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Mar 9, 2009 09:57 AM

Charleston, SC Recommendations

I am planning to be in Charleston with my teenage son from March 18 until the 21st. Primary reason for visit is to visit the College of Charlston and get a feel for the city to see if he would want to go there.

My son is a picky eater. The only meat he eats is hamburger in just about any form -- burgers, chili, tacos -- and strangely enough fried calamari. He likes salads and pastas and usually can find something to eat on any type of ethnic menu -- Italian, Mexican, Indian, etc.

We are coming down from Boston where there are about a million Italian restaurants and just about any ethnic you want, but not really anything "southern" so while in Charlston I would like to focus on more local fare.

Can anyone recommend restaurants that we could both be happy with? I'm not necassarily looking for dressy/fine dining, but price is not the main concern either.

Thanks very much.

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  1. Your best bet would probably be one of the places on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant, like Shem Creek Bar and Grill. He should be able to get a burger at any of those, which are more casual than what you'll find in downtown Charleston.

    1. Take a 15 minute trip to Poe's on Sullivan's Island. Yummy burger's and loads of people watching, with a young crowd your son will appreciate in a charming setting you'll appreciate. In Charleston try Hominy Grill for interesting and delicious southern food, although now that I see your son's meat requirements I'm not sure he'll find any hamburger on the menu. Check out a recent review of Hominy by I think it was "lowcountry jon", he nails it. If not Hominy for dinner try it for breakfast. Rue de Jean and Pane Vino are very close to the college and would satisfy the hamburger, Italian, salad front, plus they are each a hop from two fun places to stop for gelati and cupcakes. And finally here's my pick for your Saturday night, Hank's. Fun atmosphere, smack in the heart of town, with lot's of seafood. I haven't been there in a while but it's always been a place we go with teenagers that they thoroughly enjoy. Also Fleet's Landing might be a thought. The food's decent, fish, oysters, salads and it's the only restaurant I know in downtown Charleston that's on the water. Agree with Naco on Shem Creek Bar and Grill, or try Vickery's down the creek for okay casual food with an unbeatable view across the marsh towards Charleston. Great sunsets.

      1 Reply
      1. re: By the Sea

        I'll second Poe's. I just ate there last weekend -- when the weather was great -- and enjoyed a great burger.

      2. You don't say whether you will have a car or not, but if you do I will second the rec for Poe's Tavern. They have one of the best burgers in town and one of my favorites are the fish tacos. On the other hand, I can't recommend anything on Shem Creek, you are sacrificing food for views.

        For some restaurants where you won't need a car....I also second Hominy Grill, although I would check into if they have something appropriate for your son on their menu. Jestine's has good southern food, and their meatloaf is quite tasty, just go on an off time so you don't have to wait in line. Cru Cafe for lunch serves a burger, and they are my favorite restaurant in town. SNOB's also serves a burger for lunch, and imo they have the best shrimp & grits in Charleston.

        I also want to add, you might want to call any restaurant where you see they serve a burger for lunch because even though it is not on the dinner menu they may be willing to prepare something for your son.

        10 Replies
        1. re: lizzy

          Thanks to all. We will not have a car , unless I change my mind and rent one for a day. The restaurant does not have need to have a burger. He usually finds something to eat, like a salad or pasta, but I would like to try local foods.

          1. re: pemma

            Lizzy's suggestions are good (as always) , burger or no.

            Cru and FIG are my repeat stops in downtown, and I tend to go to Hanks if I have some picky eaters aboard because they have a broad menu, but usually done pretty well. From what I've read lately, I would go to Hominy Grill for some meal other than brunch...brunch is pretty standard fare, although good.

            1. re: danna

              We just got back from Charleston. Best meals were at Cru and Hominy Grill. FIG was a disappointment; the service was uneven, the food was just OK, and the dining room was way too loud - could not hear my table mates over the din. We also went over to Sullivan's Island - it was great beach weather when we were there - and were able to walk up to the relatively new Cafe Medley. Has a great wine and beer selection, cheese plate, smoothies, a few other small plates - was far more appealing to us than the crowd at Poe's.

              1. re: aoakes4

                We agree about FIG. It's weird how much praise they get. My wife and I will never return. Vastly over-rated. Bad service, mostly bad food, bad atmosphere, what's to like?

                1. re: uptown jimmy

                  I've never had anything but fantastic service at FIG, not just competant, but I could outline very specific occasions that the staff went above and beyond for me.

                  I like the atmosphere, but that's subjective.

                  Now , as to the food, I'm starting to develop a theory. Could you and aoakes tell me what you ate? My theory is that fish dishes and vegetable sides are consistentaly fabulous, other items, more hit and miss.

                  1. re: danna

                    I mean no offense, but waiting 20 minutes between courses is a sure sign of bad service. A waiter who is utterly clueless about the wine list is a sure sign of bad service.

                    Our waiter at FIG was amateurish at best, and certainly not competent. At that price-point, the servers should not be childish and nervous and confused.

                    And the atmosphere in that place reminds me of a grade-school cafeteria. Not a good association. ; )

                    We enjoyed our steak dish very, very much, and the side of mashed potatoes, and our salad also. But our fish dish (sorry, forgot the fish, maybe a bass) was overcooked and so dry as to be chewy, and our duck "confit" appetizer was dry and so salty, wow, just salty salty salty. Salt-lick salty. Moo.

                    I posted a while ago in detail about our FIG experience. I wish them well, as it's a hard bidness for sure, this restaurant bidness, but that level of gross inconsistency is unacceptable at any price, much less with several world-class restaurants just a few blocks away.

                    1. re: uptown jimmy

                      yeah, I remember your review, i just didn't recall what you ate. Your report clearly does not back up my theory. hmmm. Was that your only visit to FIG? Oh, and what's "world-class" near by?

                      oh, and btw, you never need worry about offending me...I'm one of those thick-skinned people. Hope you are, too;-)

                      1. re: danna

                        Our veggies were the best part of the meal. And I wonder if Uptown Jim and I had the same waiter. We waited interminably for our meals (our eight year old was very, very patient), and I loathe it when a waiter has to look at my menu to tell me what comes with a dish, as if I can not read that myself. I also asked the gent at the bar for a wine suggestion for my main course, since our waiter was, as mentioned above, clueless about the wines. In contrast I'd go back to Cru again and again, since it is the kind of room that we like (cozy, not at all noisy), the food was very good, and the service was excellent.

                        1. re: aoakes4

                          Isn't it odd how perceptions differ? I do love Cru, and don't think I've missed a trip there in on my last 4-5 trips to Charleston. Last year I took my parents to FIG and Cru. My Mom has an inner ear disorder and my Dad was a bit angry with me about Cru, because he said I should have known not to take her some place that noisy.

                          That's funny, y'all's FIG waiter is famous now. Glad I've not met him. I'm still drinking two of the wines I've discovered at FIG. (Montinore Gewertztraminer - Oregan, and an Iron Horse I believe is Sauvignon Blanc/1% Viognier)

                        2. re: danna

                          Well, I'm not a globe-trotter, but Al Di La would certainly hold its own in any civilized town I've ever been to. Basil serves some of the best Thai food in the country, I'm sure. And Charleston Grill was amazing before the celebrated chef left recently, I hope they still have their game tight.

                          That was our one and only visit to FIG. If we lived in Charleston I'm sure we'd try it again, but since it's a vacation destination, we stick to the tried and true.

          2. Pemma -

            I happen to be a senior at the College and the restaurant critic for CofC's student paper. I'd definitely encourage him to strongly consider the school. Most young guys get sold on the fact that CofC is roughly 70% female, but it's also a really good school. If you ever have any questions about the school or city feel free to shoot me an e-mail (click on the link to my site below and you'll find it on there).

            As for Southern food, Virginia's on King (just a block or two from campus) does a nice job with traditional Southern dishes. It's more upscale than Jestine's, but not too much and the prices aren't that bad.

            Hominy Grill is solid, their shrimp & grits recently got written up in GQ as one of the best breakfasts in America. It gets some flack for being a bit of a tourist trap these days, but Robert Stehling won a James Beard award for a reason (about 15 minute walk north of campus and actually about a block from my apartment, lucky me).

            If you're down by the Market, our new (not obnoxiously) pirate themed restaurant, The Buccaneer, has a pretty good selection of local options and the prices are very reasonable.

            If you want to have one really nice meal while you're in town but don't want to break the bank, SNOB and FIG are my two recommendations. I'd be hard pressed to choose between them, but Mike Lata (FIG's chef) could very well be a James Beard winner this year (he's a semi-finalist and was a finalist last year) and is about to get hugely popular (two recent major magazine features). If you go there, you'll have something to brag to your friends back home about. Both places have entrees in the low to mid-20s. FIG uses a lot of very simple preparations/presentations. Lets the ingredients speak for themselves. SNOB is a little more typical fine dining, but very very good.

            Hope this helps!
            - DH
   - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

            3 Replies
            1. re: DavidHeiser

              For a great deal, try SNOB at lunch -- but you may need to make reservations. They get swamped.

              1. re: DavidHeiser

                I agree about FIG. We thought it was terrific. We also went to SNOB at lunch, with reservations, and thought it was ok. The big mystery was McCrady's, which was good, but didn't offer any of the "postmodern" cuisine for which they are hyped.

                1. re: beaulieu

                  Yea, Chef Brock has been moving away from the "molecular gastronomy" side of things for the past year or so. They still do some really cool stuff, but these days he's more of a farmer than a scientist.