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Chow recs needed for trip to Charleston, Savannah, and Hilton Head

Planning vacation to Charleston (2 days), Savannah (2 days) and 6 days in Hilton Head. Will need recommendations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for college student and mother. Student is not adventerous eater, except for sushi. Looking for lots of Southern, lowcountry, seafood, and Italian places. Try to keep dinner to $50-75 for 2 courses plus wine for 2 people. Willing to splurge if restaurant is AMAZING. We will try dives if the food is good or even food trucks, if recommended. Will be staying in Historic Districts in Chalreston & Savannah and near Coligny Plaza in HH.

We will be driving down I-77/I-26 to Charleston and down Rt. 17 to Savannah, HH. Any recs along the way for BBQ, seafood or unique breakfast, lunch would also be appreciated. Thanks y'all!

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  1. I think you're in luck, at least in Charleston, because so many good places have some basics for your student as well as more adventurous stuff. Like Cru Cafe, they make a sinfully rich mac and cheese...but you could also get some beautiful fish w/ local/seasonal vegetables.

    I don't know anything about savannah, and it's been many years since I was in Hilton Head, but I tend to think you should do your splurge dinners in Charleston...food there is head and shoulders above Hilton Head, last time i checked. I like Fig and Cru for lowcountry and seafood. Al di La or Wild Olive for Italian. Sermet's corner is a nice lunch.

    Tip: Walk north on King Street toward Calhoun (and past). College of Charleston girls will abound. Your student will feel right at home. If your student is male, he may particularly enjoy it...these girls are all beautiful. We were down there last year during parent's weekend, and it appears their mothers are all beautiful too. Not sure if it's an entrance requirement or what ;-)

    Wild Olive
    2867 Maybank Highway, Johns Island, SC 29455

    4 Replies
    1. re: danna

      Thanks D! Funny you should mention it, but DD has good friend at College of Charleston and she recommended Hominy Grill. She wil be meeting us there one day for breakfast or lunch, not sure yet.

      Hominy Grill
      207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

      1. re: Diane in Bexley

        Hominy is another example of a place where you could get some really plain food, or some more entertaining items. You probably need reservations. If I were you, I'd try to make it "brunch". I don't think you can eat 3 meals in a day, if one of those meals is at Hominy Grill.

        Hominy Grill
        207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

      2. re: danna

        I live in the Charleston area. The Fat Hen on Johns Island is great! Hank's Seafood, Husk, Poogan's Porch, Slightly North of Broad, so many great restaurants in Charleston . Since you are staying at Coligny Plaza on HHI, you must eat at The Sea Shack! It's great! Rachel Ray made a stop there on $40 a day!

        Fat Hen
        3140 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island, SC 29455

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

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

        Hank's Seafood Restaurant
        10 Hayne Street, Charleston, SC 29401

        Sea Shack
        6 Executive Park Rd, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

        1. re: mollysmomma

          Ditto The Fat Hen -- wonderful!

          Fat Hen
          3140 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island, SC 29455

      3. On your way from Charleston to Savannah you can cover Southern, Lowcountry and BBQ all in one place at Duke's BBQ in Ridgeland. Hwy 17 merges with I-95 at Point South and exits at Ridgeland about 12 miles later. Go through town toward Hardeeville/Savannah and it is on your left. From there continue on 17 to Savannah.

        It's a serve- yourself buffet with BBQ, fried chicken, hash and rice, vegetables and desserts. Open Thursday through Saturday. Same kind of food as Mrs. Wilkes or Paula Deen's without the wait or crowds or fame. Around $10 per person.

        If your student likes pizza be sure to hit Vinnie Van Go-Go's at City Market. Cash only.

        Vinnie Van Go-Go's
        317 W Bryan St, Savannah, GA 31401

        Paula Deen's Restaurant
        102 W Congress St, Savannah, GA 31401

        2 Replies
        1. re: savdoug

          I just tried Jack's Cafe in Charleston, very near College of Charleston and inhabited by a number of good looking people (and some more regular people too.) Super cheap for breakfast and real diner-type food -- great hash browns for example and the bacon biscuit was excellent! it's on George Street near King.

          1. re: savdoug

            I've eaten at the Duke's in Walterboro and it's great. Think it's the same ownership but I Ridgeland's may be easier to get to off highway. In additition to items mentioned above, a very good mac n cheese..and save room for dessert. Prices are crazy low. Super seniors, like my 82 yo mother costs only $6.

            Real treat!

            In Charleston, I really enjoyed McCrady's .

            On Hilton Head, I like Roast Fish and Cornbread, Amigos Cafe on Pope Ave..a short walk from Coligny. Chicken salad, carnitas and anything with fried oysters is great.. Casual Mex, order at counter.

            Second Dale J's recs on HH Italian. MA is more priceyand worth it..iIl Carpaccio..very well priced.

          2. Three HHI Italian restaurants:

            Michael Anthony's (south island) is very popular, deservedly so.

            Mulberry Street Trattoria is, when going off island, the first left after the Moss Creek light.

            Il Carpaccio (mid island) is always good and popular. Excellent thin crust, wood oven pizza.

            Mulberry Street
            1476 Fording Island Rd, Bluffton, SC 29910

            1. I was in Charleston and HHI last year. Favorite restaurants were SNOB and Dye's (HHI).

              You can see my reviews of the area here (pages 2-4):

              2 Replies
              1. re: dfwgal63

                Very good reviews. You have a good style.

                I have one question, though....who visits Charleston and goes to a Thai restaurant? :-)

              2. In Charleston, you should get out to Gullah Cuisine for the lunch buffet. It's on Hwy 17 in Mt. Pleasant. Also, good in Mt. Pleasant is Boulevard Diner and Page's Okra...something. Maybe Cafe. The Wreck in Mt. Pleasant is kind of hard to find without a GPS but worth it. Great ambiance on Shem Creek. I'm not as familiar with the places, new or old, on Sullivan's Island but they seem to get good reviews on Yelp, etc. and the ambiance is good.

                In Savannah, you must get to Masada Cafe at the United House of Prayer for All People. You read that right. You'll love it and, trust me, you'll be the only out of towners there. Also in Savannah, the Sweet Potato Kitchen.

                There's a great post in some of the "looking for good places to eat along I-95" threads in this forum that lists lots of out of the way places in the low country.

                There was an article in Saveur magazine about some of the soul food restaurants in North Charleston that I subsequently found online. I didn't get to try any on our last trip but definitely will in the future. You'll certainly not be bumping elbows with tourists or surbanites in North Charleston.

                The places downtown C'ton and S'nah are great but you and 10,000 other tourists already know that. Get to some of the out of the way places, some of which the suburbanites don't get to (My niece's Savannah in-laws didn't even know about Masada Cafe.), and you'll both get some really good food and be able to impress even the locals with your foodie knowledge.

                Boulevard Diner
                1978 Maybank Hwy, Charleston, SC 29412

                Gullah Cuisine
                1717 U.S.1717 U.S. 17, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

                1. Just leaving HH today-
                  I second mollysmomma's rec that the Sea Shack is not to be missed. It is a dive like no other, and the food is amazing. Go for lunch and get there before noon. The line goes fast if there is one. We get fried shrimp, clams, oysters, etc. The po boys are amazing also.

                  Black Marlin has a great grouper sandwich. We also go to the Salty Dog for the experience. The food is very good ad it's on the water. Get a scoop if ice cream afterwards, and be sure to pick up a t-shirt.

                  A must-do for us for a special night out is The Old Fort Pub. Make a res for dinner around sunset and ask for a window table. It's down Squire Pope Rd, where here are other restaurants that are also good, but none compare to OFP.

                  Have a great time!

                  Old Fort Pub
                  Hilton Head Plntn, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926

                  Sea Shack
                  6 Executive Park Rd, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

                  1. I was in Savannah a few weeks ago and really enjoyed Jazz'd Tapas Bar. The menu features tapas-style dishes with a regional twist. Shrimp 'n Grits, Chorizo Empanadas and Proscuitto Wrapped Scallops were all hits (and generous for "tapas"). The desserts really rocked our worlds, though...the Grand Marnier Creme Brulee and Butterscotch Bread Pudding were amazing. Nice ambiance, too.

                    Jazz'd Tapas Bar
                    52 Barnard St, Savannah, GA 31401

                    1. You MUST go to Fig! In Charleston! It is SO WONDERFUL! Ask the waiter when you get there about a tasting menu ( the only way to go!) and make sure you get the coddled egg! Thank me later!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: southernbelly

                        Thanks! We have been there in the past. We have reservations this weekend at Husk, very curious to see what all the hype is about.

                      2. Wanted to follow up with trip report. We did not make it to Savnnah, but we had some very good experiences in Charleston and Hilton Head and one MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT. We spent 2 days in Charleston and it seemed like we did nothing else except plan where to eat, eat, and plan some more. We arrived late in the afternoon, around dinner time without any real planning. We had not thought we would make it by car in 12 hours, but we did. We found ourselves around West I-526 going east on Rt. 17. While I drove, my DD was Yelping along the way. Long story short, we ended up at the Triangle Char Bar, http://www.trianglecharandbar.com/ This turned out to be lovely. It was a beautiful sunset and we sat outside at one of their tables, enjoyed some un-sweet iced tea and some Mexican inspired food. My DD had the shrimp taco, the lime crema was very refreshing indeed. I had the daily special of chicken quesadillas. For $25 tax & tip, 2 people ate very well.

                        We visited Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant the next day in early morning and went to the See-Wee Restaurant. While I want to be kind to this place, the food itself was good, I cannot be kind because I feel like we were cheated. DD and I both ordered the oysters and shrimp roll. While they had each listed for $8.95 on the menu, there was not one listed for 1/2 shirmp, 1/2 oysters. When I asked if we could have that, they said no problem. The fries that came with this were frozen, not fresh, but well fried. The sandwiches were very tasty. When the bill came, I looked at it $11.95 for each sandwich. Well, I have a prettty good memory and went to pay at the cash register and asked for a menu. They hemmed and hawed and said the price was higher because it was 1/2 shrimp and 1/2 oyster, which made no sense when a sandwich with all of one kind of seafood was $8.95. Finally, the waitress told the owner?manager? she made a mistake. Six bucks is a lot of money, about 40% of our bill. They finally backed down and we paid the corrected bill. I am not making this part up - some old codger yelled out the door after us that we were getting charged Yankee prices! It left a bad taste in my mouth to think we could easily have been cheated.

                        Despite eating seafood for dinner and lunch previously, we chose Coast again for our 2nd dinner. http://www.coastbarandgrill.com/ This was probably the best value of of our trip, great atmosphere, interesting space, good service and terrific value for the food. We started with the Coast Crab dip, very fresh and very yummy. The bread was ciabatta and grilled, a little too hard for my teeth. This would have profited from a cracker or different type of bread, but the seafood was scrumptious. We split a salad, then we followed with an entree of grilled shrimp, oysters and scallop, very nicely done a point, not chewy or over done at all.

                        Our "dessert" each night were warm, fresh pralines from the Market St. Sweet candy shop, it's a good thing Charleston is 750 miles away for us. We must have each eaten 12 of those yummy, buttery pecan encrusted delicacies during our stay.

                        Saturday morning we went to the Saffron Bakery on Bay St. for breakfast. We had been there in 2005 and remembered it as a good selection of baked goods. Sorry, the service here was awful. I had to wait 15 minutes in a very UN crowded space to get coffee. The eggs, grits and bacon were average the biscuit was a little better, not much. Cannot recommend this place.

                        We a friend of DD who attends the College of Charleston for lunch at The Hominy Grill. We had also been there in 2005. They have added on a huge extra space and there was patio seating with a walk up counter and free ice water. We "only" had to wait 45 minutes for lunch. The curried chicken salad was very good and they accommodated me by serving it with a biscuit instead of on a kaiser roll. This was a pleasant surprise to see that fame & fortune has not ruined the Hominy Grill. More to come a little later.

                        Hominy Grill
                        207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

                        Triangle Char & Bar
                        828 Savannah Hwy, Charleston, SC 29407

                        1. Whenever we go to Savannah we go to a place called Sweet Potatoes. It is a little ways outside of historical downtown at 6825 Waters Avenue, Savannah, GA 31406. Our daughter is attending college in Savannah so we go twice a year and we make sure we go to Sweet Potatoes every trip. It doesn't look like much on the outside, but it is really good to great food. They have a website if you want to check them out more. If you go save room for dessert - there banana pudding is wonderfully delicious - we get one to share for the 3 of us.