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Charleston/Kiawah -- Trip Report 10/18-10/23/10

My sister and I had a return visit to Charleston to celebrate her birthday. We visited Charleston about 18 months ago, and loved it. We're from NYC. This visit was a return to some favorites (Magnolia's, Carolina's and Joseph's) as well as some new restaurants (McCrady's and 82 Queen). The favorites are still favorites. Love the steak sandwich at lunch at Carolina's. Breakfast was great at Joseph's. Everything is yummy at Magnolia's. 82 Queen was a delightful surprise! Food was excellent (fried okra, crab cakes and ribeye steak); service was very attentive too. We were seated upstairs (glad we weren't wearing high heels on those metal steps). Nice room. We switched our dinner orignally scheduled for FIG to McCrady's based on some recommendations. While the restaurant is lovely (we were seated at a great table), and the food is good (not great), the timing of the service was very odd. Within 5 minutes of placing our order, the appetizers (hot) were served. As soon as the appetizer plates were removed, the entrees were served. Long wait until the sorbet desserts. This odd service was happening at all of the tables near us--very weird. Probably shouldn't have changed my FIG reservation. Will definitely return to my favorites and add 82 Queen; won't return to McCrady's. Actually the best things about McCrady's were the interesting sorbet sampler and a great bottle of German Riesling for a low price.

We stayed at The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island (gorgeous place). Restaurants ranged from very good to excellent. Ocean Room was excellent. We had the Autumn Mushroom Degustation. All of the courses had mushrooms (yes, even dessert that was brilliant). Jasmine Porch was between very good and excellent (we had the tasting menu); dessert wasn't too memorable. Atlantic Room was very good (excellent service and view of the beach; food was very good). My sister loved her salmon; I was less impressed with my haddock although I loved all of the sides that accompanied the crispy haddock. We skipped dessert since nothing seemed to "wow" us.

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

82 Queen
82 Queen Street, Charleston, SC 29401

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  1. Good report. Sorry you did not like McCrady's. It's one of my favorites. Have you been to Charleston Grill or Peninsula Grill. The Sanctauary is a great resort. You might like Charleston Place next time you visit. It would be convenient but nothing is like the Sanctauary. It's a beautiful resort. Good luck back in the Big Apple.

    19 Replies
    1. re: Littleman

      My sister and I had dinners at both Charleston Grill and Peninsula Grill on our first visit in April 2009. Liked Charleston Grill better than Peninsula Grill. We stay at the French Quarter Inn, and think it's the best hotel! We find it perfectly located and the service cannot be beat. We walked through Charleston Place quite often (great short cut from the shops on King Street back to the FQI). While it is lovely, we find it a bit too "public" due to the shops.

      BTW, was the service mishaps that I experienced common at McCradys or was this a rarity?

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      Peninsula Grill
      112 N Market St, Charleston, SC 29401

      Charleston Grill
      224 King Street, Charleston, SC 29401

      1. re: ellenost

        Thanks for the report. Luck you-the Sanctuary is just that, isn't it?

        McCrady's reputation is better than that. It must have been an off night. Having said that I love FIG too. It really mixes great food and friendly service with no pretentiousness. You may want to put Hominy Grill on your list for next time as well as my favorite place Atlanticville on Sullivans. We'll be here when you get back!

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

        Hominy Grill
        207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

        Atlanticville Restaurant
        2063 Middle Street, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482

        1. re: ellenost

          Ellenost........What are your favorite NYC restaurants if you don't mind saying. I know EMP is one of them. And I know you like Per Se. Per Se is not worth the trouble to me. The others. Thanks.

          1. re: Littleman

            Littleman:

            Some of my favorite NYC restaurants (in addition to EMP and Per Se) are:

            Momofuku Ko
            Ma Peche
            Bouley
            Riverpark (new Tom Colicchio restaurant)
            Cafe d'Alsace
            Marseille
            Sarge's (deli)
            Sushi Sen-nin
            Artisanal
            Park Avenue Autumn
            Seasonal
            Wallse
            Blaue Gans
            Hiedelberg

            As you can see, I like all different types of food at different price points. Are you planning a trip to NYC?

            1. re: ellenost

              I'm ALWAYS planning a trip to NYC! Thanks for your recs.

              1. re: Sue in Mt P

                Ms. Sue.......... Marseille is in the theater district and stay open late. If you attend a play at night you won't get out until 10:30 or so. Dine at Marseille if you do. Ms. Ellen is a NYC expert.

                1. re: Littleman

                  Thanks for the compliment Littleman!

              2. re: ellenost

                My wife and I have been going two or three times a year for about 30 years now. We have been to all the great places and few of the local joints. I went to Bouley in it's original location. I had a bad experience at the new one. I have been to River Cafe many times. I have been to Daniel many times as well as Jean George, Gotham Bar and Grill, Gramercy Tavern, Le Cirque, Le Bernadfin, EMP, Per Se, DB Bistro, Marseille, Aureole, Felidia, Il Mulino, Marea, Water Club, Cafe Boulud, Allegretti and many I can't remember. I think my wife's favorite is Cipriani's because she can have a great lunch and keep on shopping.

                We don't have the Ethnic food in Mississippi you have in NYC so we like what is available which is fresh seafood, steaks, BBQ and soul food. I hope you can come back to Charleston. It's one of my favorite cities. My son was at Camp Lejeune in the Marines for 8 years. I also have relatives in Savannah, GA. I travel NC and SC quite often.

                If you like the Sanctuary you should visit The Cloister at Sea Island, GA and spend a few nights in Savannah. The Cloister was completely remodeled recently at an expense of $500 million. It's comparable to Sanctuary and the food in Savannah is comparable to Charleston. Good luck and come back soon. I will speak to you if I see you post on the Manhattan Board.

                1. re: Littleman

                  Littleman: How was the food at the Cloister? Anything interesting or typical resort dining? And...I thought it went bankrupt after the mondo-remodel?

                  I've never been to Sea Island or Jeckyl (sp?) Anything "worth the detour"?

                  Ellen: were the Sanctuary restaurants good by NY standards? I've been a little leary of eating there because resorts so commonly have overpriced, mediocre food. Also, I'm curious about your trip to 82 Queen. You may have noticed it gets pretty awful reviews here. What led you to suspect that you would have the good experience that you did?

                  1. re: danna

                    danna:

                    The Ocean Room at The Sanctuary was excellent compared to restaurants anywhere. Service was very attentive (they knew it was my sister's birthday so they placed rose petals on the table). Wine list was very good and fairly priced (based on NYC prices). Jasmine Porch was great for their breakfast buffet ($22). Many good choices. Dinner was very good too (it compares well with hotel restaurants without a "name" chef). I was less impressed with Atlantic Room (20 minute shuttle ride from The Sanctuary). Gorgeous view of the ocean overlooking the golf course. My sister liked her meal better than I did.

                    I had read a number of very positive reviews of 82 Queen on Tripadvisor. Plus I really liked their menu (many things I wanted to try), Sorry to hear it doesn't get much "love" here; I highly recommend it.

                    Glad to hear that our service timing mishaps at McCrady's was a rarity. Something must have been going on in the kitchen. Both my sister and I did like the quality and "yummy" factor better at 82 Queen. Perhaps we were expecting too much at McCrady's; it came so highly recommended (big support from one of the new sous chefs at Momofuku Ko in NYC--one of my regular restaurants).

                    Charleston is fast becoming one of my favorite vacation spots. My sister and I are planning a return trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC next spring. She wants to add a few days at The Grove Park Inn (which doesn't get too much "love" on Tripadvisor). Are you familiar with any of their restaurants?

                    1. re: ellenost

                      Don't eat at GPI. And if you stay there, be careful what kind of room they put you in. The rooms in the historic building are small in number compared to the rooms in the more modern addition. The GPI does a lot of convention business and is really geared more towards that rather than the vacation traveller.

                      1. re: ellenost

                        Thanks! maybe we'll try Ocean Room during our stay for the Kiawah (half)Marathon in December. The 45 min trip in to Charleston is not a bad one, but does get old eventually. You didn't have the Sunday brunch by any chance, did you?

                        How do you get in Momofuku Ko on a regular basis?

                        I think the Grove Park is a fantastic place to stay if you are willing to deal with a couple of caveats: 1.) don't eat there 2.) don't expect superlative service. they have just a bit of snotty attitude...not snobbish, but more a feeling tht the guest does NOT come first, and a total willingness to nickle and dime you mercilessly. Despite that fact, I think the views are worth it, and the spa is spectacular. The only restaurant I would dare eat at is just the breakfast buffet, but I'm not really recommending it.

                        I suppose you've seen the 36 hours in Asheville piece that was in the Times recently?

                        1. re: danna

                          Unfortunately we did not stay until Sunday at The Sanctuary (we would have loved the Sunday brunch). My sister had visited the Grove Park Inn a few years ago for a Sunday brunch (she added this to her trip to the Biltmore) and was very impressed with the property (she didn't see any guest rooms). It's a shame that the guest rooms and the food aren't too good (the menus look good, but it's always a disappointment when the food doesn't live up to its potential).

                          Looks like we'll check out the Cloister at Sea Island or maybe a return trip to the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda instead.

                          BTW, reservations at Momofuku Ko via their website are not that difficult; I make a game out of it, and since I live in NYC, I'm very flexible about when I am able to have dinner or lunch at Ko.

                          Yes, I did see the 36 hours in Asheville article in the Times on Sunday; funny since my sister and I started thinking about it on Friday. Maybe we'll go anyway and set our expectations a bit lower. We both like very much the Biltmore Inn, so maybe we'll spend 3 days there and 2 days at the Grove Park Inn. The spa looks beautiful.

                          1. re: ellenost

                            Oh, it IS an impressive property! I really do recommend a stay there. There are tons of great places to eat in Asheville, so poor food at GPI shouldn't be a problem unless you don't have a rental car. The Admiral which is was mentioned in the Times article is stellar.

                            I think the rooms are fine at GPI. I've only stayed in the "new" section, never the historic inn. The rooms are large, and nice. They are not overly grand nor of cutting edge design, but they have huge windows and The View. Seriously.

                            In warm weather, the Sunset Terrace is set up for outdoor dining. In cooler weather, the tables are removed and rocking chairs are set out. If you can catch the place on a fine day, yet before the tables come out, nothing beats buying a glass of over overpriced wine from GPI's boring list, and sitting in a rocking chair to watch the sun set over the mountains.

                        2. re: ellenost

                          very much a rarity....Sean Brock must have been spending too much time at his new place!
                          Mc Cradys is usually top notch service and even better food! I mean he just won a James Beard award! I see him a lot at a farm I buy things from in Mccleanville so I will also say he is a super nice guy~~~~

                        3. re: danna

                          Danna........I have not been to Sea Island in several years. We had dinner there recently but we drove up from The Ritz Carlton Amelia Island. I have always enjoyed dining there. I did not know they filed bankruptcy. It just happened a few months ago. What I know is someone is going to steal it for $200 million. It will continue to operate I would think just like it always had. The rates were so high after the renovations I just never found the right time to go. Maybe soon I hope. It's one of my favorites. We went there about 25 years ago and they did not take credit cards. You had to pay with cash or a check. I ran into an old friend in the main dining room where you must wear a coat and tie and he had on loafers with no socks. LOL. Coat and tie with loafers and no socks.

                          The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is very nice and their rates are half what The Cloister is. The resort rooms are located in 5 historic buildings that are at least 100 years old but they have all been kept immaculate. If I went back I would go to Jekyll Island I believe until The Cloister gets their problems worked out. I know the food at Jekyll is very good. I was impressed with the food at The Cloister. We always stayed in their beach front units and had lunch at Big George's. Dinner at Georgian Room was elegant and outstanding. My wife loves to dress up for fine dining with fancy linens and such.

                          Ellen........you should check into The Ritz Carlton at Amelia Island. I have been several times and it's one of my favorites. I have been to quite a few RC's and Amelia Island is one of the best. For some reason their rates are not as high as other resorts. Why I don't know but it's a great place and the food is very good. We had a Father's Day lunch there not too long ago. And Fernadina Beach is a great town with some great dining as well.

                          I spent a few days at The Fairmont Southampton as well as the Fairmont Hamilton. I liked staying downtown I think. The beach was too far from The Southampton but Bermuda is a fantastic place. Good luck and best wishes.

                          -----
                          Fairmont Restaurant
                          65 W Fairmont Ave, Savannah, GA 31406

                          Jekyll Island Club Hotel
                          371 Riverview Dr, Jekyll Island, GA 31527

                          1. re: Littleman

                            Littleman,

                            We'll be in Fernandina Beach for my birthday, next week. What do you recommend in Fernandina Beach? We're giving the Omni a try. Thanks for advice.

                        4. re: Littleman

                          Thanks for the suggestion about The Cloister; I'll check it out. My sister and I have also been considering a trip to Savannah so this would be a great addition.