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.
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 city. View pictures & read more about Zero George.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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Most of the time, when travel plans go awry due to weather, and trips have to be extended, it can be a cause for headaches and stress, but when a winter storm threatened our return trip from Charleston to Boston, we could barely contain our excitement at having the opportunity to prolong our stay at Zero George Street, and quickly rescheduled our flight, even before the original had officially been canceled.
Simply put, staying at Zero George was an absolute delight. The property consists of a number of early 19th century buildings (two original to the land and two painstakingly relocated from the area), in the beautiful, historic, and conveniently-located Ansonborough neighborhood. It is the perfect mix of classic Southern charm, style, comfort, and convenience. The buildings are positioned to form a peaceful enclave around a central courtyard, and from the moment we first walked through the entrance gate, we knew that we’d made the right decision with our reservations. 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 city – and the location is a quick stroll to the French Quarter, South of Broad, and Lower and Upper King neighborhoods. The staff was extremely friendly and accommodating, and the details of the inn gave Meredith plenty of photographic inspiration each day. Staying at the hotel was more than just the necessary lodging detail of our trip, it became a highlight, even serving as a evening porch picnic destination after countless Charleston dinners had finally taken their toll on us.
We count ourselves very fortunate to have been able to make Zero George part of our Charleston getaway, and can’t wait to one day return.
Contact Information - Zero George Street
Charleston, South Carolina 29401
If you’re at all a person who likes to spend hours walking the streets of a city you’re visiting, daydreaming about which house you’d choose to live in, then Charleston is, by far, the perfect destination for you. Michael and I did just that on our trip to there last week – exploring miles of the peninsula on foot – selecting no less than thirty-four charmingly historic homes we’d love to someday call our own.
Together we picked our favorite neighborhood (Ansonborough), our favorite street (Church Street), our favorite color palette (see the first image below), and, because we missed Orvis so much, we even chose our favorite neighborhood dogs (not pictured, as we feared that might be a tad bit weird).
The time we spent strolling through the streets of Charleston was easily the highlight of our trip. Don’t get me wrong, the shrimp & grits at Husk and dinner at FIG were just as amazing as I’d heard, but discovering a city through leisurely walks so enjoyable that you lose all sense of time (and almost miss your reservation for said shrimp & grits because of it) is a truly extraordinary experience. We fell in the love with this sweet southern city on these walks, just as we’ve fallen for the Charlottesville countryside during our drives through the Shenandoah Valley or the villages of Provence we strolled through the summer before last, and can’t wait for many future return trips.
We have lots more to share from our trip to Charleston this week, but I’m curious – are there other cities we should visit for this same type of dream-filled meandering? We’d love to hear your suggestions if you have them.
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After almost two weeks of being on the road, I was really excited to spend some time relaxing with Meredith and Orvis this past weekend. So after a lunch with friends at Zapoteca on Saturday, we ventured up to Wiscasset to spend a couple of nights on the farm. Sometimes, one of the best ways to decompress and reset is to cook a fun meal and open a bottle of wine, so we did just that on Saturday night. After a tasty breakfast at Crissy’s the next morning, we decided to hike a new trail outside of Alna that had yet to be walked on after last week’s snow. Letting Orvis run along as we explored trail blaze to blaze was definitely a highlight of the weekend. After we warmed back up, we headed north to the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, and then shared a cozy dinner at Shepherd’s Pie in Rockport.
I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend my first weekend back, and hope that you were able to spend yours just the way you wanted, also.
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Michael was traveling again for work last week, so Orvis and I stuck close to home for the majority of the week. I finally ventured out on Friday to take some photos at Central Provisions (which, for the record, is going to be amazing and opens tomorrow!) and to meet friends, Brook & Daniel, for drinks at Hunt & Alpine. I spent the remainder of the weekend catching up on a bit of work, playing on the beach with Orvis, sprucing up the house with some bright blue anemones, and finishing a book that consumed my every thought when I wasn’t reading it – The Goldfinch. A truly captivating novel that I highly recommend!
Hope your week is off to a great start, friends!
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We realized the other night that of our six winters in Maine, this one is almost certainly the coldest – not the snowiest, just the bone-chilling coldest. Brutally cold weather is no match for a less than well-insulated 18th century house like ours, so on days like today (with negative wind chill temperatures) we stay bundled up inside as well. With the help of hot tea (I swear I drink gallons this time of year), my favorite wool throw, and a stack of travel magazines, I’m able to keep warm while daydreaming about escaping on a sunny, tropical, winter getaway of my own. The last time Michael and I went on a vacation such as this was our trip to the island of Nevis (pictured above). What I wouldn’t give to be back in a lounge chair by that pool at Montpelier Plantation, fruity drink in hand!
Here are a few other sunny spots I’ve had my eye on recently that fit the bill for a warm week far away from frozen snow & polar vortexes.
The stunning clifftop villas & bungalows of Secret Bay on the island of Dominica first caught my eye in an issue of Travel + Leisure, and I’ve seen them pop up a few times on Jetsetter since. The Secret Bay experience seems like something out of a dream to me!
The fourteen cabanas that make up the vineyard escape of Cuatrocuatros look like the perfect place from which to explore beautiful Baja California.
Set on a nature preserve in coastal Western Uruguay overlooking the Rio de la Plata, Hotel Casa Chic in Carmelo looks as though it’d be the perfect place to spend a relaxing week with my camera.
What other warm weather destinations should be on our radar? We’d love to hear about your favorite spots!Leave a comment
This past weekend was one of those weekends where you struggle just to get out from under the blanket(s) on the couch. Although Meredith and I would’ve probably preferred to stay right there, Orvis was able to convince us to go on a few brisk trips to the beach for some fetch. On Saturday we opted to escape the cold at a movie in town, followed by a comforting, delicious meal at Empire. After Sunday’s all too chilly beach trip, we ventured over to Big Sky Bread Company and warmed up with some tasty lentil soup & mac & cheese. Of course, no lunch at Big Sky is complete without a cookie or two! The remainder of the afternoon was filled with more couch lounging and lots of reading, but this time with a new cocktail in hand – woodfoord + cardamom clove syrup.
Hopefully y’all managed to keep warm over the weekend, too!
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