Escape from New York: Charleston (Where To Eat, Drink and Shop)

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Charleston street art

OK Charleston, you won us over from the first bite.  It’s hard to believe there are so many restaurants in this city. Coming from New York, that says something. And they were all stellar. The hashtag for our trip quickly became #girlsgonewide.

In between meals, we had time for a little shopping, a little snacking, and of course, a little cocktail sipping. Here’s where to eat, drink and shop in Charleston.

WHERE TO EAT

shrimpgrits

SNOB’s shrimp and grits

As soon as we arrived, we had to try authentic shrimp and grits, luckily the signature dish at Slightly North of Broad. We’re so glad we did. Plump shrimp, spicy sausage and creamy grits. This is my kind of comfort food.

husk

Husk’s roasted Rappahannock oysters

We weren’t coming to Charleston and not having dinner at Husk. Starting with a pre-dinner cocktail at the adorable Husk bar next door, we went to town on the menu, with roasted Rappahannock oysters with herbed chicken butter and hot sauce puree, so cute with their lids on, wood-fired clams with smoky sausage, the signature cornbread, plus two appetisers that really blew us away: succulent, slow smoked BBQ pork ribs with chicharrones, and super crunchy pig ear lettuce wraps.

I loved the fine cornmeal dusting on L’s catfish, instead of the gritty, sandy cornmeal usually used on catfish, and my honey confit duck leg was melt-in-the-mouth, the table’s favorite. Wonderful, local ingredients with a menu respectful of Lowcountry history.

theordinary

The Ordinary’s fried rock shrimp and okra

Everyone was raving about The Ordinary, a “seafood hall” located in an old bank, so we had to go. And order half the menu, we did. Oysters in all forms – raw, smoked, broiled, crispy with beef tartare – fried rock shrimp and okra with addictive Thai dipping sauce, squid a la plancha, tender roasted mackerel…the ultimate tribute to our weekend by the sea.

hominygrill

Hominy Grill’s fried chicken basket

The lines for brunch at Hominy Grill are long, but we didn’t wait more than 25 minutes for a tablescape of Southern staples, including shrimp and grits, fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and biscuits. Thank you L for the Hominy Grill cookbook, I can’t wait to make you their famous chocolate pudding!

Indaco's burrata with olives

Indaco’s burrata with olives

After Hoon Calhoun introduced us to Chef Mike Perez at Indaco on the Chefs’ Kitchen Tour, and we ogled the team making row after row of silky pasta, we had to make a reservation for the chef’s table. For this pastafarian, it turned out to be the meal of the trip.

indaco

Indaco’s pork agnolotti

Following a cornucopia of antipasti – burrata with neon green castelvetrano olives, ribbons of prosciutto with addictive fried dough cubes, braised duck – L and I settled into three pastas: black pepper tagliatelle carbonara, pork agnolotti with pickled red onions, and beautifully ribbed bucatini with mushroom bolognese and fermented chilies. The portions were ideal for someone as greedy as me – and we scraped up every last morsel. The next day I told hubs it was the best pasta I’d had in the U.S., and I stand by that writing this a few days later.

The staff treated us to dessert, which we really couldn’t have, but somehow did. There’s a serious pastry chef in the kitchen here, shown in the finesse of the pumpkin budino squares, and chocolate cake with pistachio dust. Thank you, Indaco, for such a memorable dinner.

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Leon’s

Leon’s Oyster Shop had me at the name alone, and luckily we weren’t deterred by its slightly north of upper King St location (really, only a 15-minute walk from Marion Square).

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Leon’s fried chicken, swordfish sandwich and cabbage salad

A fabulous send-off meal before flying home: chilled, briny “house” and “high end” oysters, grilled swordfish sandwich, a crunchy Thai-inspired Napa cabbage salad with peanuts, avocados, grapefruit and fried shallots, and phenomenal fried chicken – fried to a golden, earth-shattering crisp with juicy, perfectly seasoned meat. Washed down with Lambrusco – we could have stayed there all afternoon.

WHERE TO DRINK

kudu

Kudu

Kudu for your morning latte fix. Seriously good coffee.

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The Gin Joint’s Banana Hammock cocktail

We loved the Gin Joint’s creative cocktails (washed down with Laphroaig-brined oysters). Try the bartender’s choice (just choose two adjectives, like Unusual, Savory or Refreshing) for a unique libation, or my favorite, the hibiscus-adorned Banana Hammock that transported me to a tropical island.

The Grocery served my contender for drink of the year, their dirty green tomato martini, while hubs enjoyed a wonderful Sichuan-infused whiskey before our dinner at The Ordinary. The menu looked so good we’ll have to dine there next time too.

High Cotton enticed us with evening bluegrass and jazz, and perked us up with cocoa-dusted espresso martinis. The perfect pre-dinner pitstop.

WHERE TO SNACK

glazeddoughtnuts

Glazed’s maple bacon donuts

Get to Glazed early for the most incredible donuts – sure, there are the usual suspects, like glazed, and maple bacon (made with Nueske’s bacon) but something classic like the raspberry blew me away, the glaze bursting with bright berry flavor. Plus they’re all natural with no nasties (I brought some home with us and warmed them in the microwave, glorious!).

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Christophe

If you can fit it in, stop by Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier for exquisite French pastries and chocolates, like praline eclairs and smoked olive oil truffles.

WHERE TO SHOP

The Hidden Countship is an emporium of Italian treasures, where I was thrilled to stock up on my beloved Santa Maria Novella potpourri.

There are so many delightful galleries in Charleston, but one that stood out was the Ben Ham Gallery on upper King. Photographer Ben Ham’s large format landscapes of the Lowcountry and wine country are mystical and magical, at once tangible and otherworldly.

indigo

Indigo’s wall of metal ocean creatures

Indigo Home by the waterfront park has a lovely selection of quality Charleston nic-nacs like Southern cookbooks, kitchen tiles and pineapple coasters.

WHERE TO STAY

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Fulton Lane Inn

Fulton Lane Inn couldn’t have been a better choice. Located on lower King, we were never more than a 5-20 minute walk to all the bars and restaurants. The rooms are spacious, beautifully outfitted and in immaculate condition, with charming staff and a very happy complimentary wine and cheese hour (pimento cheese, y’all?).

Now you know where to eat in Charleston, follow my guide on what to do here.

2 thoughts on “Escape from New York: Charleston (Where To Eat, Drink and Shop)

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