Johnna’s Pick of the Week (Travel Edition): Charleston, S.C.

[ 0 ] October 30, 2009 |

Southern Comfort. Not the alcohol but these are the two words to describe a recent trip to Charleston. Now we know other southern cities such as New Orleans, Houston and Atlanta are considered the hubs of true southern living, but Charleston is giving each of these places a run for their money. Now while we love the French Quarter of New Orleans, the huge portions of Houston and the nightlife of Atlanta, when we cross the borders from the North to the South (*Arguably D.C. is the south based on the Mason Dixon line…but we go by the rule that anything below D.C. is the south…), we are looking for pure southern living. Pure in the form that things will slow down just a bit from the congested city, that the food will be absolute comfort food and the homes remind you of the kind that were in Steel Magnolias. This is Charleston.

Welcome to a place that serves shrimp and grits everywhere (*We almost wondered if we could find it at the McDonald’s…), the drivers don’t honk their horns obnoxiously and the multiple waterways all offer something uniquely appealing. We must have eaten at every place in this city so here is a brief (*ok, long) run down of all the places that made our palate happy:

Day 1:

Santis– We started with the guacamole as an appetizer which was served inside a tortilla shell and resembled the guac at Rosa Mexicano, but a little more creamier than we would have preferred. This didn’t matter, however, because after we started sipping on the Margarita’s and Patron shots…things get blurry right around here…

Day 2:

S.N.O.B.- This was actually our worst experience in Charleston (*Maybe the name of this spot speaks for itself…). The hostesses were…we’ll keep those thoughts to ourselves. The lack of good service upon entering kind of impaired our appetite, but from what we can remember the shrimp and grits were decent and the fried chicken livers over grits were a great twist on the typical grits combo.

Craves– Yum. We can actually still taste the four large cups of lemonade/sweet tea mix we slurped on alongside the fried seafood platter. Craves is a spot we found while perusing a neighborhood just outside downtown Charleston and we were glad to find it. Fried, fried, fried and more fried, we loved it! We know, we know…fried food is “not healthy” but we couldn’t resist when fresh fried shrimp and scallops were an option on the menu. Needless to say, we weren’t “healthy” for the night…

Day 3:

High Cotton– We could not keep our eyes from peering up towards the ceiling at the ceiling fans that actually resembled woven fans. The she-crab soup melts in your mouth and not in your hands! It was probably one of the best of the she-crab soups we tasted in Charleston with its thick but not clumpy base.

Cupcake– Cupcakes are all the craze around the District but not everyone is meeting the criteria. A cupcake should be moist with icing that has a personality of its own (*Basically, both parts should compliment each other but offer different things at the same time). Cupcake did the trick with some of the most fluffy cupcakes we have ever allowed our non-sweet tooth to touch. The icing had just the right amount of cream cheese…some places really over do it (*These names will remain anonymous…)…

Kaminsky’s– D.C. needs one of these. Badly. This is the ultimate dessert indulgence. With everything from homemade tollhouse pie to bourbon pecan pie, you will not run out of ways to pack on an extra 10 lb.’s. We decided our 10 lb.’s would be well spent on one of their alcoholic infused milkshakes, the Brandy Alexander to be exact. This probably explains why we almost fell asleep on the carriage ride…

Fish– This is our favorite restaurant. Favorite meaning favorite out of every restaurant we’ve been to (*Ok that could be a bit overstated but definitely in South Carolina, this is our favorite…). The food was exquisite (*Don’t think we’ve used that word to describe a lot of restaurants if that gives you any inclination how we felt about this spot). The service was on point and the ambiance was very new age/sleek. The Dim Sum was our absolute favorite part, here’s what we crave: Duck Confit steamed bun (*the bread is some of the softest we’ve tasted…), the Fried Tofu (*this was actually our least favorite food @ Fish, it just didn’t mesh well with the honey sauce they added to it…) and the curry crab soup gave the regular she-crab soup a run for its money. The rolls that they put on the table were the best freebies we’ve encountered in awhile and interestingly enough, they paired the rolls with a housemade soy sauce that was amazing. We could go on for hours on how good the food was, but there’s not enough room on our post page for that…

Day 4:

The Fat Hen– That’s what we felt like after leaving here, a fat hen. Now since breakfast is the easiest meal of the day, we never can give too much credit for it but we will say that this place does it right. The drive was a small hike from our normal surroundings and the line was kind of long to be out in the country but it was a country meal worth waiting for…the french toast has sent us on a french toast kick, we can’t shake it. Yum to the she-crab soup, the scrambled egg/chorizo/avocado smothered in cheese burrito and of course our usual, the eggs benedict (*You didn’t think we would order anything else except the poached eggs, did you??).

California Dreaming– Our least favorite of the pack. The seafood nachos were a good concept in thinking about it but actually tasting them was another thing. They really did nothing for us but top some nachos with chopped salmon and shrimp and smother that in cheese wiz. We could’ve done without, but by this time we had eaten our way through Charleston and really anything else was just icing on the cake.

The top two things we learned in Charleston:

1. Charleston has two foods that you will find on every menu (*Doesn’t matter what cuisine/genre is served there…): she crab soup and shrimp and grits. They are somewhere on the menu in some form…

2. One should not visit Charleston if you don’t like to eat. This is not for the faint eater, you almost need to be one of those professional eaters to fit in this town.

In addition to the food, there are so many beautiful homes, trendy boutiques and great places to just take a nice walk in Charleston…though we wouldn’t really know about all these places because we spent all of our time @ the restaurants…

Category: Johnna's Pick of the Week, restaurant reviews, Travels

About the Author ()

Johnna French is a Harlem NY native with deep roots in Panama, Washington, DC and North Carolina. All four places have heavily influenced her life and the foods she loves today. After graduating Howard University School of Law and beginning her life as a young professional in the city she was led to start Johnna Knows Good Food in November 2007 to keep family, friends and colleagues updated on where to go and what to eat while dining in the nation’s capitol. French, who still practices law, leads a team of three writers to cover the ever expanding Washington, DC food scene. French has been featured in print and television, appearing in Washingtonian Magazine and is a regular contributor to various local TV affiliates including WUSA 9, FOX 5 DC and WJLA (ABC Affiliate) News Channel 8. During the 2016-2017 football season, Johnna aired on Comcast Sports Mid-Atlantic (CSN) show, Redskins Life, as the weekly tailgate host. Johnna is currently a regular contributor to the FOX Baltimore Weekend morning show.

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