Husband and wife duo Dano and Bethany Heinze have wanted to open a place like Vern’s, their new Charleston bistro, almost as long as they’ve known each other. “Right after we met, we began to conceptualize our ideal neighborhood restaurant,” Bethany says. “We wanted a small, intimate space with a welcoming atmosphere that feels like part of your life—a place you can go all the time.”
The two met while working at the now shuttered Charleston mainstay McCrady’s—Dano as the chef de cuisine, Bethany as the bar manager—but moved to Los Angeles in 2016 to work in esteemed kitchens including Animal, Son of a Gun, and Jon & Vinny’s. “We had plans to open our restaurant out there,” Dano says. “The produce and the environment in California are unreal, but it never really quite felt like home. We missed our community in Charleston.” Last year when they moved back to the Holy City, the community greeted them with open arms.
Named for Dano’s grandfather who was a butcher by trade and owned a grocery store, Vern’s sits on a sunny corner in downtown Charleston’s Elliotborough neighborhood and serves modern takes on American comfort dishes made from local ingredients. “We wanted the menu and the space to be familiar but still exciting,” Bethany says. Highlights include roast chicken from nearby Sumter with brown butter jus, fresh campanili with rabbit from Spartanburg, and tartar that utilizes North Carolina tuna.
The weekend brunch menu holds its own delights, such as these sesame seed pancakes with whipped ricotta and berry jam, conceived by Dano and chef de cuisine Rob Looney. “We had the idea to do Aebleskiver, which in the Danish culture is a round pancake,” Dano says. “Our take is very light and fluffy because it’s finished with egg whites. We lay the batter down and put sesame seeds on top, and then you flip it and let the sesame seeds toast underneath.”