Bright, clean dishes and an all-female management team take the reins at this breezy restaurant that has been charming Charleston, South Carolina, since its opening this past November. Spearheaded by Ben and Kate Towill—a laidback couple who traded busy Manhattan for the southern city five years ago—Basic Kitchen returns to the fundamentals of eating and living with an honest menu and unique lifestyle-approach to dining.
“Function is as important as aesthetic, and I love that challenge,” says Kate, who together with her husband created Basic Projects, a design and development company, and more recently, Basic Kitchen.
“We wanted to open a restaurant down here with food we wanted to eat every day, that made us feel energized and clean; that felt like elevated home cooking,” she tells Domino.
Combining their backgrounds in food and design (Kate worked as set designer in the film industry for six years before switching over to interiors, and Ben created renowned New York City eateries such as The Fat Radish, The Leadbelly and The East Pole), the pair decided to take their next venture down south.
A historic structure with floor-to-ceiling windows proved to be an idyllic spot to set up shop. “We fell in love with the building two years before we even opened Basic Kitchen. Somehow the stars aligned and the space became available—we jumped on it,” says Towill.
Whole grains and legumes, healthful oils, sustainably raised meat, and colorful spices are just a few key components that make up Basic Kitchen’s energy-focused menu.
While the restaurant’s mantra of “Cleaner Fuel, Longer Adventures” shines through in dishes like their beloved Rainbow Bowl (sweet potato noodles topped with vibrant veggies and peanut sauce), tempura fried cauliflower wings, and an array of nutritious juices, the restaurant’s raw decor scheme also encourages an easier way of living.
Brimming with natural light, the restaurant’s surf lodge-meets-southern diner aesthetic will immediately speak to those with a taste for travel. While certain beachy details like the mounted surfboard (dubbed “Big Red”) and woven light fixtures, at first, seem to pay homage to easy West Coast living, these seaside elements are actually the product of journey to Havana.
“A trip to Cuba two years ago really inspired quite a few elements, like the textured walls, oversized basket lights, and apothecary jars along the back bar that travelled back with us,” explains Kate.
What is now an airy and pleasant place to nosh on avocado toast or snack on a bowl of beets, however, was once haunted by dreary, dark blue walls. “We wanted the space to feel as bright and inviting as the food,” says Kate.
A fresh coat of white paint gave the restaurant a cleaner look, while fun details like the fixed diner seating and worn leather booths completed the scene. “I loved pairing this retro feel with the oversized basket lights from Italy—it softens the whole diner feel,” she adds. The vintage fringe lamps from Hawaii add appeal to the restaurant’s not-so-basic bar.
Outside, a greenery-filled courtyard—or tropical oasis?—provides additional seating.
While Basic Kitchen’s breezy digs and positive approach to food has certainly got locals talking, so does the restaurant’s all-female staff.
“Well, the current times certainly are ‘The Future is Female!’ And I believe it,” says Kate. “I wouldn’t say we went out of our way to get an all-female management staff; we just love and trust these hard-working ladies and are thankful they share our overall vision. We are a family. That’s important.”
Chef Air Casebier—no stranger to the Charleston food scene—champions Basic Kitchen’s mission behind the counter.
While a killer spot for brunch, Basic Kitchen is also open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. For more information about their menu or to book a reservation, check out their site here.
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