Entertaining

Style File: Brooks Reitz

The Charleston restaurateur shares his food and kitchen essentials
Photos: Olivia Rae James
Brooks Reitz

"I'm allergic to trends in all things," Brooks Reitz says with a bit of a laugh when he's asked about his personal and shopping style.

Indeed, you're most likely to spot the 30-year-old Charleston-based restaurateur (Leon's Oyster Shop, Saint Alban) and cocktail entrepreneur (Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., his line of small-batch mixers and barware) in a J.Crew button-down and a pair of khakis, rather than anything that suggests "this season."

Reitz, one of the city's young talents who came up through the bar and front-of-house programs at FIG and The Ordinary, is unabashedly enamored with the classics—but in a way that's aspirational and elegant, not staid. It's a through line that runs from the clothes he buys to the restaurants he runs: Leon's serves a traditional—and ridiculously delicious—pairing of fried chicken and oysters, while Saint Alban is a European-style all-day café with inspired breakfast and lunch fare (including the self-proclaimed "world's best banana bread").

  • La Colombe Coffee (Prices Vary)

    "Before we started serving it at Saint Alban, you could get La Colombe coffee in restaurants in Charleston but not so much in cafés. The company has an Italian approach to coffee; it very much has the third-wave roast profiles. I've also just really admired how they handle themselves as businessmen and appreciate our working relationship."

  • Global Chef's Knife (Prices Vary)

    "I bought my first good knife when I was around 22 and starting to cook for myself. I actually got a Global chef's knife, because in the movie American Psycho, Christian Bale has them in his kitchen. I've had chef friends give me crap about choosing Global, but I'm going on record here: They're super sharp, and I like the way they fit my hand."

  • Bull's Bay Sea Salt Carolina Flake ($15)

    "This local company is harvesting seawater in a greenhouse and evaporating it into sea salt. The Carolina Flake is all big, rustic chunks; there's a crunch to it. We use it on avocado toast or to finish eggs."

  • Kenchi Ferments Mustard Kale Kenchi (Prices Vary)

    "I happened upon this kimchi, made by a local guy named Ken, at a little store called the Vegetable Bin. But then the Vegetable Bin closed (and has since reopened). We went to Whole Foods one day, and there was Ken, handing out samples of his kimchi. I put the mustard kale kimchi on salads, brown rice, everything."

  • Lemons, by Alison Roman ($14)

    "I love Short Stack editions, because they offer a great price point for this little cookbook. We sell them at Saint Alban. The recipes are really approachable. Lemons are one of my favorite ingredients, and Alison uses them in interesting ways beyond just grating the zest or squeezing the juice."

  • Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Jigger ($9)

    "It's the No. 1 tool I suggest to home bartenders and people who want to entertain. I've learned a lot through creating Jack Rudy. We'd get all kinds of questions from our customers online, and we'd send them to Amazon to buy a jigger. So we decided to design one. It's graduated on both sides, with lines that mark different measurements."

    Note: The jiggers will be back in stock by the end of March.

  • Aesop Hand Soap ($39)

    "I went to a restaurant in NYC that had the grapefruit rind and herb soap in the bathroom, and it was the best hand wash I'd ever had. It had this nice exfoliating quality. I had to get it for myself. I get it that the soap is really expensive, but it's a nice little bit of luxury in your day."

  • Mountain Valley Spring Water (Prices Vary)

    "I drink an aggressive amount of sparkling water. This brand, based in Arkansas, is really clean with big, beautiful bubbles. We serve it at Leon's and Saint Alban."

  • Nesting Trivet Set by Arrowhead ($150)

    "My girlfriend, Erin Connelly, owns a shop in Charleston called The Commons that specializes in American-made goods for the home. She designed this nesting trivet with Arrowhead. We'll use it to put three or four dishes on the table, especially when we're eating healthy and there are a lot of veggies to share. It also functions as a fruit bowl when it falls together."

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"I like things that are familiar and comfortable," Reitz says. "In NYC, I'm drawn to spots like J.G. Melon or Balthazar, rather than the newest restaurant."

As he gears up to open The Oyster Shed, a new private dining space at Leon's, as well as to launch a line of simple syrups called Jack Rudy Simple, Reitz shares some of his favorite home and kitchen products (see the slideshow) with us. Unsurprisingly, simplicity and good craftsmanship are important.

"I'm more likely to buy a Boos block to use as a cutting board, even though there are cool cutting boards out there now," Reitz says. "I know that a Boos block is high quality. Whether it's olive oil or a knife or a pair of jeans, I look for utility and value."

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And, of course, great design is key: If you've ever taken a gander at the Jack Rudy line, you've probably noticed its labels, which are stylishly unfussy (and indeed, almost medicinal looking). Leon's is really an "oyster shop" in name only, with its stucco walls and reclaimed schoolhouse chairs, and Saint Alban is the sort of charming place you could spend an entire day in, what with its dark wood floors, mirrored columns and free-floating outdoor tables with vibrantly painted steel chairs.

If we could be left alone there with the restaurant's buckwheat waffles with whipped ricotta, we'd happily develop a late-onset trend allergy of our own.

Here are some of Reitz's favorite things.

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