September 28, 2016

A Food-Filled Weekend Guide to Charleston

My husband and I just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. Combine that with another quick trip we took last summer, and we’re officially hooked on its Southern-meets-European-meets-beach-y vibe. If I had to combine the best experiences of both trips, here’s how I’d do it all again:

Raw bar & cocktails at The Darling Oyster Bar
This is the first place we visited upon arriving on Friday afternoon, and it was my overall favorite experience. The Darling has it all: amazing seafood plus Southern classics, a full and creative bar, and vintage ambiance & design. It was like a crazy blend of a French brasserie and Wes Anderson movie set, and it was delightful. We got the “seafood plateau,” hush puppies with sorghum butter, several drinks, and a fun introduction to King Street nightlife.

Callie’s pimento cheese sandwich, and food souvenirs a-plenty. Left photo by Micah Johnson.

Breakfast biscuit at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Callie’s serves perfectly flaky biscuits with an array of sweet and savory fillings. We tried the pimento cheese sandwich and a jam-slathered option. This place is cute but tiny – it’s advisable to grab-and-go (unless you can snag one of the stools – then stay forever.)

Another great grab-and-go option for breakfast or lunch is Caviar & Bananas, a gourmet market and cafe with a few locations in Charleston. I love buying food items as souvenirs; there are always those specialties you can’t quite justify when at home but are a great way to relive a specific place or meal. There’s a lot of things like that at C&B. This time we brought home some freshly-roasted coffee beans, handmade pasta, pepperoncini-infused oil, and a few bottles of craft beer.

Walking around South of Broad
You’ll inevitably get a good feel for King Street (Charleston’s main commercial drag) from just navigating your way around downtown. But we also carved out time on Saturday to walk around south of Broad Street – which is basically the tip of the peninsula – home to Charleston’s older residences and a lot of history.

There’s “Rainbow Row,” a strip of pastel-pretty houses and shops, plus lots of gorgeous churches and graveyards, dark mossy alleyways, and secret courtyards. We sipped iced coffees and partook in some major real estate stalking. We also stopped for more food & drink souvenirs at goat.sheep.cow. and Charleston Beer Exchange.

Lunch or dinner at Xiao Bao Biscuit
This is the only place we went to on both trips, and will continue to frequent on all future trips to Charleston. Housed in a reincarnated gas station, Xiao Bao Biscuit brings together the tastiest plates from several different Asian traditions, “inspired by kick-ass grandmothers everywhere.” It’s all guaranteed to be great, but the okonomiyaki (“cabbage pancake,” but also so much more than that) always stands out.

We hit up Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream on the way home for inventive, seasonal scoops like “Gooey Butter Cake” and “Sun-Popped Corn.” Note to self: next time, bring a cooler for potential food souvenirs that would need to be kept cold on the drive home.

The view from the pier at Folly Beach.

The just-right double cheeseburger at Butcher & Bee. Left photo by Micah Johnson.

Folly Beach & Final Brunch
On Sunday morning, we visited Folly Beach, mostly just to feel the sand between our toes, and take in the view from “the Edge of America.” Then we headed to north Charleston on our way out of town for one final meal, at Butcher & Bee. They specialize in fresh, local sandwiches, bowls, and drinks, and have a majorly fun and bright interior.

Edmund’s Oast is right next to Butcher & Bee, and it’s impossible to visit one without wanting to stop by the other. We shared a snack and cocktails, but their beer list is most impressive (featuring dozens of in-house and regional brews), and the whole place feels like a cool modern Viking hall.