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In Charleston 3/28 - 3/30: looking for recommendations/companions

  • Harmy Mar 12, 2011 10:53 AM

Hi all,

I'm going to be in Charleston for a sight-seeing trip 3/28 - 3/30, and was hoping for some dining/travel recommendations OR companions.

I've heard that Hominy Grill and Cru are good for breakfast / lunch, and that Magnolia / FIG / SNOB are excellent dinner spots; however, these all strike me as fairly polished places.

I'm also eager to know of hidden snack shops, sweets not to miss, places that are in the "if you haven't been here you haven't really seen Charleston" category, etc. Note that wine selection is irrelevant to me, and that budget flexible.

Side question (I'll also search the rest of chow.com for advice on these, but if anyone has some ready comments):
--> I'm going to be a solo diner (unless someone here would like to join), and I have little reason to order an entree, as I'm not particularly carnivorous or large of appetite. How much of a risk is this?

Thanks in advance!

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Hominy Grill
207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

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  1. I went on a culinary tour and we stopped at a place called Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe. It was amazing. I took my boyfriend back for lunch and regretted that we would only be in Charleston another day. Great southern specials like fried chicken, tomato pie, and shrimp and grits.
    http://www.dixiecafecharleston.com/

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    Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe
    62 State St, Charleston, SC 29401

     
    1. None of those you mentioned are fancy or snobby. I have been to them all, alone and with others and have never had a problem. SNOB, FIG, and Magnolia's are nice but comfortable, as is Cru. Hominy is not "polished".

      I'm not sure what you mean by "risk". Are you worried about just getting apps and drinks? Don't. Get whatever you want, although I'll recommend you get an entree if you go to FIG. If you can't eat it all take it back to your hotel for a snack. I almost licked the plate last time I was there.

      If you are uncomfortable eating alone, just eat at the bar. There will be other single diners there and the bartenders don't care WHAT you eat.

      The places you mentioned are some of the iconic Charleston restaurants. You "haven't been to Charleston" if you don't take a nice walk down the Battery and through the neighborhoods.

      Let me know if you have more questions.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sue in Mt P

        Oh, that's so great to hear! Despite knowing that a restaurant, no matter how "fancy," if it has good service at all, wants only for its clients to be as comfortable as possible, I'm still a bit self conscious sometimes.

        Yes, I did mean just getting apps and maybe a vegetable side. (Drinks aren't yet an option for me.) I'll remember the tip to sit at the bar :)

        I do have another question, actually: what can one do in the evenings? I'll certainly spend some time admiring the city at dusk, but I don't think I'm admissible to most of the bars. Are there concerts, social dance events accessible from downtown, etc., or should I start looking up the house parties at the College of Charleston?

        Thanks so much for your help so far!

        1. re: Harmy

          The college kids hang out at places like Kickin' Chicken on King Street. If you go north on King from Calhoun yo'll see lots of college people walking around. Can't speak to the dance part-no idea. Do pick up a copy of the City paper when you get here. it will list all the week's doings.
          http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com

      2. Highly recommend 39 Rue de Jean in downtown Charleston, also the Fat Hen on John's Island. Both have excellent food; both are relaxed, very casual restaurants.

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        Fat Hen
        3140 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island, SC 29455

        1. My mom and I went to Charleston over Christmas and our favourite meal was at Husk. The food and drinks menu were both interesting and everything tasted great (my mom still talks about the oysters). The portion sizes were also comfortable, I think we ordered a soup, oysters, a side, 2 entrees and a dessert to share - we were pretty stuffed but we ordered more than we usually would and we'd had brunch earlier in the day too. We went to Magnolia for brunch, which was good but I preferred the food and atmosphere at Husk (Husk felt slightly more casual but that may have been because Magnolia is a bit nicer than what I'd usually pick for brunch).

          Overall, I found that Charleston has a great dining scene. Even though the food at the places we went was upscale, the atmosphere was always really comfortable and people are friendly. I often travel alone so I know what you mean about sometimes feeling self-conscious as a solo diner, but it's totally worth it for food this good :) And I usually just bring a book or journal to stay occupied while waiting for my food to arrive.

          And I'd say that the local oysters are a can't-miss, assuming that you like raw oysters.

          8 Replies
          1. re: ggom1

            You're absolutely right. Dining alone can be tough at first but once you get used to it you'll be fine. And the really nice thing is, when you're by yourself, you are open to meeting new people.

            Husk is great. Another place that has good oysters is Amen Street. It's also casual and fun.

            And local oysters are still in season. I'm fixin' to have some for lunch!

            1. re: Sue in Mt P

              You might want to check out Hyman's. The closest thing to a fish camp you'll find but it has decent food at good prices and very relaxed. Another place to consider especially if you like Greek food is Olde Town Grill and Restaurant. The best Grecian chicken, gyros, lamb, seafood, etc. I love SNOB, FIG, Magnolias, etc. too. You might want to check out Shem Creek Bar and Grill. Not in downtown, just across the bridge

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              Bar and Grill
              4005 New Bern Ave, Raleigh, NC 27610

              1. re: richburgfoodie

                Speaking of Shem Creek, there's The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene which overlooks it. Very fresh seafood with hole-in-the-wall atmosphere. If there's a wait you sit on the dock and have a beer served from the ice chest. We're going at Easter and are looking forward to trying Husk.

                1. re: richburgfoodie

                  Sorry, richburgfoodie,

                  Born and raised around fish camps. Hyman's isn't one of them. And I think, for a young person new to eating alone, there are better options.

                  1. re: Sue in Mt P

                    Alas, my hostess and her son have both warned me against Hyman's. It seems that they have sometime promoted their restaurant with "Free crab dip with coupon" deals, or with a waiter and a tray of appetizers on the street, leading to a look of being really busy (and of course, people love free stuff), without the food to back it up. Of course this is hearsay and I should try the food for myself before I judge, but I think I'll save it for another visit.

                    (Charleston is magnificent. I'm definitely bringing my mom next time.)

                    1. re: Harmy

                      no, you don't need to save Hymans for another visit. trust your hostess. Unless it's blue crab season...i have had a big mess of crab there that were done right. What do you think about that Sue, it's been a long time ago (like 15 years), wonder if they still do crabs, or if it's too much trouble given the hordes of tourists waiting to get in?

                      1. re: danna

                        danna, I don't know. It's really crowded every time I go by. I just think for a young person learning the joy of dining alone, I just think places like Cru or High Cotton are more suited for that.

                        1. re: Sue in Mt P

                          oh, I agree Hymans sucks generally, I was just wondernig if they still do blue crabs. I have a thing for steamed blue crabs. Not in season now, anyway I imagine.

            2. You might want to try the rooftop deck at the Market Pavillion Hotel, especially for lunch. It's very pleasant, but a bit pricey for what you get. You can sit at a table or at the bar.

              1. SNOB is a great pick but I would deffinatly recomend the restarant accross the street; High Cotton. The food is unbelievable. It's deffinatly a dinner place but has a laid-back atmosphere. Every night in the lounge they have live great live music. Everything, and i mean EVERYTHING on the menu is great. As far as sweets, there is a little place on either North or south market (just a few blocks away via east bay street) they have great gilato and make their own pralines, brittle and taffy.

                1. Baked on East Bay St is an excellent sweet shop/bakery. Monza on upper King has neopolitan pizza you will crave.

                  1. Hey all!

                    So once again, thank you for the replies and suggestions.

                    For my first night here, I went to Slightly North of Broad, and have only positive things to say--I got there at 7 (with a reservation--and it was possible that I needed it: the bar was full of men in suits and the restaurant was fairly crowded) and was seated so that I could watch essentially the entire dining room, kitchen, and bar. It was a shame that I am still airplane-deafened, or I would have indulged in a bit of eavesdropping.

                    I ordered a bowl of the Thai curried squash bisque and beef carpaccio: I'm recovering from a cold / still a bit sick, so my appetite isn't what it usually is. I also can't eat anything crunchy, or I start coughing madly. How annoying. A server brought warm, crusty bread: it was very good--if anything seemed odd, it was the cold and unwhipped butter that it was served with--I ended up making a little butter sandwich, being unable to spread the butter.

                    The bisque came very quickly--I didn't have time to feel awkward, having left my notebook at home, accidentally. But the bisque was deliciously spicy and sweet, seasoned to the point immediately before I judge that it's too salty. But because my appetite wasn't great and I wanted to enjoy the carpaccio, I actually had to pack up most of it.

                    This was actually my first try at beef carpaccio, but I really liked it. It's like sashimi that gives you a hug (no doubt the beef's buttery texture and the creamy sauces have to do with this characterization). There were capers and micropickles.

                    Again, blasted reduced appetite (and I guess, some desire to eat moderately), I didn't have dessert. The house did bring some delicious and initially, rather confusing cookies: moist cornbread in the shape of a madeline, a morsel of a nutty (pecan?) cookie, and a morel of something sweet and spicy, with a bit of flakiness. I was quite happy.

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                    Slightly North of Broad
                    192 East Bay St., Charleston, SC 29401

                     
                     
                     
                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Harmy

                      That's great. That weather yesterday was a surprise to me and probably didn't help you recover from your cold. But that soup probably did.

                      Don't hesitate to ask anybody about anything you get. They'll be happy to share information with you.

                      1. re: Harmy

                        Harmy, nice review, thanks...can't wait to hear more. I love eating out alone. There's something luxurious about treating yourself to a great restaurant and just soaking it in.

                        Sue, lost your number, I'll email.