The American-Cuban relationship is beginning to heat up for the first time in half a century, as a result everyone is abuzz with the prospect of Cuban cigars and rum soaked Cuban vacations. But—you may have to put those Cuban dreams on hold—if you read the fine print, it could take years until full trade is established between the estranged nations, and you still need special permits for travel. There is good news though, the fine folks over at The Victor Social Club have the scratch for your Cuban itch.
The Old Man & The Sea overlooking Jalapeno Fried Bananas
Brought to you by the same people who run the perennial favorite Rue de Jean, The Victor Social club can be found down Hutson Alley, the alley that runs alongside Rue de Jean. The ambience of Hutson Alley is unbeatable. Garden lights crisscross over the brick walkway, lighting up palm trees, creeping vines, and diners spilling out from the 5 restaurants that call Hutson Alley home. You’ll feel whisked away as you turn off John Street, an instant vacation. That feeling is only magnified when you step in to The Victor Social Club.
Cuban Rhythms in the Alley
The room is vast—the ceilings are easily 30 feet high, maybe more—the bar is well appointed with thick marble countertops and stately wooden shelves lined with all manner of libations. The walls are covered with wood paneling and white brick and the floor is dotted with large leather couches and high top tables. But, what will grab your eye first is the massive mural of a well storied battle between man and fish—a visual telling of the Old Man and the Sea looms over the room, reimagined with Ernest Hemingway’s boat Pilar instead of the typical row boat. It is a bold centerpiece and it does a fine job of setting the larger than life atmosphere that The Victor Social Club gives off.
Hemingway’s love for Cuba was no secret, and The Victor Social Club is embracing that love with their new Cuban-inspired menu. You’ll find new cocktails and bites that will instantly transport you to the long snubbed island just south of Miami. The most notorious of Cuban cocktails—the Cuba Libre—is here, as well as a delicious margarita known as “El Presidente” made with fresh orange and lime juices and topped off with a Gran Marnier floater.
The new Cuban-inspired menu at The Victor Social Club
There are also some Cuban creations from the talented mixologists behind The Victor Social Club bar. “The Hemingway Daiquiri” is a stiff but refreshing take on a daiquiri that is not frozen and needs no little umbrellas. “Coconut on the Pilar” is the piña colada you’ve always wanted—all of the tropical flavor, without the sickeningly sweet sugar rush that usually comes with it. One of the most interesting cocktails on the menu is “The Old Cuban Cocktail,” a slightly tart concoction of lime juice, dark rum, mint, and prosecco with a dash of Angostura bitters for good measure, definitely worth a try.
The Victor Social Club is the perfect place to enjoy a fine Cuban cocktail or two in dignified surroundings, but it so much more than a drink spot. The new Cuban menu that Chef Aaron Lemieux has put together is full of color and flavor and is not to be missed. It’s hard to pick favorites from the new menu, the crispy jalapeno-fried bananas, the Mojo-grilled shrimp cooked on the plancha, and the wreckfish ceviche were all worth mentioning. But at the end of the day, the chorizo patty-melt and the tequila-marinated steak were standouts. The patty-melt is perfectly spicy and decked out with grilled onions and aged cheddar on a toasted bun with garlic aioli—truly mouthwatering. The tequila-marinated steak is a New York strip served on a bed of rice and pickled vegetables and topped with a fresh chimichurri, delicious in its own right but when priced at $12 it nears divine.
The chorizo patty-melt is worth the hype
And if all of that weren’t enough, The Victor Social Club puts the icing on the Cuban cake by adding in two more signature Cuban ingredients, music and cigars. The Club regularly hosts a trio that churns out Latin rhythms in the alley to get those hips moving. Or you can sit and listen while you order a fine cigar, right off the menu. They have three options to choose from, with tasting notes so you can get the right smoke. The Victor Social Club has left no stone unturned in their Cuban revamping; it is the closest you can get to a Cuban vacation, without ever leaving Charleston.
The tequila-marinated steak with the dip trio