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Feb 21, 2013 02:09 PM

30th birthday in Charleston

My wife and I will be celebrating her graduating from grad school and my 30th birthday in May in Charleston. We can't wait! Our trips always tend to be focused the most on the restaurant scene and everything else kind of falls in between the meals. Neither of us have spent time in the Southeast and could use some help and thoughts with our list. As of now we are planning on three nice dinners (if we are lucky 4 nights) and then also lunch/happy hour/drinks/apps. We met and lived in NYC and now live in Philadelphia. We love trying everything from elegant to casual to the hot new spot to must try local hole in the wall. As long as it is good! These are our ideas and thoughts as of now:

FIG - I think a must for one of the dinners.
McGrady's - definitely planning dinner at one of Sean Brock's places. As of now leaning towards McGrady's for dinner and saving Husk for drinks
Peninsula Grill/Charleston Grill - leaning towards Peninsula Grill for a fine dining experience but the menu at Charleston Grill look good too. Anyone have a strong preference between the two?

Homily Grill - brunch here a must for the shrimp & grits!
SNOB - place to "see and be seen" at lunch?

Happy Hour/Drinks/Apps:
Macintosh - considered it a possibility for dinner but at least a cocktail here
Husk - want to visit the bar here for sure if we go with McGrady's for dinner
The Ordinary - we love seafood and small plates. If we visit long enough for a 4th dinner perhaps this will be it.
Stars - we rarely pass up an opportunity for drinks outside, especially on the roof!
Rutledge Cab Co. - nice atmosphere worthy of grabbing a drink here?

Any recommendations for local can't miss dishes at places that don't get the publicity like the James Beard winners/nominees? We often skip eating breakfast out because we plan so much for the lunch/drinks/dinners. Would that be a mistake in Charleston?

Thank you in advance for any ideas or thoughts you might have about our list and trip!

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  1. I think you list is great,even though I've only been to about 2/3 of these spots.Charleston is glorious in April and May.Please look for opportunities to have as many of those cocktails as possible outside.It really doesn't even matter where.Try the rooftop bars,maybe fleet landing or up on shem creek if you have a car.May is for being outside in Charleston!

    1. Congratulations. Finishing grad school is a big deal.

      You are making excellent choices. I don't think skipping breakfast is a big deal if that's what you usually do.

      It's been so long since I've been to Peninsula I can't rec one or the other. Just look at the menus and see what you like better.

      SNOB is not as big as some places so it gets crowded at lunch. You may want to go early or late. The specials at lunch are an excellent deal.

      I actually like the shrimp and grits better at SNOB or High Cotton better than Hominy, but go there for the fun sides and what ever fish they have on the special list.

      Make reservations for your dinners just to be on the safe side.

      You might also consider Tristan. Their chef's tasting menus are exceptional as well as a good value. The bar there is nice as well.

      Have fun. Happy Birthday.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Sue in Mt P

        Thank you everyone for your responses to the post! We are finally here. We had a nice lunch at Cru and a fantastic dinner at The Ordinary. Great start to the trip. Can't wait for dinner at FIG and McCrady's (Husk for drinks another night) later in the week. Need help for tomorrow though...we have Peninsula Grill and Macintosh both booked for tomorrow. Need to cancel one. What is the better Charleston dining experience?! We understand these are two totaling different settings. We just want to have the best Charleston food experience. Thanks again for all the advice!

        1. re: BigBMac

          Having never been to the Macintosh...I would never turn down the Peninsula Grill...ever...

          1. re: BigBMac

            If you find yourself loving the southern charm of Charleston, I would pick Peninsula Grill. However it's white tablecloth/finer dining. If you enjoyed Upper King where you were last night and want a place more upbeat, I would choose Macintosh for dinner & a nightcap and coconut cake at Peninsula Grill afterwards! They have a quaint cute bar area. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

            1. re: IOPfoodie

              When not "dressed" we have found ourselves sitting at the Peninsula Grill bar having a drink and an app or desert...or just the drink/beer. It's a good atmosphere for such a small bar.

        2. Congratulations to her and happy birthday to you!

          When I was in Charleston a few months ago, we have a gloriously wonderful Sunday brunch at Hall's Chophouse with amazing popovers and decadent food if you would like to have brunch in lieu of a breakfast on Sunday.

          Of course --- they serve more than brunch, too, that was just what we did and it was fantastic!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Tehama

            Tehama, was that the gospel brunch?

            1. re: Sue in Mt P

              It was! Oh we had so much fun with the fabulous tunes wafting up the stairsteps to the dining room where we were. The food was outstanding and the owner (I think) came for a friendly chat -- it was really an absolutely fabulous experience all the way around. Really enjoyed it and will definitely go back the next time I go to Charleston.

              Of course, we adored our meal at F.I.G. too.

              1. re: Tehama

                That one is still on my to do list. The menu looks nice.

                1. re: Sue in Mt P

                  You'll love it! :-) Happy weekend!

          2. Can't go wrong with one of the 3 sisters

            3 Replies
            1. re: nmtemp

              Thanks for the recs! Is there one of the three that stands out above the others that you would recommend for a Sat. lunch?

              1. re: BigBMac

                Two Borrows Ladder or Butcher and Bee for lunch
                Do not miss dessert at Hall's Chop House or Cristophe's Chocolates.

                1. re: BigBMac

                  This response is probably too late but if you have one more lunch left on your trip, ditch the peninsula and head out to Sullivan's Island to Home Team BBQ. In addition to awesome BBQ, the wings and shrimp tacos are the best in te area!! Fun laid back beach vibe.

              2. Good research and great choices! Here's 2 cents from local 32 year old who eats out 3-4 times a week:

                FIG is a must (as are reservations! - they take them 30 days in advance). McCrady's and Husk are great - pick Husk if you want more laid back, order a la carte. Pick McCrady's for the tasting menu and more formal atmosphere (compared to Husk). Peninsula Grill is great, much more formal atmosphere. I strongly recommend The Ordinary to add to your list.

                I love Hominy - it gets a lot of press, but I think it's worth it. Cute atmosphere. Cru & SNOB are great too - I second the Hall's suggestion for brunch. I love Fast & French for lunch. I would also recommend walking through the Farmer's Market on Saturday - great street food/ food truck options. Macintosh is great for brunch on Sunday - awesome burger. Great atmosphere for dinner.

                Happy Hour/Drinks:
                Gin Joint or Cocktail Club if you're into creative cocktails. Closed for Business if you're a beer guy. If the weather is nice, I would suggest the rooftop at Stars (swanky), Vendue (locals), or Pavilian bar (good people watching).

                If you'd like to explore other parts of Charleston (like the beach!!) - I would drive out to Sullivan's Island for BBQ lunch/brunch at Home Team or a cocktail at Poe's and then walk out to the beach.

                Have fun, the weather should be gorgeous!