Durham NC

While I was in North Carolina for work last week, I had the opportunity to explore Durham with the help of my sister and brother-in-law, who live and work there. The unexpected highlight of the trip might have been the ride down the slide in American Underground – the co-working space where my brother-in-law has his office – but we also had the opportunity to visit some of my old favorites in Durham, while adding a few new ones to the mix. A family dinner at Nanataco, complete with margaritas and delicious nachos, followed by a Locopops strawberry cream dessert was the perfect way to spend our evening. Later in the week, MacKenzie and Philip took me to Dos Perros, and afterwards, we met our friend Em at The Parlour for ice cream – a place that’s been on our todo list for way too long. Michael and I are fortunate to visit the Durham area somewhat often, and always look forward to what new things our next trip will bring.

If you have a second this evening, today is the last day to vote for Map & Menu for Best Blog in the Portland Phoenix’s best of 2014 competition. We’d love if you take a moment to share your support!

Nanataco

Nanataco Nachos

Durham North Carolina

American Underground Slide

Locopops  The Parlour Durham NC

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Palace Diner Biddeford

Last week, Meredith and I made the quick trip down to Biddeford to try the newly reopened Palace Diner. There had been no shortage of buzz about the delicious food coming from Maine’s oldest diner car in the past weeks, and the social feeds of our friends in the food industry have been overflowing with pictures of heavenly glazed doughnuts and piled-high breakfast sandwiches, so when we finally found a little room on a random morning, we decided it was time to give Palace a try for ourselves.

Co-owners Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell have created something special in the old mill town. Taking one of the most classic of American dining styles and establishments, and then injecting an attention to detail and flavor completely foreign to the prefabricated diner world, it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. The menu still has the diner staples holdover patrons have come to expect – pancakes, bacon, eggs, and coffee – but take one bite of the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Deluxe, an english muffin breakfast sandwich with baked eggs and jalapenos, and there’ll be no question about the value added by that extra care for ingredients and preparation. The Brown Butter Banana Bread, Palace Potatoes, and Tandem coffee are just further examples of this that we tried during our visit, but we’d be willing to bet that every menu item holds true to the same standard. After spending some time speaking with Chad and Greg, hearing about the adventure that opening a diner has provided, the passion for creating and serving their take on an American classic, and their excitement about the upcoming Palace dinners, we couldn’t be more impressed with what Palace is quite literally bringing to the table.

The vast majority of us probably have one memory or another about visiting that ‘locals only’ breakfast joint in our hometown as children, maybe that same hole-in-the-wall place every Saturday throughout college, or even that quick stop on the way to work these days. While stepping inside the 1920’s rail car in Biddeford does feel comfortable and familiar in that wonderful déjà vu way, we’re almost certain that your meal will completely redefine the way you look at a diner breakfast going forward.

Palace Diner Banana Bread

Palace Diner Biddeford Maine

Palace Diner Biddeford

Palace Diner Breakfast

Palace Diner Biddeford

Palace Diner Car

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Camellia

When Michael found out that he’d be headed to Atlanta for work, I quickly made plans to join him. Having not been to the city in a number of years, I was excited to reacquaint myself with Atlanta after reading so much about how it has grown and changed, and all of its new offerings. A sprawling city, Atlanta has developed a number of unique neighborhoods with delicious restaurants and delightful shops, mostly within a short ride of one another. Together, between work commitments, and also on my own, we explored so many different places and had an absolutely lovely time. Even with all of the places below, I feel like there’s still so much remaining in this interesting town, and can’t wait to return again (maybe next time with Orvis in tow)!

Piedmont Park

It’s fitting that a walk in Piedmont Park was the very first thing we did after dropping our bags off at our B&B down the street. After many trips to Atlanta growing up, I’d never visited the expansive 190 acre park, and even on a chilly winter’s day without too many flowers or green signs of spring, the park did not disappoint!

Stonehurst Place

I honestly cannot imagine us planning a return trip to Atlanta that doesn’t include a stay at Stonehurst Place. The inn was stylish and comfortable, and with its close proximity to Piedmont Park and some of Midtown’s best restaurants, the location is surely hard to beat. Although a trip in the height of spring would allow us to enjoy the beautifully landscaped property and spend more time exploring the darling neighborhoods nearby, it’s hard to imagine a time of year that a stay at Stonehurst Place would be anything short of idyllic. Read more about our stay at Stonehurst Place here.

Empire State South

It’s hard to imagine a better way to start a trip to Atlanta than with a meal at Empire State South, easily one of Atlanta’s best restaurants. We’ve been cooking out of chef Hugh Acheson’s cookbook: A New Turn in the South for the better (and more tasty) part of two years. We met one of Michael’s co-workers for an early dinner, and had an amazing time sampling the farm-to-table Southern-inspired dishes. The ‘In Jars’ selection of spreads was perfect to split for the table while catching up and sharing laughs, but judging by the absolute silence once our entrees arrived, I don’t think we could’ve possibly been happier with our meal.

Virginia Highland Neighborhood

The food scene in Atlanta cannot be beat and the people we met were so kind, but my walk through the Virginia Highland neighborhood is truly what made me fall in love with this sweet Southern city. Read more about the Virginia Highland neighborhood here.

Miller Union

Luckily for me, Design*Sponge published their 24 Hours in Atlanta with Ginny Branch while I was planning our trip. It was an overall great resource, but the very best part of the article was Ginny’s advice to try one of Miller Union’s famed ice cream sandwiches. My chocolate coconut macroon ice cream sandwich easily lived up to the hype, and the pimento cheese & arugula toast I had wasn’t too shabby either. Lunch at Miller Union, complete with the ice cream sandwich, seems like the perfect fuel for an afternoon of browsing Atlanta’s Westside Provisions District.

Perrine’s Wine Shop

Visiting wine shops in a new city is one of my favorite pastimes while traveling, even if with shipping/airline rules, it doesn’t make too much sense to purchase anything to take home. I love seeing what wines catch a merchant’s eye, and the different regional tastes of the cities we visit. Although given the style and selection of Perrine’s it was inevitable I’d be a fan, I hadn’t even had a chance to browse their collection before I fell for her shop, as I was greeted by her happy puppy, Maddie. One of the most beautiful wine stores I’ve ever visited, Perrine’s is a gem – I saw wines I’ve never seen outside of California (like Peay), bottles of Banshee that brought me back to our trip to Sonoma, my go-to Poggia Anima varietals, and no less than a dozen I wish I could have taken home with me right then.

Ann & Sid Mashburn

The idea of visiting Atlanta and not stopping in the Ann or Sid Mashburn clothing shops was never really an option for me. I’d been wanting to see the eponymous shops of this Atlanta-based wife & husband clothier duo in person since seeing these photographs my friend, Ali, shot for Matchbook Magazine. Visually, both stores are stunning, and the collection in each one is classic and timeless. My only regret is that Michael was working at the time and missed out on visiting Sid Mashburn – something he’s been wanting to do for a long time.

Preserving Place

Upon walking out of the lovely Steven Alan shop, the delicious smell of sweet onion confit led me through the doors of the delightful Preserving Place, a beautifully appointed cooking school and preserve producer. I chatted with owner, Martha McMillin, who showed me where the cooking and classes take place and ended up purchasing a jar of Woodford Reserve julep sugar that I thought might be a safer bet for my carry-on than a jar of the sweet onion confit that I can credit for getting me through the door. I can hardly wait for spring to properly arrive in Maine to give it a try!

JCT Kitchen

A recommendation from Atlanta-based blog, The Love List, JCT Kitchen was just the spot we wanted to share with Michael’s friend & co-worker, who wasn’t quite as familiar with the regional cuisine, having grown up in Germany. As we finished our classically southern meals (shrimp & grits for me, fried chicken for the men, and a plate of deviled eggs to share) it became clear why JCT Kitchen and the al fresco bar upstairs seemed to be the place to be in Atlanta on a Thursday night.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

This one was an unexpected surprise of the trip! I’ve owned the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home cookbook for years and have always wanted to visit the original scoop shop in Columbus, Ohio with my family in the Buckeye State, so discovering that there was a Jeni’s in Westside Provisions  was just too much for me. With deliciously creative flavors like Birch + Marshmallows and signature flavors such as The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, we were in heaven – so much so that we may have gone here two nights in a row…

Oakland Cemetery

While researching things to do in Atlanta I happened upon this post on the blog of Steven Alan written by the couple of The Southerly and made a point to re-visit Atlanta’s oldest cemetery, a place I’d toured with a school group when I was younger. Although I didn’t have too much time to wander around the historic cemetery, I admired the landscaping and green spaces that make it one of the more beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever visited.

Octane Coffee Grant Park & Little Tart Bakeshop

Across the street from Oakland, and another recommendation from the couple of The Southerly that I really wish I’d been able to share with Michael, the only real coffee drinker of Map & Menu. I cabbed down here on my way to see him speak (!) and instantly regretted my decision to visit Octane before Michael’s presentation, not afterwards when I had an abundance of free time to enjoy the beautiful space, delicious drinks, and scrumptious baked goods.

Yeah! Burger

A sweet instagram follower suggested we visit one of Atlanta’s Yeah! Burger locations and we were so thankful that she did! To celebrate Michael’s successful presentation, we cabbed over to the Virginia Highland location and ate our fill of some tasty burgers & fries. My Yeah! Veggie burger and Michael’s All-American burger with bacon was the perfect excuse to take a long post-lunch stroll around a neighborhood (Virginia Highland) I couldn’t wait to share with him.

The Optimist

The famed oyster bar has been on my must-try list for a year or so, probably since I read about it Bon Appetit or Conde Nast Traveler. At times I’d wondered if I’d built it up in my mind, but now, after eating one of the more memorable meals in my life there, I know that just simply isn’t possible at a restaurant like The Optimist. This final dinner of ours was easily our favorite meal in Atlanta, kicked off with two of the best cocktails we’d had on the trip . Our waiter expertly guided us through his favorites on the menu and even convinced me to try the octopus, which although hesitant from past octopus experience, I tried and loved. Delicious Rhode Island oysters and tasty fried rice accompanied the grouper I ordered and the swordfish Michael selected – both incredible dishes. But the show stopper of the evening, which is truly saying something, just might have been the bite-sized hushpuppies, served “beignet style” with powdered sugar and cane syrup butter. They were most definitely the best hushpuppies I’ve ever eaten, and I’ll undoubtedly be scouring the internet and cookbooks for a recipe in the next few weeks.

As is often the case on these weekend trips, we didn’t have the chance to visit every spot on our list. My biggest regret was missing out on Taqueria del Sol (a favorite of my friend, Alexis), and I also heard great things about Antico Pizza, Ecco (thanks, M!) and Holeman & Finch in Decatur. A trip up the road to Buckhead would have been equally as fun with a stop at one of my favorite art galleries, a tour of the Atlanta History Center, and a meal at King & Duke.

Are there any other Atlanta highlights we missed? Please share them in the comments below – we’d love to hear your favorite spots in what has become a favorite city to visit!

Piedmont Park ATL
Midtown Atlanta Skyline from Piedmont Park
Piedmont Park
Spring in Piedmont Park
Stonehurst Place Bed & Breakfast
Stonehurst Place Bed & Breakfast
Stonehurst Place Art Collection
Stonehurst Place Art Collection
Stonehurst Place ATL
Stonehurst Place
Empire State South
Empire State South
Empire State South Cocktails
Empire State South Forest Stroll
Empire state South pimento cheese
Empire State South ‘In Jars’
Empire State South Scallops
Empire State South Scallops
Midtown Atlanta
Midtown Atlanta
Perrines Wine Shop
Perrine’s Wine Shop
Perrine's Wine Shop Atlanta
Perrine’s Wine Shop
Perrine's Wine Shop ATL
Perrine’s Wine Shop
Miller Union Pimento Cheese
Miller Union Pimento Cheese
Miller Union Ice Cream Sandwich
Miller Union Ice Cream Sandwich
Sid Mashburn
Sid Mashburn
Sid Mashburn Atlanta GA
Sid Mashburn
Sid Mashburn Atlanta
Sid Mashburn
Ann Mashburn
Ann Mashburn
Preserving Place Atlanta
Preserving Place
Preserving Place
Preserving Place
JCT Kitchen Atlanta
JCT Kitchen
JCT Kitchen Shrimp & Grits
JCT Kitchen Shrimp & Grits
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Atlanta
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
Oakland Cemetery Atlanta
Oakland Cemetery
Octane Coffee Grant Park
Octane Coffee
Octane Coffee Grant Park ATL
Octane Coffee
Little Tart Bakery Atlanta
Little Tart Bakery
Octane Coffee Atlanta
Octane Coffee
Downtown Atlanta
Downtown Atlanta
Yeah Burger
Yeah! Burger
Yeah Burger Atlanta
Yeah! Burger All-American
The Optimist Atlanta
The Optimist
The Optimist ATL
The Optimist
The Optimist
The Optimist
The Optimist Cocktails
The Optimist
The Optimist Octopus and Grouper
The Optimist Octopus and Grouper
The Optimist Oysters
The Optimist Oysters
The Optimist Hushpuppies
The Optimist Hushpuppies

Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Central Provisions Scallops

March’s “spring forward” daylight saving time has become a celebration for Meredith and I in recent years. After a full winter of lunch posts and dimly-lit dinners, all at once the light returns to our suppertime, and it’s Map & Menu business as usual. In the days leading up to daylight saving time, we anxiously sift through our dining choices and make a reservation for a (still somewhat early) dinner date that we know will taste exquisite and look spectacular. This year, there was hardly a question of where that reservation would be – Portland’s Central Provisions.

Central Provisions is one of the latest in a stocked season of great openings in Portland. Piccolo, Hunt + Alpine, and Miyake Diner have already deservedly garnered rave reviews and national recognition, but after a couple of meals at Central Provisions, there is no doubt in our minds that they belong near the top of the list of Portland’s best restaurants and bars. Owners Chris and Paige Gould have done an exceptional job with both the space and the menu, and bar manager Patrick McDonald and wine director Chris Peterman have put together an amazing selection of drinks to boot. In fact, this is the one thing that stands out to Meredith and I about our experiences at Central Provisions more than anything else – how equally fantastic each part of our meals have been. The space gives credence to the historic nature of the building, the drinks – whether beer, wine, or spirit – are well chosen and deliciously crafted, and the food is simply outstanding. Try the farm fresh bread and butter, the yellowfin tuna crudo that’s a delight to both taste and see, the savory suckling pig, the perfectly seared scallops, the brussels sprouts, the croquette, the spicy fried Maine potatoes, the beet salad, the shrimp a la plancha… it’s not an exaggeration to say that you should try everything on the menu, you absolutely won’t be disappointed. Typically, when describing a restaurant’s drink menu, I use a colloquialism like “wash it all down with…”, but at Central Provision, this simply doesn’t do the libations justice. Whether it’s a cocktail from their house menu or their prohibition-era list (Meredith is obsessed with the Fancy Gin Cocktail), a pint of their great selection of beers (like the in-demand Bissell Brothers Substance IPA), or a glass of wine from their wine list, we wager you’ll be as enthusiastic about the drinks as you are the eats.

From literal top to bottom (the dining room is on the Fore Street-facing second floor, while the bar is on the Wharf Street-facing first) Central Provisions provides one of the best dining experiences in Portland, and we simply couldn’t be happier to see the city’s selection continue to grow and improve – we’re going to need those extra hours of daylight just to keep up.

Central Provisions Bar

Central Provisions ME

Fancy Gin Cocktail Central Provisions

Central Provisions Portland

Central Provisions Bread & Butter

Central Provisions Portland Maine

Central Provisions Fried Potatoes

Central Provisions Tuna

Central Provisions Brussels Sprouts

Central Provisions Croquette

Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu and Central Provisions.

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Broken Shaker Miami

Michael and I had every intention of exploring Miami Beach on our way down to and from our friends’ wedding in the Florida Keys this weekend, but travel complications prevented us from seeing as much of the city as we’d hoped. Still, in our short evening there before our Monday morning flight back, we made the most of a city with so much to offer.

The highlight of our brief visit to Miami Beach was most definitely meeting our friend, Caro, for drinks at The Broken Shaker – the bar at the Freehand where we spent Sunday night. I haven’t come across an article on the Miami food scene in the last year or so that doesn’t include rave reviews for this James Beard nominated poolside craft cocktail bar – in fact, it’s the reason we decided to stay at the Freehand in the first place! The drinks certainly lived up to their reputation – my Guanabana Caipirinha was so tasty, it was impossible to not order two and Michael downed his London Calling.

After we finished our drinks with Caro, we took her advice and grabbed a cab down to Pubbelly for some unforgettable Asian-inspired tapas. Each plate was fantastic, but we’re still talking about the two highlights of our meal – the Miso Butter Toast & the Kimchee Fried Rice with porkbelly & pineapple – two days later. So very delicious.

Although our time at the Freehand itself was short, it was a pleasant experience with more than an abundance of visual details to photograph. The Sydell Group (the company behind Ace Hotels, The NoMad, etc.) has done an outstanding job incorporating such vibrant style & Art Deco personality into a hostel setting. If you want to be right in the middle of the fun, you definitely can’t go wrong with the Freehand.

Are you headed to Miami soon? Here are a few places we were hoping to try, mostly suggestions of our friend Caro – a girl whose culinary taste we wholeheartedly trust: My Ceviche, Khong River House, Yardbird, Panther Coffee, Charlotte Bakery, Huahua’s Taqueria, and Joe’s Stone Crab Takeaway for a picnic on the beach! What are your favorite Miami Beach spots? We’d love to hear your suggestions!

Freehand Miami

Freehand Miami Hostel

Freehand Miami Robes

Freehand Miami King

The Broken Shaker Miami

Broken Shaker Miami Freehand

Broken Shaker Miami Beach

Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Argentinean Wine Dinner Sea Glass

Last week, Meredith and I had the delightful opportunity to attend Sea Glass‘s fifth annual Argentinean Wine Dinner. When Rauni from Inn by the Sea invited us, we weren’t familiar with the event, but the premise of five courses prepared by Argentinean-raised chef, Mitchell Kaldrovich, paired with wines from Ruca Malen, sounded too exciting to resist.

We’ve enjoyed a memorable meal and a cocktail hour with Orvis on the patio at Sea Glass before, but this night was a slightly different experience. With dishes like empanadas and South American crêpe-style canelones, the fare was far from your typical Maine meal regularly featured on Sea Glass’s dinner menu. Although a number of the ingredients had a Maine feel to them, this wine dinner is one of Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich’s greatest opportunities each year to show off the Argentinean style of food he was raised on, and to that end, he did an outstanding job.

The other half of the equation, the Ruca Malen wine pairings complemented a number of the dishes exceptionally well. The Chardonnay Reserva in particular, an aromatic wine that was a bit bolder than we’re used to, paired extremely well with the smoky bacon-wrapped scallops that accompanied it. Days later, we’re still talking about the two Malbecs, which were tasty enough to warrant a special order from Old Port Wine Merchants that we’re picking up tomorrow.

All in all, Meredith and I enjoyed a delicious dinner, some brand new (to us) unique wines, and some excellent conversation that evening, and will definitely be adding more of the Sea Glass wine dinners to our calendar for this coming year.

Ruca Malen Wine Dinner Maine

Ruca Malen Wine Dinner

Sea Glass Inn by the Sea

Sea Glass Restaurant

Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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158 Pickett Street Pizza

Meredith and I have been hearing rumors of some delicious new pizza in South Portland, and it’s probably not coming from the first place you’d guess. Typically known for its breakfast bagels or lunch sandwiches, 158 Pickett Street Cafe has been serving up a mean pie on Friday and Saturday evenings since early October. Last Saturday, craving something comfortable to escape the snow, we headed around the corner to try a bite for ourselves, and now we’re faced with a new conundrum – we went from traveling over the bridge for our pizza needs to now having to decide between two delicious locations right in our own backyard.

There are more than enough options at 158 to satisfy any pizza enthusiast’s taste – like the standard cheese and sausage, or more creative flavors like the hot pink sauce, charred jalapenos, and cheese ‘Stinger’ – but regardless of your decision, everything we’ve heard and tasted has been fantastic. Meredith and I were in a classic mood on Saturday, so we ordered the sausage and feta, grabbed a seat by the fireplace, and settled into some pleasant conversation with neighbors we never knew we had, over classic blues and soul in the background.

We’re looking forward to returning, but as Meredith joked, it’s a good thing they’re only serving pizza a couple nights a week, or else we’d find ourselves at 158 all the time.

One Fifty Ate

Salad at 158 Pickett Street

158 Pickett Street Cafe Pizza

Pizza at 158 Pickett Street

Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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King Street Charleston SC
King Street

Looking back on our recent trip to Charleston, I’m quickly blown away by the town, the history, the culture, the architecture, the drinks, and that oh-so-delicious food. Charleston is one of those cities that you could see yourself visiting often and staying for a very long time. The town holds a special place in Michael and my hearts, as it was the destination of one of our first trips as a couple, but in the 7 years since then, so much has changed that we found ourselves repeatedly saying “this definitely wasn’t here before” throughout our stay. Obviously the neighborhood South of Broad is still chock full of colorful, grand Charleston single houses (think long row houses with full-length porches to relax on in that hot Southern sun) that will make your jaw drop, and East Bay still has its fair share of tourist-packed storefronts and restaurants, but now areas like Upper King, Elliotborough, and Cannonborough are seeing an explosion in unbelievable eateries, craft bars, stylish shops, and scrumptious bakeries. Charleston has always been a town with plenty of culture, but this new-to-us side of Charleston makes us want to stay awhile.

We were there for four full days of eating, drinking, and exploration, but we feel like we only scratched the surface of what Charleston has to offer. Have a read through some of our favorite parts of Charleston, and please don’t hesitate to let us know if we missed anything that should be added to our list for our next return trip – there will definitely be one.

Zero George

Simply put, staying at Zero George was an absolute delight. It is the perfect mix of classic Southern charm, style, comfort, and convenience. Our room was perfect for the two of us – just the place we couldn’t wait to return to between meals and meandering expeditions through the cityView pictures & read more about Zero George.

Butcher & Bee

We came to Charleston to eat – no question about it – so we hit the ground running by trekking up to Butcher & Bee for our first meal together. I’d read about the sandwich shop in numerous publications, so there was really no question of whether or not we’d swing by for what promised to be an amazing lunch. Michael devoured his roast beef sandwich, and my carrot salad was pretty scrumptious, but the real show stopper was the bowl of curried brussels sprouts. We ate more than a dozen meals in Charleston that week, but my mind keeps coming back to those perfect brussels.

The Rarebit

After seeing that The Rarebit made Thrillist’s list of The Best New Bars in America, I immediately put it on our dauntingly long list of places to try. Thankfully we were able to make it there on our first night. We had quite a few cocktails in Charleston, but those first two – an Aviation and a Corpse Reviver – certainly stand out as some of our favorites. Our meals that followed – the country fried steak and the vegetable rarebit – hit the spot for the casual comfort food we were craving.

Brown’s Court Bakery

We could lie and tell you that we only visited Brown’s Court once during our short stay in Charleston, but then you might not believe just how much we loved it. Even after visiting three (!) other bakeries in the city (go ahead and judge – we kind of deserve it.), we still managed to come back to Brown’s Court three times. Everything – the croissants, the sticky buns, the cinnamon rolls, the charming building, and the friendly staff – made Brown’s Court the perfect bakery experience.

Mac & Murphy

I dare you to walk by Mac & Murphy and not stop in. It’s that adorable. Michael and I are suckers for a creative selection of paper products, and Mac & Murphy and its friendly staff does not disappoint.

Indigo & Cotton

While preparing for our trip, this men’s shop popped up on our radar from their mention in Kinfolk and we couldn’t wait to see their collection in person. Of course upon walking inside, I immediately wished they had an equally well put together shop for women, but I happily settled on shopping for Michael. The store showcases some of our favorite brands – General Knot, Makr, Jack Rudy, Raleigh Denim… the list goes on – and does it all in a visually beautiful setting. Michael picked up a sweatshirt from Saturdays Surf that I’ve contemplated borrowing for myself, and after a helpful conversation with the owner Brett, we headed out to try some of the suggestions on our quickly growing list.

Sugar Bakeshop

If you’re a fan of sweet confectionery bakeries like Michael, Sugar Bakeshop should catch your eye (if the large blueberry cupcake painted on the building doesn’t). After a number of people recommended it, we stopped in to try their deliciously sweet lemon curd cupcakes and ginger molasses cookies. A new friend from our trip pointed out that their mini cupcakes make the perfect pick-and-chose party treat, and if you’re having a hard time making a selection, do as we did and ask the extremely helpful bakers behind the counter.

Xiao Bao Biscuit

The few blocks encompassed by Cannon, King, Spring, and Rutledge are home to a number of very cool shops, bakeries, and restaurants that are somewhat off the beaten path. We spent a chunk of our first full morning in the area, and found ourselves returning for one thing or another each day. One of those very delicious ‘things’ was Xiao Bao Biscuit, where we met one of Michael’s coworkers for lunch one afternoon. The casual ‘Asian soul food’ restaurant struck us with its bold style and amazing dishes. My paratha and Michael’s bo bo ji were creative, flavorful, and fresh, and the cocktails we washed our meal down with left us with smiles on our faces as we walked the streets back down to our hotel.

FIG

Food Is Good. The restaurant says it in the name, and sticks to it with their cooking. While Charleston has no shortage of great restaurants, FIG was the one that seemed to always be first on the mind of every Charlestonian we spoke to. Their reputation was well-earned, as our meal here – a gracious gift from some close friends in Maine – was easily one of the best we had on our trip. Our friendly waitress pointed us in the right direction with every course selection, and between the drinks, handmade gnocchi (aptly described as pillows of heaven), and fresh local seafood, we left that evening in a flavorful stupor of smiles.

The Gin Joint

While Michael was in Charleston for work the week prior to our trip, he went to The Gin Joint with coworkers to fulfill their search for a proper southern mint julep. Michael enjoyed his drink (the Beauregard) that evening so much, that he was insistent that we return once I arrived. We enjoyed an evening of tasty drinks with family in the comfortable space on East Bay Street, and if you were wondering, Michael reports that their Julep is done right – bourbon, fresh mint, and plenty of crushed ice in a silver julep cup.

Black Tap Coffee

It was a great sign when we told the barista at Black Tap that we were from Maine, and he immediately asked us if we were familiar with Tandem Coffee Roasters. Unbeknownst to him, we had left our hotel that morning in search of the “Tandem of Charleston,” and we’re pretty sure we found the closest thing to them in Black Tap. The space was beautiful and lively, and although they don’t roast their own, the coffee was delicious. If we were lucky enough to live in Charleston, this spot would be in our regular rotation.

Old Road Mercantile

Our time at the Old Road Mercantile and its sister shop, Lily, couldn’t have been more pleasant. We spoke with the shop owner, Kevin, for quite awhile and probably could have kept the conversation up for another hour. (Charleston business owners might just be the friendliest of any city we’ve ever visited!) The shop’s tagline – The World’s Smallest Department Store – is an apt description of this awesome collection of goods. We both gravitated towards their selection of cocktail mixers (from Charleston’s own Bittermilk), and more than a few of the home goods caught my eye.

goat.sheep.cow

We passed goat.sheep.cow during one of our many walks south of Broad Street and admittedly decided to stop in simply because of their branding. It didn’t take us long to strike up a conversation with the sweet shop owners about cheese – something we love dearly, yet know little about. After we’d sampled a few of their favorite selections and heard about their go-to restaurants in town, we left with great big smiles on our faces and a package of the best comté we’ve ever had.

Husk

Husk is a restaurant that Michael and I have wanted to visit for years – ever since they started making headlines in just about every national publication for their creative new American take on classic Southern cuisine and their ultra-local menu (essentially nothing on the menu is from further than 2 states away). Michael was lucky enough to get to visit Husk twice during his stay in Charleston, once for dinner with coworkers and once for lunch with me (dinner reservations were hard to come by and our list of restaurants was far from short). While he had plenty of good things to say about his slow cooked heritage pork dinner, we couldn’t have been happier with our lunch. My wonderfully savory and creamy shrimp and grits made for one of my favorite dishes from the week.

The Belmont

A Charleston-based photographer whose work I’ve followed for years, Olivia Rae James, listed The Belmont as one of her favorite spots for a good drink in town, and after passing the Carolina blue building more than dozen times during our walks up and down King Street, we knew we had to give it a shot. We stopped in for drinks before dinner one evening, and weren’t disappointed in our choice. The bar has an unbelievably cool vibe, and the bartender masterfully whipped-up two drinks for our pre-meal pleasure.

The Ordinary

Stepping into The Ordinary is an almost surreal experience. The oyster hall on upper King St. has plenty of classic charm and many leftover details from its history as a bank (including the vault from which the raw bar is now served). With its spacious interior and timeless style, it’s no wonder that The Ordinary seems to be the place to eat in Charleston right now. Run by the same people as FIG, another Charleston icon, the food is not something to overlook. We loved our cocktails, oysters, shrimp hushpuppies, blue crab toast, and Wednesday evening lobster roll meal (eaten by the non-Mainer of course), and every few minutes, my eyes stumbled on some other unique detail to photograph. In a town full of tasty, stylish, and well-branded restaurants, The Ordinary has to be near the top of the list.

Two Boroughs Larder

There were plenty of reasons for us to be excited about lunch at Two Boroughs, but after discovering that the owners incorporate their corgi, Walter, into their branding, we knew that this was the right restaurant for us. Michael’s Bowl-O-Noodle, served with pork confit, a soft egg, and pork broth, sent him into a pleasant food coma, and thanks to a tasty kale salad with egg & boquerones, I discovered that I did, in fact, have an affinity for anchovies after all. Not only does Two Boroughs serve up deliciously flavorful food, they also feature a wall of carefully selected tableware, specialty food items, craft beers, and good wine available for purchase. And while you’re there, see if you can possibly resist picking up some of that adorable Walter paraphernalia – I know we couldn’t.

Ted’s Butcherblock

Believe it or not, by our fourth night in Charleston, we couldn’t bring ourselves to get excited about another filling, delicious meal. We had five or so restaurants we were considering for this final night of our trip, but after a sunset walk along the Battery we decided to grab a couple of tasty sandwiches from Ted’s and shared a picnic on the porch of our hotel. Made even more scrumptious by the rest of our cheese from goat.sheep.cow, this low-key dinner was the perfect ending to a food-filled few days, and one I honestly wouldn’t do over if I had the chance.

Sweeteeth

I ordered Michael a few bars of chocolate from the Charleston-based Sweeteeth for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago. Picking up a few bars of chocolate on our trip was as high on my list of things to do as sampling the shrimp & grits at Husk. We ended up grabbing more than a few bars at Ted’s and have been nibbling on them since our return last week.

Hominy Grill

Meredith and I visited a bunch of restaurants during our stay in Charleston that would typically fall under the classification of “new American, Southern-inspired” – not the vegetable plates and fried chicken that your grandparents served up in the South, but rather new takes on older dishes and flavors. Don’t get me wrong, they’re delicious, but every now and then I just want a plate of fried chicken or catfish, shrimp and grits, and some collard greens with fatback. When that urge strikes, I’d highly recommend Hominy Grill, where tradition is strong, the food is delicious, and the biscuits come with honey :).

Of course we weren’t able to make it to every place on our list in the four short days we were in Charleston. Had Drayton Hall been open, we probably would have rented a car to visit the 18th century plantation, and while we were at it, we surely would have driven out to Sullivan’s Island for a walk on the beach. We were sad to miss out on the experience of drinking a glass of wine at Bin 152 or sharing a meal at The Grocery – both recommended to us by many of the friendly shop owners we met. Next time we’ll also be sure to grab some breakfast at Martha Lou’s and enjoy an Italian dinner at either Trattoria Lucca or Indaco. Can you think of anything else we might have missed?

Zero George Charleston SC
Zero George
Butcher & Bee Menu
Butcher & Bee
Butcher and Bee Charleston SC
Butcher & Bee
Butcher and Bee Charleston
Butcher & Bee
King Street Charleston
King Street
The Rarebit Charleston
The Rarebit
The Rarebit Charleston SC
The Rarebit
Broad Street Charleston SC
Broad Street
Brown's Court Bakery
Brown’s Court Bakery
Brown's Court Bakery Charleston
Brown’s Court Bakery
Mac & Murphy
Mac & Murphy
Mac & Murphy Charleston
Mac & Murphy
Worthwhile and Hominy Grill
Worthwhile & Hominy Grill
Indigo & Cotton Charleston
Indigo & Cotton
Indigo and Cotton Charleston
Indigo & Cotton
Indigo & Cotton
Indigo & Cotton
Indigo & Cotton SC
Indigo & Cotton
Sugar Bakeshop Charleston
Sugar Bakeshop
Sugar Bakeshop Charleston
Sugar Bakeshop
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Xiao Bao Biscuit Tha Green Curry
Paratha at Xiao Bao Biscuit
Xiao Bao Biscuit Lunch
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Xiao Bao Charleston
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Xiao Bao Biscuit Charleston
Xiao Bao Biscuit
FIG Menu
FIG
FIG and The Ordinary
FIG & The Ordinary
The Belmont and Black Tap Coffee
Drinks at The Belmont & Black Tap Coffee
The Gin Joint
The Gin Joint
The Gin Join Charleston
The Gin Joint
Charleston SC
Washington Square
Goat Sheep Cow
goat.sheep.cow
Husk Charleston SC
Husk
Pimiento Cheese Husk
Pimiento Cheese Toast at Husk
Husk Charleston
Flat Iron Steak at Husk
Husk Shrimp & Grits
Shrimp & Grits at Husk
Old Road Mercantile Charleston
Old Road Mercantile
The Ordinary
The Ordinary
The Ordinary Charleston
The Ordinary
The Ordinary Charleston
The Ordinary
The Ordinary Oysters
Oysters at The Ordinary
Charleston South Carolina
South Carolina Historical Society
Charleston South of Broad
South of Broad Walk
Charleston Battery Park
White Point Garden
Two Boroughs Larder
Two Boroughs Larder
Two Boroughs Larder Noodle Bowl
Bowl-O-Noodle at Two Boroughs
Charleston South Carolina Photos
Waterfront Park

Charleston SC Sunrise

Charleston Sunrise
Sunrise over the Cooper River

Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Primo Maine

A couple of weekends ago, Meredith and I were at her family’s farm in Wiscasset, snowshoeing with Orvis, when we read a tweet by Primo saying that that evening would be their last night of the season. Since we were already halfway to Rockland, we took this as a sign to call it an early day and make a quick trip up the road for dinner at one of Maine’s New England’s most highly-touted restaurants.

Since we were in the mood for something a little more relaxed and casual than their more formal dinner menu and dining room, we opted to try the walk-in “counter menu“. We felt right at home in the Counter Room upstairs – a large, open space with exposed beam ceilings, sliding barn doors, and a massive counter, behind which chefs prepared a number of the dishes we enjoyed. We cozied up to a table, and in typical Primo fashion, enjoyed a couple flavorful cocktails (The Bitter Truth and a Dutch Courage) and a number of wonderfully prepared seasonal dishes (the Meatball Trio, Brussels sprouts, cassoulet, and polenta with roasted vegetables) that had us savoring every last sip and bite. We finished our meal with the unforgettable caramelized banana creme pie, and after a little more conversation and a few more smiles, we said goodbye to Primo until April and headed back down the road to Wiscasset.

While the traditional Primo menu and dining room is definitely an experience that shouldn’t be missed, if you’re passing through town and want to be treated to an excellent impromptu dinner, take it from us, Primo’s Counter would be pretty tough to beat.

Primo Rockland Maine

Dutch Courage Primo

Primo Rockland ME Polenta

Caramelized Banana Cream Pie Primo

Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Royal Rose Saffron Syrup Milkshake

For Christmas I cheated a little and bought Meredith a stocking stuffer I knew we’d both enjoy together – a few different bottles of Royal Rose simple syrups. Meredith and I met Emily and Forrest, the couple behind Royal Rose, at one of Hunt & Alpine’s Hush, Hush events last year, and have been ecstatic to see their bottles popping up in many of our favorite shops around the state since then. With flavors like Saffron, Cardamon Clove, and Three Chili, the syrups easily add new flavor to any old cocktail recipe you might lean on, or a savory accent to many of your favorite desserts.

On the side of each bottle, Royal Rose includes a recipe to try with your syrup, and when we read the New Year’s Milkshake on the side of the Saffron syrup, we knew we needed to give it a shot. Ice cream, saffron syrup, and rum… good, good, and good. Since having “New Year’s” in the title seems unfairly limiting to those of us that love a milkshake almost any day, we dropped the holiday but kept the recipe unchanged, and after having had it on a few occasions (most recently, last weekend at the farm), we highly recommend that you find a bottle for yourself and give it a try!

Saffron Syrup Mikshake

originally published as New Year’s Milkshake in My Bombay Kitchen
Ingredients
Basil seeds soaked in water (optional)
3/4 oz. Royal Rose Saffron Syrup
1 cup cold milk
1 scoop vanilla ice cream (we used Maine-based Catbird Creamery)
1.5 oz. dark rum

Spoon basil seed into a tall glass. Top with milk, syrup, and ice cream. Add rum. Stir with a long spoon and enjoy!

Royal Rose Saffron Syrup

Saffron Syrup Milkshake

Royal Rose Syrups Milkshake

Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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