Circa 1886 Restaurant

Welcome to Circa 1886, where culinary artistry meets historic charm in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina. Nestled within the iconic Wentworth Mansion®, our restaurant is a time-honored treasure, a place where the rich history of the Lowcountry converges with the art of modern cuisine. Join us on a gastronomic journey that transcends time, as we invite you to discover the stories, flavors, and traditions that make Circa 1886 an enduring culinary destination.

The staff at Circa 1886 strive to provide each guest with an elevated dining experience.
Meet the Team
EXECUTIVE CHEF

Marc Collins

Although his childhood dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot were sidelined due to less-than-perfect vision, Marc Collins quickly found his focus and footing in the culinary world. At age 16, he worked as a chef apprentice aboard Paradise II, a private yacht with a presidential history, an experience that inspired him to pursue a culinary degree at the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts.

A series of cooking jobs included a post at the Erie Country Club in his hometown, where he served under Executive Chef David Spadafore, a Gold Medal Winner in the Culinary Olympics held in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1991, Collins moved to San Antonio, where he worked at La Mansion Del Rio under French chef Guy Collinet and, later, at La Louisiane, a restaurant specializing in fine French cuisine and Cajun Creole cooking. At 23, he took his first chef position at the Fairmount Hotel, an AAA Four Diamond hotel restaurant. In 2001, he was recruited to helm Circa 1886 in Charleston. In 2005, Marc had a budding idea for a food and wine festival to be hosted in Charleston, spotlighting the city’s amazing array of talent and ingredients. Thanks to his dedication and countless hours of preliminary planning meetings, that vision became reality in 2006, when the first annual Charleston Wine + Food launched. Today, the festival is a prominent annual event, featuring more than 160 chefs and authors from Charleston and across the country, and comprising dozens of food and wine events. To honor his critical work in founding the festival, he was the namesake and first recipient of the 2010 Charleston Wine + Food Marc Collins Chef Award.

RESTAURANT MANAGER

Mark Severs

A Charleston native, Mark Severs got his start in the hospitality industry at a young age, working in various gift shops owned by his parents in Charleston. While attending the College of Charleston, he joined the staff at the Wentworth Mansion as a bellman in 1998, an experience he credits with nurturing his interest in hospitality. After earning his degree in Business Administration, Mark became a bartender at Circa 1886 in 2000 and, thanks to his tremendous enthusiasm and dedication, was named manager soon after.

OFFICE AND EVENT MANAGER

Michael Dawson

A native of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I have been living and working in Charleston’s hospitality industry for 10 years. I am ever inspired by our city’s history, culture, natural beauty, and residents. I love to utilize my passion to create unique and unforgettable experiences for our guests. I am proud to work with such a talented group of people that make up Charming Inns, and I am grateful to have their support and friendship along the way.

EXECUTIVE SOUS CHEF

Christian Zehntner

Christian’s journey began in Germany, moving to America at eight years old with his family. His kitchen adventures with his mom ignited a culinary passion, leading to his first kitchen job in high school. Despite briefly studying automotive engineering, cooking remained his true love, kindled by cooking shows and shared meals with his mom.

Inspired by his mother, Christian pursued culinary education in Charleston and he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in culinary management. New York beckoned, where he thrived as a sous chef at Zylo Restaurant at the W hotel in Hoboken. Returning to Charleston, he managed Kitchen 208 before circling back to Circa as Executive Sous Chef.

EXECUTIVE PASTRY CHEF

Ashley Cardona

With over a decade in luxury hospitality, Chef Ashley Cardona brings an eye for detail and creativity to the Circa 1886 team. Originally from North Carolina, Ashley attended Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, where she received degrees in both Pastry Arts and Hospitality Management. Ashley found her passion for French technique and desserts when she attended École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie in Yssingeaux, France. Today she combines this knowledge and skill with her Southern heritage, bringing to life modern Southern desserts. Ashley is excited to bring her industry knowledge and love of fine foods to the pastry program at Circa 1886.

WINE DIRECTOR/SOMMELIER

John Riddick

John Riddick has received the Certified Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers and Advanced Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. A South Carolina native and seasoned hospitality professional, he has worked in every facet of the wine business over the last 20 years.

Owners

Rick Widman & Linn Lesesne

With a combined 60 years of hospitality industry experience, Rick Widman and his wife, Linn Lesesne, own and operate Charming Inns and Circa 1886 with Rick handling operations while Linn focuses on sales and public relations. Rick serves on the international board of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and, locally, on the advisory board for the College of Charleston’s Hotel, Tourism Management and Hospitality Program. He is Chair Emeritus of Charleston Wine + Food, while Linn is on the hotel committee and was part of the original team that founded the festival. Linn is the immediate past Chairman of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Governors and past board chair of Louie’s Kids, a local nonprofit committed to fighting childhood obesity. When they aren’t working side-by-side, Linn and Rick enjoy spending time with their six children and five grandchildren, as well as traveling, watching college football, and cycling.

PRESIDENT

Michelle Widman Woodhull

Michelle Woodhull, a Purdue University graduate and numbers whiz, currently serves as the President of Circa 1886 Restaurant for Charming Inns®. She has been an integral part of the Charming Inns® family since 1999, previously holding the position of Vice President of Marketing and Revenue Management.

FAQs

Explore some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Circa’s policies and offerings.

What's Important to us

Giving Back

Circa 1886 is passionate about the Charleston community and makes a year-round commitment to give back whenever possible. Here are just a few of the organizations we support through various events, donations, and partnerships.

 

  • "It was a wonderful occasion"
    Ginny and Michael, Thank you both so much for everything! The room looked fantastic and the food was delicious. Everyone enjoyed themselves fully. It was a wonderful occasion and I don’t think Tad and I could have picked a better place to celebrate.
    Mary W.
  • "One of the best in the world!"
    I have traveled around the world at the best restaurants and this restaurant matches them. Fabulous food, service and ambiance!
    christigray1 | Tallahassee, Florida | 12/30/22
  • "A most delicious evening"
    This restaurant lives up to its reputation as one of the most romantic restaurants in Charleston. We so enjoyed the quiet ambiance of the dining room and the caring approach by our server. The food is amazing. The menu offers 2 tasting menus which can be paired with wines. I ordered one menu and my husband selected the other menu. This allowed both of us to taste more of the wonderful creations by the chef. Each course was special and the dessert course on the evening we were there was a dessert souffle which is a very rare find and very much appreciated.
    liketotravel010 | Selkirk, NY | 11/3/22

Awards & Accolades

Celebrating Excellence

No. 1
Most Romantic Restaurant in South Carolina 2023
Yelp
No. 4
Best Hotel Restaurant 2021
USA Today 10Best Awards
No. 9
Best Fine Dining Restaurant
TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2022