Charleston waiter makes a name for himself at downtown restaurant
by Mia Kronski
In most Southern homes, those considered family enter through the back door.
But this isn't the case for Muse, a small Italian restaurant in downtown Charleston.
At Muse, you’re considered family the second you enter the front door, especially to Donnie Exelbierd.
And many Muse visitors consider “Donnie” to be their family as well.
“I’d go for Donnie alone!” says TripAdvisor user HillaryHHH1991.
Exelbierd has been working at Muse for 14 years, and although he is likely to be considered the general manager to most, official titles are discouraged in Muse's environment.
Exelbierd is, more conveniently, titled as manager, waiter, part owner, IT-guy, and everything else in between.
The Tennessee native arrived in Charleston his freshman year as a walk-on soccer player for the College of Charleston.
After being in an unfamiliar city for one week, he knew he’d be alright.
“I have an outgoing personality. I'm not shy,” says Exelbierd. “This was pre cell phones so there was no texting (or social media)…and when it came to matching names and faces you just had to know.”
And knowing names is something Exelbierd prioritizes.
“If you call somebody by their name you've got 16 seconds of their attention, but if you can remember their names then you've got a connection for life. And I truly believe that.” he says, “Since I was at a young age, we've had people at the house for my parents' business. I had to know names starting early on, and it always just stuck.”
Don’t be surprised if you're greeted by your name returning to Muse, as they do their best to engage with every person who walks through the door.
“Male, female, old, young, it doesn't matter,” says Exelbierd. “I feel that if you are going to sit and spend time with me I want to know your name and introduce myself.”
It’s well past the first-name basis at Muse and there is something about the connection between Muse and its returning clientele that draws customers back so strongly.
“You're gonna get great food all over this tow,” says Exelbierd. “Charleston is known for having great food, but you're not gonna get this experience and feel this welcome in many places, especially the way you would with us.”
College of Charleston senior Madeline Canipe has been in the loop about Muse for years now, even claiming it her spot.
“I go there like every weekend…” she chuckled. “ I just enjoy the atmosphere, especially at the bar too…We tend to see the same local people every time we go back. I’ve made so many friends with the regulars there. They just make you feel so welcome”
Canipe has naturally become close with Exelbierd himself, and even recalls a special night spent at Muse for her 21st birthday.
Exelbierd treated Canipe and a large party of her girlfriends to plenty of prosecco and even a birthday cake.
“He then got the whole restaurant to sing happy birthday to me… He really does an amazing job of making everyone feel special. I just love him.”
Despite Exelbierd’s strong attribution to Muse, the customer-employee connections run consistently throughout the staff.
“I just love all of the staff. They make me just want to keep going back,” says Canipe, adding that the bartender, Brandon LeBel, is a favorite too.
LeBel, who has been bartending for 14 years, joined Muse two years ago.
“He's a character and people love him for that. That's his style and it works, I guess that's why everybody comes back,” says LeBel. “He’s just a great guy and loves what he does.”
Exelbierd and LeBel both work together to ensure the customer experience is especially unique and tailored to each “family member” who walks through their door.
Despite whoever your server is for your experience at Muse - as Exelbierd may be in high demand - they will guarantee you a dining experience that you will never forget.