The early spring evening I visited Tradd’s, a newcomer to East Bay Street, Weesie Newton was hosting at the stunning white marble station in the entryway. On any given day, she or husband/co-owner Tradd Newton can be found at the post welcoming guests as if it was their own home. Polished and warm at the same time, Tradd’s invites with a unique culinary concept and a few glimpses of Charleston’s harbor—pushing the dining experience over the top.
“We knew for years we wanted to do something like Tradd’s, but we were waiting for the right location,” says Tradd Newton, whose first foray into hospitality began with his family’s purchase of McCrady’s in 1998. He and Weesie would later open their own successful waterfront eatery, Fleet Landing. “When this property came up, we jumped on it—it speaks to you. And East Bay was the original restaurant row. We wanted to be part of this side of town’s resurgence.”
Tradd’s design concept borrows a touch of glamour from eras past, blending an upscale, sophisticated ambience in a warm, lightfilled space that is punctuated by historical elements, like exposed Charleston brick.
Stylish and airy, and loaded with personality, Tradd’s reflects the Newtons’ culinary and design points of view.
“Southern cuisine is done so well all over Charleston. We wanted to step outside the box a little bit,” says Newton. “A lot of the food is what Weesie and I enjoy eating— recognizable food the server doesn’t have to describe for you. The whole place reflects how we like to live, eat, entertain and share with people.”
Some of the couple’s favorite foods are straightforward classics, such as veal scallopini and duck à l’orange—older dishes executive chef Brandon Buck describes as “having been thrown to the wayside.”
“We’re bringing some of the classic dishes back and making them shine with great product and preparation,” says Buck, whose culinary career began under the tutelage of renowned executive chefs Craig Deihl and Donald Barickman, formerly of Cypress and Magnolias, respectively. He would go on to head the kitchen of Middleton Place Restaurant.
“The concept fits into the design of the restaurant,” Buck says. That design concept borrows a touch of glamour from eras past, blending an upscale, sophisticated ambience in a warm, light-filled space punctuated by historical elements, like exposed Charleston brick.
“We put a dream team together to reimagine the space,” says Newton. “Lennon Construction was a major player. Stumphouse was our architectural team. Weesie and I did a lot of the interior design ourselves—many of the colors, fabrics and décor are like our home.”
“We wanted to create a lot of different experiences,” adds Weesie Newton. “At all of my favorite places I can do many things— it’s not the same experience every time.”
Three distinct areas set the stage for unique dining experiences. The main dining area offers casual elegance with white tablecloths, private banquettes and parquet flooring. An adjacent space combines bistro-style seating with a sleek porcelain bar. A smaller nook toward the back of the eatery provides a semiprivate experience at a chic zinc champagne bar, with seating for six that may be reserved for a cozy get-together.
The Newtons also assembled a dream team in the kitchen, with chef de cuisine Micah Garrison, former director of food services at Middleton Place who worked with Buck on a production garden for the restaurant, and executive pastry chef Courtney Simpson, whose in-house creations include everything from desserts to toast points and blini for the sexy caviar setup.
Buck’s farm-culture family background and his experience at Middleton Place drive his passion to source from small, local farmers as much as possible. “We use a blend of local fare and international specialty products, such as dried steaks from New York-based Pat LaFrieda,” says Buck, who is also certified to identify the wild mushrooms he forages for in nearby Francis Marion Forest.
While we didn’t sample wild mushrooms that night, my guest and I were treated to several other delicacies, starting with a beautiful presentation of beef tartare on house-made chips garnished with an olive oil poached egg and a touch of briny Plaza Hackleback caviar. The minced beef was super fresh and light on the palate.
Gnocchi was next—a luxurious dish with tender nuggets of lobster tossed with oven-dried tomato and preserved lemon, which added a refreshing citrus element. Entrées included richly flavored rack of lamb from Colorado, which came to the table with a perfect sear, and creamed South Carolina kale. And high on our list: Tradd’s top-selling Serrano ham-wrapped monkfish, featuring a thick, perfectly cooked filet wrapped in salty Serrano ham and served atop lemony, al dente risotto with just the right texture.
Our no-holds-barred dessert was a chocolate cremeaux-honeycomb toffee with a cookie crumble and brown ale ice cream—a fittingly decadent end to an evening of indulgence.
Barely a year old, sassy, sophisticated Tradd’s has established its place on restaurant row in a way that is exclusively the Newtons’.
Cheers to Weesie and Tradd!
Wendy Swat Snyder is a Charleston-based freelance writer.