featuring food, music, and local artisans.
The glimmer of the gold-leaf artwork at artist Julie Wheeler’s table caught my eye.
This took place as I walked around the vendor’s displays at the new Cuban Gypsy Parlor’s 1st Friday “Gypsy Market” on Oct. 2.
I met an author there, too, who I will profile next week, too.
Wheeler hails from Cleveland, Ohio, but studied graphic design and painting at Loyola University in New Orleans. She’s been in Summerville for two years now, having relocated from Charlotte.
Regan: You began art as a little girl with a crayon? Did your teachers say you had artistic talent growing up?
Wheeler: When I was young, I could never color inside the lines, both figuratively and literally. I would always go against the grain of any assigned art project. This got a lot of attention when I was in grade school. My projects were featured in the public library of my hometown, and a few pieces were auctioned off at the VA Hospital, which gained recognition.
Regan: What brought you here? You recently visited Savannah, an art city with The Savannah College of Art & Design — Do you think you’ll ever relocate to a city like that?
W: I lived in Charlotte for over four years after graduation, and realized it was not the type of city I had envisioned myself settling down in.
I wanted to be near the beach, in a place rich with culture—a place that had a deep-rooted artistic history.
Charleston was just that. I had been wanting to visit the Holy City for years, and a move was the perfect excuse.
I was instantly galvanized. Charleston has an energy about it that has inspired a lot of my work in the last two years. I have always been drawn to places with these traits, which has instilled in me a love of travel.
While visiting new places will always be a love of mine, I think Charleston has become the place that I will put down roots.
Regan: There is good variety in your creations—paintings, murals, commissioned pieces, gold-leaf on clothing.
It must be so competitive. How do you market & land commissioned work (for office & residential clients)?
W: Finding your voice as an artist can be difficult, but I believe I’ve developed my own unique style. I try to make my work translate into as many different forms of media as possible.
It’s enjoyable for me to not confine myself to the traditional canvas, examples being a restaurant wall, RV, coasters, clothing, etc. The skies the limit if I don’t restrict myself. A lot of my commissioned work is from clients who connect with my art and through word of mouth. I have taken to social media to market my work and started participating in art and vendor shows.
Regan: You work mostly in acrylics. Is it tricky to mix in spray paint & watercolors in the process?
How are things going for you, given COVID-19? (You no longer work at a catering & events job in Mt. Pleasant).
W: Experimenting with different mediums has always been a part of my creative journey.
Of course, there was trial and error with incorporating new paints, but if I just stayed in my comfort zone, my style would not have evolved into what it is today.
As my emotions and experiences change, so does my artwork. I hope people get as much joy from each piece as I do in creating them. COVID-19 has flipped so many lives upside down, including my own. It was this world-changing event that gave the opportunity that I needed to pursue my art full-time. It was a blessing in disguise, and I am flourishing.
R: Do you plan to try to have an art exhibit somewhere at some point?
W: I would love to someday in the future but, for right now, I am happy having people’s businesses and homes be my gallery.
R: Would you ever like to teach art? Do you do any “live” art talks on social media like Facebook?
W: Currently, I’ve been doing art camps for young girls at a tween boutique, Scraps of Magic. I also have paint and sip classes set up at various sites, one of which being the new Cuban Gypsy Pantry in Summerville. I’ve never done a live art talk, but I try to keep everyone up to date with my art through social media.
R: What is next for you?
W: I am constantly asking myself that question. Every time I have a clear plan of what my next step should be, a bigger and better opportunity presents itself. I want to continue making my art accessible to businesses so that their re-openings can be just as beautiful as they should be. I am looking forward to “what is next.”
My family likes to eat! Going out to try new restaurants or tasting new types of foods makes us feel like we are on an adventure, traveling to a new place. During the pandemic, this is one thing we have missed terribly. The exposure that food brings to different cultures and ways of life is something our whole family enjoys exploring. Since March we’ve been trying new places via takeout. I have a few great suggestions for you to try the next time you want to experience tastes from a different land.
Some great Charleston restaurants for takeout
With locations downtown, Summerville, and North Charleston this authentic take on Cuban cuisine brings flavors to the Charleston food scene that I have not tasted before. From croquettes to empanadas, to sweet plantains, the appetizers and sides section of the menu lets you taste lots of unique options. Our family split the family size Havana Vieja and the garlic butter shrimp. All super tasty, but the standout of the evening was the potato dumplings dish that was better than any gnocchi I have tried! My whole family enjoyed this meal and it traveled well. Plus, if you have a kid who just likes pizza, they have this on the menu as well. We will be ordering from them again hoping to try all the options.
If you like seafood, Nico’s is the place for authentic French style deliciousness in Mount Pleasant. From freshly shucked oysters to pasta and so much more. They really knock it out of the park with their take-home meals. They’ve also recently started doing “Super Mama Meals” that are made in their kitchen and cooked in your oven. A simple way to take care of dinner with options for the whole family. My husband and I have ordered Nico’s for two special occasions we’ve had during the pandemic and we have been very impressed with their level of service and food presentation.
To sum up this restaurant in one word it would be yummy. They have an eclectic menu with lots of great vegetarian and gluten-free options, all with a seasonal twist. Some of my family’s favorites include all of their soups, the chana masala, and their sharable options that let everyone try a taste. We always order too much, but we manage to eat it all every time! Located on Folly Beach, they have outdoor dining, curbside pick-up and often do a pop up at Paddock & Whisky. Check their website to see all their seasonal, delicious options.
Authentic Vietnamese cuisine that reminds you of your favorite dish that your grandmother used to make is the best way to describe the feeling you get when you eat this food. We always start with the fluffiest bao buns that are stuffed with short ribs! The vegetarian pho is soul-warming. I like to compare it to Jewish matzah ball soup that has a special healing quality. Owner and fellow Charleston mom, Janice Hudgins, put a special emphasis on the “Little Dragon” menu, which highlights her four children’s favorite dishes. Located in Mount Pleasant, they also do delivery across the Lowcountry on specific days of the week.
There are so many takeout options we haven’t yet tried, but we can’t wait to do so. The ones at the top of our list are Spanglish, Martha Lou’s Kitchen, Ravenel Seafood, and Dellz. Also, check out Lowcountry Eat Out! on Facebook to see what your neighbors are saying about their local experiences around town. Enjoy traveling around the world in the comfort of your home!
And for more great places to eat around the Lowcountry, don’t forget to check out our Charleston Moms EATS series!