LITTLE JEWEL BOX

BY WENDY SWAT SNYDER | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

LifestyleCuisineVer4-Image-1Local shrimp with peppers, onions and tasso over pepperjack grits.

Whether you’re hunting down a hot spot for dinner or a space to say, “I do,” consider a visit to the Old Village Post House Inn. It offers both casual style and old-fashioned charm wrapped in a pretty new package and tied with a bow. Owners Jeanne and Bill Hall have poured their hearts into renovating what they call their “little jewel box” to bring their own brand of country inn flair to the Charleston hospitality scene.

The boutique property was part of a multi-restaurant purchase the Halls made in 2015 from Maverick Southern Kitchens. Located slightly off the beaten path in Mount Pleasant’s historic Old Village, the circa 1881 venue is “the little bed and breakfast with a restaurant” the couple had dreamed for years of owning. A hospitality industry veteran, Bill Hall began his career in the hotel business and spent over five decades managing major properties in locations such as Washington, D.C., California, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Hugging the coastline across the waters of Charleston Harbor, the Old Village was part of the original colonial footprint and is packed with small-town character. Many of the English settlement’s first structures still stand. Lovingly restored, they provide unique character and a sense of place for both residents and visitors.

Old Village Post House Inn anchors a small, artsy retail district on Pitt Street just a stone’s throw from the water. Vintage homes and one-of-a-kind specialty shops line the street. These include Pitt Street Pharmacy, established in 1937; Out of Hand, featuring upscale women’s clothing, organic cosmetics and a florist; Village Bakery; and a trendy hair salon called Swish. Historic and eclectic, this sweet spot is ideal for both serious shopping and idle strolling beneath ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss and Southern charm.

LifestyleCuisineVer4-Image-2The inn’s dining room looks upon the Old Village Historic District.
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LifestyleCuisineVer4-Image-4TOP: Roasted Carolina-raised quail. BOTTOM: Warm apple tart with cinnamon toast ice cream and salted caramel.
LifestyleCuisineVer4-Image-5Jumbo lump crab cake with cream corn, shoestring potatoes and green tomato chow chow.

“Jeanne and I think of it as a destination resort,” Hall says. “The courtyard can accommodate up to 80 guests for an intimate family wedding. Or, if someone is visiting nearby friends, this is a nice little hideaway where they can get up in the morning, have a continental breakfast and go for a run.”

Good bones and a gracious pedigree provided the Halls with a solid foundation as they embarked on a careful, roomby- room restoration of both the inn and restaurant. They enlisted designer Mary Mac Wilson of Reggie Gibson Architects to help execute their vision of a warm, inviting venue for dining, lodging and special events. The six guest rooms were freshened with new paint, poster beds, bathrooms and period décor, each with its own distinctive style. Original hardwood floors throughout the property were sanded and restained, and the building’s clapboard exterior received a fresh coat of paint.

A warm ambience pervades the first and second floor dining areas of the reimagined restaurant. Walls are dressed with ethereal Southern landscapes painted by artist C. Ford Riley. A palette of creamy whites and deep blues work with new lighting to brighten the main dining room and create a nautical mood. A wall of windows with cottagey shutters allows just the right amount of light inside. Round tables replaced booths for a more sociable setting while rustic rope chandeliers reinforce the dockside vibe. That vibe flows through main floor hallways and into the popular tavern, which was also refreshed with a yacht-club theme and lush new seating.

General manger Margaret Robey oversees both the lodging and restaurant operations while a private dining coordinator assists clients with special events. A flexible bridal package includes menus for rehearsal dinners and receptions as well as pre-ceremony champagne and light bites for the bridal party.

“Because we’re small, we can really tailor an event to our guests’ tastes. We provide a list of local vendors and help with decorating and seating. Depending on the style of wedding, we offer our own furnishings or bring them in,” notes Robey, whose hospitality credentials include stints at The Lodge at Tiburon in California and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

LifestyleCuisineVer4-Image-6The Royall Suite’s stately Charleston rice bed.
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LifestyleCuisineVer4-Image-8TOP: Beef carpaccio with soft-boiled egg and black truffIe vinaigrette. BOTTOM: Broiled Maine lobster tails and a Gruyère cheese omelet.

“Margaret is great. She is very professional and represents us well,” says Jeanne Hall, noting also that her husband has remained hands-on with this property and enjoys spending time on-site, reviewing reservations with Robey and chatting with both guests of the inn and restaurant regulars.

In the main dining room, crisp white cloths, candlelight and a bud vase set the tone for each table. The seasonal menu is a blend of seafood and steaks, featuring several Lowcountry classics and prime steaks from Allen Brothers of Chicago. Starters include standards such as lobster bisque and a bracing onion soup. Broiled ACE Basin oysters from St. Jude Farms are briny bites of heaven topped with an herbed Parmesan crust. A beautiful presentation of razor-thin beef carpaccio shines in a tangy green peppercorn dressing and a subtle touch of black truffle vinaigrette.

The kitchen sources locally as much as possible, from purveyors such as Limehouse Produce and GrowFood Carolina—a consortium of small South Carolina farmers. The green salad showcases ultra fresh baby lettuces lightly tossed with Gorgonzola, cherries, candied pecans and a pomegranate vinaigrette.

Executive chef Antonia Krenza says she follows a “less is more” philosophy in her approach to cooking and describes her style as Mediterranean. Originally from New York, she received an associate degree in culinary arts from Culinard in Birmingham, Alabama, where she also cultivated a strong appreciation for Southern foodways. Cajun/Creole notes, for example, infuse her take on shrimp and grits afloat in a rich tasso ham gravy. The dessert menu includes classics such as a decadent white chocolate crème brulée piled high with blueberries and blackberries—a refreshing mix of velvety richness and tart fruitiness.

“I’m very excited to be at Old Village Post House Inn,” says Krenza, who honed her skills at Halls Chophouse working in various capacities, including “heading up banquets, off-site catering, a little bit of everything,” before moving up to the executive position.

“We made some changes, collaboratively, to the existing menu,” she says, “and I have my own vision as well. The community has welcomed the new items while the menu remains very seafood driven.” Restaurant regulars should note that those changes include the addition of an updated quail dish.

The Hall family and staff are committed to personalized service and warm hospitality as they position the new Old Village Post House Inn to deliver an outstanding country inn experience.

Wendy Swat Snyder is a Charleston-based freelance writer and marketing consultant.