About a month ago, Jason and I took a quick trip to Charleston, South Carolina. I had been hearing from lots of people about Charleston being the “up and coming foodie destination,” so I had to see what all the fuss is about. Pictures of all the food are up on my Instagram (@bacon_boozer), but I wanted to do a quick recap of all of the places we visited while we were in town, for anyone who’s thinking of heading there!
- Hominy Grill (3 / 5): We came here for brunch, and had to wait an hour. It was very good, but maybe slightly overrated. We went with the delicious Charleston nasty (fried chicken and biscuit in gravy) and a special pork belly sandwich that was magically salty and sweet. We did the buttermilk pie for dessert and were underwhelmed by it. Classic brunch cocktails were classically good.
- Charleston Grill (5 / 5): This was our Valentine’s Day dinner, and we are so happy we opted for this spot, after hearing some mixed reviews. We did the unagi mackerel, steak tartare, a pork and fried oyster special, beef tenderloin, scallops, and foie gras for dessert. Cocktails were great and we got a good recommendation for wine from the sommelier. The unagi mackerel was weird and smokey but I loved it. I strongly urge everyone to do the foie gras for dessert – it was our waiter’s suggestion and was absolutely amazing.
- Christophe Chocolatier (3 / 5): We stopped here for a quick breakfast bite, and went with the quiche Provencal and mixed berry tart. Both were delicious and the other sweets looked beautiful, but the staff was actually a little rude – major turn off. They seemed inconvenienced by us asking where the seating area was (it’s hidden upstairs) and were annoyed by my request for soy milk. Don’t worry, we won’t bother you again.
- Artisan Meat Share (5 / 5): If you’re into charcuterie, you HAVE TO go here. Seriously. We did the charcuterie board, bun mi sandwich, corn and okra salad, and a couple of their draft beers. The charcuterie was not only the most generous portion ever, but the most delicious I have ever, ever had (that head cheese…). The bun mi sandwich is something that I’ve craved since leaving, and will be one of the biggest reasons I will return to Charleston hopefully very soon. The corn and okra salad was weird – a little slimy because of the okra – but it tasted like authentic southern food, and I loved every minute of it.
- The Bar at Husk (5 / 5): Another must do. I would strongly recommend that people skip a meal at Husk restaurant (you’ll see that we did this later in our trip), and instead go to the bar at Husk (opens at 4:00) and get the burger, a ham board, and some amazing cocktails. They have a great selection of some harder to find bourbons, and super knowledgeable bartenders.
- Edmund’s Oast (4 / 5): Our waitress, Melissa, was wonderful. We didn’t know when we planned this meal, but it happened to be the restaurant’s second anniversary, so all of their house brews, as well as all of their wines and some of their best selling food items were half off. Score! We did the peanut butter and jelly cask beer, steak tartare, Caesar salad, chicken liver pate, snapper, lobster tortellini, and a white chocolate custard dessert. We also splurged on a $150 bottle of wine that we would never normally order, but it was half off so how could we possibly resist? The peanut butter and jelly beer was so bizarrely amazing – our waitress warned us that it would be heavy and not something we could drink a lot of, so they let Jason and I split a glass just to get a taste. The pate was one of the lightest and freshest pates I’ve ever tasted. The tartare was awesome, too. The snapper was the least favorite course of the meal; we tried it based on Melissa’s recommendation, and there was nothing wrong with it; I think we’re just not big fish eaters when we’re out. The lobster tortellini was much more our style: cooked perfectly with a good bite to the pasta, gluttonous and a generous portion. Dessert we could have skipped too; it was a little boring.
- The Tattooed Moose (3 / 5): I feel bad giving this place only 3 stars; I feel like they didn’t get a fair chance from me. We came here after a giant feast at Edmund’s Oast, and barely had room for a beer. So we didn’t get to try the “famous duck club” I had heard so much about. I thought it was hilarious that they have a bottle of fernet branch on tap and the bartender took a shot of it: my mind is officially blown. I had a hard time telling if the place was actually dirty or if it was just supposed to give off that late night divey feel. I think I’ll give them another chance next time.
- Husk (4 / 5): The pork honey butter with fresh bread they give you to start is glorious. We ordered the pig ear lettuce wraps, fried chicken, burger, grits with cheese and pickled garlic butter, and peppermint dark chocolate ice cream sandwich for dessert. Everything was excellent. The highlight of the meal, for me, was definitely the burger, which is the only constant on the menu. The ambiance of the restaurant was much more “uppety” than the vibe in the bar, and the burger and a few other items are available for order at the bar. So next time Jason and I are definitely skipping the fancy restaurant and sitting at the bar instead to try some more bourbons with our burgers.
- Fig (5 / 5): We did this as the first half of dinner, sat at the bar, and ordered the wet martini, rye Brooklyn, broiled oysters, gnocchi, and tagliolini cacio e pepe. Everything was complete perfection. We were told this was a “must do” in town, and it did not disappoint. The pastas were both cooked exquisitely and full of flavor. But the broiled oysters were my favorite: they were packed with what seemed to be only the heaviest components, like butter and cream, but still managed to be perfectly light with a nice subtle tarragon flavor; and they were just stunning to look at.
- McCrady’s (4 / 5): This was our second half of dinner. Here we ordered the Sam Elliot and free radical cocktails. The Sam Elliot came in a beautiful metal coupe that I’m officially obsessed with and tasted great, but the free radical was a little too sweet. To eat, we did the ham plate, preserved mussels, and tuna tartare. I was most excited for the tuna tartare because of the rose component in it, but it was actually way too overwhelming and completely overpowered the dish; and the texture of the sweet potato was weird with the light and soft tuna – I really did not enjoy this dish. The mussels were good, but nothing as outstanding as we were expecting. The one standout of this meal was surprisingly the ham plate. The simple dish was made much, much more complex by buckwheat pancakes and a smoked cheddar aioli that were paired so wonderfully with the ham. I kind of wish we got three orders of this instead of anything else. Aside from the food and drinks here, this was a beautiful space that you could very easily miss if you’re not looking for it. While I wasn’t blown away by the food, I think everyone should at least stop in for a quick drink or just to snack on the ham plate and take a look around.
- The Gin Joint (5 / 5): At first we were a little turned off by the smile-less bartender. But as the place quieted down, and we were the last people there, we got to see a little more of his personality as we were sitting at the bar. This place has an outrageous collection of bourbons and other boozes, and boasts some of the most interesting and beautiful cocktails I’ve ever seen or tasted. We each had a couple of drinks here and were impressed by the level of complexity of each and every one. This little hole in the wall is a total “must do” on my list for when I come back.
Day 4 (this was our last full day, and we desperately crammed in as many restaurants on our “to do” list as humanly possible):
- 167 Raw (5 / 5): Staff here was so incredibly friendly and I felt instantly comfortable and happy here. We did a dozen assorted oysters, a couple of shrimp, a half a dozen clams, split a lobster roll, and had a couple of beers. The lobster roll: you have to have it.
- Minero (4 / 5): Again, we sat at the bar and were really impressed by the friendliness of the staff. To drink we went with a Mescal margarita with Sombra, and a El Satanica on the rocks. And to eat we shared a fried catfish and pork carnitas taco. The catfish one was definitely the favorite, and drinks were great. This place would have gotten a 3 star rating for the food – it was good but didn’t wow me. But the huge selection of tequilas and mezcals, along with the knowledgeable and ultra friendly staff raised them to a 4.
- Two Boroughs Larder (4 / 5): Again, I felt like this place didn’t get a full fair shake from me. We had so many places to go that we went here with one thing in mind: charcuterie. So we skipped the noodle bowl that I was dying for, and a lot of other really cool sounding stuff. We each did a glass of champagne, and then a glass of wine. The charcuterie was awesome: chorizo, pepperoni, sausage, chicken and scallop with potato, country pate with lardons and pistachio, country mustard, caraway beer mustard, and whole wheat mustard. It was generous and amazing. And that chicken scallop thing that I was originally a little grossed out by was oddly wonderful.
- The Belmont (4 / 5): Here we did an Old Pal and a Last Word, both cocktails were total perfection. As we only ordered drinks here, they almost had a 5 star rating, except that they didn’t have a foot rest on their chairs or attached to their bar, and my dangling uncontrollable legs made me extremely uncomfortable while I imbibed, so they stuck at a four.
- The Ordinary (5 / 5): We almost skipped this place, thinking we didn’t need two raw seafood restaurants in one day, but we were so incredibly happy that we didn’t miss it. First of all, this place ignited a new interest in and love for Rum. Did you know that there’s more to rum life than just Bacardi and pirates? To drink we did the Milk Punch and Crooked Rain No. 2. While concocting these drinks, the bartender basically gave us a 3 credit college course in rum, and I’m so excited now to explore more. To snack, we each did an oyster slider and shared the razor clams. The slider was unfairly delicious – the coconut flavor and spice combined with a perfectly fried oyster to create one of my favorite bites ever. You MUST try it.
- Indaco (3 / 5): To drink, here, I did a cocktail with green chartreuse, gin, and absinthe that I loved, and Jason did a high fashioned, which was very good. To eat, we did the lamb belly, Agnolotti Nero, and Farfalle. They were out of the Duck Triangolini (with foie gras) which was one of the reasons we came, so that was a bummer. The lamb was super gamey, so I wouldn’t do it if you’re not into that. But I AM into that, and I loved it. The Agnolotti Nero was a seafood pasta, and it was delicious aside from the moment that I almost broke my tooth on some kind of shell. We had actually ordered a Tagliatelle meat dish, but were given the Farfalle by mistake. We didn’t make a big deal about it, but were disappointed that they didn’t insist on correcting the mistake. So we ate the farfalle and were very happy with it and it’s porky flavor. Something about this place just rubbed me the wrong way; maybe it was the shell.
- The Macintosh (3 / 5): It was my idea to stop here for “dessert” – I wanted their bone marrow bread pudding and was fixated on getting it the entire trip. So when we couldn’t squeeze the restaurant in for a meal, this seemed like the only solution. It was ultra savory and not very dessert-like… but it was very yummy and I’m happy we got it. To drink I got a something blossom, and I found it way too sweet. Jason got a maple vieux carre, which was also a little too sweet with sort of a syrupy-ness that we both didn’t love. My favorite part of this place was a huge crowd of loud cursing drunken southern men who came in insisting on flaming shots and got turned down. Pure comedy.
- The Cocktail Club (4 / 5): This was right upstairs from the Macintosh, so a good pair of places to try back to back. I liked the drinks here much better than downstairs at the Macintosh. I actually made the bartender make me his own version of a green chartreuse egg white cocktail, and loved watching him mix and taste and adjust the drink – he took great care in creating it and making it perfectly balanced. Jason did an Old Fashioned and that came out perfectly too. These were, sadly, our last drinks of the trip, so we savored them and stumbled back to our hotel room.
Aside from (obviously) a ton of eating and drinking, we did our best to enjoy the city, too. We took an historical bus tour, checked out the Charleston Museum, toured the Joseph Manigault House, took a boat ride to Fort Sumter, and walked around exploring on our own a lot. We also participated in one of those time share presentations where they try to rope you in to buying one on the spot or you’ll never ever have such a great opportunity again, in exchange for free tickets to the bus tour and Fort Sumter – totally worth it. Every person we encountered was incredibly kind, and so excited to share their favorite places and things to do in the area. The weather was beautiful: aside from one chilly day in the 40s, it was mid 60’s and sunny the whole trip. We squeezed as much as we possibly could into four days, but still have so much left to see. We can’t wait to come back to revisit some of our favorites (Artisan Meat Share, Fig, the Gin Joint, Charleston Grill, the Ordinary, and 167 Raw), and to discover even more!