New Eatery Charms Park Circle and Beyond
By Wendy Swat Snyder
Photos by James Stefiuk
Charleston's neighbor to the north has been flexing its culinary muscle for the past few years, responding to a steady influx of folks seeking a trendy place to live and work. On the heels of the success of sister-restaurant Stems & Skins, Three Sirens stepped up in 2021 to fill the full-service seafood niche in Park Circle, expanding dining options in North Charleston and giving residents another reason not to head downtown for an elevated meal. And the eclectic choices of top eateries and a feel-good local vibe is luring the hungry and thirsty to the area from around the Lowcountry.
Taking its name from the sailor-bewitching sea nymphs of Greek mythology, Three Sirens is the collaboration of former Husk sommelier Matt Turnstall and co-founder Justin Croxall, former owner and operator of Bull Street Gourmet & Market. Their partnership began with wine bar concept Stems & Skins, also in Park Circle, which has been named a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Outstanding Wine Program” and was recognized as one of the “Most Important Natural Wine Bars in America” by Food & Wine Magazine.
Turnstall discovered his passion for food and wine serving tables at Plump Jack Cafe in San Francisco, where he worked his way up to sommelier and general manger. A few trips to the Charleston Wine + Food festival convinced him to chose Charleston over New Orleans for his next home.
“As Stems & Skins grew, we planned the opening of a second venture in Park Circle,” says Turnstall. “We knew when local purveyor Mark Marhefka opened Abundant Seafood down the block we wanted to showcase that, and how the locals eat—their love of fresh seafood, and delicious simple preparations highlighting sustainable fish and shellfish.”
Turnstall and Croxall enlisted general manager Daniel Latimer to help lead the startup effort of Three Sirens.
“I've known them for several years,” says Latimer, whose portfolio includes operating Kinkeade's in Washington, D.C., High Cotton and several other former Maverick properties in Charleston. “Matt and I worked together at Husk—I was the opening general manager. Coming out of the pandemic, there was an opportunity at Stems, so I joined the team. When they started this project, I just crossed the street with it.”
A steady influx of young families, professionals, artists and musicians defines Park Circle's vibrant neighborhood vibe, creating a responsive clientele for Three Sirens' offerings: an innovative, locally-sourced menu, inspired beverage program and a hip place to hang out.
“It was interesting,” notes Turnstall, who relocated his family to what he calls the Circle. “When we were hiring for our second business up here, we started seeing the professional servers from downtown respond eagerly to our hiring opportunities. They knew what we were doing with Stems—it was quite the honor. People want to live and work in a community, and not feel like they have to go downtown for these things.”
Turnstall and Croxall have parlayed their recipe for success into AOC Hospitality—an enterprise created to help restaurateurs develop top-notch beverage programs and food concepts. In addition, they provide expertise in overall restaurant operations including cost management and staff training.
“Our agenda is to share our love of food and wine with the community,” says Turnstall. “We want to share our passion for small artisanal producers from all over the world.”
When my guest and I visited Three Sirens on a recent spring evening, we were smitten with the playfully painted orange entrance swimming in a sea-blue facade. Designed by Cassie Carter and Croxall, the lighthearted aquatic theme flowed inside with more ocean tones, whimsical light fixtures, an art nouveau period wine poster, rustic beams and exposed brick. Sleek, comfortable seating at and around the upbeat bar area is supplemented by 14 more seats in a semi-private space off the main dining area.
As our server, Ryan Greynolds—supremely professional yet totally approachable—stood by, we deliberated mightily over our first sampling: oysters—raw or charbroiled. The daily single selects paired with an unusual spicy ginger/ citrus condiment—a riff on a dumpling dipping sauce—won the day and totally lived up to his sage recommendation.
The beech mushroom toast was another unusual item that caught my eye. We were told that the menu was designed to provide intriguing vegetarian-friendly dishes, accessible for everyone. We munched semolina toast from EVO craft bakery smeared with umami-rich miso puree and piled high with lightly charred mushrooms. Another must-have.
A trip the Stems group took to New Orleans inspired our next small plate: BBQ shrimp. The crustacean, locally caught, was hard-seared in a cast iron pan, and served in a sauce with a blend of Worcestershire and creole spice—the kitchen's rendition of a NOLA classic. A simple preparation, beautifully executed.
Parisian gnocchi lured from the large plate section: airy pillows made Parisian-style, with a pâte à choux instead of potato, poached and then sauteed in butter and finished with local mushrooms from Rebecca Farms, snow peas, brown butter and pecorino.
Finally, the tilefish: a perfectly sauteed fillet served with flavorful fire-roasted peppers, perfectly blanched fingerling potatoes and a velvety cauliflower puree.
“Our menu changes as do the tides,” quipped Latimer with a smile. “Depending on what the kitchen staff can get in. We try to have one grilled and one sauteed fish offering, with the focus on it being very thoughtful—not pretentious—and executed with details in mind.”
For a sweet finish, we chose the chocolate pot de crème. The dessert classic was made with an elevated chocolate custard base enhanced with a pinch of crunchy sea salt that played well with the dulce de leche topping. In true siren fashion, simply mesmerizing.
While currently open only for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, the team plans to open Three Sirens for Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and lunch. A midday menu from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. is also in the works for guests pining for some oysters and an early sip of champagne.
Welcome to the Circle, Three Sirens!
1067 East Montague Avenue