A Cocktail Pioneer Turns to Fried Chicken

Restaurateur Brooks Reitz has reimagined his role in the Charleston scene while redefining what the city likes to eat and drink.

Brooks Reitz is a master of reinvention. Originally an aspiring playwright, he gained a national following as the star bartender at Fig in Charleston, South Carolina. One of the first Southern mixologists to nix overly sweet drinks like appletinis in favor of classic craft cocktails, Reitz also began bottling his own tonic concentrate for a company he named Jack Rudy—and in the process, transformed himself into an artisanal entrepreneur. Now he’s become a restaurateur with the opening of Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters, a fried chicken and oyster joint in a former auto-body garage. Unusually for a fried chicken restaurant, nearly half of Leon’s menu is devoted to vegetable dishes like heirloom tomatoes with peaches and charred radicchio. And there’s not a cocktail in sight—which is exactly how Reitz wants it. “There’s no better way to prove I’m capable of doing more than cocktails than by not serving them at all,” he says. Next up: St. Alban, a café and wine bar. Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters, 698 King St.; leonsoystershop.com.

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