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Advice on a trip to Charleston, SC

The Frenchman and I are off to Charleston for the first time in a few weekends. So far, my plan is to dinner at Fig and Husk, to lunch at Butcher & Bee and Two Boroughs Larder, and to brunch at Hominy Grill. For those of you who know Charleston well--does this sound like a solid plan?

Otherwise, I'd like to visit the farmers market: Is there a day or time when it's best to go? Could we conceivably eat lunch there?

For the time we're not eating..I was thinking we would walk around the city and take in the architecture; can anyone recommend a comprehensive walking path? We'd also like to see the ocean; is there a beach/park we cannot miss? Finally, is there something we must see I haven't included?

Thank you!

asked by cristinasciarra over 1 year ago
16 answers 1235 views
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added over 1 year ago

I haven't been to Charleston for years, but if you haven't read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this would be the time to do it.

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added over 1 year ago

Midnight is about Savannah GA, not Charleston.
Check out goat. sheep. cow. on Church St. Great little wine cheese charcuterie shop. I'm into craft beer so I liked the Charleston Beer Exchange and the Craftsmen Kitchen and Tap House. Upper King area has a lot of newer shops, very stroll able. And I liked Balack Top and Kudu for coffee. Have fun!

Cristina-014-web-final
added over 1 year ago

Thanks, Christine! I love local food shops, and it looks like the Charleston Beer Exchange ships; perfect for the Frenchman.

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added over 1 year ago

I would go to Sullivan's Island for a trip to the beach. It is a 15 minute drive and you'll get to go over the relatively new Cooper River bridge which is a destination in it's own right. If you decide to stay on that side of the bridge you might consider The Wreck of Richard and Charlene for dinner, it's right on the creek and it's a seafood shack. It is in a residential neighborhood so don't get discouraged. Also, if you have access to a kitchen Magwood's is next door and you can get really fresh and inexpensive shrimp there. Another dinner option would be the Old Post House in old town Mt. Pleasant. For lunch at burger at Poe's on Sulllivan's Island just a block from the beach. As for other dining options in Charleston proper I rarely skip McCrady's, there are many great options, but your plan sounds solid. As for a comprehensive walking path: heading down King St. towards the Battery, down the Battery, up East Bay and back down Market back towards King St. seems to be the norm but there are so many other small side streets with gardens and architecture off the beaten path. I would also go in the opposite direction of the Battery towards Calhoun down Meeting St. Just bring a good pair of shoes and wander.

Cristina-014-web-final
added over 1 year ago

Thank you! I am writing down all of this!

Baci1
HalfPint

HalfPint is a trusted home cook.

added over 1 year ago

The BBC Food Programme did a special podcast on US Southern Food & Sean Brock (Husk) for the March 4th podcast. It's a great listen on the origins of Southern food and vegetables. Most of the interview is in Charleston (& some of the great food in that city) and there's a bit there about gullah cuisine with a visit to the restaurant of the same name. 28 minutes of great food talk. You can download the podcast from iTunes or here, http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts...

Cristina-014-web-final
added over 1 year ago

Listening to it now; it's great!

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added over 1 year ago

If you go to the beach, Chef Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca is opening an all Italian seafood restaurant that overlooks the ocean. Go foraging with Matt and Ted Lee and hit up XBB for a quick snack and drink.

L1020855
added over 1 year ago

Charleston's Cafe on Johnnie Dodd Blvd, over the bridge in Mt Pleasant, is a great breakfast,brunch,or lunch local place. It is small , so you may have a slight wait for a table during rush hour. It is worth it. They roast great coffee and the menu can be studied while you enjoy your coffee. It is in a small shopping center ,so drive slowly and look through the live oaks to find it. You'll be glad you did .

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added over 1 year ago

Whiles there get a copy of Charleston Receipts, coil-bound cookbook from the Junior League of Charleston if you like old-school cooking.(Roast 'possum, anyone?) The quickbread recipes are great.
There are lots of historic walking tours available: architecture, history, etc. You can also go by car to one or two of the plantations, very worthwhile.

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added over 1 year ago

If you have time, a trip to Middleton Place is worth it; it's about 20 minutes out on the Ashley River Road. Taking one of the carriage tours in town is a great way to learn about the architecture and history. Don't bother w/ the ghost tours. Hominy's Brunch is awesome; get there early because parking in that area is difficult. The Wreck's seafood is wonderful. I spent 4 months house sitting for my mother in law and ate out a lot. I don't think I had one bad meal anywhere!

186003_1004761561_1198459_n
added over 1 year ago

At this time of year check out the tours which can include architectural and garden tours. Next week is a big graduation week so be sure to have a reservation at the restaurants that you want to enjoy.(and hotels) Magnolia Plantation is fun to visit. Beaches are grand. Shopping is great.If you are going next week(may 9 to 12) Freddy and I will be at Plantation Inn, Keawah Island pouring wine, and Restoration on King. Probably eating at Husk and The Ordinary. If you have never been to Savanah it is like no other American city. South of Broad by Pat Conroy is a love story of Charleston. You will learn a lot by reading it.(be sure to Google Pat Conroy and appreciate his connections, ie, family, The Citadel etc.) It is one of my favorite cities in the world!!!

186003_1004761561_1198459_n
added over 1 year ago

Google New York Times "36 Hours in Charleston, SC" for some great ideas.

Cristina-014-web-final
added over 1 year ago

Thank you all for the advice! I just wanted to let you know where we ended up going; with the hope it helps another Food52er with similar questions:

Friday:

On a walk of the city, I stopped into Two Boroughs Larder. There's a small restaurant (the menu looked enticing), as well as a mini grocery and provisions shop. I spotted local milk, eggs, meat, beer, and syrups. Printed canvas bags, weck jars, cloth napkins, wooden cutting boards, and the like lined one wall. I left, one blue-and-white ceramic pitcher and an olivewood-serving spoon, richer. Everyone I interacted with there was terribly nice.

I walked on to Butcher and Bee for lunch. (Although I guess most people drive, as it is located under a highway overpass.) Inside, guests order at the counter, and then find a seat at one of the wooden tables, underneath a twisted, beehive installation. (I sat at the long communal table, on one of a hodge-podge of mismatched industrial stools.) I chose the Korean Short Rib Sandwich with a fried egg, spicy slaw, and soy drizzle--it was obscenely flavorful and delicious, although I was full after eating half, so it might be wise to share. I also tried a vanilla panna cotta cup with strawberries: the panna cotta itself was rather runny and insipid, and the strawberries had a slight metallic taste; I might find dessert elsewhere next time! The menu changes everyday, and can be found every morning on their facebook page.

For dinner, we went to FIG. The Frenchman is a big fan of Manhattans, and FIG has a mix-and-match Manhattan menu that's basically a dream. We shared local, Capers Blades oysters (excellent), and a Nine Vegetable Salad with Caesar Dressing (the dressing acted just as a loose binder--we could really taste each lovely, spring vegetable individually). The Frenchman then had African Pompano (a kind of oily fish) with olive oil-crushed potatoes and romesco, which he loved. I had some local breed of chicken (perhaps a cousin of Colin), cooked under a brick, with tiny-capped mushrooms, huge sweet peas, a nest of wilty ramps, and plenty of jus. It was great, great! For dessert we had Sorghum Cake (like sticky English pudding), with house made cinnamon ice cream. Our waitress was also kind enough to bring us a scoop of house made mint chip ice cream--impossibly smooth and redolent of fresh mint. All in all, we had an awesome dining experience: the service was stellar, and everything we tasted was delicious.

Saturday:

The next morning, we headed to the market in Marion Square, where I wish I could have purchased all manner of fresh produce. (There are produce stands, as well as crafts, and food stalls. There were couples, old and young, as well as families. This seems like a great, local, weekly event.) We settled on splitting a super-tasty Bánh mì from the Street Hero stand, as well as a cup of fresh limeade from a juice stand with a very long line.

That afternoon, we left for the beach on Sullivan's Island. Based on a recommendation from our waitress at FIG, we decided to forgo Poe's in favor of Home Team BBQ. Even at 2:30pm, it was packed to the gills with hungry beach-goers. We split: 1/2 dozen smoked chicken wings (ludicrously good), 1 brisket slider (amazing), 1 pulled pork slider (awesome), 1 shrimp taco (just ok), and a green salad with poblano vinaigrette (hey, you have to find virtue where you can, but this salad was just mediocre). I also tried one of the potent, but extremely delicious, frozen cocktails they're famous for: the Game Changer (dark rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, sweetened coconut cream, topped with fresh nutmeg). The restaurant is designed with a kind of a beach shack-vibe, but the effect is good: reggae plays over the speakers, every one seems happy; everyone has a drink in their hand.

After some time spent in the hotel gym…. we left for a late reservation at Husk. The building is gorgeous, an old mansion, with seating upstairs and down. We shared a Country Ham tasting board: five, thinly shaved hams from SC, TN, KY, and VA, with stone ground mustard, pickled golden beets and green tomatoes, and smoky toast--good, but nothing to write home about. The Frenchman then had a reconstituted pork belly/shoulder dish with greens, and I had chicken with tomato and golden rice risotto, and a pea/mint puree. Both were just ok. We split a dessert--something with custard in the title that proved to be disappointing. At the end of the evening, I felt like my experience at Husk was more flash than substance: The dishware was very beautiful, all manner of colored ceramic plates, but cutlery wasn't changed between courses, and water glasses weren't refilled. The service is attentive, although not always comfortable or convivial. We were given a late reservation time, but then the dining room cleared out even before our dessert was served. (We were also served out entrees about 30 seconds after our appetizer was cleared.) It was odd, to be alone in the dining room, watching the wait staff start to clean. I felt like we were inconveniencing them. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but in my imagination, Husk represents "new-elevated” Southern food, and yet, what we tasted lacked soul. While nothing was bad, per se, for me personally, Husk was not worth the hype, or the trouble it took to secure a reservation.

Sunday:

We finished our weekend with brunch at Hominy Grill. (On Sundays, they are only open for brunch.) We arrived at 12:15pm, and waited about 40 minutes for a table. Still, there were shady benches to wait on, cold water available for customers, and a bar offering a collection of brunch-y cocktails. (All in all, it was one of the most pleasant waiting experiences I've ever had—I was very happy with a mimosa in hand.) The Frenchman had the Big Nasty Biscuit (a fried chicken breast with a biscuit and white gravy), and I had the fried chicken basket with sweet pepper relish. My chicken was very good--crisp on the outside, very moist on the inside--and the pepper relish was the perfect foil.

At the end of the day, we had a great weekend. For service, atmosphere, and food, our favorite spots were: FIG, and Home Team BBQ.

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added over 1 year ago

What a fantastic update, thanks. I will try Home Team BBQ next time I visit my family, good to know. My impression has also been that Husk suffers from hype and relies a little too much on bacon to impart flavor. his other restaurant, McCrady's is really great although lately it seems over looked in favor of Husk. No idea why. Sounds like you had a great trip.

Junechamp
ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 1 year ago

On my to-do list for a Charleston trip are McCrady's and Louis's (osteen) at Sanfords on Pawley Island.