Earlier this month, my friend, Deya, and I spent a few days in Charleston, SC for a girls trip. It had been years since I had gone on a girls trip. Does a trip back to your home state even count as a girls trip?!? Years, it had been years!!! Not only was I overdue, I had a really stressful week leading up to our departure. This could not have been more perfect timing for me to get away. Deya had been dreaming about going to Charleston for a long time and was the one who got the ball rolling. We did our research, had a couple of planning sessions over coffee and ultimately planned the whole trip around food. Don’t get me wrong, we were excited to see some sites too but the itinerary was focused around local restaurants.
We arrived in Charleston on Friday afternoon with time to relax and refresh from our flight. Our first culinary stop was at The Ordinary, a seafood hall and oyster bar. In a restaurant with a bar this beautiful, I think a cocktail is exactly the right way to start. I had the Raoul Duke and Deya had the Classic Daiquiri. Both rum based drinks, these cocktails were incredibly smooth and just slightly sweet. We ordered the ordinary Hawaiian rolls with sea salt butter as our appetizer. The salt on the butter, and the rolls added so much flavor! These rolls were also our introduction to benne seeds – a type of sesame seed that was brought over from western Africa by slaves in the early 1700’s. We quickly learned that these seeds are a local favorite and are incorporated into dishes at restaurants all over the city. Our second starter was the snapper ceviche with pedron pepper and avocado. When you’re at a seafood restaurant, you order seafood, right?! This dish was incredible fresh and light and served with huge tortilla chips. For our entrees, we shared the New England style fish chowder and the grilled New Orleans Style BBQ white shrimp. The chowder was creamy with huge chunks of fish – exactly what you want from a chowder. However, the shrimp dish is what really won us over. If you’ve never had New Orleans style BBQ you might be surprised to know that it is nothing like a typical red BBQ sauce. Instead, this divine sauce is made up of butter, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce and rosemary. We at a lot of amazing things on this trip but this sauce is what we continued to talk about even after we got home. Friends, do yourself a favor and just order some extra sauce on the side – you’re going to want to dip some of those Hawaiian rolls into it!
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? We knew we had a full day ahead of us so we wanted something hearty to get us going. We walked from our hotel to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit on King Street. It is such a tiny little restaurant but it is cute as can be. They offer up a variety of biscuits (living up to the name) along with a couple of sandwich options and a handful of other options. At first glance you might think the menu is limited but let me tell you, when you’ve perfected what you make, there isn’t a need for a huge menu. Deya and I each had the bacon, egg and cheddar biscuit sandwich with a coffee. This sandwich was so thick I could barely get my hands around it, let alone my mouth. The biscuit itself was so rich and buttery!!! That butter is exactly where the love lies in this meal. If you stop in here, get there early. There was a line to the door when we arrived and not an hour later we saw the line curling out the door and down a couple of store fronts. Absolutely worth a little bit of a wait though.
Husk is one of those restaurants we had heard a lot about when we first started doing research for our trip. The best advice I can give here is to make reservations well in advance. Deya made our reservation at least a month ahead and we still were not able to get in for dinner. However, the lunch menu was great and lunch is always more affordable than dinner. Having had such a hearty breakfast, I kept it relatively small for lunch and just had the Charred broccoli with mushrooms, crispy onions, smoked cheddar and Alabama white sauce. I’m a sucker for broccoli anyway but this flavor was incredibly rich, like melt in your mouth comfort food. Deya started with the pickled shrimp dish and, of course, I sampled it as well. I didn’t even know pickled shrimp was a thing (I grew up in a land locked state) but it was absolutely delicious! She had the fried chicken with Carolina gold rice, bacon, cabbage and butterbeans as her entrée. I didn’t taste this one but Deya raved about the rice and bean mixture!
Saturday night dinner was truly a unique experience. Deya found Feast Upon Charleston through AirB&B Experiences. We ubered our way to Chef Christopher’s home and were greeted by his huge smile, smooth jazz, and a choice of rum or gin for a cocktail. The blackberry mule he made with rum was the perfect drink to sip on while getting to know the other soon to be friends attending this pop-up dinner. Once we sat down, Chef Christopher treated us to a four-course dinner. He changes up his menu regularly so I hesitate to spend too much time describing our meal but let’s just say those crab cakes could be famous one day. Not only can he cook, Chef Christopher was able to give us history lessons on both the food and the city of Charleston. What I loved most about this dinner experience, though, was getting to know people we otherwise wouldn’t have ever met. Chef Christopher’s food is delicious but his passion for creating community is what really shines through.
I love rich, buttery food as much as the next person but at some point, you also need some fresh, lighter fare. Sunday morning, we hit up Butcher & Bee for brunch. Coffee, local beets and ricotta toast for me. Coffee, crispy sweet potatoes and the smoked salmon bagel for Deya. The flavor combinations made with such fresh ingredients – exactly what I needed! This is one of two restaurants on the list that I absolutely wish had a location in my hometown of San Antonio. Lots of vegetarian options in addition to classic options like a burger. Seriously though, go here for the freshness that they put together on their plates!
Our big splurge dinner was at Zero Restaurant + Bar. This place made us feel like we were on an episode of Chef’s Table. So much thought goes into each dish – colors, textures, plating, and of course flavor. This is the type of spot that is best experienced without the distraction of a phone. In other words, no photos for this one. If you’re looking for a romantic spot to celebrate a special event, make the reservation and enjoy every single bite.
If dessert for breakfast is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Sugar Bakeshop has got to be the cutest little bakery I have EVER seen! Jars upon jars of huge cookies plus cupcakes galore. It is absolutely best for my waistline that I don’t live near this shop. We shared all five of the mini cupcake flavors that they had available that day. Coconut, vanilla, honey, almond and caramel. If I could have, I would have tried every single dessert but I needed to save room for one last lunch in the city.
Our last meal was at Basic Kitchen. This restaurant has natural light flooding in from all sides which automatically has you feeling refreshed. Using seasonal and local produce, they strive to fuel your body with food that will keep you going throughout the day. Once again, great vegetarian options abound here. I had the basic bowl which was full of veggies and chickpeas; Deya had the power bowl which was packed with protein from steak, eggs and quinoa. These dishes were so good we didn’t even bother sharing with one another. I also need to take a moment to mention Kellie, the general manager. She took genuine interest in our experience and was more than happy to answer questions we had about the food and the restaurant.
COFFEE & COCKTAILS