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Apr 3, 2007 09:22 AM

Bostonhounds planning Charleston trip. Help!

We are celebrating my mom's 70th birthday in Charleston the first weekend in May. We all love to eat, especially seafood, especially rustic spots ala Maine lobster shacks. A few questions:
1. Best seafood places? We'll have a car and love getting off the beaten track.
2. In which area/hotel/inn should we stay to have the best access to good food and a unique Charleston experience? Do we need to be in the historic district? Is that the same as the Market district? (Is it noisy and touristy, or charming?) Or is there a Band B with delicious breakfasts?
3. Do SNOB or Hominy Grill take reservations?
3. We have four days in Charleston. Should we drive to Savannah for a day trip ? How long does it take? From the posts it doesn’t seem particularly chowish. Is there a detour to get some good bar-b-que?

Thanks so much in advance! We can't wait to get out of this gray, damp New England spring!

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  1. You'll get plenty of replies on the food, or links to a large number of similar threads. For #1, Bowen's Island sounds like a good bet...someone else will probably give more details.
    #2, Charleston is easy to navigate, whether in the 'historic' district (basically the entire city) or in the market. However, the market area can be noisy and it's a bit more touristy than other areas downtown.
    #3, I'm not sure that Hominy Grill takes reservations. SNOB does, though, I am pretty sure.
    And as for # 4, don't waste your time in Savannah. What it does, Charleston does a lot better, for both food and atmosphere.

    1. 1. I would second the recommendation of Bowen's and also suggest the Wreck on Mt. Pleasant. If you want a change of pace from the usual Charleston food, Mama Brown's is a somewhat divey barbecue place out on Mt. Pleasant and Basil, in downtown, has good Thai food.
      2. I would recommend staying in the downtown/historic district just because the nicest hotels are there and then you are also in walking distance of most sights and places to eat. The Market district is within the historic disttict and is a small area around the intersection of Meeting and Market street. It is pretty touristy and not really worth visiting, IMO. The rest of the historic district/downtown is quite charming and the best way to enjoy it is by exploring on foot.
      3. As the other poster said, SNOB takes reservations but Hominy Grill does not.
      4. I would also agree about not taking a day trip to Savannah, especially since you'll only be in Charleston for four days. Since you'll be there in May, if you get tired of the historic district, you could head out to Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island to go to the beach. I think May is the best time to visit the beach in Charleston.
      There has been a lot of discussion of Charleston restuarants lately so I would check out past threads for more recommendations.
      Enjoy your trip.

      1. 1. In addition to Bowen's, which is recovering from a recent fire, you might want to try SeeWee up Highway 17 near Awendaw or The Wreck in Mt. Pleasant. I think SeeWee has the better food. Both have lots of rustic charm. For sheer diversity and quality of seafood, I'd actually recommend Hank's downtown, but it is much more upscale than the other places mentioned.
        2. Definitely stay downtown. Good B&B's away from the Market include the John Rutledge House Inn and the Wentworth Mansion. Most of the nice hotels are on or near the Market, including Charleston Place, Planter's Inn, and the French Quarter Inn, just to name a few. Be warned, no place in the tourist part of downtown is going to be cheap.
        3. You can make reservations at SNOB, not at Hominy Grill.
        4. Skip Savannah. A day trip there and back would be a little grueling and wouldn't leave you a whole lot of time to see much of Savannah. There's plenty to see and do in Charleston, and I agree with carissarene--Charleston has more to offer, though as a resident, I'm admittedly biased.

        As far as BBQ is concerned, there are many choices in the area. It depends on what you are looking for and how far you want to travel. Many would recommend Bub Sweatman's or McCabe's for classic examples of mustard BBQ or vinegar-pepper BBQ respectively, but both would involve you driving an hour or so. Closer to Charleston, I would personally recommend Momma Brown's BBQ just across the bridge in Mt. Pleasant for the area's best BBQ buffet, featuring great fried chicken, red rice, hash, and both mustard and vinegar based BBQ, whole hog though not wood-smoked. Also in Mt. Pleasant, Melvin's features wood-smoked mustard Q (all ham, but still good) along with decent hash and killer "puffy" onion rings, something like the illegitimate love child of the hushpuppy and the standard onion ring. In terms of pure pork enjoyment, my favorite Charleston Q joint is the Hickory Hawg, just south of Charleston on John's Island. Their wood-smoked 'cue is Lexington (western NC) style and features an awesome tomato based "dip"--sweet, tangy, and thin enough to soak into the meat. Even better than the chopped pork are their ribs, fall-off-the-bone tender and soaked in the same red sauce. They also have great hushpuppies.

        Have a great trip!

        1. 1. I definitely recommend Bowen's Island, but other choices include The Wreck and See Wee....just don't get conned into Hyman's.

          2. You can stay pretty much anywhere in the historic district and have easy access to good food and the Charleston experience. Besides being a great walking city, there is also a trolley(called DASH), pedi-cabs and black cabs.

          3. As everyone else has mentioned, SNOB does take reservations but Hominy does not.

          4. I also 4th skipping Savannah. I would instead plan on visiting the islands, going to a plantation or taking a harbor cruise.

          I am going to let everyone else comment on the BBQ, we have friends that own a joint and we don't really patronize anywhere else.

          Have a great time, and happy birthday to your Mom.

          4 Replies
          1. re: lizzy

            Lizzy, now you've piqued my curiosity! While I respect your desire to remain impartial, in the interest of full disclosure, will you tell us what BBQ joint your friends own? I swear I won't mention your name to try to get a free meal!

            1. re: Low Country Jon

              The only reason I never mention it is because I don't know if it is any good! ;-) I am woefully undereducated when it comes to BBQ. I know they have competed in BBQ competitions and won awards, but I am not sure if that means anything or not. The owner claims that people who have had his food say that it is better than Sweatman's, but I have yet to test that claim. I will say that practically everything is a family recipe, and it makes for, what I think, is an excellent buffet.

              The name is Hog Doctors, and it is located in Bonneau on 52. If you give it a try, I would love to hear how they compare to other BBQ places....and I expect nothing less than complete honesty. :-)

              1. re: lizzy

                I must confess I had to look up Bonneau on MapQuest. Looks like it's near Monck's Corner, so I'll need to add Hog Doctors to my list of Q joints in that area I want to visit along with Music Man, the local Brown's outpost, and on the other side of the lake, Scott's Variety, McCabe's, and D&H. So much BBQ, so little time!

                Is Hog Doctors a wood-burner? If they do competition Q, they probably are.

                1. re: Low Country Jon

                  I'm not sure where you are, but I live in North Chas. and it takes us about 45 minutes one way.

                  Yes, they are wood burners. If you asked and they had time, they might just show you their set-up out in back.

          2. If you don't mind riding approx. 1 hr. one way, Sweatmans BBQ outside of Holly Hill may be worth the trip. It is rustic and off the beaten track. Here is the review from Roadfood.