Owning some of Charleston’s most popular restaurants wasn’t always in the game plan for restaurateur Brooks Reitz.
Growing up, Reitz wanted to be a playwright. However, after having lunch with a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright he realized the stage wasn’t where he wanted to call home for the rest of his life.Reitz went back to the drawing board to figure out his next steps.
The Kentucky native had always had a passion for food and decided to move to Louisville to work in a new hotel opening in Kentucky’s largest city.There, Reitz worked his way up the ladder, eventually landing the role of general manager in the hotel’s restaurant. “Here I was at 23, running a restaurant,” Reitz said. “I had no idea what I was doing.”
Fast forward 6-8 years and Reitz is now one of the most recognizable names in the Charleston’s culinary scene.
Reitz has since grown his business into a small empire with a trio of restaurants- Leon’s Oyster Shop, Little Jack’s Tavern and Melfi’s (opening just in time for the 2018 Charleston Wine + Food festival)- delivering delicious menus that keep customers coming back time-and-time again.
Despite his success in the restaurant business, Reitz’s background in writing continues to play an integral role in the creation of his restaurants.
The design of Reitz’s restaurants are just as important as the food being served, with the restaurateur paying close attention to details in order to create a eating space that tells a story.
Take for example Little Jack’s Tavern: a casual chophouse on Upper King Street serving up steaks, salads and sandwiches.
“To create the concept for Little Jack’s, we came up with the story of a boxer called Jack,” Reitz recalled. “After leaving the boxing world, because he was so small for that arena, he moved to Charleston where he opened up a little, tin-roofed bar. That bar then eventually became a restaurant that was passed down through generations in Jack’s family. We imagined what the restaurant might look like today after being passed through many hands, and that is what we executed in the design of Little Jack’s.”
The story of Little Jack runs through the restaurant’s decor with boxing memorabilia dotting the walls, creating a fun and laid back atmosphere that diners can enjoy while delving into one of Little Jack’s famous cheeseburgers.
The care Reitz puts into crafting each of his restaurants is a reflection of the dedication the restaurateur has towards his businesses and his customers. “At the end of the day, I don’t want to be the best restaurant,” Reitz said. “I just want to be people’s favorite restaurant.”
As we sit down to a plate of Leon’s chargrilled oysters paired with the restaurant’s Siam salad, we think he might just be onto something.