The southern town of Charleston, South Carolina is so lovely that it deserves multiple visits to really get to know all of its’ hidden charms. That is exactly what my husband and I did on our road trip down to Florida and back. You may recall that we had stopped for one day in Charleston but the lure of the picturesque city was calling us back as we headed north to our home in New England. Once again we stayed at the French Quarter Inn and were greeted with Champagne as we checked in.
After unpacking and settling in to our French inspired bedroom, we headed out to explore the city. The hotel is within walking distance of most everything that you want to visit and is right across from the restored markets.
While walking through the market, I stopped and spoke with a woman who has made lovely sweetgrass baskets for over 70 years. The making of baskets has been handed down through her family from generation to generation. Her baskets are both beautiful and unusual.
Right outside the market you can find horse or mule draw carriages that will take you on a guided tour of the historic section of Charleston, stopping along the way to explain about the history of the beautiful homes and buildings from a century ago.
It was a damp and gray day but Charleston is such a wonderful city for walking that we decided to take a stroll so that we might peak down alleys and through garden gates. We discovered small hidden gardens,
some public with statues or fountains, others were private and very intimate.
Walking always builds up your appetite, so we headed back to the hotel to enjoy the free wine and cheese reception and meet some of the other guests staying at the hotel. Then it was upstairs to our room to change for dinner, a short walk away.
Tonight’s dinner reservation was at FIG. The initials stand for Food is Good and believe me it was. Chef Mike Lata was named Best Chef of the Southeast by the James Bread Foundation in 2010. The well known restaurant is renowned for its quality ingredients sourced from local farmers and growers. The restaurant feels like a combination of a neighborhood café and a little chic bistro.
Appetizers were classic yet served in a stylish and creative way. We started with a Wagyu beef carpaccio and chicken liver pâté.
Main courses were a delicious slow baked snapper with artichoke-cauliflower grenobloise and a suckling pig confit, with sautéed greens, roasted beets and mustard jus.
The next day, we were off again to explore the city. Unfortunately it was another drizzly day, but that couldn’t stop us. Thankfully the rain stopped and even though we didn’t have beautiful sun, we enjoyed our day of discovery.
We had made a reservation at Husk for lunch. This is probably one of the most well known restaurants in town and it didn’t disappoint.
Husk is noted for its farm to table meals. After walking in the front door you see a chalk board that has a list of ingredients used in the days cooking and the farms they came from.
We ordered to items from their snacks section of the menu to start…grilled crostinis with pimento cheese and country ham and SC smoky wings with charred onion BBQ glaze and Sea Island benne.
Lunch was SC shrimp and grits with braised peppers and onion and Surry sausage an a Vermillion snapper with Carolina gold rice and tomato bacon braised pole beans. We had to have two of their famous sides for the table…bacon cornbread and country ham braised greens. We would go back to Husk just for another helping of sides. They were the best we have ever had.
Our evening started with cocktails at The Gin Joint and should have ended there with some small plates. The Gin joint specializes in pre-Prohibition spirits. Their cocktails are made with the best quality ingredients and spirits. They are so particular about making the best cocktail that they juice their own fruit and make their own syrups. The many paged cocktail menu is full of slings, smashes, fizzes and fine small batch sipping spirits.
I don’t like to criticize restaurants…that is up to local reviewers. I have decided to make an exception and say that my tip of the day is not to go to Amen Street restaurant. The she crab soup was like eating a bowl of bland thick gravy. A salad of marinated tomatoes, hearts of palm and gorgonzola was sent back because it was uneatable. Oysters on the half shell were fine but shucked in the kitchen instead of out front. This has been the only restaurant on our entire trip that we left without ordering a main course. I don’t think I need to say more.
As much fun as we have had on our two brief stays…we are already looking forward to our next trip to Charleston, South Carolina. The historic city, the delicious food and the warmth of the people will keep us coming back for many years to come.