Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Where to Eat in Charleston

There are not enough hours in the day or days in a month to eat at all of the amazing restaurants in Charleston!  Seriously, Charleston is totally a foodie town!

Here are 3 little tips to bear in mind.

#1:  I thought Charleston's water tasted a little weird.  I'm sure it depends on where you're from and what you're used to, but I thought it was a bit gross.  I just started asking for a lemon wedge with my water and once I squeezed some lemon in the water, I thought it was fine!  I think it had to do with the city, because the water tasted the same everywhere.  

#2:  Eating outside is awesome!  It is less awesome when other customers are actively feeding the birds, in which case the birds then swoop into the dining area and kinda creep you out.  Just something to bear in mind :)

#3:  Make reservations!  We made reservations about a month out at 3 places (Husk, Poogan's Porch, and Fleet Landing), and I'm so glad we did!  We wanted to eat at Husk on the weekend, but it was already filled, so we ended up eating there on Monday instead.  I would probably make reservations 6-8 weeks ahead of time if my schedule wasn't very flexible.  I was also glad that we didn't make reservations for every meal.  It was fun to be able to try restaurants out that we didn't know about ahead of time.  Seeing as we weren't traveling with our daughters, it wasn't a big deal if we had to wait.

Oh, and here's the food ordering philosophy I went in with! I will order food that is:
  • a specialty of Charleston
  • typically southern
  • fresh (like the seafood)
  • something I wouldn't make at home
This served me really, really well!

I cannot stress enough that there are so many amazing restaurants in Charleston.  The places we went merely scratched the surface of the rich culinary culture of the city.

As promised yesterday, here's where we ate!

Toast 155 Meeting St.

Toast was the restaurant I wanted to eat at when we first arrived in Charleston, and come to find out, it was actually attached to our hotel!  That worked out well :)

Shrimp and grits is a traditional dish in the low country of southern coastal areas.  It's actually typically a breakfast dish, but I had it for supper.  I wanted to kick off our stay in Charleston with something very typically southern and thought shrimp and grits would be just the thing!  So, like the food nerd I am, I studied menus.  

See what I mean about the food nerd thing?  Who studies menus?  A food nerd, that's who.

Anyway, there are as many variations of shrimp and grits as there are chefs.  I decided on getting it at Toast because of the lobster cream sauce.  Yes, lobster cream sauce!  There was also some pan deglazing with white wine.  I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.

Toast's shrimp and grits did not disappoint.  I took my first bite and literally just sat there and smiled.  I'm lots of fun to dine with like that.  It was rich and creamy with the peppers and onions adding some lovely, crisp texture.  Simply divine!

Aaron had fried chicken with sweet tea glaze which was also delicious!  I would put sweet tea glaze on just about anything :)

Toast is super busy for breakfast and brunch, but it seemed pretty quiet for supper.  The service (and the Arnold Palmers) were also excellent!

The BakeHouse 160 East Bay St.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I wanted to find a place to get breakfast and coffee every morning, and The BakeHouse was just the place!  The coffee was great, and the environment was bright and cheerful.  All of the breakfast items we had were really good (not gonna lie, though, my scones are better :) ).  I ordered the coffee cake on the one slightly rainy morning and they asked if I wanted an inside piece or an edge one, which I thought was really nice!  I also like how the filling of the coffeecake makes a happy smile :)

We stopped by one afternoon for a drink and I had a frozen mint lemonade.  It was SO refreshing, and I loved that I could see tiny specks of fresh mint mixed in.

Taco Boy 15 Center St. Folly Beach, SC

Aaron's favorite food, by far, is Mexican food, and, if forced to choose, it would be mine, too!  Taco Boy did not disappoint!  We started off with a trio of salsas that were awesome!  Aaron was smart and ordered a fish taco.  It was so fresh, crisp, and delicious!  I got 2 tacos.  One was tacos al pastor (pork with pineapple salsa) and the other was an amazing braised beef with matchsticked radishes and jicama, toasted pumpkin seeds, and queso fresco.  I don't know how I can articulate just how amazing that second taco was.  I loved the variety of textures and how the light crispiness of radishes and jicama balanced out the richness of the beef.  Plus, the soft saltiness of the queso fresco was perfection.

Poogan's Porch 72 Queen St.

I am not under the impression that any of my food pictures are good, but the lighting was extra not good for taking covert pictures of food at Poogan's Porch.  Please don't hold these poor pictures against the utter amazing-ness of the food.

Poogan's Porch was housed in an impeccably restored mansion; it was so charming and beautiful!  They specialize in elevated southern cuisine, and, let's just say, they really excel at that!

We started out with what was, quite possibly, the best bite of the trip: pimento cheese fritters with green tomato jam.   They were perfection.  Pimento cheese was lightly rolled in a breading (panko maybe?) and fried enough to be crispy without being heavy and greasy.  Seriously, they were perfect!  

We also had the best biscuit I've ever had.  You know how you read about how biscuits should be fluffy?  The biscuits I make are fine, but I'd never call them fluffy.  Poogan's Porch sets the gold standard for fluffy biscuits.  Phenomenal!

I had pan fried duck with sweet potato gnocchi.  I've never had duck before, and I won't be making it at home anytime soon, especially seeing as my kids barely eat chicken without ketchup.  Anyway, it was really good!  I thought duck kinda tasted like a combination of steak and dark meat chicken.  It was soooooo rich!  The sweet potato gnocchi was awesome with the little bit of pecorino.

Aaron opted to get a couple of appetizers instead of an entree.  He got a cup of she crab soup (which is quintessentially Charleston) and what he described as "easily the best mac and cheese I've ever had in my life!"  I tried it, and he was right!  Mac and cheese with smoked gouda and crispy country ham is the way to go!

Minero 155 East Bay St.

I thoroughly enjoyed Minero!  We started with a trio of salsas here, too.  The salsa verde was the best I've ever had.  Aaron had a burrito which I forgot to photograph.  It was so good!  I especially liked that it was studded with avocado; it really cut the spiciness with the cool creaminess.  I got smart and ordered a fish taco!  I'm totally loving the crispiness of cabbage on fish tacos.  I also had a grilled steak taco.  The steak was amazing...so tender.  I loved the pickled vegetables on top.

Oh, and in the picture on the right, you can kind of see the little drawer that's built into the table.  That's where you got your silverware and napkins.  Cutie cute!

Charleston Crab House 41 S. Market St.

Oh, the steampot!  Aaron and I split essentially a bucket of seafood!  We had crab legs, peel and eat shrimp, mussels, corn on the cob, and red potatoes.  Oh my word...so fresh and delicious!  And I ate mussels.  Out of the shell.  Which made me feel awesome :)  I didn't take a picture of our appetizer:  hushpuppies with honey cinnamon butter.  Yum!

Hominy Grill 207 Rutledge Ave.

We had quite the time getting to Hominy Grill for brunch.  We needed to use the (free) public transportation to get there and had a hard time finding the second trolley we needed to ride.  So we walked and brunch ended up turning into lunch!

We got to eat on a patio that was remarkably bird-free, plus we were seated in the coolness of the shade.

I've read lots of great things about Hominy Grill, but I felt like our food was just okay.  Aaron had a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.  I had a fried green tomato BLT with home fries.  The food was good, but both the biscuit and the bun were crumbly.  I had the feeling that the kitchen was probably rushed (it was insanely busy) and the quality of food may have suffered a bit.  

But, that brownie sundae you see up there?  Pure awesomeness!  The chocolate sauce was more like a marriage of chocolate sauce and fudge.  Rich and delicious without being too thick.

Fleet Landing 186 Concord St.

I felt a little silly making a reservation for 5:00 on a Sunday evening, but I'm glad we did!  Some customers walked in when we did, and they were told to come back to check again at 6:30.  I'm all about being flexible while I'm on vacation (especially without kids), but that would have been a bit much.

After we ate brunch/lunch at Hominy Grill, I realized that the only vegetables I'd eaten since we were in Charleston were salsa or garnishes.  I eat a lot of veggies at home and the lack of veggies was kind of weirding me out.  I rectified that situation by ordering a wonderful salad with shrimp!  Aaron had a hamburger with pimento cheese.  We're such good pretend southerners :)

The best thing about Fleet Landing (aside from their "don't feed the birds" sign in the outdoor seating area) was that they kept the Arnold Palmers coming!  Free Arnold Palmer refills for the win!  In case you didn't know, Arnold Palmer = Sweet Tea + Lemonade.

Kaminsky's 78 N. Market St.

Don't be creeped out by the quasi clown sign, the desserts were excellent!  I had a slice of coconut cheesecake, and Aaron had brownie sundae #2 :)  This was the only day we had dessert, so it's kind of funny that there were 2 brownie sundaes.  

These are our very charming "I'm so full you're going to have to roll me out of here" faces:

Seriously, between all of the Arnold Palmer we drank and the desserts, we nearly popped!

Whisk 209 Meeting St.

We sort of stumbled upon Whisk at the beginning of my "I haven't had vegetables in forever" realization.  So, I had some green juice at Whisk after we ate at Hominy Grill.  It was marvelous!  Plus, I felt a million times healthier.  We eve came back for lunch the next day.  I had a Southern Belle salad and Aaron had a bagel.  My salad was awesome!  Just what I needed!  Aaron liked his bagel, but I didn't take a picture of it, because...bagel.

We loved how Whisk was so bright and filled with natural light.  Plus, I loved their iced tea bar that I had with my salad, and Aaron was a huge fan of the font the used in their sign.  Lots of awesome at Whisk :)

Well, this post is already reeeeeeeeeally long, so I'm going to tell you all about our meal at Husk tomorrow.  There's a lot of hype about Husk and its rock star chef, and our experience absolutely blew our expectations out of the water!

See you tomorrow!

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