“A dive bar is more a state of mind than a physical structure,” explains Tim Mink in attempt to categorize the newly opened Royal American. If the dim lighting, old jukebox and pack of regulars already parked at the bar after only one week of business are to be considered, then by all intents and purposes The Royal American is, indeed, a dive bar. But it’s also under the Revolutionary Eating Ventures umbrella so you can bet your cheap beer it has more personality than your average neighborhood hole in the wall.
Mink, along with Karalee Neilsen and John Kenney, embarked on the regal task of filling yet another hole in the Charleston food and bev scene last July. Call it a sign of the times, but the restaurant group felt the need for an inexpensive bar with a sense of community. Their signature style is in the details and practically every inch is recycled or refurbished. There are top hats above the sound booth, National Geographics dating back to 1964 lining the wall and an enormous patio out front. You can pull up a stool to the wrap-around bar, settle into a cozy leather booth or relax in the lounge area, where portraits of American royals the likes of George Washington and Babe Ruth will soon cover the ceiling.
The vibe is decidedly New Orleans complete with Mardi Gras beads, colorful decorations and stadium cups filled with punch. There is a space cleared for bands and the promise of live music. The jukebox, a refurbished Wurlitzer, plays hard-to-find recordings and albums you want to hear in their entirety like Exile on Main St. Have good taste in music and an even better collection? Patrons are encouraged to bring their own vinyls. It’s that kind of place.
REV’s roster of restaurants includes such local hangouts as Poe’s Tavern, Taco Boy, Monza and Closed For Business, but food is not the main act here. While the menu will grow, the kitchen might not, and the chili and burgers (meat and vegetarian) are really just there to fill your belly between drinks, which will soon include their own cinnamon infused whiskey. The full bar is no match for the beer: you can find vintage brews such as Iron City, and they are the only place around serving cans of Shiner Bock, Ballantine, Genesee and National Bohemian.
As with all REV establishments, The Royal American took shape once the building was chosen. The Ole Charleston Forge on Morrison Drive is old, dusty, and shakes every time the train rattles by. The location is perfect: secluded yet trendy, with ample parking. A hop, skip and a bike ride from their downtown Taco Boy location, the neighborhood is the talk of many artists, musicians and other hip people you’d really like to knock a few back with.
“People are looking for a place where they know the bartender and feel at home,” explains Neilsen. So now we have it: our very own Cheers bar, with a REV twist.
The Royal American - 970 Morrison Drive
5pm-2am daily, 843-817-6925
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Story by: Carter Worrell Dandridge
Photos by: Austin Dandridge