Fancy food court? Classy cafeteria? Air-conditioned food truck rodeo? No matter your take on it, The Workshop is an innovative South Carolina production where visionary chefs and a hungry, discerning clientele are key parts of a voguish food experiment. A concept driven by Charleston's much-favored eatery, Butcher & Bee, this colony of six rotating vendors has a corporate feel, but with a somewhat hipper thumbprint.
Located inside the King Street Extension workspace complex, Pacific Box & Crate, The Workshop is built around a roomy, white-tiled dining space with a streamlined, contemporary look. (There's an adjoining outdoor dining area for airy, al fresco noshing, too.) A small but robust colony of kitchens offers various menus for exploratory dining. Chefs - both veterans and up-and-coming - assume a space for a few months or as an ongoing venture to either test new menu ideas, hone their business skills or try out a restaurant concept before sinking roots in a permanent location.
Diners play an integral role, probing new territory for signs of savory life. Before ordering, move from menu to menu to scope out your options. Be adventurous or play it safe - either way, you're bound to luck into something scrumptious. When your plate is clean, you'll be charged with busing your own table and placing recyclables in their proper place. This is a green dining experience, after all.
Ongoing eateries on the lineup in this fluid conglomerate include:
Pink Bellies - Local food trucker Thai Phi shares his versions of Vietnamese rice bowls, spicy noodles and banh mi - sandwiches stuffed with tasty combinations like pulled pork, blueberry jam, chili, pickled carrot and cilantro.
Juan Luis - Pitmaster John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue fame channels his El Paso past to bring authentic Tex-Mex flavors to the Lowcountry with red chili brisket enchiladas, green chili chicken enchiladas, tamales, chunky guacamole, chiles rellenos, and puffy tacos overstuffed with meat, cheese, pico, peppers, and lettuce.
Slider Gold - Former investment banker Bryan Emperor shows off the skills he developed at the Culinary Institute of America and various restaurant ventures with this Japanese-centric take on tiny sandwiches like Szechuan chicken sliders and the Slider King, a savory construct of marinated (and highly prized) Wagyu beef, seasoned tomato, Asian remoulade and salty-sweet tonkatsu sauce.
Bad Wolf Coffee - This critically acclaimed Chicago cafe now serves Charleston with a full line of coffee drinks and house-made baked goods, like olive oil cake and custardy canele, from pastry chef and proprietor Jonathan Ory.
If you find it hard to nail down a single choice, you aren't alone. Plenty of customers show up in clusters. Grab a table for your group and let the sharing - and experimenting - begin.