When the decision was made to shutter Fish Restaurant after a 17- year run on King Street, owner Patrick Properties Hospitality Group (PPHG) embraced it as an opportunity. PPHG had been developing a concept that would showcase the 19th-century property and the company’s reputation for historic preservation in Charleston. Dubbed Parcel 32, after the block’s designation on an 1888 map, the reimagined restaurant would tell a story of the city’s history and multinational food culture.
The renovation of the 1837 building was led by Stumphouse Architecture + Design owner Dan Sweeney. According to PPHG executive director Amber Cote, he and interior designer Whitney Rietz Eller of Whitney Rietz Designs worked together to create a contemporary gathering place while staying true to the historical roots of the former Charleston Single House.
Parcel 32 is an expression of Celeste and Charles Patrick’s 20- year mission to turn historic properties—like the American Theater, Lowndes Grove Plantation and William Aiken House—into venues for special celebrations, be they small or large.
Cote points out that nearly everyone contributed to the concept— from the sales and events departments to the Fish staff who stayed on. “They really deserve applause for transforming our ideas into reality,” she says.
Elevated yet comfortable, the dining space welcomes you with velvety banquettes, drum light fixtures and warm brass finishes. A sleek bar with stylish acrylic stools is set against original exposed brick. The neutral palette throughout the restaurant showcases a collection of vintage prints, maps and black-and- white photographs that tell the story of the early Charleston neighborhood. Pointing to a particularly stunning display, Cote explains the tiny bits of paper grouped inside are original ticket stubs for the train that came right to this block.
A similar vision—elevated yet approachable—was planned for the Parcel 32 menu. Executive chef Shaun Brian was a natural fit, since he grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands on St. John, where he tended an organic farm and fished with his dad on Coral Bay.
“Charleston is on the ocean and has connections to the Caribbean and West Africa, which have both influenced my cooking style,” says Brian. “It also has a tremendous farming program. I fell in love.”
Brian’s early cooking experience includes a stint at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, where he worked under chef Andrew Chadwick, who was mentored by chefs John Ash and Michel Bras. He says he is particularly inspired by Bras’ intricate plating techniques and Ash’s farm-to-table initiatives.
The Johnson & Wales graduate left OCEAN 362 in St. John after hurricanes shook the island. He spent time in the kitchen of the Harbor View Hotel on Martha’s Vineyard before finding the Lowcountry.
“There are so many ingredients here that I found in the Caribbean,” notes Brian. “Nobody uses these unique Southern ingredients—indigenous crops like the prickly pear cactus and cassava—all very relevant to my cooking. Now I have a perfect harmony.”
The evening my guest and I visited Parcel 32, we spied an old-fashioned joggling board on the front porch and settled down for a gentle ride. (A joggling board is a Lowcountry invention that consists of a long wooden plank supported by two rockers. It was a favorite of courting couples.)
Inside, the ambience is calming and sociable. A long community table fashioned from reclaimed bargeboards supplements other seating options— banquettes and smaller tables.
Our cozy deuce was a window seat with views of bustling upper King Street. An attentive server started us with a basket of warm, crusty sourdough bread handcrafted by Tiller Baking Co. Next out was the local pickle bowl, a mélange of vegetables, each individually pickled in a distinct brine and packed into a glass Mason jar. The bracing starter was crunchy and refreshing and not overly salty.
We felt compelled to sample Parcel 32’s spin on the beloved hush puppy, made with meal from Southern pecans and garnished with pimento cheese and bacon dust. The super light dough produced the most elevated puppy we’d ever tasted.
“Eliza from Antigua” blends Belvedere Vodka, Domaine de Canton, prickly pear, orange and serrano peppers—cheers!
More small shares not to miss: The fresh local fish spread scented with pecan wood smoke and slathered on Ritz crackers. Also, “Oysters rock’d,” the classic briny dish updated with local greens, Pernod and Brie, which arrived beautifully plated on a bed of river rocks.
From the menu of large plates, we chose dishes from the land and sea. The swordfish, seared in a cast-iron skillet was tender and meaty. It featured Caribbean notes of cumin and coconut. A stew of chunky turai squash was kicked up with pickled onions and preserved tomatoes. The philosophy in the kitchen is based on sustainability, with much of its local catch coming from Abundant Seafood.
The grilled country pork chop was presented tomahawk-style, well seasoned with benne seeds and herbs. It was amazingly tender. Sweet potato mustard, mustard greens and pickled green tomatoes completed the hearty cool-weather dish.
With rich flavors and a renewed space, Parcel 32 deftly blends the old and new, centering on the multilayered story that is Charleston: A history of food and culture with global influences, shared and celebrated by the Patrick family.
Wendy Swat Snyder is a Charleston-based freelance writer and marketing consultant.