Comfort Food

03 Jan 2024

Familiar yet elevated bar fare at French Quarter pub Bumpa’s

By Daria Smith

In the heart of Charleston’s historic French Quarter, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of East Bay Street, stroll down Cumberland Street to uncover a hidden gem.

Inside a renovated circa-1830s phosphate warehouse lies Bumpa’s, your neighborhood Irish pub. Exposed brick walls and old pine ceilings evoke a distinctively Charlestonian feel.

A photo of Daniel S. Sullivan, lovingly known as “Bumpa,” hangs on the back wall. His wide grin greets you upon entering the space. It’s an atmosphere as warm and welcoming as Bumpa himself.

“It's his kindness that stands out. My dad jokes that we hijacked his father,” said Dan Sullivan, Bumpa’s co-owner. “But that's the guy I remember. Just total kindness. Always quick with his story and a joke. And that was kind of the atmosphere we wanted to build here.”

Feeling unfulfilled in their corporate office jobs in Pittsburgh, brothers Dan and Conor Sullivan relocated to Charleston to open Bumpa’s. Growing up vacationing on Kiawah Island, Dan states, “If I could pick anywhere in the world to open a business, I would pick the French Quarter of Charleston.”

Bumpa’s received a Carolopolis Award from the Preservation Society of Charleston in 2021 for the restoration of the interior and exterior of the building. At one point, a structural engineer cautioned that the entire structure could collapse. David Richards, architect, and Paul Koenig, builder, worked on the six-figure operation for 17 months from start to finish.

Modifications include a new copper roof, removing a drop ceiling to expose pine beams, restoring white-washed brick, doubling the kitchen size and completely flipping the grease trap. Receiving a Carolopolis involves a choice to do the right thing in preserving historical details, which involves undergoing a costly and inconvenient renovation. Ultimately, it’s a gift to Charleston, championing the city’s commitment to preservation.

Opening in January of 2020, Bumpa’s ability to remain open despite the COIVD pandemic and a national staffing shortage is a testament to their success. They’ve managed to retain a staff onboard for multiple years—purveying a consistent dining experience.

“I always say you create the service that you want to give,” said Dan. 

Dan and Conor invite their staff to take ownership of the space. The bartenders concocted many of the menu’s curated cocktails. Bumpa’s personal favorite drink was an Old Fashioned, hence the house cocktail made with local Boone’s bourbon. Or, order an Irish pub classic—a cold Guinness on tap via a nitro line.

Bumpa’s serves elevated bar fare at an affordable price. The Stag & Boar Burger with blueberry gastrique and brie cheese is a unique offering, featuring a venison and wild boar house-blended patty. It’s an ode to Bumpa’s logo, displaying a stag and a boar over the Sullivan family crest from Ireland. The eyes of the stag and the boar look back at each other, symbolizing the family bond to always be there for each other. In a sense, it’s a representation of the two brothers.

Fries are certainly the most popular menu item, hand-punched daily with the skins intact and brined before entering the fryer, resulting in a mashed potato center and crispy outside. Opt for a fry plate and pick from 36 different toppings. 

Dan’s favorite menu item is the Scotch egg, which he describes as “kind of a painstaking process.” The entire egg must be cooked three times, which is a 15-minute process. It comes out with a soft yolk that’s slightly runny in the middle.

Seated at the intersection of SNOB, Fleet’s Landing, and High Cotton, Bumpa’s routinely embraces F&B and hospitality workers and locals as customers.

“We're a big industry bar, which to me is a big point of honor,” expressed Dan. “When those guys are getting off work, we're still open and serving food. They have an opportunity to come in, enjoy themselves, have a bite to eat, and blow off steam from the day.”

First and foremost, Bumpa’s strives to supply comfort.

“If the customer walks out of here feeling like they had a personal experience of some sort, then we did our job correctly,” reflected Dan. “I think Bumpa would be happy that we created a place where people feel relaxed…and to see how hard we worked on getting it off the ground and kept it going.”

Perhaps Bumpa would enter the space and say “Boy, this is beautiful. Everything is beautiful.” According to Dan, it was his ultimate compliment.

Dan and Conor plan to open more restaurants in the future, likely on Johns Island or in the French Quarter, and maybe an Italian concept.

Bumpa’s is located at 5 Cumberland St., Charleston. Follow on Instagram at @bumpas_chs

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