Historic Charleston, Raw Bars To Fine Dining

Ask a southerner what they think is one of the most charming cities to visit while touring the south and they will probably mention Charleston, South Carolina. As the second stop on a drive down Interstate 95 to Florida, Charleston is a detour well worth taking. The city is considered a top destination in our country by Condé Nast Traveler.

Although my husband and I were only in Charleston for one evening, we had a wonderful time. If you get a chance to visit, you will certainly enjoy the city. I think two to three days in the spring would be wonderful. Walking down streets lined with live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and dogwoods in bloom could only make the historic three  story homes with covered balconies all the more beautiful.

There are so many options for staying in Charleston, from charming inns to luxury hotels.          We stayed at the French Quarter Inn which is next to the restored City Market in the historic district. The hotel is highly rated by travelers and I can see why. Upon checking in, we were offered Champagne and lady fingers. The hotel offers its’ guests complimentary wine and cheese in the early evening, cookies and milk before retiring to bed, and a continental breakfast with beautiful pastries in the morning.

As the sun was setting, we took a stroll over to Waterfront Park two blocks from our hotel. The eight acre park that runs along the Charleston harbor is very pleasant. There is a pier jutting out into the harbor where you get a good view of Ft. Sumter which is the site of the start of the Civil War.

Waterfront Park Pier With View Of Ft. Sumter

Waterfront Park With Brick Walking Paths and Small "Garden Rooms"

You can stroll along brick paved walking paths, past small “garden rooms” and wonderful fountains.

Charleston is famous for their low country cooking and seafood. My husband and I decided that if we were only going to be in town for one night we were going to start with the raw bar scene and end with fine dining. I don’t think you can go wrong wherever you eat but after many recommendations from locals we decided on Pearlz for raw oysters and the Charleston Grill for the chef’s tasting menu.

Pearlz Raw Bar

Pearlz Original Art, artist unknown

Fresh Oysters On The Half Shell

Pearlz was exactly what we were looking for. We sat at the bar, ordered off a large blackboard listing different varieties of oysters, and watched as hundreds of oysters were shucked right in front of us for fellow customers. Plump, fresh and delicious.

We took a quick walk back to the hotel to change for dinner at the Charleston Grill. Located in the Charleston Place Hotel, the restaurant is considered one of the best in town.  We walked past the bar where a jazz ensemble were playing contemporary music softly in the background. We were seated at a table with a view of the courtyard, our drink orders were taken and an amuse bouche was presented while we decided on our meal.

Amuse Bouche

The menu was divided into four categories…simple, lush, cosmopolitan and southern. To solve the dilemma of what to order, we were offered a tasting menu which offered a way to sample each category. The seven small courses were each accompanied by a small pour of wine that was chosen to pair perfectly with each dish.

Tuna Sashimi With Micro Greek Salad

The first dish was tuna sashimi, garnished with a micro Greek salad… totally fresh and simple.

Butter Poached Lobster

Next, butter poached Maine lobster with wild mushrooms, lima beans, parsnips and  preserved lemons served on a sweet corn purée. What a wonderful combination of flavors.

Foie Gras With Cider Doughnut

Next, foie gras with a bourbon-cider sauce and apples. This dish was served with a cider doughnut and mascarpone cream.

Squab With Butter BeansNext, palmetto squab with butter beans, bacon, yellow tomato chow-chow, and a herb jus.  Southern tastes through and through.

Lamb Chop

Next, a grilled Colorado  double lamb chop with roasted Brussels spouts, purée of potatoes and a Dijon tarragon demi-glace.

Pre Dessert

Are you still with me? I guess you could call the next course pre dessert.

Graham Cracker Molten Cake

And then the finale. A graham cracker molten cake with chocolate ganache, brown butter marshmallow and smoked almond ice cream.

The quality of the food and the level of service was exceptional. The meal will probably be the best one we have on our entire trip. We left the restaurant totally stuffed and happily walked back to our hotel for a good nights sleep. I guess you know that we skipped the milk and cookies being offered in our hotel lobby.

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About Karen

I travel the back roads of New England and beyond, sharing great food and interesting places.
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85 Responses to Historic Charleston, Raw Bars To Fine Dining

  1. Amy says:

    wow, i’m seriously jealous of your meal…and your travels. I’m craving some oysters right about now!

  2. The food looks fabulous!

  3. Wow – what a fantastic night you spent in Charleston. It´s not part of the world I know anything about but you have “tickled my fancy”! I love, love, love oysters and the ones you ate looked amazing. And as for the taster menu..well, I think you did well to choose such an amazing restaurant. But no milk and cookies?!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tanya, If you ever get a chance to come to the east coast of our country, this is a lovely town to visit. Thanks to locals for their suggestions, we had extremely fresh oysters and a truly memorable meal. You know I am full when I pass up milk and cookies. I didn’t even have the chocolates that were left by our pillow.

  4. spree says:

    What a lovely day and night in charming Charleston! And oh what an exquisitely artistic meal you had! (you must have done your homework!)

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Spree, for your nice comment. You are right…I always research restaurants. When I reach the city we are visiting, then I compare my list with the locals. I am usually never disappointed if I am specific with what my husband and I are looking for.

  5. What a stunning meal from start to finish!

  6. Monique says:

    I’d love to visit! Your post is timely I am reading MLee West’s book Gone w/ a Handsomer Man~
    Set in Charleston etc..

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your comment, Monique. If you get a chance to visit Charleston, I know you will enjoy the town. It does sound like my post is timely, enjoy your book.

  7. (Note to self: will get fat if you visit Charleston. ) This is a city I haven’t been too yet but hope to–especially for seeing the historic homes…and now food. ~~Bliss

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bliss, Your comments always make me laugh. The historic homes are beautiful…I just wish it was later in the season when everything would be in bloom. I’m going to hate getting on a scale but I always eat what I want when I travel. When I return home, I will start eating healthy again.

  8. What a great evening! Now, I’m convinced. I need to visit Charleston.

  9. Mad Dog says:

    Wow – that all looks delicious. I went to an oyster bar on St. George Island, Florida, for a starter of oysters (before dinner) and never made it to the restaurant – the oysters were so good I ate about 3 dozen, Good job we hadn’t made reservations ;-)

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Mad Dog. I think some of the best oysters in Florida come from the area around St. George Island. It sounds like you and my husband could be dining partners. I can’t imagine how many oysters he could eat, but I know it is a lot.

      • Mad Dog says:

        I nearly bought a huge sack to take home with me when I left – maybe 20 lbs for $12, but I realised that even I had had enough! They were amazing oysters though.

  10. Karen, I would walk over hot coals right now to have that plate of raw oysters! They look perfect & juicy and so fresh. Charleston is a wonderful city, one of the jewels of the South. The food, the houses, the ocean nearby. Enhoy.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Teresa, Thank you for your comment. I was ready to publish this post and realized I did’t have the photo of the oysters. It appears they are a favorite of a lot of people…glad I remembered to include the photo. We will definitely be going back to Charleston to spend more time. I have a list of restaurants that I still need to try and many museums to see. Actually, I would love to go when they do their historic homes and gardens tour…I hear that is wonderful.

  11. Charleston is fantastic! The food alone looks amazing. But I’m not sure I’d ever leave the Inn with the wine and cheese, milk and cookies.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carol, We loved the French Quarter Inn…it is in a great location. We had a lovely room, there were so many amenities and the people that worked there were so nice.

  12. lulu says:

    So many good places to eat in Charleston, it’s hard to pick one. I’m heading that way later in the spring to visit Maine friends who also live in SC.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lulu, Spring will be such a great time of the year to visit South Carolina. Not too hot and so many plants and trees will be in bloom. It should be beautiful.

  13. Judy says:

    Ah, Colorado lamb–absolutely wonderful! Now I am hungry and no lamb to be found in my fridge. :( Guess I’ll have to admire your lovely meal again and imagine…

  14. What a wonderful post Karen, thank you for taking us along. I’ve never really thought about Charleston, but your photos certainly make me want to see it. And the food…incredible.

  15. Cayla says:

    Charleston is on my list of places to go… i’ve been told that the fall time is the best! i have also heard that the culinary attractions are incredible!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cayla, I’m sure that the fall would be a great time to visit Charleston. I know we missed a lot of the beauty that the town has to offer because of it being winter. Even so, we loved it. King street where Pearlz was had so many restaurants that we walked by…all the menus sounded great.

  16. Gary Lum says:

    The food images are amazing. I would love all of that. I love the way you marry the architecture and food together in your blog posts.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gary, Thank you for your nice compliment. I do try to include both food and architecture in my blogs. I really enjoy both and it seems that so many readers do as well.

  17. Jane says:

    Wow, everything looks so good! Great pictures!

  18. ChgoJohn says:

    Charleston is one of those rare destinations where you never here an ill word used to describe it. Your photos and description certainly don’t. I totally agree with your dinner plans. Whether here or abroad, ask the locals. Rarely will they steer you wrong.

    • Karen says:

      Hi John, You are right about Charleston. Mention the town to anyone and you hear nothing but good things. Most locals are so proud of their good food that they enjoy sharing what they considered their favorites. I have a list of more restaurants for our next visit.

  19. spicegirlfla says:

    I’ve definitely heard of Charleston being the place to visit in the South and it looks like you hit some great spots on your brief visit through. I’d be in heaven having all those courses of food appear before me!!

  20. What a fabulous looking meal that was at Charleston Place. I haven’t been to Charleston in a few years, but used to go frequently and the historic area really is beautiful. You’d probably enjoy Savannah, GA, too, if you haven’t been already and ever get the chance to stop there. The historic squares are lovely, great food and hotels, and even beach at Tybee if you have the time. Charleston and Savannah are kind of “sister” cities. Thanks for sharing your travels…always a great armchair tour!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, Thank you for your nice comment. The meal at the Charleston Grill was world class dining. We were in Savannah two years ago but didn’t get a chance to stay but one night. That was when we were trying to out run the blizzard that was barreling down the east coast. We will be stopping on our way back north this trip. Charleston and Savannah have a lot of similarities…especially all the beautiful historic homes and gardens. We are looking forward to returning.

  21. twbarritt says:

    Oh, I just love Charleston. I was only there once for an extended weekend visit, but between the history, the food and the architecture, I was in heaven. I visited gracious old plantations by day and the evening meals were superb – makes me want to go back again!

    • Karen says:

      Hi T.W., Thank you for your comment. I know what you mean about Charleston, I can’t wait to go back and I just left. Everything about the town was as wonderful as you said.

  22. Juliana says:

    I never been to South Carolina…and what a meal…everything looks fabulous, I like your pre dessert :)
    Hope you have a great week ahead Karen :)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Juliana, Thank you for your nice comment. If you get the opportunity to go to Charleston, I think you will enjoy it. Have a great week as well.

  23. Michelle says:

    One of my favorite cities, for sure. Glad you enjoyed your short visit!

  24. Wow your food pictures are making me drool! There are a couple of places in the States on my list of places to visit. I think I am going to add this one!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your nice comment. I really think that you would enjoy Charleston. The architecture, the history, the food and the friendly people. Yes, do put Charleston on you list of places to visit.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Pearlz is pretty amazing! I took Shawn there for his birthday last year b/c he’s a huge oyster fan. Charleston Grill I have never experienced beyond the bar, but it always smells fantastic! Next time I’m in Charleston, I am so going for that that graham cracker molten cake! Mmmmm, mmmmm! Can’t wait to hear about the next stop :-) ~Ruth

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ruth, Thank you for your nice comment. Pearlz was so much fun…live music, fresh oysters on the half shell, beer on draft and nice wines. I would go back to Charleston Grill in a heartbeat but I still have more restaurants on “must do” list.

  26. Love Charleston – we were there in the fall and did the tour around the city in the horse and carriage. I loved hearing about the architecture and the history. Savannah is my other favorite southern city.

    That tasting menu sounds like so much fun. Everything sounds wonderful – especially the lambchops and that donut. Yum!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Becki, Thank you for your nice comment. Charleston was wonderful and Savannah is a planned stop on the return to New Hampshire. The tasting menu was so great…Charleston Grill is truly one of Charleston’s bests restaurants.

  27. I’m repeating what others are saying, but your photos really ARE wonderful! What a meal! I would love to visit Charleston again. It’s a charming and historical town. I’m so glad you’re taking the slow path to Florida. It’s stirring up happy memories for me! Debra

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debra, Thank you for your nice compliment. I’m happy that you are enjoying our slow trip to Florida and back. Charleston was a fun town to visit.

  28. Charles says:

    What a charming little city (town?)

    That restaurant looks just fabulous – really inspired stuff and just beautiful presentation. I just love the look of that cider doughnut… so cool!

  29. Happy travels! You know you are a REAL foodie, when you take pictures of every dish that you are served in a restaurant. A toast to us REAL foodies. Looks yummy.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bam, My husband and I really are foodies. Of course we love a great burger, but we do enjoy a multi course meal with wine as well. When dining in a restaurant, we try to be respectful of those around us…a small point and shot camera and no flash.

  30. I’d love to visit Charleston. It’d be fun to imagine Rhett Butler walking around the corner from Gone with the Wind.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Chunklet, Rhett Butler coming around the corner. If he was as handsome as Clark Gable…I’d be speechless and probably faint. You will love Charleston and we can all dream.

  31. Now this is my way to travel by car to Florida! It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Charleston and it was fun reading about it and of course seeing your dinner. :-) I loved Charleston and the food was fabulous. Safe travels

  32. lvaletutto says:

    Hi Karen! Sounds like Charleston was a lot of fun. I’m a little confused about the concept of their tasting menu. Did you each pick seven things off the menu or did you and your husband share the seven courses above? Also did you pick one from each of the 4 categories (plus an appetizer a pre dessert and a dessert)? Sounds like a fun way to sample the menu and a bit like Tapas.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laura, I guess I should have explained. The very first tasting we ever did was in Trier,Germany. The chef came out and asked if we would like to test his kitchen. That is really what it is all about. The chef selects what he or she considers their signature recipes (asking if there are any ingredients that you can’t or don’t eat) and sends course after course out to the entire table. Sometimes your waiter will come back and let you know what the chef will be preparing and other times it is a total surprise. Each person at the table must order the tasting menu and each will receive all seven dishes. No sharing…as you can see, it is a lot of food.

  33. cabinet stew says:

    I am totally “full” from that meal :-)
    Going to have to put Charleston on the list!

  34. Sissi says:

    Charleston looks like a charming town with exceptional restaurant(s) and a hotel to bookmark! I wonder if i could swap the cookies & milk for more champagne or wine…. I guess not ;-)
    I see you can still enjoy foie gras in the US! It’s good news! The whole meal looks extraordinary! I must say you have made very good photos (I know it’s difficult to make photos in restaurants…).

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sissi, Thank you for your nice compliment. It really is hard taking photos in restaurants but I do try. I probably have to eliminate half of what I take but I think everyone enjoys seeing the dishes as well as descriptions. I’m all for more Champagne or wine myself.

  35. koritt says:

    I love Charleston! Beautiful photos. I’m practically drooling right now after seeing the food photos. I hope you’re having a wonderful and safe drip down the Eastern Seaboard! :)

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Koritt, for your nice comment and wishes for a safe journey. We are having a great time and I’m happy that you are enjoying the journey with us.

  36. I loved seeing the pier, it looks so beautiful, and the garden rooms reminded me of boulevards in france. But oh the oysters, you can’t beat the taste of the sea!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Claire, Thank you for your comment. The waterfront park was lovely and you are right…it does remind me of the tree lined boulevards that you see in France.

  37. Your trip looks fantastic. What a great meal you had. I love oysters….. and that great piece of art looks good before the actual plate of oysters come up.

  38. Lea Ann says:

    Man that food looks wonderful.

  39. Looks like a interessting place to visit and the food is tempting, I am getting an appetite. =)

  40. Tandy says:

    each time I see the pics of the food you are eating, I want to dive right in and take a bite!

  41. ....RaeDi says:

    You brought back so many wonderful memories… Charleston at its best!

  42. Pingback: Historic Charleston Revisited | Back Road Journal

  43. Wow! I willbdefinitely put that charming hotel on the list (if ever) I visit Charleston. I love the photos , not only of the food (of course!) but also the surrounds :)

  44. Carolyn Chan says:

    That’s it. It’s a sign… Two of your posts have oysters in them. I have been longing for some good oysters for ages, time to go hunt them down in Singapore !

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