The Royal American might well be my ideal bar. It masquerades as a dive but is too, well, pretty to be a real dive. A vast selection of cheap beer (Genesee, Old Milwaukee, Ballentine, National Bohemian, etc.), some reasonably priced craft brews and three varieties of homemade punch give you plenty of good drinking options. Yes, liquor too.
Hungry? Their odd menu is lovingly raised to the top of the bar food spectrum on the shoulders of simple but delicious items like beef tip nachos, Frito pie and fresh jerky. Really hungry? Try a fried bologna sandwich with a runny egg and cheese. Yum!
But the Royal American is really about atmosphere. Somewhere between the Christmas tree lights glowing behind stained church glass and kitchy, curated decorations around the small stage next to the bar, a grand yet seedy and sinful soul inhabits the austere, industrial corpse of what was once the Olde Charleston Forge.
Salvaged, mismatching wrought iron fence sections transform an old loading lock into a huge, sun-drenched front porch. It's an ideal spot for sipping on bourbon punch as storms roll in from the west. A cozy back porch by the marsh turns out to be a wildlife lookout: egrets, herons, red-shouldered hawks and ospreys fly overhead. The occasional fox or coyote scoots down the train tracks just yards away. The trains themselves, delivering cars from Upstate automakers to the Port of Charleston, add to the gritty feel of the Royal American.
Local and regional rock bands wail and moan from the tiny stage, breathing life into the resurrected forge. Weekend nights buzz with 9-5ers ready to forget the work week. Go in the early evening if you're looking for a nice place to take it easy. The Royal American really does stand alone, way up the peninusla on Morrison Drive.