HOME > Chowhound > Southeast >

Discussion

Charleston's Best Restaurants for NYC Foodies?

  • m
  • monab Jan 12, 2010 04:03 PM
  • 58
  • Share

I've read through lots and lots of posts, but am not coming up with any definitive answers...

Here's the situation:
My husband and I are coming to Charleston this weekend (3 days, 3 nights) - atleast 50% of the reason for our visit is to try out the famous culinery scene in Charleston.
We will be staying at either the Charleston Plance, Market Pavillion, Planters Inn, or Wentworth Mansion (any opinions?).
We will be celebrating our wedding anniversary during our stay.

We are looking for the best that Charleston has to offer for lunch and dinner - upscale, casual, down'n'dirty, whatever... As long it is has amazing food.
We would also love to eat in the type of places (or the type of cuisine) we can't get here in nyc.

All recommendations will be most gratefully received!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. The only food I can think of that you can find in Charleston that you can't find in NYC is Sweatman's BBQ, altough its trechnically not in Charleston. if you're interested in trying real SC BBQ, and are willing to drive 30 to 45 minutes, then I highly recommend it. As far as Charleston proper, I'm surprised you're having trouble finding suggestions by searching. My recommendations would be SNOB, Cru Cafe, Hominy Grill for dinner and Jestine's.

    1. When I hear "foodie" + "Charleston" , I immediately think of McCrady's. My husband and I have an anniversary tradition of dinner at the Peninsula Grill....our anniversary wouldn't be complete without Robert Carter's fabulous coconut cake! Hominy Grill is good for homestyle, Southern cooking. Bowen's Island is a place that you definitely would not find in NYC (since you said you are up for "down-n-dirty") and it's oyster season and a good time to visit what is (in my opinion) the best seafood place in the area.

      11 Replies
      1. re: BetsyinKY

        thanks for the reccos!

        1. re: monab

          Personnally, I would avoid McCrady's, because that's exactly the kind of thing you can find in new york (multi-course, mollecular gastronomy) and possibly a lot better. My usual recs stand, except I wouldn't do Italian here either. I'd go w/ FIG (make sure you get the vegetable sides...even if you have to skip an app in order to have room) and Cru Cafe and Hominy Grill.

          Will you have a car? I have yet to try Bowen's Island, but it certainly sounds like it fits your needs. In general, avoid restaurants on Shem Creek (tourist rest row).

          Charleston Place is a grand hotel w/ frou-frou shops on the first floor. It is VERY centrally located right on King Street, the prime shopping street, and close to lots of good restaurants. When I went to the spa at Wentworth Mansion recently, I moved the car from King Street, although it would be walking distance in reasonable weather w/ decent shoes. I've never noticed a cab in Charleston. WM was a GORGEOUS place and I understand the restaurant there is decent but I've never been.

          1. re: danna

            Charleston has a fleet of black cabs - like the ones in London - that are based out of Charleston Place. We love staying there - you park the car and don't have to move it again until you go home.

            I'd echo a lot of the recos here already - Hominy Grill, Bowen's Island, and the coconut cake at Peninsula are all fantastic.

            1. re: Suzy Q

              Suzy,

              That was one of the best parts of the trip. The only time I had to get the car was when I was headed out to Kiawah for golf. Aside from that we walked everywhere.

              I have to say after 1 visit Charleston is one of my favorite cities and I can't wait to go back next year.

              1. re: Suzy Q

                Actually, BC is no longer based out of the CP. Besides, they are really expensive and hard to get. You are better off with Green Taxi's flat rate or having the CP drive you in one of their own town cars. Also, skip Hominy. It's way overrated.

                1. re: penny35

                  penny, I've never had a problem getting one of the black cabs, but then I usually make it a point to get an individual driver's name and number and use him for my entire visit.

                  You're also just about the only person I've ever heard say anything negative about Hominy Grill. What makes you say "overrated"? Just curious - that's one of the few places in Charleston that's pretty universally enjoyed.

                  1. re: Suzy Q

                    Yeah, I actually think it's underrated for dinner. I could see why you might not think the brunch is worth the wait (because the wait is quite long on weekends) but that's one of my favorites for dinner. I tell everyone to go there, if you have a car.

                    1. re: Suzy Q

                      Overrated because I don't think making home cooked food that I can find in any Junior League Cook book is worthy of a James Beard award. Squash casserole and biscuits and gravy?
                      Really? The service is unfriendly but adequate. And there is no where to wait because they won't seat you until everyone arrives. Yes, it's probably universally enjoyed. Who doesn't like a home cooked lunch?

                      1. re: penny35

                        I agree with the overrated comment 100%. If you live in Charleston, you hear that often...for some reason, though, the tourists love it. Don't get me wrong..I like Hominy Grill, but a James Beard award? That was just silly.

                        -----
                        Hominy Grill
                        207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

                        1. re: lowcountryfoodie

                          Here's why one tourist loved Hominy Grill on her lone visit in 2007. I ate shrimp and grits three times and grits as a side dish once during a four-day visit to Charleston. Specifically, I ate Shrimp and Grits at Magnolia, Hominy Grill, and Middleton Place Restaurant. I was served grits as a side dish at either SNOB or High Cotton. (I can't remember which.)

                          The shrimp and grits at Hominy Grill decimated the competition. Hominy's shrimp was perfectly cooked and the grits were creamy without being overwhelmed by the addition of too much flavor-masking cream and cheese. In contrast, the shrimp were overcooked in the Middleton Plantation. The Magnolia version masked the entire dish in a tomato chutney that tasted like Chinese Duck sauce. I was so turned off by this sweet-vinegary liquid contaminating every square inch that I asked for a new version without the chutney. The new version had the benefit of being brought to the table quickly after cooking so the shrimp were better cooked. The grits were delicious but essentially the grits were an excuse to eat gobs of cream and melted cheese. (Incidentally, I looked at the Magnolia menu just now and the tomato chutney only shows up as an element on the Fried Green Tomatoes. The current version of Shrimp and Grits replaces the shrimp with mixed seafood, but still keeps the tendency to over-elaborate with a lobster-butter sauce.)

                          The side dish of grits was plated beneath a piece of fish, and the whole dish was liberally sauced.

                          So if you're wondering why tourists love a restaurant that locals dismiss as home cooking, it's because that restaurant gets the homecooking right!

                          1. re: Indy 67

                            I think you may have nailed it. I like HG, I eat there sometimes, I recommend it sometimes, but I still think it's over-rated. I'm sure good Southern cooking a little less overwrought than places like Magnolia IS pretty amazing to non-southerners.

                            I'm TOTALLY with you on the nasty, globby, creamy, tomato-gravy, etc. messes that restaurants tend to put on shrimp and grits. it's not called shrimp,grits, and cream sauce, now is it!?!?

          2. Don't take my word for it. Look up chuckeats.com for his review of McCrady's.

            1 Reply
            1. re: DaleJ

              thanks for the link...those were some spectacular photos. I think I'm going to have to forget about my mediocre experience in the wine bar a couple of years ago and give the place a try.

            2. Peninsula Grill is about as good as it gets. Chef Carter is at the top of his game.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ashevillejunkie

                I just stayed at Charleston Place last month and loved it. I HIGHLY recommend dining at the Charleston Grill and specifically ordering the chef's tasting menu.

                Also, if you can afford to do it, I'd also highly recommend upgrading to the Concierge level. The complimentary drinks and food make it very well worth it.

                Just as a reply to Danna and in case you are looking for some time in the spa, my wife thoroghly enjoyed the spa at Charleston Place.

                Have a great time.

              2. Something you most likely can't get in NY is gullah. If you have a vehicle, try Gullah Cuisine on Rt. 17 in Mt. Pleasant but do lunch instead of dinner and get their buffet.

                5 Replies
                1. re: birgator

                  What is gullah?

                  1. re: monab

                    Sorry that wasn't clear. Gullah are African Americans who live in the Low Country areas of coastal South Carolina and upper coastal Georgia. They are usually direct descendants of the slave population, and arguably retain more of their truly African traditions than most other communities in the US. They speak a distinctive dialect, also called Gullah. Their cuisine uses local ingredients as would have been easily obtainable along the coast here.

                    1. re: birgator

                      Thanks for the explanation!
                      Sounds delicious. I wasn't thinking of renting a car, and on googlemaps, mount pleasant dosen't look very far - it there any other way of getting to Gullah (or Bowen's island) with public transport or by taxi?
                      thanks!

                      1. re: monab

                        I'm not a Charleston native, but I'm 98% certain that the answer is no. If there is a way to go by bus, it's probably not going to be worth the hassle (and, I'm normally very pro-public transportation) and a taxi would be pretty pricey to get you far off the Penninsula. Come to think of it, I've never seen one outside of the Penninsula. I would just rent the car. That way, you'll have the convenience of a car, but more importantly, the opportunity to enjoy some of the marshlands around the Low Country. They are beautiful. As a Charleston outsider, the marshes are one of my favorite things about the area.

                      2. re: birgator

                        Current Gullah food is a joke. Traditionally the slaves were given the leftover parts of the animal after the slaughter so along with abundant seafood, as much rice as the slaves wanted, and pig brains, intenstines, feet, etc made up the Gullah diet. Chitlins smell vile when cooking.

                        Gullah Cuisine is a marketing ploy to get people to think they are eating something unique when all it is is a southern meat and three.

                        Jestine's Kitchen has better fried chicken.

                        -----
                        Jestine's Kitchen
                        251 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401

                  2. I currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I have to say I prefer Charleston's foodie scene to the one out here! Having spent a signficant time both in the South (as a native) and elsewhere, I can appreciate what you just can't find outside of the South. So the following list is going to be geared toward giving you a selection of places that you just won't find in NYC (and even if attempts are made at the genre, they won't be as good as the real deal):

                    I'm gonna give you the lowdown on places that LOCALS love, and that we who tour down in Charleston and Savannah so much that we now feel like locals, love as well. These are places that the guidebooks won't necessarily hit up, and if they do, it's because locals hold it in such high esteem that the books had no choice but to list them. I just came back from a week vacationing down in Charleston and Savannah mainly for the culinary experience, and from our dozen or so visits to that area, here's my A-list:

                    Charleston area:

                    1) Tomato Shed Cafe - attached to a farmer's market, this is a real locals' place serving the best simple Southern cuisine with fresh veggies straight from the market. Best crabcake I've had in my life - chock full of crab with little "filler". Tomato pie as a veggie side to die for. Excellent pink crowder peas, limas, collards, etc.

                    http://www.stonofarmmarket.com/tomato...

                    2) Hominy Grill - the guy won "Best Chef in the Southeast" this past year despite having "simple" cuisine for a reason. It's my favorite casual restaurant in Charleston. He uses local ingredients, and all the seafood is local too (and usually on the sustainable list from the SC Aquarium guidance). I like the triggerfish and grouper preparations. He also does a shrimp boil that is killer. Southern sides are also wonderful - some of the best collards I've had. Knockout squash casserole. Save room for the chocolate pudding or buttermilk pie.

                    http://www.hominygrill.com/

                    3) The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene - one of my favorite casual fried seafood places in the country, and this comes from having spent 15+ years along the Florida Gulf Coast (where the fried seafood platter was arguably born). It's a hole-in-the-wall off the main touristy drag, but the idyllic nature of the setting cannot be beat. Some complain that the portions have gone down some, but I've found that the quality is still at its previously high level. They also source their seafood from a straight-off-the-boat fishmonger just next door. That's fresh!

                    http://www.wreckrc.com/

                    4) The "five-star" places - Charleston is one of the best foodie cities in the country in my opinion (close behind SF, NYC, Chicago, Vegas, and New Orleans). Our favorites of the "upscale" genre are Trattoria Lucca (some of the best Italian food I've ever had), FIG (Lowcountry-style cuisine done using fresh, local ingredients). You'll also find solid arguments for Charleston Grill, Peninsula Grill, Circa 1886, Tristan, Cypress, Blossom, Carolina's, La Fourchette, and SNOB. Google them and see what suits your tastes and interests on any given day.

                    5) Dave's Carryout - if you want a quick place to get a fried shrimp platter near downtown Charleston, this place stays open 'til about 3 or 4 a.m. It's simple but righteous. It's amazing how such a random unassuming place does shrimp better than I could get in a million years here in inland North Carolina.

                    42 Morris St., Charleston, SC
                    843-577-7943

                    6) Gullah Cuisine - already mentioned in this thread, but they do a fantastic spread of homecooked items using fresh, local ingredients and traditional African American/Gullah recipes. Think soul food that's lighter on the fat and lard and where fresh seafood is utilized more often. http://www.gullahcuisine.com

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mikeh

                      thanks so much for the reccomendations and descriptions mikeh!
                      just what i was looking for!

                    2. Was in Charleston a couple of years ago. I've always enjoyed Hyman's but I know that there are better seafood options around. FIG and Cypress were great. So was Hominy Grill. The time before this we ate at a plantation and really enjoyed it as well. Jestine's seems popular but when we went by it.. it was packed and we couldn't get in. I should note that when I go to a place in search of food it is usually for something I can't get around my homebase. Or maybe a better version of it. I'm not saying NY doesn't have seafood or soul food, but thats what I would search for in SC aside from the FIGS and Cypress type restaurants.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                        I may be misunderstanding your last comment, but I just want to say that to me FIG exemplifies both local seafood and southern cooking (the veggie sides).

                        Also, above someone commented that Hominy Grill was overrated. I agree, to some extent. To a southerner, there's nothing unusually good at HG, but to someone who has never had that genre...i think they do a reasonably good job, and should probably be on the short list.

                        1. re: danna

                          I don't recall FIG being overly seafood focused (like The Wreck or Hymans). I do remember when I was there I had a wonderfully cooked suckling pig.

                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                            funny...the only thing I've ever had at FIG that I didn't like was the suckling pig :-)

                            You're right, seafood isn't ALL Fig has, but everytime I've been there have been 3 fish choices, mostly local, and spectacular. I don't revile Hymans as much as some, It's not a place I would recommend. Charleston does not have any really high quality seafood-only restaurants, as far as I can tell. It's a disappointment to me, because seafood is always my first choice.

                            1. re: danna

                              What about Hank's?? We ate there over the xmas holidays and had a fabulous, all seafood meal, except for the desserts, which the banana cream pudding almost made me wet my pants!

                              1. re: mlshoppy

                                Does that mean the pudding was good or bad? For what its worth, I've never eaten at Hank's, but have read many negative reviews on here.

                                1. re: mlshoppy

                                  I like Hanks, and yes, they have quite a few seafood options. to me it's not quite in the same league with a few other places but it's still very good and I'm sure I'll be back. I was disappointed w/ the traditional fried seafood plate there, but I've had roasted grouper and a curried shrimp dish that were nice.

                                  1. re: danna

                                    Yeah, Hank's isn't bad. Not the best fish in that neighborhood, but the best seafood restaurant.

                                2. re: danna

                                  Hyman's was horrendous last week. The fish was dry and tasteless, and both the sweet potato puree and the hush puppies were too sweet. Very noisy clientele. This is one of the worst restaurants I've ever visited anywhere. They gave us a ticket for free homemade ice cream which we cashed in the following day; even this was a disappointment as it turned out to be sugary ice-milk. AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!

                          2. monab - where did you end up and what were the highlights? i too am nyc foodie heading to charleston next month ... also having a hard time with final choices.

                            i will be in town for a wedding and will only be able to explore for a couple of meals - a dinner and brunch. can't decide between FIG and CRU for dinner. think Hominy has won for brunch.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: bdurrett

                              I'm glad this thread is getting bumped up, because I too am yet another NYer headed south looking for food reccos. Everything listed here looks great, but if anyone has anything to add, please do!!

                              1. re: misseljay

                                Peninsula Grill is outstanding and the service terrific. I am also a big fan of Magnolia's. Had brunch at Blossom>they have a good pulled pork hash

                                -----
                                Peninsula Grill
                                112 N Market St, Charleston, SC 29401

                                1. re: donna4068

                                  At Blossom last week I had New Orleans-style shrimp on fettuccine for lunch and it was quite good--tender and juicy shrimp with just the right amount of spiciness. My only criticism is that I wish they had cooked the pasta an extra minute or two. My tablemate's hamburger was also yummy; the bread had excellent consistency.

                                  -----
                                  Blossom Cafe
                                  171 East Bay Street, Charleston, SC 29401

                              2. re: bdurrett

                                They're both great. You can't go wrong with either. Sit inside at Cru if horse stable aroma is offensive to you.

                              3. There have been some excellent suggestions in this thread, i'd like to add my 2cents! I've lived in Charleston for the past 4 years (while attending the College) and my girlfriend and I are constantly on the search for great foodie spots. The city is full of them!

                                I'll break it down like so..

                                Breakfast/Brunch:
                                --Hominy Grill - it's extremely touristy and somewhat pricey given that it's your standard breakfast fare. With that being said, it's consistently good. The BIG NASTY (extra nasty for me) is always delicious. The menu is all very normal, but very good. They make their own breakfast sausage that's great too.
                                --Rue de Jean (only on Saturday/Sunday) - This is one of my favorite places to do (and it's not just because I live 1 block away). They make a great hamburger, their omelette de campagne with duck confit is a personal favorite. You really can't go wrong. It's also a great place to check out for lunch, sitting ouside on a nice day - it's unbeatable.
                                --Virginia's on King - they're doing breakfast everyday now. Again, standard 'lowcountry' fare. Great food, great location, very reasonable prices.

                                Others' to look into, but aren't on my 'regular' list are High Cotton, Poogan's Porch, Sweetwater Cafe.

                                Lunch: (I don't eat lunch out often because of my schedule so my rec's are few)
                                --Magnolia's - Lowcountry cuisine, very good, reasonable prices. The shrimp po-boy is always on my list when I go. Sure it's not your traditional one like you'd find in NOLA, but it's very good. "Three Little Piggies" is also a great taste of different BBQ. If the blackened Catfish is on the menu, it's a great entree.
                                --Cru Cafe - Man do I wish I discovered this place 4 years ago - it's amazing. Everything on the menu is great, seriously, every thing. If they have the orange cream cake for dessert order it!! The room is very small so if you can get a reservation do it! It's very close to the market in an old house, easy walking distance.

                                There are so many other places that I frequent for lunch that I won't go into detail about simply because I wouldn't go out of my way for a limited vacation to eat there....

                                Dinner:
                                -McCrady's - Sean Brock is no doubt one of the greatest chef's in America right now, and other chef's wouldn't argue. His food is innovative, creative, delicious, and overall it's fun! I visit this restaurant for all of my special evenings, but also enjoy having dinner at the bar when I've got a few extra bucks to spend. I've done a few different tasting menus and have created my own tasting menus on a few evenings. Clint Sloan, the sommelier is amazing, friendly, and will ALWAYS find excellent wines for you and make sure your experience is nothing short of memorable. I've been here countless times and I think any foodie visiting should eat here.

                                --Peninsula Grill - Like everyone else has said, it's traditional, Southern, Lowcountry cuisine at it's finest. Robert Carter runs a great kitchen and they have an excellent staff. Definitely put this on your list (I did one weekend where we did Peninsula Friday & McCrady's Saturday - it was PERFECT and amazing to see the differences in cuisine!)

                                --Cypress - We love going to cypress and sitting upstairs in the bar. The bar menu is great for sharing and trying different things. The regular menu is also fantastic with great steaks, as well as other entrees. They have EXCELLENT charcuterie and salumi.

                                --FIG - There's no getting around the fact that it's excellent, and the James Beard award certainly helps. I've visited this restaurant a few times and every visit has been stellar. It's not my favorite restaurant and charleston, it's certainly expensive and nowadays its really hard to get a reservation. If I had 3 nights and I could I would do FIG-Peninsula Grill-McCrady's and I wouldn't think twice.

                                Other's worth mentioning - Trattoria Lucca, perfect for sunday evenings $35 supper. 4 courses of absolutely amazing Italian cuisine. We love visiting here every Sunday.
                                --SNOB - A great place for lunch or dinner, i've never been let down. One of the classiest and most respected kitchens in Charleston. This is my mother's favorite!

                                Enjoy the city! There's so much to do, so many places to eat. As far as hotels, I prefer the Planter's Inn over anywhere else. It's across from the Charleston Place and houses Peninsula Grill. The rooms have much more character and are much larger. It's walking distance to anywhere downtown and the staff is more than accommodating!

                                Last bit - It's always a tough decision for me to suggest leaving the Peninsula to eat because there are SO MANY wonderful options downtown. It really depends on what you want to eat - for me all of my options are downtown so I never have to leave but sometimes we do venture to West Ashley, Folly, & Mt. P for a meal.

                                Welcome to the Holy City!

                                -----
                                McCrady's Restaurant
                                2 Unity Alley, Charleston, SC 29401

                                Poogan's Porch
                                72 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401

                                Peninsula Grill
                                112 N Market St, Charleston, SC 29401

                                Sweetwater Cafe
                                801 Folly Rd, Charleston, SC 29412

                                Trattoria Lucca
                                41 Bogard St, Charleston, SC 29403

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: JBurnsPatersonIV

                                  Thanks! This helps tremendously. Looking into your brunch suggestions.

                                  1. re: bdurrett

                                    Back from a wonderful weekend in Charleston - exceptional weather and delicious food and drink. Will give you a quick run-down ...

                                    To recap, my husband and I are from NYC (although I am originally from the South), we eat out quite a bit and possess typical high NY standards when it comes to food, but enjoy all types of styles & atmospheres - taco trucks to tasting menus, we just want good food, a good experience and expect good value all things considered.

                                    Magnolia's (Dinner)
                                    We began at Magnolia's for dinner, looking for a Charleston classic, low country cuisine, and we were pleased. We had the Down South Egg Roll (a signature dish), She Crab Bisque, Shrimp & Sausage Over Grits (small Plate). The Egg Roll is a unique mish mash of flavors and it works. Collard greens, chicken and tasso served with a spicy mustard sauce + a peach chutney that mimics an Asian duck sauce. The Bisque was of course yummy, but what is not to love about crab and cream. I ended up having Shrimp and Grits 3 times I think, and this was by far my favorite. Smokey & spicy flavors of the sausage and shrimp were perfect over the creamy grits. (Keep in mind they serve a different version as an entree, this was the small plate)

                                    Entrees -
                                    I had the buttermilk fried chicken with biscuits, mashed potatoes, collard greens, cream style corn, and sausage herb gravy. By this time, I was probably too full to objectively judge and/or appreciate. The friend chicken itself was not particularly memorable, but the sides were delicious. Some of the best collard greens I've ever had - sweet and spicy. Probably could have settled for just a plate of sides/veggies at that point in the meal.

                                    Husband had the Parmesan Crusted Flounder with creek shrimp pirloo, sweet corn, tomato, and asparagus salad, lump crab, and a lemon beurre blanc. Recommended as best fish dish by our server, and he loved it. I tried the accompanying salad which managed to be sweet and delicate at the same time.

                                    I would say we enjoyed our early courses more than the entrees, but perhaps because we simply became too full. Service was friendly, but could have been a little more attentive. The room is warm, traditional, not too loud given how crowded. Overall experience I would say = B+. Would recommend for an out-of-towner looking for traditional low-country cooking.

                                    Cru Cafe (Lunch)
                                    The following day we went to Cru Cafe for lunch, set in an old house just north of Market. Charming space but very small, so always crowded. Recommend a reservation, although we did not have one and were able to get a table a little before noon. (People with 1pm rez were waiting when we left). Dining on front porch and indoors.

                                    We ended up at Cru for lunch instead of dinner, and I have to say the menu / dining room looked like my ideal lunch spot - simple, straight-forward dishes with high-quality, fresh ingredients; light lunchy fare if you will.

                                    I had the Shrimp BLT w pepper jack on toasted sourdough w a side salad- simple, fresh flavor como that hit the spot. Perfectly grilled shrimp layered on maple-smoked bacon with a spicy kick from the pepper jack.

                                    Husband had the Coconut Fried Oyster Wrap with Chipotle Mayo and Asian slaw (Cru has a very slight Asian influence) which he loved. In a moment of weakness, we also ordered the 4 Cheese Mac n' Cheese. I've sampled quite a few in my day (being trendy the last 5 yrs in NYC), and it was to die for. Orchiette with cheddar, fontina, jack and mozzarella, I believe, lightly breaded on top and baked so the top had the perfect crust and gooey middle. Was planning to have just a bite and we ate the whole thing.

                                    Our server was knowledgeable, friendly, not too rushed given the lunch crowd. Room is really charming, and not too cramped given its small size. Overall experience = A-. Obviously, can't speak for dinner, but would recommend for lunch as a great stop during a day of sight-seeing.

                                    Sticky Fingers (BBQ) / McCrady's (lunch)
                                    As part of the wedding we were attending, we went to Sticky Fingers BBQ for the rehearsal dinner. I can't recommend based on our experience - rather unmemorable - but we weren't ordering off the menu.

                                    The wedding reception was in the Long Room upstairs at McCrady's. A beautiful space! I enjoyed the food we had - esp passed hors d'oeuvres - but imagine the experience dining in the restaurant is completely different. Would love to try for dinner next trip.

                                    Fig (Dinner)
                                    The big dilemma was whether to go to Cru or Fig for our big Saturday night dinner. Fig won out once a local friend recommended without hesitation between the two. Fig bills itself as "seasonally-inspired cuisine with a commitment to using local and sustainable foods". So doing the organic, locavore thing but with a low-country influence.

                                    To start, the hosts that greeted us were extremely friendly when we walked in the door for our 8pm rez. The place was packed, but they assured us things were running on time, and indeed our table was ready at 5 after. Pretty good for a busy Saturday night.

                                    We started with the Anson Mills Polenta w poached sea island egg, ramps, early morels, asparagus, herb butter, and the Caw Caw Creek Pork Trotters w sunny side up farm egg, endive, mustard vinaigrette - of course, this item caught my husband's eye, and it was a stand-out. Trotters consist of the meat from the shank and feet, and in this case is slow cooked, therefore shredded and formed into a patty - basically like pulled pork - layered with the egg on top, and it was excellent. Much more interesting than the Polenta. The poached egg was lost in the creamy polenta, and the ramps and morels unfortunately did not add enough flavor.

                                    Entrees -
                                    I had the Bistro Steak w ramp butter, salade verte, sauce agrodolce. It was good, but not great. The steak was cooked to the right temperature, and the agrodolce sauce was interesting, but the steak itself was simply not my favorite.

                                    Husband had the Soft Shell Crabs spring vegetables, yukon gold potato puree, lemon, which was a winner (basically he out-ordered me this round with Trotters and Crab). Very simply prepared with lemon and great if you are a fan of soft shell crabs.

                                    We added the Wadamalaw Island Sweet Onions and Pureed Yukon Gold Potatoes as sides. Both were great! I love roasted sweet onions, but was not sure if husband would, and he was a huge fan. The purred potatoes - not the consistency I usually prefer - were also excellent, wonderful creamy flavor.

                                    Our server was knowledgeable and friendly, but overall it was slow. First course took too long to come out. Also, I was very much underwhelmed by the room. It did not fit the ambitious cuisine, and felt uninspired and without character esp after all the gorgeous, rich rooms we'd been in. Overall, I'd give it a B-. At the risk of sounding like the NYC food snob I might be, this is not the place I would recommend for serious out-of-town foodies bc frankly we do this style much better in a place like NYC. I am sure it is innovative for Charleston where the focus is mostly on the traditional, and there is probably nothing else like it around town, but it does not measure up to a similarly-styled place restaurant in NYC. I think whether you will enjoy it, just depends on where you are coming from. That's my 2 cents for visitors.

                                    Hominy Grill (Brunch)
                                    On the contrary, many have called Hominy Grill overrated, touristy, "not worth the wait" and for an NYC visitor I would disagree. We loved it despite the 40 min wait. To begin, we probably got there at the worst / busiest time - 11am. I think if you got there by 10am or waited until 1pm, the wait would be considerably less. We came with coffee and the paper, and we waited outside in beautiful weather - really wasn't bad at all. They told us a 45-50 min wait, we were seated in 40 min.

                                    I ordered Fried Green Tomatoes with ranch dressing to start, my husband the egg and cheese biscuit. Not my first fried green tomato, and these were some of the best I've ever had. Perfect crispy, salty crust that adhered perfectly to the tomatoes and easily the best home-made ranch dressing I have ever tasted - tangy and herby and just delicious. Maybe it's the recession-friendly comfort-food trend in NYC, or eating thru so many "trying too hard" fusion fads, but I find great pleasure is simple, fresh flavors, and this dish won me over.

                                    Barely saw the egg biscuit my husband ordered bc it was gone so quickly.

                                    For entrees, I ordered off the special board - Egg, cheese, sausage casserole with a hominy crust and pimento cheese sauce, served with a biscuit and home fries. Husband ordered the Cinnamon French Toast w/ apple maple syrup & pecan butter. Neither of us was disappointed in the slightest. Even bad biscuits can be pretty good, and great biscuits are what I imagine heaven is like. These are great - flaky, fluffy, crumbly, not remotely greasy, perfectly sweet and salty at the same time. Spread with the blackberry preserves on each table, and you will be happy.

                                    The French Toast was the perfect consistency - thick, fluffy bread perfectly browned and the apple maple syrup, almost the consistency of apple sauce, really made the dish.

                                    Our service was excellent, the room is casual but very charming including the lovely patio out back where we ate. Overall experience = a solid A. Would definitely recommend, and would love to go back to try weekday breakfast or dinner.

                                    That is my summary for Charleston. As you can see, no dessert reviews bc sadly, we never had room. Obviously there are so many more places to try, but hope this is helpful for some out-of-towners trying to finalize your reservations, like I was. One last suggestion not restaurant specific, order a tea-infused Firefly vodka on the rocks with lemon. Wonderfully refreshing drink served at most bars, goes down way too easy.

                                    -----
                                    Hominy Grill
                                    207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

                                    1. re: bdurrett

                                      Bdurrett from Nashville (and UVM)? Kate S.'s mother here. We're headed to Charleston next week. Thanks for your detailed reviews!

                                2. In case any other NYC foodies or like-minded folks are planning a similar trip--
                                  My husband and I, also 2 NYC foodies, just came back from 4th of July wkend in Charleston.
                                  We spent 2 nights at Inn at Middleton Place--beautiful country setting w/kayaking, biking, access to plantation and grounds, and wonderful restaurant (see below). 3rd night at Planter's Inn (also highly recommend) Food was wonderful throughout. Here are specifics:
                                  OUTSTANDING: 1. CYPRESS LOWCOUNTRY GRILL Modern, stylish setting. Every dish was superb (especially a sashimi and oyster appetizer; crabmeat, corn, and shrimp succotash, and chocolate pecan torte.
                                  2. RESTAURANT AT MIDDLETON PLACE--seafood stood out, especially clams in a leek, herb and white wine broth, and arugula salad w/balsamic reduction. Website does not do it justice--it's not stodgy at all, as plantation cooking may sound, but light, subtly flavored, lovely fresh ingredients.
                                  GOOD-1.Hominy Grill for lunch--salmon-potato cake good, biscuit great, but for us did not live up to reports.
                                  2.Toast for lunch--very good crabceke (though no real lumps), nice casual place
                                  OK--Tomato Shed Cafe at Stono Market. Nothing special despite reviews.

                                  1. This goes w/previous post about 4th of July wkend:
                                    VERY GOOD: FISH--great, varied menu of seafood. Leans Asian, some fairly spicy dishes, very nice vegetables too.

                                    1. We are big fans of Magnolia's for modern Southern food. Jestine's is a tourist joint, but they back it up with really good fare. Fresh bread 'n butter pickles for munchies was a pleasant surprise. Barbara Jean's along Market St. has the best value for breakfast in the HD. Not bad for dinner, either, if you like things like country-fried steak w/gravy and mashed. Also full bar, but not a "facncy" place by any means.

                                      -----
                                      Barbara Jean's
                                      214 Mallery St, Saint Simons Island, GA 31522

                                      1. Seafood tower @ Hank's & three flavored fish @ Basil

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: autiger79

                                          Go to Amen Street Seafood and Raw Bar.

                                          1. re: Littleman

                                            I just wanted to add a few I didn't see mentioned here. I always think it is worth a drive out to Sullivan's Island when I am in town. A walk down Middle Street will give you options ranging from upscale to bbq. I love Poe's for great burgers and margaritas. And then you can walk off you meal on the beach. SI is one of my favorite nights out.
                                            Although I haven't been in awhile, I've had some nice meals at The Fat Hen on John's Island and I love the atmosphere.
                                            Downtown I've been hearing good things about Social. Any opinions?

                                            www.poestavern.com

                                            www.thefathen.com

                                            www.socialwinebar.com

                                            -----
                                            Fat Hen
                                            3140 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island, SC 29455

                                        2. I think the NYT of 2/9/11 answered your question. We've just eaten twice at Husk and found it the best under $200 (including 2 bottles of wonderful wine) for two dinner we've ever had. Excellent wine list and knowledgeable sommeliers. Chef Shaun is a pure locovore. We dined for two $10 lunches at Fish on King Street. We may go back again tonight. Price includes wrap (we had tuna and shrimp) salad and drink (even house wine). See the NYT article for a full list of Charleston greats.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: cpsimon

                                            And it smells like bacon!

                                          2. Peninsula Grill is one of the best experiences for fine dining I have ever had.

                                            -----
                                            Peninsula Grill
                                            112 N Market St, Charleston, SC 29401

                                            1. I try to visit Charleston at least once a year. Eating good food is one of the best things about the city. I would suggest Magnolias and Jestines for lunch. Jestines is a "hole in the wall" local place with great southern food / casual. For dinner I love SNOB which is "Slightly North of Broad". Excellent food and drinks.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: richmond3005

                                                Jestine's is patronized solely by tourists, right? Hardly "local", in terms of the crowd lined up outside. Am I confused?

                                                1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                  Not at all, my brother lives in Charleston and goes to Jestine's all the time!! It is amazing, good ole Southern cooking at its finest! A true "Meat & 3"! The staff there actually recognizes the locals and makes sure they are treated the best, they know my brother now! I definitely recommend going for lunch one day, you will not be disappointed!

                                              2. I have eaten in several Charleston restaurants over the years. Hanks is very nice, right downtown and the most pricey of what I am recommending--you will be happy with the food. However, I have found two special places well worth the drive. These little gems are places where the "locals" eat. One is The Glass Onion, 1219 Savannah Hwy, James Island, 843-225-1715. Don't let the picnic tables out front deceive you. They use local ingredients and I had the best Crab Cakes Benedict ever there last fall! They do not take reservations and the line will go out the door on the weekend. They even had their own CSA until last fall when they stopped because of a building expansion. My second all time favorite is Hucks Lowcountry Table, 1130 Ocean Blvd, 2nd Floor, Isle of Palms, 843-886-6772. You will need reservations here. It is right on the ocean and has fantastic food! I could give a list of where NOT to go . . . but let us stick with the positive!

                                                -----
                                                Glass Onion
                                                1219 Savannah Hwy, Charleston, SC 29407

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: asparaguslady

                                                  Sorry to skew the topic slightly, but I've heard that the best soul food in Charleston is at a bus/train station? Does this ring a bell with anyone?
                                                  I'm traveling to Charleston next week and would love to investigate this. Thanks.

                                                  1. re: redhead11

                                                    Do you mean Martha Lou's on Morrison? There wasn't much at the bus station last time I drove by there.