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5 nights in Charleston. 1 more dinner rec. needed

Our trip takes us to Charleston for 5 nights. We're staying in the Historic District and it would be nice to be able to walk to dinner.

We may never pass this way again so it's important to us that we eat good regional cuisine which, we know, means we might have to pass up on some more eclectic "Wow Factor" places. The following four seem a good mix of what we are looking for:-

McCrady's
82 Queen
Magnolia's
Poogan's Porch

But where would be your recommendation to a travelling Brit for the 5th night?

TIA

John

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  1. SNOB (Slightly North of Broad)

    1. The Hominy Grill is a popular spot that serves a good breakfast /brunch /lunch as well ad dinner. Here is the menu.

      http://hominygrill.com/menu.php

      Another that is all about the regional is Jestine's Kitchen

      A review from Roadfood:

      www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Overview.asp...

      1. I highly reccomend the Peninsula Grill, phenomenal coconut cake and great atmosphere.

        1. Agreed with Jestine's, mostly because of the unique experience. A must for overseas travelers -- always take out of towners there!

          I'd consider adding SNOB (never disappoints) and remove Poogan's Porch (really not consistently good, sorry about that). And I would most likely reconsider 82 Queen (can be dreadful actually). How about either Hank's or Peninsula Grill?

          2 Replies
          1. re: birgator

            I would also recommend against going to Poogan's Porch. I second the recs for SNOB and Hank's. I would say Hank's is your best bet for seafood downtown. I would recommend Peninsuala Grill for dessert, but otherwise I think you'll find better food and service at Tristan, Circa 1886, or Charleston Grill (in order of my preference). Cypress is also nice.

            While not strictly regional, FIG and Cordavi are also good choices.

            While I'm not the biggest fan of Jestine's, it's a lot easier to walk to from the tourist district than Hominy Grill is. Personally, I prefer Boulevard Diner across the bridge in Mt. Pleasant to both Jestine's and HG when it comes to more down-home cooking.

            1. re: Low Country Jon

              I totally agree. Poogans Porch and 82 Queen, while cute in pics online (and from the street for that matter) should be scratched from the list. SNOB and Charleston Grill won't disappoint you.

          2. Having just returned from Charleston, and having dined at 82 Queen with a gift certificate, I must urge you to avoid. It's an over-priced tourist trap. Our experience was almost comical in its awfulness.

            2 Replies
            1. re: uptown jimmy

              Wow, we ate at 82 Queen several months ago, and found it quite satisfying. Has it gone downhill (or are we easily impressed)?

              1. re: Cubancoffee

                I do not know. I have no desire to do anything other than relate our experience. It's nice that you didn't take offense, though. : )

                I will say that during my research on Chowhound prior to our honeymoon, I turned up a LOT of negative posts about the place. We wouldn't have gone except for the gift certificate, just too many bad reviews.

            2. I you aren't looking for "fancy" restaurants you might look at these websites:
              www.roadfood.com and www.hollyeats.com

              1. Another vote for Peninsula Grill, and if you go, do defintely try the coconut cake. We loved the food at this place, and they have a nice wine selection, but the cake is the real icing on the ... uh, cake.

                1. Honestly, we were disappointed in the Peninsula Grill--they set the tables so close together that it was like eating with ( loud ) strangers-not the best atmosphere. The food was good but not great. My husband had the cake and sid that it was " just fine" --not the best reccomendation from a dessert addict.
                  We love Sienna--but it is out a bit--you would have to drive or take a cab. But it is WONDERFUL italian food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gungadin

                    We had supern Italian at Al Di La in West Ashley. Just impeccable food.

                  2. I agree with those suggesting leaving 82 Queen and Poogan's Porch off your list. In their place I would suggest, SNOB - I think they have the best shrimp & grits in town, Hank's for seafood and Jestine's for southern. All of these restaurants are within walking distance, meet your criteria and SNOB & Jestine's are also open for lunch.

                    1. Thanks for the replies so far. Please keep them coming.

                      We already have Jestine's and Hominy Grill on the lunch list

                      Any thoughts on the Charleston Grill and Circa 1886?

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Brit on a Trip

                        Charleston Grill is amazing. World-class, I would say. One of the most intimate and delightful dinners we'vehad, but we were cuddling in one of those banquettes... ; )

                        The food, service, atmosphere, it's all good. They have remodeled recently, though.

                          1. re: flowerchick

                            The Charleston Grill has changed dramatically after their renovation. See
                            http://www.charlestongrill.com . Any recommendation prior to the renovation should be treated as if it had reviewed a completely different restaurant. [Some may notice I have it in my profile as one of my top 5 restaurants ever visited - I may have to remove it or at least annotate it with "old version"

                            ]

                            The atmosphere is now redesigned to be casual. Totally gutted the sophisticated intimacy of what once was.

                            The menu is divided into four "quadrants" and seems to be much less creative and much more "fusiony" than before. I think they are catering to the masses to boost attendance at the expense of the exemplary refinement that IMO defined what was great about them. DRESS CODE: "CASUAL ATTIRE WELCOME" That's the last thing I expected of the place, where suits and ties were the (wonderful) norm - it was the true epitome of Charleston-style class.

                            If anyone down there has a chance to try the new Charleston Grill, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. As for myself, I'm not willing to risk my upcoming weekend there with my fiancee's first visit to the city, so I've substituted it for McCrady's. It may be avant garde, but at least it promises to be interesting. Plus, McCrady's atmosphere is to die for.

                            1. re: mikeh

                              Wow. Nice post, and I feel you on this one. If you're suspicions are valid, it will be a great shame.

                              To be honest, they were mostly empty the night we were there. I wasn't surprised to hear of a remodel, and of a revamping of the menu.

                              What a shame. It was a truly awesome experience. I felt like royalty, you know? I felt like someone really special while I was there. The food was amazing.

                              1. re: mikeh

                                I see what you mean about "fusiony". Looked at the menu last night - not at all what I expected having read various reviews of the place. Our trip isnt until September so there's some time to see reviews before I need to panic about making reservations.

                                As an aside, your comment about suits is most interesting. It's rare in the UK these days to come across even high end restaurants where "smart casual" is not welcomed. I've been surprised at the apparent much greater formality indicated on US restaurants' websites.

                                John

                                1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                  I think you'll find you can get away with "smart casual" at just about any restauarant in Charleston. No matter how upscale the restaurant, there are always tourists, particularly in the summer, who will wear shorts and even sandals. Yes, I've seen this even at the "old" Charleston Grill. Even Cypress has done away with its "men must wear jackets" rule, which was only enforced on the first floor anyway.

                                  Charleston Grill's new menu doesn't look too bad to me, but I worry that its attempt to be all things to all people will fail. Interesting to note that though they may be going for a more casual feel, their prices don't reflect this in the least little bit! Anyway, I've always thought the service at Charleston Grill was the real draw, so I hope that doesn't go downhill. Foodwise, I would pick Tristan and Circa 1886 over Charleston Grill, though I give CG bonus points for having decent tea service (as they should since they serve afternoon tea in the lounge next door). Service-wise, CG is only rivaled by Woodlands, where the service may even be too attentive, if such a thing is possible. It comes awfully close to hovering. At CG, they give you a little more breathing room.

                                  1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                    It's really all a relative thing. In the South I guess the greater "formality" is more common - typically the diners in the higher-end restaurants in places like Charleston are older people. Old Southern men love bowties too, and cheap department store khakis with double-breasted blazers with those awful gold buttons; I guess it's some desire to look like an old British sailor. Personally, "smart casual" looks much better to me, but you can't convince some people! Hope you enjoy your trip to Charleston - you'll get to see the way some people are in the South. I think it's part of the charm about living here in a lot of ways, but it's also what keeps us behind the rest of the country sometimes.

                          2. Another vote for SNOB!
                            It was profiled in the Times' 36 Hours series last week:

                            http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/...

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: carissarene

                              Ok I am going to get flamed but here is my recommendation
                              Sticky Fingers

                              I know it's a chain but if you are from Britain, it might be just the kind of thing you can't get at home. It's also a chain that is specific to the SE USA and you can walk to the DT Charleston Location. It's good barbeque. Maybe a local can recommend something better. But Barbecue is undeniably part of southern cooking.

                              Just to decrease my flaming, I would also say to skip 82 Queen and go for Jestine's for a more authentic experience.

                              1. re: mnitchals

                                I recommend Joseph's. They only have breakfast and lunch but the food's really good and quite southern. Good fried oysters. For breakfast they have "southern" items like sweet potato pancakes with pecan butter. They also offer a really southern dessert (and one that is difficult to find), banana's foster.

                                1. re: mnitchals

                                  This is a really thoughtful suggestion. You're right - we do not have BBQ in Britain and I always try to get some on our infrequent visits to the US. Of course, it's so infrequent that I never know if I've been getting good stuff.

                                  I have a separate thread running trying to find somewhere in Asheville, NC, where we stay a night before coming to Charleston. I see Sticky Fingers has a branch in Savannah where we are going to spend a few days (probably on Tybee) before flying to New York for our flight home. BBQ will fit in better with those more "chill out" days, but thanks for the rec. that the chain is pretty good.

                                  So many restaurants....so short a trip.

                                  John

                                  1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                    If you're looking for good BBQ I highly reccomend checking out www.hollyeats.com.
                                    He has a section on Carolina BBQ. His recs are nothing fancy, but you find the best BBQ at the grimiest looking spots.

                                    1. re: izzizzi

                                      >...you find the best BBQ at the grimiest looking spots.

                                      With that in mind I've got a BBQ tip for you. Scott's Variety Store on SC 261 just west of Hemingway, SC. They're open Thurs-Sat. Take-out only. If you're going to Litchfield there is a direct route from Cola. that takes you right by Scott's. Skip the chicken and go for the Q by the pound. Get a little extra sauce (vinegar and pepper w/pinch sugar) on the side and a loaf of bread. [ izzizzi, this will give you another usual spot to add to your beach trips ;^) ]

                                      (843) 558-0134
                                      2734 Hemingway Hwy (SC-261)
                                      Brunson Crossroads
                                      Hemingway, SC 29554

                                       
                                       
                                      1. re: Cpt Wafer

                                        That sounds great...will deifnently have to try. Are you familiar with the Litchfield beach area food scene at all?

                                    2. re: Brit on a Trip

                                      What's your trip plan? Are you going to Savannah from Charleston?

                                      1. re: deibu

                                        Our full 3 week trip starts with 3 days in Washington (where I hope to catch up with a couple of internet friends). We then spend a few days driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville. Then we have Charleston and then go to Savannah (probably actually stay at Tybee for a few days). Finally we fly to New York for 2 days before catching our flight back to the UK. 20 minutes after landing at Manchester, I'm home.

                                2. I never see anyone talking about Carolina's. It used to be my favorite chas. restaurant when I lived there 5-6 years ago. Has anyone been there lately to give a review. If they are anything like they used to be I would highly recommend it. Another great rest. that I rarely see mentioned is Fulton Five on King St. I've been there several times and one or two visits still rank in my top ten best meals ever.

                                  Someone else has already mentioned Boulevard Diner and I would second, third, and fourth, that recommendation. Once I got out of college and started spending my own money that became my favorite restaurant. A surprisingly imaginative menu for the prices that you pay. I'm a southerner from just up the road and this is good southern food. I would definately choose it over Hominy Grill or Jestines.

                                  I tried Hominy Grill time and time again when I lived down there thinking that maybe I was just catching it on bad days but I never had a meal that was above mediocre.

                                  I can understand why people would go to Jestines since they have a good southern diner kind of menu and what they cook is generally not bad but the diners that you find in every small town throughout the south typically do a better job. Since there aren't too many diners in DT Chas. I can understand the draw. You'd do better just getting off of the interstate in any small town between Asheville and Chas. and eating fried chicken and macaroni and cheese there though.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: GrillMaster

                                    hominy grill should be good for shrimp n grits and buttermilk pie.

                                    also, gullah cuisine in (mt pleasant???) should be reallly good.

                                    a third on the rec for peninsula grill if ony for the much heralded coconut layer cake.

                                  2. SNOB is pretty good for local flavor. Charleston Place is very good, but very expensive. Their wine list is a bonus, as it's one of if not the best in Charleston. FIG has a little less local flavor, but great ingredient driven food and some of the best value in fine dining. I send a word of caution about Magnolia's. My last meal there was poor, and included what the server called a signature dish. If you do go, stay away from the parmesan crusted flounder with tasteless crab, ugly asparagus and starchy corn

                                    1. The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene. Sit on the dock and have a beer out of the cooler while you wait for a table. They provide the bug spray for your wait. Beautiful view, serious low-country place. I almost don't want to share it.
                                      http://www.wreckrc.com/

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: itsrob

                                        For an incredibly warm and family friendly, and a menu filled with low country specialties, (away from the tourists) Starfish Grille, on Folly Road on James Island (just a few minutes drive from downtown) is the real deal. Fabulous shrimp and grits, po'boys, and chowders. my favorite there is actually the eggplant appetizer.
                                        you won't be disappointed, and neither will your kids or your wallet.

                                      2. Many thanks for all the ideas.

                                        Mrs Brit & I have been reading Chowhound, reading menus, reading other review sites and we've made three reservations which give us a good mix of food (we think) - SNOB, Magnolia's & Peninsula Grill. I think we've also picked up some good ideas for more casual places for walk-in or short notice reservations

                                        The trip across "the pond" is a 35th anniversary present to ourselves and we're counting the days till mid-September. I'll report back on the meals.

                                        John

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                          My husband and I (married 40 years) had a wonderful dinner at High Cotton in Charleston. It is walkable from the Charleston Hotel (near Market Street) Great fish and respectable wine list. Try the martinis at the bar, before your dinner.

                                          We also drove out to Isle of Palms one Sunday morning to have some brunch at a small dive...can't remember the name, but maybe a fellow chowhound will know. The drive itself is incredible and people were lined up for the crabcakes benedict for brunch. bloody marys were good too!

                                          We also enjoyed a casual supper one night in a restaurant that was on top of one of the buildings off Market Street. Sorry that I cannot remember the name of it. The view was incredible and the food was decent. We thought it was romantic.

                                        2. I don't remember what I had for dinner last night, but I remember every bite of every dish at Fig when we were there 3 or 4 weeks ago. Everything was that special. Ingredients are fresh as you can get, specials are inspired.Tables are far enough apart that you can enjoy each other's company. Service was crisp and our waitress' suggestions were right on the mark.

                                          Fig's open only for dinner but I'd encourage you to try it. I found it the best we had in Charleston.