Ask most Charleston natives over the age of, oh I don't know 30 maybe, their thoughts on Big John's Tavern and you are likely to hear "Oh that sketchy place that lets teens drink?" Now ask the same question of your random 20something and you are likely to hear "You mean the bar at The Green Door?" That change is significant. The day food truck vet Cory Burke opened his funky little slice of culinary heaven, the entire vibe changed for Big John's. Suddenly, this place that seemed better suited to a Law & Order: SVU episode became a destination. People talked about it again. It mattered. But not for long.
The Post & Courier's Hanna Raskin set the Charleston food scene ablaze last night when she broke the news that The Green Door was getting the boot. In the follow-up article we meet the building's owner, Ryan Condon. See Ryan bought Big John's from it's struggling owner John Cannady to keep the spirit of the bar the same. What made Big John's so special? According to Mr. Condon it was the kind of place parents felt safe letting their teens drink. Let that sink in for a moment. He took the bar back from his nephews, who had been running it, because "That's just not what the business was intended to be." I'm assuming he means the menu at The Green Door, not the enforcing of the legal drinking age, but that seems open to interpretation.
Mr. Condon isn't new to the Charleston food scene. He co-owns the Charleston Crab Shack chain, most famous for providing mediocre fried seafood and crab legs identical to any other such chain across the country. It is that mediocrity that Mr. Condon feels is best for his business. He wants to return it to its glory. From Hanna Raskin's article we hear this:
“I want to return Big John’s to what Big John’s was when I started going there,” says Condon, who started hanging out at Big John’s as a high schooler. “If Big John would ever have seen The Green Door, he would have rolled over in his grave. I don’t even know what the hell grilled kimchee is; I just want to restore Big John’s the way it was.”
What, other than having high schooler's like Mr. Condon getting drunk, made Big John's so special? Ham sandwiches and football on TV. Yes, Mr. Condon hopes Big John's can fill that void in Charleston of places to get a ham sandwich and watch TV.
Listen, I do not begrudge a businessman doing what he thinks is best for his business, but if THIS is the move he wants, then the failure he will endure will be of his own making. I also don't think Chef Cory is without blame. I hope he has learned a valuable lesson about getting it in writing. I hope Chef Cory keeps his funky eclectic food in Charleston. We need someone to help tip the scales of generic mediocrity that the Ryan Condon's of the world want to spread.
PS- The Girl thinks Ryan Condon deserves to stub his toe AND get a paper cut in the same day.