A stretch of renovated freedman’s cottages on Jackson Street are home to Tobin’s Market, a new counter-service restaurant specializing in Asian-inspired food, local beverages and live music. Brothers Danny and Mike May are leading the kitchen churning out sandwiches and salads during the day and charcuterie boards, bao buns and tuna tartare at night.
“They redid these and made them the Jackson Street Cottages in 2017,” said Danny. “[The property’s owners] wanted to do a restaurant concept, so they asked us to come in and said build a kitchen and let’s get rolling.”
The cottages in the peninsula’s Eastside neighborhood were constructed in the 1880s as housing for formerly enslaved people of African descent. The four one-room houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and ranked as local preservationists’ highest priorities for saving in recent years.
Patrons enter the small market to place orders before heading outside, where the ambiance is different from most downtown restaurants. There’s bar seating, chairs and cozy couches on the expansive Astroturf-covered back patio that also boasts a small stage for musicians. It’s airy and casual with a refined touch that’s highlighted by the food and beverage offering.
“They flew me out here from Chicago. I was doing fine dining the last five years of my life,” said Mike, who worked at a high-end seafood restaurant in downtown Chicago before arriving in Charleston. He’s spent time at 5Church and the Park Cafe prior to Tobin’s Market’s September opening.
“We want to stay as local as we can and be very community-driven,” Mike said. “Because of how it looks, we try to put our dishes as the best representation of the ambiance here.”
Look for edible handhelds like street tacos, bao buns and burritos along with refined fare like tuna tartare and fresh lump crab dip with wonton chips. Beverages run the gamut with several local draft beers and reasonably priced bottles of wine.
“When you come here and walk into the market, it just hits you that it’s a little more classy than you might have expected,” Danny said.
Danny, a former Revelry Brewing bartender and full-time musician, has local bands like John Heinsohn and The Destinators entertaining the dinner crowd nightly.
“The Charleston music community is a family itself, but there are these little pockets where there’s groups that stick together,” he said. “It’s been great for us.”
Danny and Mike said there will be changes at the restaurant once they settle into the space. They eventually plan to add grab-and-go breakfast, a mobile bar and indoor seating. Starting Oct. 13, they also plan to test out a Tuesday night tasting menu with three courses for $35. Each week will have a theme, with the first dinner featuring Italian dishes like butternut squash risotto, porchetta with salsa verde and coconut panna cotta, the Mays said.
“We want to be food and drink driven first,” Danny said. “People are absolutely coming for the music, but we want it to be all three working together.”
Tobin’s Market is open daily from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. For more information, follow Tobin’s Market on Instagram @tobins_market.