When in Charleston, eat, eat, and eat some more

A springtime tour of this Southern charm

Created date

January 22nd, 2019
A beautiful scene of down town Charleston

Among Travel and Leisure’s 2018 “Top 15 Cities in the US” and "World’s Top 15 Cities” lists, and with two hotels on its list of “Top 100 Hotels in the World” (Planters Inn and Spectator), Charleston is a delicious destination. 

Walking the streets of Charleston in late May, I couldn’t help but think, “Now this is a place where I could retire.”

Tree-canopied streets lined with romantic secret gardens behind ivy-covered walls. Plantation shutters. Hanging baskets overflowing with colorful blooms. Side porches with sky-blue painted ceilings. Southern charm at its finest.

Then a flashback to last August when my family and I came to watch the total solar eclipse hit me like a heat wave. The temperature and humidity were so high we couldn’t walk outside without needing a change of clothes. I revised my day dream: This is a place I could visit over and over again in the right season.

March to May in Charleston, S.C., are heavenly and an ideal time to tour its bustling food scene, historic streets, and pristine beaches.

My sister and I chose Charleston for our annual sisters’ weekend and have no regrets except that we wished we could have stayed longer. We ate our way through the city, which is apparently what Charlestonians do best.

Day 1

The Rosemary Rise—a specialty latte flavored with housemade rosemary-infused raw sugar simple syrup—from The Rise Coffee Bar (77 Wentworth St.) still lingers on my tongue. I loved it so much I tried to recreate it at home to no avail. I guess we’ll just have to go back.

Then there was the biscuit sampler from Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit in the Historic Charleston City Market. Cinnamon, cheese and chive, maple and bacon, shortcake with blackberry jam—I’m surprised we didn’t turn into hot little biscuits, we ate so many.

After a long walk through the market browsing and buying, my sister and I were parched. 5Church (32B North Market St.) lured us in with its gothic stained glass windows, wall of wine, and ceiling scribed with words. The bartender was friendly and made a refreshing Moonshine Mule, their take on the Moscow version.

For supper, reservations made months in advance served us well at Husk (76 Queen St.), Chef Sean Brock’s romantic Lowcountry award-winning restaurant, where we met a friend of mine who had relocated to Charleston a few years back.

I could tell you what we ate, but it won’t do you much good. The menu changes frequently to reflect what the region’s food producers provide daily. You can expect that whatever is on the menu is from the South. And I can tell you that everything we ate was superbly prepared and bursting with flavor. The service, too, was above par.

Day 2

The next day started off with another Rosemary Rise and an amazing breakfast sandwich before we hoofed it the two blocks from our hotel, Marriott’s Renaissance Charleston (68 Wentworth St.), to Market Street. There, we bought tickets for a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city.

There are about a half dozen tour companies to choose from. You probably couldn’t go wrong with any of them, but we thoroughly enjoyed the entertaining, unpretentious, fascinating account of the city from Patrick and his trusty steed Carson with Classic Carriage Works. A history major and comedian, Patrick has been doing these tours for 15 years and truly knows his stuff.

Because the route is assigned by a lottery, you could do the tour a few times during your stay and always see something new. Friends had recommended going in the morning so you have the rest of the day to explore. We took their advice. Good move.

Afterward, we grabbed a few more “hot little biscuits” and retraced our steps to one of the historic houses Patrick mentioned on the tour—the Nathaniel Russell House, (51 Meeting St.). Built by a wealthy shipping merchant, it’s considered one of America’s most important Neoclassical houses.

It’s well worth the hour, if not to witness grandeur, opulence, and the home’s magnificent spiral staircase, then to be astonished by the effort the Historic Charleston Foundation makes to restore and preserve its historic homes—down to the exact wall color using paint-making techniques of the time period.

Docent-led tours run daily 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last tour beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Better yet, plan your trip around Charleston’s Festival of Houses and Gardens, which runs March 13–April 18, 2019. Aside from the Nathaniel Russell House and other historic landmarks open to the public, you can step inside the private houses and gardens of some of the city’s most stunning properties. Attend luncheons, musical concerts, tastings, and other Lowcountry lifestyle events (historiccharleston.org).

Ready to rest our weary feet, we took an Uber to The Dewberry (334 Meeting St.), former Georgia Tech quarterback John Dewberry’s Mad Men-esque masterpiece of a hotel. Its spa is a calming oasis across the street from Marion Square in the city’s center. Hour-long massages eased our tired legs and backs. Their relaxation room is the epitome of peace and quiet.

Fully restored, we “Ubered” back to the hotel for cocktails by the rooftop pool before dinner at Indaco (526 King St.), an outstanding and unpretentious Italian eatery with covered patio seating. The burrata melted on my tongue, the homemade bucatini verde was tender and flavorful, the service delightful, and the wine list superb.

Day 3: Sullivan’s Island

When our flight was canceled and we were fortunately stranded for another day, we purchased outrageously expensive beach towels from Vineyard Vines (the only place we could find them) and ventured to Sullivan’s Island, an adorable and laidback beach town.

Brunch at The Obstinate Daughter was just what we needed. I’m convinced you could order anything on the menu and taste a mouthful of heaven. I’ve ordered the H.E.C. Croissant sandwich both times I’ve been, and I would order it again. Their light, refreshing, and oh-so-tomatoey yellow bloody Mary also stands out.

Following brunch, we spent the day on the beach, which was uncrowded and calm. The water wasn’t pristine, but it—and the breeze—felt lovely. Bring beach towels and a water bottle. Unlike Folly Beach, there are no chair or umbrella rentals, but it’s significantly more peaceful.

A seafood dinner on The Ordinary’s secluded patio (544 King St.) rounded out our trip and left a very good taste in our mouths for this seaside city.