An entire city filled with southern gentlemen was undoubtedly a draw, but what initially sparked the idea of a vacation in Charleston was the food. Alongside my three girlfriends—the Princesses of Tides who ventured to the South with me— we marveled at fresh, briny oysters, as cool as the Atlantic in March. Peel-and-eat shrimp—the hooked tail larger than the palm of my hand. A warm bed of grits, fluffed with cheese and topped with crisped crab cakes. Butter laced clams. Tomato pies. Handmade pimento cheese.
They say that there’s no better way to get to know a city than through its food. If this is true, Charleston and I shared a passionate five days in bed together. At Tomato Shed Cafe, I tasted South Carolina’s history over an extraordinary mouthful of soft shell crab, encrusted in a fried layer of breading (“We’re shrimpers, farmers, and darn good cooks” our waitress asserted when she took our order). I grew smitten with lowcountry over a gossamer sliver of lobster, bathed in a lake the color of summer, at the newly James Beard nominated The Ordinary. We dined next to locals at Butcher & Bee, where I surrendered to a pungent bacon potato salad, and we became intimate with Charleston’s fine dining at the distinguished Circa 1886. We toasted with a final dinner at Husk, where I quickly understood the magnitude of the restaurant’s influence while consuming a buttery strip of Charleston lonzino—pork loin locally raised and cured.
On my final night in Charleston I met a man. I took to calling him V. He took to calling me babe. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say he was the finest gentleman I had seen in the South. We talked until my eyes were burning, and the bourbon in my blood set my skin ablaze. I contemplated extending my trip, and he asked if I would meet him the next day.
Instead I spent the final day with the Princesses of Tides, and we ate one last meal together at Two Boroughs Larder, which was my favorite meal in lowcountry. Was it because the burrata, which broke from its mold and wed with a smear of black garlic and lard, was nothing short of a miracle? Or was it because my heart was still fluttering over V, and food is most profound when the heart is set right? It’s funny how that works—you can spend five days falling in love with a city over the most remarkable dishes in the world, but ultimately it’s a man called V, not caviar crowned oysters, that make you want to stay.
Here’s a look at some of the dishes consumed in Charleston.
THE ORDINARY, 544 King St., Charleston, SC 29403
TWO BOROUGHS LARDER, 186 Coming St Charleston, SC 29403
BUTCHER & BEE, 654 King St Charleston, SC 29403
HUSK, 76 Queen Street, Charleston, SC 29401
TOMATO SHED CAFE, 842 Main Rd Johns Island, SC 29455
BARBARA JEAN’S, 99 S Market St Charleston, SC 29401
For more on our Charleston adventures, visit Shannon Eileen’s blog, Happiness Is.