This is the South

IMG_0321Oh, Charleston. You took me by surprise-steeped in Civil and Revolutionary War history, beautifully preserved historic architecture and incredible food: most of it sweet.

One hot afternoon I ordered mint iced tea from a man who asked if I wanted sweetened or unsweetened.

“How sweet is sweet?”  I asked.

“This is the south,” he said.

Our NYC foodie friend-once again-sprinkled us with a list of culinary treats if you ever find yourself down in Charleston.
(She’s compiled lists for San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia.)
Her words below with some of my notes in italics:
FAIR WARNING:  Nothing is low calorie here, nothing-not one thing.  Good luck with that.

Husk – Famous chef (Sean Brock) who is using nothing but local ingredients, right down to the chocolate and flour… He had a huge profile piece in the New Yorker. It’s the place to go in Charleston. Go there for lunch, brunch or dinner.  It’s in an old Victorian home in the historic district and is utterly charming. And the food is delicious.

Of course, I took for granted it’s the best place in town and was never able to get a table.  Meow.

Cypress – Where Husk is old school, this place is modern. Very cool restaurant conveniently located in town. I recommend getting the patty melt. It’s a burger sandwich type thing that’s totally addictive. Oh my goodness so good. Rich and filling. Best to share. Of course there are a hundred other things on the menu that are winners too.

IMG_0269WildFlour Pastry for sticky buns on Sundays! They are out of control. Go early, people literally line up for them. The woman who runs this place, Lauren Mitterer, is awesome and usually covered in flour and butter.  It’s tiny and they have yummy pastries and pot de crèmes, key lime pies, but the sticky buns – on Sundays only — are to die for.

You could actually die from them if you had one every Sunday.  But boy oh boy are they good.   

Sugar Bakeshop– charming, wonderful wonderful bakery for cookies, cupcakes, etc. Even little mini bite-size tarts that are fantastic. Everything inside this tiny space feels like you’ve stepped back in time. From the glass cookie jars to the old apothecary cases filled with treats. In a residential neighborhood, run by two fun guys (an architect from NY and his partner who is originally from Charleston).

Hominy Grill – fantastic place (near Sugar Bakeshop) for all that southern food – shrimp, grits, amazing biscuits, etc. It’s a lovely fun place to go for breakfast or lunch. Yum!

Are you kidding?  Tomato pudding-plus they are really kid friendly.

Peninsula Grill for a slice of Coconut Cake. They are famous famous famous for their utterly decadent Coconut Cake. And if you are downtown, it’s walking distance from everywhere.

If you are looking for old school cocktails (read: they take 5-10 minutes to concoct your cocktail, right down to the perfect ice cube) try the Gin Joint. On the same street as Cypress.

If you have time and a car, try heading out to Bowens Island (they open at 5pm) for the ultimate seafood shack experience. Super fun!

IMG_0453They’re closed on Sundays-so we missed this spot too.  It’s well worth planning ahead in this town, it’s small-places fill up fast.  

Not to be defeated we found a new spot called The Ordinary.  We indulged in expertly prepared seafood and fresh oysters.  The space opened in 2012 and is in my favorite phase of a restaurant-the extra hospitable phase.  

We sat at the oyster bar; you can see inside the kitchen and watch the chef and staff at work-a methodic ballet.  

Chef Mike Lata spotted our two-year-old at the bar and asked if he’d like something special his young son enjoys.  He brought out smokey baked beans and mashed potatoes you could frost a cake with.  

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