Spoleto's world-class arts, theater, and music performances aren't the only things to splurge on during the festival. Top off your night at the theater with a meal at one of these exceptional local restaurants, which we've paired with some of the festival's most buzzed-about events.
Le Villi and Mese Mariano
May 25, 27, 29, 31, June 2, 4, 7
5 Fulton St., Downtown
Spoleto's double bill of Italian opera, Puccini's Le Villi and Umberto Giordano's Mese Mariano, runs more than two hours, and afterward you'll be ready for an Italian dinner in the big, dramatic mode. Just a few blocks down King Street from the Sottile Theatre, Fulton Five fits the bill perfectly. Start things off with the Antipasto Spoleto, a roll of prosciutto and mozzarella grilled inside a big romaine leaf. The restaurant's atmosphere is elegant and romantic, and with dishes like risotto with butter-poached lobster and chocolate espresso-rubbed filet, the meal is bound to be as impressively rich as the operas that precede it.
Emmett Robinson Theatre at College of Charleston
224 King St., Downtown
Jared Grimes is wowing the modern dance world with his signature blend of tap, hip-hop, and street jazz. It's a hybrid that's stylish and graceful but with a definite contemporary edge. That describes Charleston Grill to a T, too. Executive chef Michelle Weaver's multi-faceted menu offers lush classics like beef tenderloin with a bourguignon sauce alongside more novel creations like fried quail with black pepper gravy. The wine list is among the best in town, and the warm, inviting room is a great place to let the evening ease to a finish with some smooth live jazz.
May 24, 26, June 1, 4, 8
Dock Street Theatre
442 King St., Downtown
Matsukaze is a haunting opera about two ghost sisters, written by a Japanese composer, sung in German, and staged by an acclaimed Chinese director. Since one international fusion deserves another, start things off with an early dinner at Fish. Chef Nico Romo applies French techniques to an array of Asian flavors, resulting in dishes that range from big plates like a sous vide lobster tail with coconut ginger beurre blanc to dim sum bites that include a duck confit steam bun and tempura fried escargot.
Music in Time
May 27, 29, June 2, 7
Memminger Auditorium and Simons Center
G&M/Fast and French
98 Broad St., Downtown
Incorporating sampling, electronic processing, and even the speakers in the audience's mobile phones, the performances in the Music in Time series are offbeat and challenging, but they're presented in a relaxing way by John Kennedy, Spoleto's resident conductor. After the Wednesday or Friday shows, a dinner at Gaulart & Mauclet, more popularly known as Fast and French, is in order.
Designed by two artists as an experiment where diners are seated together at a curving, communal counter, Fast & French is all about the vibe and the camaraderie. It poses an avant garde challenge, too: what happens when you have to sit next to strangers for dinner? The food will be a lot less threatening than the music that precedes it — escargot, broiled seafood, a chicken du jour — but after listening to compositions for cellphones and other mind-bending contemporary works, a few hunks of bread and cheese and a couple glasses of wine will help you process your Music in Time experience.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
May 23-June 9
Dock Street Theatre
2 Unity Alley, Downtown
Cypress Lowcountry Grille
167 East Bay St., Downtown
152 King St., Downtown
This isn't your ordinary production of Shakespeare's comedy about desperate, all-consuming love. A collaboration between Bristol Old Vic and the Handspring Puppet Company, Midsummer is a zany, imaginative, and dreamlike staging complete with puppets. If you're going to one of the evening shows, you'll be getting out late and definitely will need a pre-show bite. Try a light dinner of bar snacks at McCrady's or Cypress, both of which are on East Bay Street just a couple of block from the theater and have bar menus that are every bit as inventive and lighthearted as the evening's production.
The selection changes nightly at McCrady's, but pork belly lettuce wraps, deviled eggs, and grilled cobia collars are par for the course. At Cypress, you can sample "pork and beans" made with chef Craig Deihl's housemade brats and barbecue peanuts or go a little heavier with a wood-grilled burger topped with bacon jam.
If you're still peckish after the show, slip two blocks down Queen Street and ease yourself back into reality with a glass of wine and a little cheese and charcuterie at Bin 152, a cozy wine bar with a deep, thoughtful selection.
May 27-June 9
The Green Door
251 East Bay St., Downtown
The Craftsmen Kitchen and Tap House
12 Cumberland St., Downtown
If you're heading to one of the Piccolo Fringe shows, like Reformed Whores, the Upright Citizen Brigade, or RISK!, you're probably a little edgy in your tastes and not necessarily looking to break the bank for a big night on the town (and, for Pete's sake, I hope you aren't bringing along any kids). Theatre 99 is just a 10-minute walk from East Bay Street, where The Green Door and The Craftsmen are prime choices for filling up your tummy before laughing your ass off.
If chef Corey Burke's regular house-cured pork belly sandwiches or Buddha bowl with bone marrow broth aren't edgy enough for you, you might luck into a nightly Green Door special like beef heart-stuffed chile rellenos or a pig head ssambap, complete with eyeballs and snout.
Around the corner on Cumberland Street, the brand spanking new Craftsmen is a haven for beer geeks, offering an ever rotating selection of four dozen (yes, that's 48!) craft beers on tap. Chef Todd Garrigan kicks out inventive pub grub like spicy General Tso's chicken wings and chile cured salmon to match.
The Cistern at the College of Charleston
The Bar at Husk
72 Queen St., Downtown
345 King St., Downtown
The Gin Joint
182 East Bay St., Downtown
If you've secured a ticket for the Punch Brothers show, then you really have no other choice than to stop off at the Bar at Husk beforehand, where they have a quartet of punches to whet your thirst for a night of progressive bluegrass — assuming, of course, that all the other hipsters don't beat you there. If they do, you could just duck into Boone's Bar on King Street, which is right around the corner from the Cistern and has plenty of Pappy on the high shelf.
If you're hungry after the show, Monday night can be a bit tough, since most of the trendy Upper King spots take that as their day of rest. But you could always roll over to the Gin Joint and polish off a few of the city's best craft cocktails and enjoy tasty munchies like shrimp and grit fritters and pad Thai popcorn.
J. D. McPherson
College of Charleston Cistern Yard
474 King St., Downtown
With vintage drums, classic tube amps, and a throwback rockabilly style, J.D. McPherson is sure to leave you in an old-school mood. The show will let out around 10:30 p.m., but there's still plenty of time to make your way to The Rarebit, where they serve breakfast and dinner until the wee hours. Grab a couple of flat, griddled track burgers or some steak and eggs, and wash them down with a few Moscow Mules in frosty copper mugs. It's classic and progressive at the same time.
Chamber Music Series
May 24-June 9
Dock Street Theatre
98 Wentworth St., Downtown
Local churches have made a tradition of hosting tea rooms during Spoleto, where they serve a menu of Southern favorites and donate all proceeds to local charities. If you're attending one of the twice-daily chamber music performances at the Dock Street Theatre, swing by Grace Church and enjoy a light lunch of okra soup and a pimento cheese sandwich.
Republic Reign Garden and Lounge
462 King St., Downtown.
If you leave this performance with Brazilian drumming still pounding in your ears, dance your way over to Republic Reign on King Street, where the music may not be Brazilian but it will have a suitably thudding beat. Once there, you can keep the energy flowing with pork belly corn dogs and duck confit-stuffed potato skins.
Le Grand C
May 22-June 1
432 King St., Downtown
Compagnie XY is the quintessential French circus, with stunning acrobatics that are flowing and elegant and simultaneously, agonizingly, and heart-stoppingly dangerous — all set to traditional French music. After their Le Grand C show ends, let the Gallic spirit carry you up King Street to La Fourchette, Charleston's quintessentially French bistro, for a bowl of moule frites or filet de porc a la moutard. There are plenty of good reds and whites by the glass and, no, they do not serve Le Coca-Cola.