When going to a city I’ve never been to before, the first thing I research is places to eat. Sure, I will also need a place to rest my head at night but finding a place to stay is more daunting to me than finding a superb restaurant. So I did my Trip Advisor research and then some. We were only staying in Charleston for 5 days so that meant I had to narrow down my search to only 4 places for dinner! I decided to pick 2 places and the other 2 I left to chance (because there is nothing better than coming across an adorable hole-in-the-wall dive on a random stroll through the neighborhood). I wish I could go back and do it all 2 more times but if you ever find yourself lost in the streets of Charleston, I can point you in the right direction.
The Charleston Grill caught my attention, due to its large and very creative menu, their nightly jazz band, and its exquisite decor. Chris and I went here for our anniversary dinner and it was everything I dreamed it would be! The menu is split up into 4 themes. Within those themes, you can choose appetizers and entrees. You can also mix and match those themes (please!) so you can get a bunch of different bites. The menu makes it easy for anyone’s eating lifestyle to find something they can truly feel good about. The menu does change but I have a feeling if I go back in a year from now, I will be just as thrilled with the menu choices as I was last week. I would recommend the crab cake as a starter and then pick anything with lobster for your entree. Oh and for a cocktail? Get the Effen Good because that is exactly what it is!
Our favorite place to lunch in Charleston is Butcher and Bee. We were told about this place by a friend who had visited Charleston and couldn’t stop raving about it.Butcher and Bee is a cozy sandwich shop but with a gourmet twist. As you walk up to this unlikely eatery, you notice it’s a local favorite because every seat is taken and there is a line to place your order. Stepping into the restaurant, you are met with smiles from all of the employees and a big waft of butter hits your nose. Do you really want to be anywhere else? Their menu also changes daily but in such a very good way. Our first visit consisted of a Pickled Shrimp Po’ Boy and Roast Beef Sandwich with Chimichurri and smoked onion jam. We went back the next day and encountered the best fried chicken sandwich we have ever had. It sounds like a simple thing but when you have had many a fried chicken sandwich in your life, originality isn’t what comes to mind when thinking about them. This deliciousness was topped with a special garlic aioli and dill verde sauce. You need this in your life! This is the kind of place you can go to a hundred times, never get the same thing, and be perfectly content every time. Also, when I call a restaurant cozy, that means you will be sitting next to or across from a stranger. Think of this as a chance to embrace the southern hospitality and strike up a conversation! Tip: The house brewed sweet tea is served in ice cold mason jars. Adorable!
Another fun lunch spot is Home Team BBQ. We stumbled across it after a very hot but pleasant visit to Sullivans Island. We showed up in bathing suits and sand dusted hair and were treated very kindly. Start with the BBQ Chips and Queso with Smoked Sausage for an app then indulge in the BBQ of your liking.
We stayed at the Fulton Lane Inn and as I was peeping out of one of our third story windows, I noticed a quaint restaurant across the street with an Italian flag hanging above it’s black awning. Chris and I both are BIG Italian food lovers so we knew this place would be perfect for our last night in Charleston. And friends, it was. Fulton Five has been voted Charleston’s Most Romantic Restaurant for the last 17 years! We were lucky to score a late reservation for a Saturday night (I highly recommend making reservations in advance). The room is small and dim, with a decor that looks untouched since the 1920’s (in a charming way, not in an old, musky way). We indulged in Squash Bruschetta, Italian wine, lamb and sausage tortellini, lobster and fennel orecchiette, and of course, tiramisu. It was truly our best Italian dining experience to date. We WILL return!
Although these places were my favorite to visit, I have a few honorable mentions:
Hank’s Seafood has a Casablanca feel being located in an old building close to the water. The Fried Oyster appetizer is definitely a must and if you haven’t had your fill on Southern fried food already, get one of their fried seafood platters (fried oysters for days). They also have more “mature” options if fried isn’t your thing. My husband isn’t a seafood fan but couldn’t stop praising the beef tenderloin.
We become quite the ice-cream connoisseurs on vacation and found Jeni’s to be our favorite. Their flavors are original (Riesling Poached Pear sorbet? C’mon!), and their ingredients are high quality. Good news: they sell pints of Jeni’s at my local Whole Foods.
If you are ever looking for a fun, relaxing, yummy vacation, look into Charleston. You might just run into me….or Bill Murray.