Folly Beach—it’s an eclectic little beach town. Once you live here, you never want to leave. The same can be said for eating at Jack of Cups. One big bowl of curry or one bite of a dumpling with a cold craft beer, and you’ll be asking yourself the daily question, “Is it wrong that I want to eat at Jack of Cups every single night and never leave?” And 99.9 percent of the time, the answer is no—there is nothing wrong with that. Because the incredible food is rivaled only by a stacked beer menu and staff that knows what’s up.
The folks behind Jack of Cups are Nick Della Penna and Lesley Carroll and their story all started two years ago in Charleston. Just kidding! They’ve known each other since kindergarten, totally went steady in the 5th and 6th grade, went to different colleges but kept in touch, sent some Myspace messages, then reconnected in their adult lives. Both Nick and Lesley hail from Cleveland, but have different stories of how they fell in love with the kind of food they now serve on Folly.
Lesley—a vegetarian since she was very young—had a grandmother who would make Czech meals. From these meals, Lesley started to learn how to use spices to make dishes really interesting without relying on flavor from meat or fat. When talking about growing her culinary skills while being vegetarian, Lesley says, “food’s always been important to me and, being a vegetarian, food became a focal point for me in trying to show people that food without meat can still be delicious.”
Along the same lines of using spices to make interesting food, one of Nick’s best friends from Bangladesh had a father who often cooked for the couple. They were introduced to really spicy dishes like mango pickle or really unique plates like egg curry. It was a combination of all of these culinary experiences that started to shape the kinds of food the couple liked to not only eat, but also prepare for people.
With all of these special spiced-up dishes, it’s important to note the beer selection. With rotating specials and a huge craft selection to pick from, the Tarot covered bar is one of those places that you sit and try a few new beers every time you visit. The two research beer and are constantly on the hunt for interesting drinks that complement the food.
So where did this Tarot theme come from? With other establishments like Black Magic and The Wich Doctor, Jack of Cups was a way to create a one-of-kind restaurant and bar while also keeping the magic of Folly at its core. The food and beer are ever-changing, but the experience of eating at Jack of Cups is always special. Lesley says, “we’re inspired by Indian and Asian flavors. We make the things we love to eat, try to make them our own, and we just want people to be really happy with their food.” And with the restaurant’s fast popularity on the island, it’s safe to say they’re doing a great job of making people happy.
So what’s next for Jack O? Keep your eyes and ears open for a craft cocktail menu. But until then, go get some curry and beer. Because if you haven’t had it yet, then you don’t know Jack.
Words by Virginia Kerr
Photos by Landon Neil Phillips