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Nov 29, 2007 08:27 PM

Charleston - best birthday dinner for 2? ($100)

The title says it all. My boyfriend and I will be visiting in late December (weeknight) for his birthday, and I'd like to make a reservation soon. I'm hoping to spend not much more than $100 for the 2 of us, including either a drink each, or an inexpensive bottle of wine. Tax and tip can be over that amount, but the closer to $100 total, the better.

I live in Philly, which means I have a great selection of BYOBs -- do these even exist in Charleston?

Since we'll be in town for only one dinner, I'd like to stick to downtown/historic area.

The parameters:
- we eat all kinds of food, however, boyfriend describes himself as "meat and potatoes"
- neighborhood bistro, artsy/creative, rowhouse, non-stuffy/no minimal-sleek space preferred
- service should be knowledgeable and attentive without being formal
- portions should not be tiny (he likes to eat)
- we're young/mid-thirties; a bustling atmosphere is fine
- bonus points for special seating (overlooking kitchen, courtyard, etc.)
- bonus points for acknowledging the birthday if I tell them in advance

From the reviews here and the websites I've visited, the following seem like they might be good fits. I'd appreciate recommendations as to which would be the best "bang for the buck" and any I've missed.

Cru Cafe
Rue de Jean

I should add that I've ruled out Basil as I eat a lot of Thai/Asian here in Philly.

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  1. Cru -- open kitchen, small and bustling, is in a small house, great food -- i like it better for lunch
    SNOBs -- open kitchen -- sit at the chef's table, the counter looking directly into the kitchen -- tons written on it here... is usually top notch
    La Fourchette -- feels like being in a busy Parisian bistro -- big favorite of ours
    Al di La -- bustling, good crowd, can eat at the bar side and it feels very neighborhoody (is in West Ashley) -- great Italian
    Coast -- cool space, cool people, in an old warehouse, seafood,a little pricey but you can do it
    Rue de Jean -- has the atmosphere, but the service and food are mediocre -- there are better choices
    Pane e Vino -- small, great Italian food, if it is warm enough the patio is a great spot

    That should get you started! (I would narrow it down to La Fourchette and SNOBs -- depends on the type of food you want).


    4 Replies
    1. re: DavidA

      Does La Fourchette or Pane e Vino have a website? I Google'd, but couldn't find anything. These are great suggestions. Thank you so much.

      1. re: croutonpiggy

        Not that I know of, sorry. There are reviews and such on line. Both are great (I like La F's atmosphere better -- as long as you like being in Paris!)

        1. re: DavidA

          La Fourchette and Pane y Vino would be my choices downtown. These are the kind of places I would go every night if I could eat out every night. Comfortable and delicious.

        2. re: croutonpiggy

          I would forget Pane e Vino. I ate there about a month ago, and although the food was just ok,(I had the pappardelle al' antica - one of their specialties) the service was terrible. We were a party of four, sitting on the patio, and we might as well have been sitting in the street for all the attention that was paid us. With all the choices in Charleston, you can do a lot better
          If you are thinking Italian, I would recommend the Mecado on Market

          Excellent food with outstanding service.
          Both Fig and Cru Cafe would be good choices.
          As for BYOB, I've never asked about corkage in any restaurant in Charleston.They do have strange liquor laws in S. Carolina. Just call and ask.

      2. I'd go w/ SNOB. You both can eat/drink well for $100, and won't be disappointed.

        1. i live in columbia, but have eaten in charleston many many times. i have never heard of any BYOBs in the South -- perhaps that is a northern thing??

          The last time i ate in Charleston, I had a FANTASTIC meal that would cover all of your requirements, except maybe the special seating, since this is in an old storefront and it's also part bar. also, i don't know about the birthday thing-- we were not there for a birthday.

          but it's called Pearlz and it was SO GOOD. it's heavy on the seafood and the portions are large. I don't remember it being too TOO expensive -- probably like $20/person. they also have daily specials. but it was delicious -- not just my dish (I believe i got tilapia) but also my friend's salmon and my other dining companion's gumbo. their specialty is raw oysters, but i hate that dish, so i didn't try it. my friends loved the oysters, though.

          it got a good review from the Charleston paper, too. here's their website:

          hope this helps!

          1. Add the Oak Steakhouse to your short list.


            1. I had a wonderful birthday at La Fourchette this year. I swear almost all the staff wished me a happy birthday at some point during the night. The owner kept coming over to make sure I was happy. My husband had asked for there to be champagne right when we were seated and a special dessert and both were done with a smile. Oh, and the food and atmosphere were great too. :) I'd definitely recommend it for a reasonably priced special meal.