Visiting Charleston last month, I was absolutely blown away by the food scene. It was unreal. Although The Lilac Press isn’t exactly a food blog, everything I ate in Charleston was so incredible – too good not to share with you! We spent 5 days in Charleston, and as most vacations often do, our days revolved around food. When traveling to a new place, I always look forward to trying new restaurants and cuisines.
I love to do my own research before leaving for my destination on various blogs and travel websites about things to do and where to eat, but as soon as word got out that I was headed to Charleston, almost everyone I knew came to me with a recommendation for Charleston. I had a list in my phone with recommendations a mile long. So, here are my favorite spots that we visited:
This spot came very highly recommended by several people. We landed in Charleston in the evening and since this was at the top of my list, we headed straight there. Since we arrived on a Monday night, we had no problem getting right in. We actually prefer sitting at the bar because it’s cozier and more casual, so that’s what we opted for. And then I had my very first South Carolina oyster! Fresh, crisp and salty – all the things I love about an oyster! Plus, it was exciting to try something different from New England oysters. Next, we got a shrimp and grits dish to share. I’d tried this once a few years back at a South Carolina wedding, but the concept was actually quite foreign to me. This version was full of delicious veggies and creamy grits, so I was a happy camper.
My only regret was that we visited at night, and I didn’t get the full experience of the bright, feminine decor that I had heard so much about. I guess I’ll just have to go back 🙂
After breakfast at the hotel and a full morning of exploring we walked into Xiao Bao Biscuit for some “Asian soul food.” I wasn’t quite too sure what to expect, but we quickly learned the okonomiyaki (a Japanese cabbage pancake) is by far their best seller. It was hot, it was filling, it was soul-warming, and it did not disappoint. Plus, if you get the katsuobushi (bonito flakes) on top, the heat and steam from the pancake will make them appear to move. Okonomiyaki has been so popular lately, and I’ve been seeing it pop up on lots of menus lately – including Hojoko here in Boston. Definitely a hit!
After an active day of walking and biking, we were dying for a little pick-me-up to keep us going. I’d heard about the lavender latte at Black Tap Coffee and if you’ve been following me for awhile, you are probably familiar with my love of lavender. Since the weather was a bit cool and crisp, a hot lavender latte was the perfect treat to warm up and get a little caffeine jolt.
That night we headed to the one place we actually had the foresight to make a reservation for before the trip, and it was well worth it. The pickled vegetables and the wreckfish were huge hits, but the mac n’ peas was hands down my favorite. It had some curry in it, which I’ve never had in mac n’ cheese before, but oh, it worked. Also, peas in my mac n’ cheese is one of my favorite things anyway. The whole restaurant was really expansive, and the wall of beers on tap was so impressive. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to shop at the Edmund’s Exchange – their gourmet food shop next door – but I would have loved to take home some goodies.
The location down by the water gives this spot a beachy, nautical feel. Since we were there on a Tuesday, there were lots of corporates lunches happening, but we sat at the outdoor bar and ordered a few snacks. Any outdoor opportunity to sit at a bar in December will make my day, and we had so much fun sampling some Southern classics like fried oysters and fried green tomatoes. I definitely recommend this spot for a quick drink and a snack.
This spot came highly recommended for its vegetarian-friendly options (which can be harder to find in the South!). This spot, while not in the downtown historic district, was well worth the bike ride. The vibe was very modern and clean, and the decor had a sleek honeycomb. It was very cool! We opted to order several of the mezze options so we could try a lot of different things. Small plates are my favorite way to eat out because I find big portions overwhelming anyway. In my opinion, the best were the beet latkes, whipped feta with fermented honey, crispy stuffed olives and the heirloom beans. Everything was seriously so amazing that my only wish was that I had more room in my stomach to try the other plates. I did, however, regret biking there because the ride back to the hotel on a full stomach was a bit tough.
We had been hearing so many reviews about James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady’s. We couldn’t get into Husk (although it’s a good sign that it was so busy!), so we headed to McCrady’s for a delicious dinner. It did not disappoint! Although you can see the restaurant from the street, you have to enter from a side alley, giving the tavern a cool, speakeasy feel. Again, we got cozy at the bar and ordered a few goodies. I loved the seventeen-ingredient chopped salad for all of its local fresh veggies, and I witnessed my dining partner thoroughly enjoying the bone marrow (not quite my thing though). 😉
This was the day I missed a huge dining opportunity because I came down with a 101 fever and didn’t really leave the hotel. Saltines and ginger ale were my sustenance on this day. But room service did come in handy as well. In fact, our hotel, The French Quarter Inn delivered breakfast to the room every morning. It was quite a luxurious treat. Plus, the hotel offered wine and an impressive charcuterie spread in the lobby every evening and warm cookies before bed. We had a great experience and I highly recommend it. Plus, we got a great deal through the Hotel Tonight app since we only booked a week before.
Gimme all the pimento cheese! I can’t believe we don’t see more pimento cheese in the northeast, but it is seriously my favorite thing. On our last day before our flight, we stopped into the tiniest little shop for a few biscuits at THE spot for biscuits in Charleston (everybody says so). I know they are mostly made of flour and butter, but they are SO worth the indulgence. And if you do go to Callie’s, add pimento cheese.
There are still so many places we didn’t get to go to in Charleston, but I was so very impressed by all the foodie options. I was pleasantly surprised by all the vegetarian options available as well as by how much I enjoyed my first South Carolina oyster.
I suppose this means I’ll just have to make a return trip in the (near) future.