Corianna’s City Guide: Charleston

Happy 2015! A new year means change, and for CoriannaGoesXC, this nouveau touch will come in the form of a city guide. Of course, it is only appropriate to start with the first city I fell truly, madly and deeply in love with – Charleston. There were obviously other loves, namely Paris, but, Charleston was the first love that was my own. Like all loves, it started as a crush, as I admired her from afar. Then I visited, and voila! I was hooked. I lived there for four glorious years and have firm plans of returning one day.

So whether you’re just driving through or are spending your honeymoon in Charleston, below are some places where I find myself when in Charleston. Be sure to click the “Charleston” tab on the side bar for further recommendations.

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EAT

If there is one meal that is quintessentially Charleston, it is brunch. Brunch was made for Charleston. There is something about the smell of the salty air in the morning that says Shrimp n’ Grits.

Hominy Grill | It’s the classic CHS restaurant. Get here early (there will be a line), but be sure to get drinks while you wait on the porch. (I recommend the Planter’s Punch) You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here, but they are known for the Charleston Nasty (formerly known as the Big Nasty), a piece of fried chicken sandwiched between a southern biscuit and smothered in gravy.

Fat Hen | Located off the peninsula, you won’t regret a drive that transports you to the set of Gone with the Wind. Chef Neuville nods his hat to the French Hugenots that settled the area with a French-fusion menu.

Old Village Post House | An old post house sets the stage for this brunch location. OVPH boasts the classics – omelettes, French toast, oh, and of course fried green tomatoes. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by Pitt Street Pharmacy for an old fashioned milkshake.

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Lunch & Dinner

When in Charleston, eat seafood. After all, it wouldn’t be a real trip to the Holy City without oysters.

Fleet Landing | Can’t beat the location. Fleet Landing is the one of the only restaurants located on the water, therefore practically guaranteeing some sunset dolphin views, if you sit on the patio. You can’t go wrong with the seafood here.

Obstinate Daughter | My favorite restaurant happens to be on Sullivan’s Island. Everything is delicious. If octopus is on the menu, I dare your to order it, followed by an affogato for dessert.

The Ordinary | This restaurant is touted as the hottest in Charleston, and the hype is legit. Whether you’re ordering their Hawaiian rolls or lobster roll, you won’t be disappointed.

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DRINK

Rarebit | If Moscow Mules, alt music, and good conversation are your thing – you must go here.

The Belmont | Hands down, my favorite 5 o’clock somewhere spot. I dream about bartender/owner Mickey’s Cielo. Juices are hand pressed (with pulp <3) and bitters are homemade. Oh, and film noir projects above you in the candlelit room. Talk about a date night.

Black Tap | But first, coffee. Nothing better than this coffee shop & the almond latte’s that come out of here. Take a window seat for your new favorite Sunday morning spot.

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Bin 152 | Wanna feel like you’re in France? Easy. Just stop by this rustic wine bar for a bottle of your favorite French wine and a board of cheese.

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Prohibition | My go to spot. Located a block from my old apartment, you can’t go wrong with the happy hour special here. $4 well drinks, wine and bubbles. Located on King Street, comes with a side of great people watching.

DO

Charleston Farmers Market | The Farmers Market is everything good about this city tucked into one quaint park on seasonal Saturday mornings. Tasty food vendors, artisan craftsmen, lowcountry farmers and artists alike bring out the best of the best to share with locals and visitors.

Charleston City Market | If you’re visiting Charleston, you can’t miss this novelty. Read further here for a post I wrote for the Charleston Place Hotel (which btw, is a magnificent place to stay while visiting) Pick up a carriage ride here, my favorite way to see the city. Not only do you learn something different from each guide, but you get to see the city at a slower, more leisurely pace.

Beaches | There are three defined beaches in Charleston. They each have their own flavor.

Sullivan’s Island – my absolute favorite beach in Charleston. Walk to the beach through grassy backyards and houses that make you feel like you’re in the Hamptons, to a beach where you will normally end up bumping into a few friends.

Folly Beach – The “college” beach. Come here if you’re looking for a good time, especially around the 4th of July.

Isle of Palms – A bit more residential, this beach is a vacationer’s paradise.

King Street | Shop along King Street for your favorite retail stores, but also for some one-of-a-kind boutiques and antique shops. The second Sunday of every month, “Second Sunday” is where all vendors bring their shops to the street! The street becomes pedestrian-friendly while you casually stroll to your favorite shops.

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The Battery | And lastly, my absolute favorite thing to do in Charleston – walk. Charleston is one of the most walkable cities, and there is always something amazing that will catch your eye; it could be a fountain in a hidden garden or a Carolopolis award denoting the historical importance of an antebellum mansion. See here for a blog post I wrote for Charleston Place.

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#ForTheInsta: The most photographed area in Charleston? It’s a toss up between picturesque rainbow row and the pineapple fountain, but my pick is below for obvious reasons #ProudAlumni

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You can’t go wrong in Charleston. I could go on for days about all parts of this city that made me fall in love, but I will leave some work up to your own heart.

Edmund’s Oast

It’s been a while.

Since my last time writing, I’ve sat at great restaurants, anxiously anticipating my next meal, in locations ranging from Guatemala to Raleigh.

This one comes to you from Morrison Drive, Charleston, South Carolina.

Just as I have been anxiously anticipating my meals, I have been waiting for the opening of Edmund’s Oast. Nothing brings pen to paper on my restaurant wishlist more than the word “charcuterie.” That’s what it’s all about at Edmund’s Oast.

1st great thing about EO: Parking! Yes, there is a parking lot. A luxury in Charleston.

2nd great thing about EO: There is a TON of outdoor seating. I’m talking picnic benches for days. By days I mean enough to have your family reunion on their patio.

3rd great thing about EO: The service was wonderful. Our water glasses were always full. Dishes were thoroughly explained (this is important to me when I order charcuterie–I mean come on, who doesn’t want to know about everything on the wood block)

4th great thing about EO: The beer selection. While it is enough to overwhelm someone as indecisive as me, it is great for a beer guru. And if you don’t know your IPA’s from pale ale’s, the knowledgeable waitress is happy to help you out.

5th great thing about EO: The decor is fancy enough for a birthday celebration, but low key enough for a throwonasweateritsacharcuteriekindanight.

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Cheeseboard Wall Art

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Lamb meatballs with apricot glaze.

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Tried something new. The red, fruity, deliciousness in the center: Quince.

http://edmundsoast.com/

Who I would take as my date: Charcuterie Connoisseur

Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House

Something unexpected came by way of Cumberland Street last weekend. While walking from East Bay, bored by the choices of restaurants covered by the facades of row houses, my date and I stumbled upon a bright light on a dark street. We entered Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House on a Friday night to find a wait for tables but an open bar. While sitting at the bar, we heard tales of the bartender participating on a famed chef television series, listened to people who had traveled from far to visit Charleston and the Tap House, all while looking over the extensive beer list. The bartender was kind enough to ask me my tastes in beer, taking the time to figure out what I may like to try.

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The menu was separated by daily features (which are listed daily on their comprehensive Facebook page) and bar staples. The menu tooted complex dishes such as scotch eggs, house cured corn beef with apple kraut, and confit chicken salad sandwich. After reviewing the well-sized menu for a little too long, the patient and helpful bartender took our order. When our food came out, we were automatically excited by the presentation.

We ordered the fried chicken with vinegared cukes and fish and chips. The food was exceptional. Honestly, this place is a hidden gem. I’m talking so good that we asked the bartender to tell the chef about his level of excellence, to which the chef immediately came out to meet us. They have a menu that is able to appeal to a variety of appetites while still “wowing” a dignified eater. The fried chicken had a kick that was executed with perfection and the fried fish and chips was a great spin on an easy dish.

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My date and I definitely will return to this location. We are especially looking forward to coming when the weather warms up to sit on their cozy patio.

http://www.craftsmentaphouse.com/

Who I would take as my date: Someone visiting on the weekend. To me, Craftsmen is the quintessential neighborhood bar and restaurant.

Lee Lee’s Hot Kitchen

There is something about polar vortex-like weather that screams Chinese food. It’s as if the winds have carried over scents from the streets of Beijing, urging me to find chopsticks. Finding Chinese food, until now, has not been an easy thing to do in Charleston, South Carolina. While Charleston does offer an array of seafood, southern and American restaurants, it seems as though they are just now getting a bit of diversity. I mean, hello? Where is a girl supposed to get Indian, French, Thai, Greek, and Spanish cuisine? I give you kudos for trying, Charleston, but we need more than one option for each. I’m spoiled from growing up in the suburbs of D.C., where the issue wasn’t trying to find a place to get my fix of a certain cuisine, it was trying to decide between which one.
photo 1-1Lee Lee’s Hot Kitchen came in at a perfect time for my cold comfort food needs. On the day before the first snow I’ve seen in Charleston, when the winds came sweeping in and the palm trees furrowed up their mighty leaves, I made my way to Lee Lee’s. It is here that I felt warmth from the fiery red of the interior, with electrically colored images of Chinese graphics.

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I had to start with a hot and sour soup, although this was dangerous, because one taste of soup could have been the tell-tale sign that the restaurant didn’t live up to my dreams (insert sentence where I am a soup-fanatic here). The soup was just how I like it: tangy, peppery and delicious. My date dined on crab rangoon and they were all gone before he could muster the strength to give me a victorious thumbs up. This was hitting the spot.

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photo 3For entrees, we shared ginger beef and kung pao chicken. The ginger beef had a great flavor, but the meat seemed to have been flash fried for a few flashes too long, resulting in more breading than beef. It was still delicious, though it tasted more like a vegetarian dish. The kung pao chicken was crunchy: with miniature vegetables such as baby corns, water chestnuts, Szechuan peppers, peanuts, celery and peppers.

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Will we be back? Yes. Not because of the few choices of Chinese restaurants in Charleston, but because it was genuinely delicious (and comforting).

http://leeleeshotkitchen.com/

Who I would take as my date: Anyone who associates cold weather with the need for Chinese food

Featured Menu Item: Collard Greens

collardgreensLucky me…my parents moved to Charleston for the month of November. This meant showing them around campus, boating on the Ashley and Cooper River, and most importantly, taking them to all the Charleston restaurants and watering holes. My dad took particular interest to one staple Southern dish: the Collard Green. Below is his memoir and expert opinion on the leafy vegetable.

I don’t think I ever tried collard greens or even heard of them until I was about 40 years old. But once I tried them, about 12 years ago, I kept getting pulled back, to try them again and again, each chance I got. I got a lot of chances recently, on a month-long culinary tour of Charleston’s finest. I like the idea that collard greens probably start out as tough and leathery, and only become palatable through long, patient, and expert cooking. Somehow this makes them seem more healthful, and reminds me that I am on vacation, especially since I tend to find them more and more, the further I go south from my hometown in New York.

Martha Lou’s Kitchen probably had the heartiest and most flavorful collard greens I have tried so far, and this is not a surprise because it would be hard to find a place with more old-time southern flavor. Our waitress seemed filled or overflowing with southern flavor and soul. I am pretty sure the greens were loaded up with all manner of meat and bones, to provide a rich and smoky flavor. At The Glass Onion, the collard greens were noteworthy mostly because they came to the table steaming hot, in a big quantity for the price, and they kept their heat until finished. They were notably less rich than the ones at Martha Lou’s, but they were also cooked to precisely the right balance between leathery and mushy. All in all I probably had collard greens about five times over the course of my Charleston tour, and these are the ones that call me back to Charleston, a few weeks later. At the Charleston farmer’s market I was briefly tempted to purchase a bunch of the steering-wheel-sized leaves — but I assume it takes at least half a day to cook them right, and I lack the patience, let alone the expertise.

The blog hostess is pressing me to declare who had the best collard greens, of those I sampled. But as she should know, better than most, I have trouble declaring favorites, especially when so many were so good. Perhaps she will settle for my declaration that collard greens are the best accompaniment to a southern meal, and Charleston is the best town in which to enjoy that meal.

Xiao Bao Biscuit

It is easy to be transported when eating at Xiao Bao Biscuit, where centerpieces of fire engine red chopsticks in mason jars decorate the tables. Not only does the gas station-turned restaurant make you feel like you are somewhere other than Spring Street, but there are also menu items from various Asian destinations. I’m not talking standard pad thai and chicken + broccoli—I’m talking a menu that has been thought up by a master cuisiner. XBB was also a nominee on Bon Appetit’s “50 Best New Restaurants in America,” also listed was previously blogged, The Ordinary

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The menu goes something like this–small plates and large plates; divided into regional flavors where the dishes got their inspiration. My date and I opted to get a mixture of small plates. 
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Starting with two different salads, we dined on the spicy eggplant salad and papaya salad. The papaya salad was light and refreshing while the eggplant woke up your taste buds. 
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After reading reviews about the pork belly, it was clear that Xiao would be the place where pork belly would make its debut into my tummy. The belly was oh so tender, and the sauce that went with it was the perfect compliment. 
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We also ordered the mapo chicken wings (my date happens to be a wing fanatic). The wings tested like candy, perfectly glazed, and perfect crunchiness and texture. 
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I can’t wait to get a hankering for Asian again, we all know, it will be very soon. 
 
 
Who I would take as my date: A Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean food lover!
 

The Ordinary

The Ordinary is anything but ordinary. Nominated for a James Beard award, the Ordinary doesn’t mess around when it comes to a fine dining experience.

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The menu is perfectly sized, all fitting on one page which is developed into the following categories: cold, hot, seafood towers, soup + salad, and large plates.

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I began my meal by enjoying the crispy clams. The only thing I can compare it to is meatclamloaf. It was a tasty mixture of clam meat, herbs and breading.

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My dear friend recommended the hawaiian rolls to me (listed under sides). The rolls are soaked in pineapple juice + coconut milk and they are heaven on earth.

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My entree from the large plate menu was the caribbean stew. It. was. incredible. I can’t even explain how opulent the broth was that the array of seafood sat in. There was rice hiding underneath the stew.

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My date enjoyed the black bass en papillion. Upon opening the papillion paper, we were presented with the fish which was surrounded by tomatoes, olives and capers—creating a provocative dish.

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It is impossible for me to refuse dessert at a restaurant this good. I had the salted mint chocolate and nut surrounded by caramel. It was the perfect way to end a perfect meal.

http://eattheordinary.com/

Who I would take as my date: My Mom ❤