In 1982, three restaurateurs had a vision to provide a uniquely “Charleston” dining experience with a focus on fresh, local cuisine and gracious hospitality. They had the perfect setting consisting of three buildings and a garden courtyard nestled in the Historic French Quarter, but they could not agree on a name. With the pressure of opening upon them, founding partners Harvey Poole, Joe Sliker and Chef Steve Kish decided to simply use the street address as the name. And so was born one of Charleston’s oldest and most celebrated restaurants … 82 Queen.
Feeling that there was a portion of Charleston’s culinary heritage that was being overlooked, 82 Queen’s original menu featured dishes influenced by the African, French, Caribbean and Anglo-Saxon tastes which permeated the area. 82 Queen’s fusion of these culturally diverse flavors led to the rise of a culinary genre that had been previously undefined – and is now referred to as “Lowcountry Cuisine”.
As the years rolled on, 82 Queen adapted and remained a powerhouse in the Charleston culinary community. With a barrage of now-famous chefs cutting their teeth in the kitchen and some infamous “pirates” conspiring in the courtyard, the stories of things that began at 82 Queen are plentiful.
But as much that has changed over the years, more has remained the same. Poole, Sliker and Kish continued their successful partnership until the sad day that Poole passed away. At that point, Chef Kish turned over the reins to the kitchen and he and Sliker assumed the dining room duties that Harvey Poole had handled so elegantly for almost 20 years. Sliker, a Charleston native and former tight end in the NFL, can be found most nights wandering through the courtyard greeting each customer as if they’ve been friends for years. Although Kish has been “front of the house” for over a decade, he is still at home in the kitchen where he can be found assisting the chefs and servers on many a busy night.
Family is also a theme at 82 Queen. Although not related in the traditional sense, the key staff has been together for so long that they are clearly brothers and sisters. General Manager Johnny Williams began his 82 Queen career in 1997 as a 17 year old busboy. He has since grown into one of the most respected restaurant managers in this town. Patrick Kish, Steve Kish’s son, started in the dish room when he was 12 years old (shhh, we’re not sure that’s completely legal) and is now the General Manager of our second restaurant, Lowcountry Bistro. Business Manager, Diane Henderson, started her career at 82 Queen in 1983 as a waitress. Such longevity of staff in a Charleston restaurant is not only unusual, it is a downright anomaly.
Executive Chef Steven Lusby, at a young 28 years old, is quickly making a name for himself. He is on such a parallel track to that of Steve Kish, who partnered in 82 Queen as Proprietor Chef at age 25, that we are apt to believe there is another good 31 years in the future for 82 Queen.
As the Charleston culinary scene takes the world stage and hot young chefs open trendy new restaurants, one would think that a 31 year old majestic original may get lost in the shuffle. But as 82 Queen holds true to the plan of fresh local cuisine, customers seeking an authentic Lowcountry experience continue to fill the 11 dining rooms.