Each December, I recap my favorite dishes of the year (see 2015’s post here), and as I ate my way through Charleston in September, all I could think was this: almost every meal there could be a contender for The 16 Best Things I Ate in 2016. And if that’s not the highest praise I can offer a place, I don’t know what is.
In all my pre-trip research, one sentiment came up time and again: “this is a fantastic food city.” I was excited, but cautiously so, since not all southern food is really my jam. Shrimp and grits? Sweet tea? Fried green tomatoes? Pass, pass, and hard pass.
I need not have worried. Yes, you can get all those things, along with all the other cliché southern favorites, but there’s plenty more to explore, and I did my best to do just that. I tried to mix it up while in town, picking a few places that were straight up, southern comfort food, and a few that were more modern. Overall, I think I did a pretty great job (though, of course, there were plenty of restaurants I didn’t have time to try this time around).
I’m writing about these out of order so that I can start with my absolute favorite: dinner at Zero George. Everything here was impeccable, from the service (so friendly, so informative) to the presentation to, of course, the food itself. For dinner, there are basically two options: a three course prix fixe where you pick your own dishes, or the chef’s five course tasting menu with beverage pairings. Since there were a couple options on the menu I really wanted to make sure I got, I went with the prix fixe plus a “snack” (an option not on the menu, but that my server told me about).
The snack was the chef’s deviled eggs, one of the dishes he’s most known for. I don’t usually eat deviled eggs, so I was hesitant about ordering these but decided to go for it. Two words, three syllables: thank goodness. Each egg comes topped with a different garnish (housemade chorizo, pickled mustard, and truffled mushrooms were among the toppings mine had), and each combination was incredibly tasty. Plus, the deviled egg filling was the creamiest and whippiest and wonderfullest (I’m pretending that’s a word) ever.
The rest of the dishes were just as sublime. My starter was a wood-grilled octopus with bits of lamb belly, both of which were incredible, but the lamb belly particularly so. For my main, I chose a pork with kohlrabi and a crisp apple wrapper. And for dessert, an amazing tres leches cake, made with coconut milk and served with honeycomb. It was flawless, start to finish.
When it came to more traditional fare, Poogan’s Porch was one of my absolute favorites. I stopped in for a late lunch after discovering that the line at the spot I had initially planned to try (167 Raw) was insane. I’m so glad I made it here! My brunch cocktail – whose name, sadly, eludes me – was fab, and the fried chicken sandwich was to.die.for. I mean, just look at it:
For breakfast one morning, I made my way to Hominy Grill. There was a line when I arrived, but things moved quickly. Plus, they have a cute little take-away window where you can order a cocktail while you wait. Genius, really. Once inside, I dug in, feasting on the Brunch Punch, cornbread, and chicken huevos. There were so many dishes on the menu I wanted to try here. Definitely at the top of my list for my next Charleston jaunt!
I was a bit surprised, though I guess I shouldn’t have been, by how warm it still was when I visited Charleston. Lucky for me, the city has the perfect cooling off treat at Peace Pies, an ice cream sandwich shop. I tried the chocolate coffee toffee and it was INSANE. All caps totally, totally warranted – I couldn’t believe how yummy this was. One touch I really loved: the cookies here are nice and crispy – something I far prefer to your usual soft-cookie ice cream sammy.
Cannon Green is owned by the same people who own Zero George, so going in, I knew it would be fantastic. The space is awesome: huge and open, with a gorgeous bar and green chairs at every table. The service is wonderful; my waitress was so friendly and chatty, and I felt very well taken care of. And, of course, the food is pretty great, too. I had an aaaaaaah-mazing cheese plate to start, and a crab cake sandwich for my main.
Husk is a hot ticket in Charleston, but luckily I scored a reservation and a seat on the upstairs porch, which was quite lovely. While I was itching to try their oysters to start, I didn’t think my stomach could handle that much food, so I skipped straight to my main, a perfect chicken with brussels sprouts. For dessert, I had the utterly decadent chocolate caramel cheesecake. Nom.
I can honestly say I didn’t have a bad meal in Charleston; every place I went knocked me over with its food and flavors. For a foodie, the city really is just about the perfect weekend getaway.