Daniel and Bethany Heinze opened the highly anticipated eatery in July after a half-decade sojourn in California
CM: You met in Charleston working at McCrady’s, right?
BH: Exactly. We met in 2013. Dano had already been there [as chef de cuisine] for six years, and I was there [as bar manager] for three years more, until 2016.
CM: That’s the year you decided to head west to Los Angeles. What prompted the move?
DH: I think we were just looking for a different experience. I grew up surfing [in Florida], and Bethany also was pretty obsessed with California and the wine scene. Being around a totally different part of the country and experiencing a big city at the same time—those are a lot of the reasons.
CM: After five years in LA, what drew you back to open your first restaurant?
DH: We did plan to open a restaurant out there, but it just never felt like home. We missed the sense of community that we had here.
BH: I think the reason to open a restaurant here for us, too, was just to really add to the community and be super involved. Charleston is that place for us.
CM: What are you bringing back from your time in California?
DH: Simplicity in cooking and letting ingredients shine a little bit more. We really like the kind of classic European-style cooking that everybody does out there.
BH: And wine, obviously. I was exposed to a big world of wine, being in a major city for imports. I worked with Helen Johannesen [named Best New Sommelier by Food & Wine in 2016] out there. She taught me a lot about the more natural realm within wine.
CM: Who is Vern, and why did you name the restaurant after him?
DH: Vern is my late grandfather on my father’s side. He owned grocery stores in Wisconsin, and a butcher shop. There’s a picture of him on the postcard that we hand you at the end of your meal. It’s him standing in front of his butcher case with his hand on his hip. It’s a pretty cool pic.
CM: What’s your approach to the menu at Vern’s?
DH: We plan on changing the main menu regularly, but we also have a fun chalkboard that is going to be our creative driving force. If we get excited about, whatever it is—some good calico scallops from North Carolina—we’ll buy a small amount of those and cross them off each night as we go and try to keep the creative juices flowing.
CM: And the wine?
BH: I want to stay around 75 selections total, with kind of the same mentality as the food—get small quantities in, keep it an interesting, fun, and diverse list from around the world, but all from people following at least baseline organic farming practices and going for quality smaller producers that are sustainable.
CM: How has the Charleston dining scene changed since you left?
DH: I think the dining scene has definitely gotten a lot more casual since we left. Places like Chubby Fish came in after we were gone, and Malagón. Places that serve good food, and they’re kind of like what we want Vern’s to be. It’s an upscale place with a casual vibe, and I like that trend.