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Aug 9, 2011 06:14 AM

Charleston: fast, fresh, and delicious on the peninsula

Headed to downtown Charleston for three days/nights--yep, in August, because I guess we're crazee about humidity or something. We have most of our dinner plans firmed up. (Glass Onion, FIG, and, hopefully, either Husk or McGrady's.) Anyway, we are looking for some fast, fresh, and delicious nonchain lunch and breakfast spots on the peninsula. Other helpful details: We'll be staying near Meeting Street, and we are not huge eaters for any meal except dinner. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Hi jeff! Go to Sermet's Corner on King for lunch. yes, it looks like it might be full of tourists, but it's good. I recommend the grilled calamari app. That and the fabulous warm bread they'll bring you and a bottle of bargain's great.

    Sermet's Corner
    276 King St, Charleston, SC 29401

    5 Replies
    1. re: danna

      Sounds perfect. Let me know if you think of anything else. We haven't been to Charleston in about a year and a half, and I'm sure there are some newer places we aren't aware of. For instance: What is that new sushi place on the lower end of King Esquire was so hot for about a year ago? Have you been there?

      1. re: Jeff C.

        Beats me. We have good sushi in Greenville so there's no way I would waste a Charleston meal eating sushi!

        1. re: danna

          I heard that. Too much good lowcountry fare.

          1. re: Jeff C.

            I agree with danna. Sermet's is great. For something different try Fast and French, aka
            Gaulart et Maliclet on Broad St.

            SNOB has excellent lunches on weekdays.

            That sushi place is O-Ku. I haven't been yet.

            If you decide to come over East of the Cooper, try Page's Okra Grill, Graze or Mustard Seed.

            1. re: Sue in Mt P

              Or how about Amen Street for one of the newer restaurants that you may not have been to? Lots of fish and seafood to pick from much or as little as you want for lunch.

    2. Hi Jeff,

      Carolina's has great lunch specials! It's on Exchange St.

      2 Replies
        1. re: Sue in Mt P

          You guys are awesome. Thanks so much. Any newish breakfast joints? We've been to Hominy Grill and Saffron Bakery and such. Used to love Baker's Cafe on King for french toast and cafe au lait, but they are gone, gone, gone...

      1. For breakfast, try Dixie Supply and Cafe on State St.

        1. FUEL - Carribean style food

          Hope and Union - for your morning coffee

          And I love Dixie Supply - the tomato wonderful.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MyNextMeal

            Ooooh! I remember seeing that tomato pie in Southern Living...

            And Hope & Union looks right up our alley. Thanks a bunch.

          2. Alright, gang. Here's a quick take on each meal we had during the three day visit...

            SUNDAY:Lunch at Sermet's Corner. Overdone and rubbery calamari appetizer and okay cold cucumber soup that could've used more vegetable chunks. Nice $5 glasses of cava, though! Indifferent service.

            Cocktails at the Gin Joint on East Bay. Wonderful building restoration. Creative cocktail menu, including absinthe concoctions! Order anything with gin or bourbon in it, and it WILL be good.

            Dinner at Husk. For me the best dishes here were the most straightforward: boiled peanut hummus with tiny hoecakes and red pepper jelly, a stellar peach cobbler with Anson Mills farro ice cream, and a Benton's Bacon cornbread that may well have ruined all others for me (including my grandmother's). The grouper and porgy entrees were fine but a tad bland and had too many different flavors cancelling each other out. Excellent service.

            MONDAY: Breakfast at Hope & Union Coffee waaaaay out on St. Philips. (Seriously, it's a hike.) Beautifully restored sidehouse, but no decaf., few pastries, and no fresh juices. (To be honest, I didn't think the coffee was that great, either.) Nice but ditzy service.

            Lunch at Amen Street. Excellent fried shrimp and oyster po boys with fresh baked mini baguettes. Homemade tarter sauce with heirloom pickles--just needed more. (Don't forget the hot sauce.) Another lovely building restoration. Excellent service.

            Dinner: Glass Onion was having a special dinner in honor of Julia Child's birthday and was booked solid, damn it. (If we had only known, right?) Anyway, we somehow ended up at the Blind Tiger pub, which has an extremely personable staff, good beer specials, and an awesome garden patio out back. Great place for a nightcap, but the burgers, sliders, frites, and other pub fare are absolutely mediocre.

            TUESDAY: Breakfast at Kudu. Wonderful coffee and pastries, no fresh juices. Friendly staff, lots of College of Charleston kids in the mix. Really lovely gated courtyard with a fountain. And cheaper than Hope & Union.

            Lunch at "Fast & French," which was crowded and not-so-fast, but still the best lunch deal in town. $8.98 for your choice of six soups, salmon mousse on baguette with smoked salmon on top, a slice of fresh melon, AND a glass of wine! (Make it rose' for a buck extra.)

            Dinner at FIG. This was one of the top three dining experiences of my life. It was one of those dinners where you eat a course and think,"there's no way they could top that"...but they do. We started with exemplary cocktails. Wife had the Marfa Daisy, with tequila and grapefruit bitters. I had the special of the day, which was the smoothiest bourbon-based cocktail I've ever had. Next came the coddled egg, which was cloudlike in texture but full of rich briny crab goodness. The we had the Tomato Tarte Tatin with a pillow-like goat cheese. (I don't know where Chef Lata gets his produce, but I've never had tomatoes like these anywhere.) For an entree we shared a grouper preparation nestled on a bed of what I can only describe as a kind of southern take on ratatouille. (Tomatoes, eggplant, hen-of-the-wood mushrooms, vidalia onion.) FIG's use of produce, in particular, goes way beyond anything else I've had in Charleston. We finished off with coffee and a sorghum sticky toffee cake with malt ice cream that your momma would make every Christmas...if your momma were a creative and culinary genius. An exemplary meal, start to finish. Best service of the trip, too. (Ask for Johanna, pronounced with a "Y.")

            WEDNESDAY: Breakfast at Dixie Supply. Tiny b-fast and lunch joint with no atmosphere, no decaf., indifferent service, and minimal seating, but if you order the peach-stuffed french toast, you won't care about any of that. (We want to go back for the tomato pie!)

            7 Replies
            1. re: Jeff C.

              Thanks for the detailed review!

              So sorry to have steered you to Sermet, since you didn't like it. I've had that calamari app more than a dozen times, and have loved it, sometimes ordering a 2nd one, every time. So either you had bad luck, or I like my calamari rubbery ;-)

              Further, I despised that greasy-ass cornbread at Husk!

              But we have certainly agreed on FIG. Just fantastic. I'm going down next week and I had debated leaving fig off the menu since I go there every trip, but that was a fleeting thought. I better make my reservations now. We should probably go twice.

              1. re: danna

                I grew up in east TN, eating cornbread out of a cast iron skillet lubed with bacon grease my grandmother kept in a tin can by the stove. When there was no fruit for pies or cobblers, we crumbled it in a glass of cold buttermilk for dessert. (Have I mentioned we also had to walk five miles to school, uphill both ways?) So "greasy-ass" is the language of love to these ears...

                1. re: Jeff C.

                  danna! There's jelly at Husk.

                  Jeff C. That is a great review. Thank you so much. I rarely eat breakfast downtown so it's hard for me to know what to rec.

                  1. re: Jeff C.

                    I am from the Ky mountains and thats they way granny did her cornbread (and I do mine)... I guess since Chef Brock is from rural Va this is probably the way it was there too.

                    1. re: LaLa

                      That tin can by the stove-all good Southerners know about that. Good ole bacon grease in a coffee can, or if you were well off, a can that said "Grease" on it!

                      Lala, holla when you come down again.

                      1. re: Sue in Mt P

                        Just read that Bon Appetit has named Husk Best New Restaurant in America. I hate to say this based on only one visit, but that seems a bit of a stretch to these taste buds.

                        1. re: Jeff C.

                          I quess it is a good thing they visit several times before they decide ;0