Coffee shops have two main purposes these days – as dispensers of quick exotic brews to propel patrons into their day and as meeting places to launch romances, the next great innovations and general bonhomie.
Kudu checks both boxes and then some, offering a wide, varied and trendy variety of those other brews – of the malt and hops variety – plus wine and a handful of munchables that pair well with the beverage of your choice, adult or semi-adult. But the real value of Kudu is the offhand cool factor that hangs in the air like brilliant conversation. Tucked into an unassuming slot of space on a little downtown side street a few blocks above College of Charleston, Kudu is the kind of place F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and their literati friends, or later, Alan Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac and their beatnik compadres would have frequented. There’s no WiFi, the better to converse without headphones or noses in laptops. Kudu is not a venue for solitude; if you come alone, belly up to the bar and swap old war stories with the baristas.
Bohemian but welcoming, fashionable without trying, Kudu is the kind of place that invites you in for coffee on a cold, rainy morning and then makes you want to stay warm inside all day.
Charleston doesn’t have many cold, rainy mornings, which is why the quaint little courtyard right out the side door is so popular, particularly for the heartier college students and their nose rings, or neighbors and their dogs. There you can trade bon mots while watching the passing parade on Vanderhorst Street, just off King.
If a French press double mocha Italian cappuccino latte macchiato is your cup of tea, Kudu is your place. They roast their own specialty coffees on a Diedrich IR-12 roaster at their dedicated roasting facility on King Street and ship it down the street to the coffee shop by foot. Many of the beverages that come hot can also be purchased on ice – coffee, latte, mocha, chai tea, frappe. You can even score a coconut water or fruit juice or root beer if you’re the hanger-on in a group of coffee gourmands. And if all you want is a down-home hot chocolate, or plain coffee, or ordinary black tea, no one will look down their nose at you. At Kudu, the ambience is hipster without being snooty.
Here’s one way you know that no one is trying to impress you at Kudu: none of the fare on the menu has a made-up fancy-pants name. The sizes are small, medium and large, just the way real people describe sizes, and a latte, hard cider and ham sandwich are all called just that, nothing more. At Kudu, the strutting and preening happens when the delectables hit your mouth, not when you read them on the menu.
While The College informs the vibe, Kudu is not a college hangout. Wine and beer for sale ensures that adults of every age will walk through the door and up the three steps, past the kudu antlers and across the hardwood floor. (Kudus, btw, are species of antelope with twisted horns found in Africa.)
Twenty-two taps draw craft beer from local breweries, like Low Tide, Ship’s Wheel, Freehouse and Holy City Brewing, as well as breweries throughout the U.S. and Europe. The day we checked the offerings, we could choose from a Czech lager, several American IPAs and pale ales, a Hefeweizen, porters, ambers and more. “We also offer pints of cask ale daily, hand-pulled through our beer engine, which is now a permanent fixture here at Kudu,” they declare on their website.
We’ve gotten this far and haven’t even mentioned the wine and food. You can actually order a mimosa at this coffee shop, or a variety of whites, reds and rosés. The drinks are complimented by sandwiches and wide variety of pastries prepared fresh daily by Wild Flour Pastry, Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery and Saffron Bakery. That means croissants, bagels, quiche and muffins that pair perfectly with coffee and its derivatives, crafted by artists who make their living creating these items for discerning palates.
If you like the buzz and hum of conversation that doesn’t have to be shouted over, if you seek some intimate conversation or a small group discussion, or if you just want to boost your urbane hipster quotient with a delicious brew, come to Kudu for that urban feel – without the parking woes.