For Félix Landrum and his family, the trip from Michigan to Charleston was more than a 13-hour drive. It was the start of something new, an adventure that didn't have a certain outcome other than the chance to chase one specific dream—to bring a slice of the Parisian bar scene to one of America's top culinary destinations. Out of that idea, plus plenty of ambition and a touch of uncertainty, Félix Cocktails Et Cuisine was born—and Félix Landrum found the Good Life.
Having grown up in Michigan working in his Paris-born parents' French restaurant, Félix always had a vision for "his" place. After his first trip to Charleston, he knew immediately that it had to happen there.
"I'd always wanted to open my own cocktail bar and I thought Charleston would be the perfect location for that," Félix told us, sitting at the bar of the restaurant that bears his name. "We moved here in 2016. It was quite a leap of faith. We put our house up for sale, my wife and I quit our jobs, and we just went. We didn't know anybody when we moved here and, having three kids, it was a big risk. But we got it going, we opened the restaurant in 2017 and it's really been going strong."
Call it romantic, call it destiny, or call it a little crazy, but Félix felt an instant connection to Charleston's unique history, culture and energy. The city's growing reputation as one of the country's premier dining hotspots only sweetened the deal.
“The reason I picked Charleston is because it really had a South Of France feel to it,” he said. “It's a beautiful city with a rich history. And there's a young, vibrant scene here that I really wanted to be a part of.”
With his ideal location picked out and the family packed and moved, the only thing left to do was get the restaurant up and running—no small task. But Félix knew what he wanted to do with the menu and, by extension, the vibe he hoped to create.
"I worked in my parents' restaurant for 19 years," he told us. "My parents are both from Paris, and I grew up with a lot of French culture and food. But I had always wanted to take that inspiration and create my own vision, to deviate from what my parents had started and go more bar focused. Cocktails were really hot and they still are. We have a small menu that's complementary to the cocktails, but they’re the influence behind it."
Highlights from the menu include an award-winning raclette burger, "one of the best in town," he assured us, a family-recipe French onion soup and, of course, the staple of any Parisian-inspired joint: steak frites. (Félix was quick to point out, "I really love the steak frites.")
The cocktail list is equally impressive and appealing. You'll find classics like the Sidecar and Boulevardier crafted alongside new favorites like the Smokeshow—a spicy, sweet, citrus mezcal concoction—and Félix's personal top pick, the American in Paris, which he describes lovingly as "Fresh-squeezed grapefruit and vodka. It's got byrrh, which is a fortified wine. It's got just a spritz of a scotch mist, so it gives it a little bit of a smoky feel. It's very light and refreshing, especially in a place that's so hot all the time."
It's not just the menu that's evocative of a trip to France. Félix Cocktails Et Cuisine's décor blends the personal with the Parisian to create the welcoming feel of your favorite neighborhood bar. Along with prints and a chandelier that made the trip from Michigan, the restaurant's official mascot, a frog dressed in a Charleston vest that was drawn by his daughter, Pierrette, all add to the ambiance and serve as important reminders for Félix. "There are a lot of little pieces throughout this bar that are very important to me and remind me where I came from and what it took to get here."
Since the restaurant opened, it's been a full plate for Félix and his family. Business is good and there's even talks of a possible expansion into new locations. But success was, and is, never guaranteed. It has required a level of dedication that doesn't come easily to most people. But for Félix, it's worth it, because when he's behind the bar, he's not just mixing cocktails, he's enjoying Every day should feel this good moments.
"People generally don't love what they do, but I really do love what I do," he said. "I look forward to coming to work every single day. And that's how you should feel. You're looking forward to meeting guests and working with people. They become friends and you become close to them. To me, that's what it's all about. To be able to work in that setting and then have a great family at home that I get to spend time with, that's about as good as it gets."