Monday, May 7, 2012

A Trip to Charleston - Yum

View from the Battery, Charleston, SC
First off, this is Charleston, South Carolina - everything is going to be good.  I have an event coming up for work so I was in town doing the planning and my sister met me there. It was great and we pretty much ate our way through town. If you are vacationing or visiting Charleston in the future, this should help plan the dining portion of your trip. Note: I wrote that last sentence for search engine optimization reasons.

Shrimp and Grits from the Hominy Grill
First stop, Hominy Grill for brunch. We went here straight from the airport and immediately ordered John Daly's (ice tea and lemonade with alcohol) while we waited for a seat.  For brunch we ordered fried green tomatoes, corn bread, a biscuit, and the shrimp and grits.  The Hominy Grill is known for its shrimp and grits and for a good reason, these are out of this world. The combination of shrimp, bacon, green onions, and the acidity of lemon on top of creamy grits is fantastic.  The biscuit was wonderful as was the somehow creamy corn bread (I don't know how, but I'm sure it's not good for you). The only thing I wasn't impressed with was the fried green tomatoes, they were just okay, not worth the calories, spend them on something else, like the fried chicken on a biscuit. Judged - great food, great place for brunch.

Oysters from Amen Street
Oyster Shell Chandelier
For dinner that night we went to Amen Street for some oysters and fresh fish.  We had the oysters (of course) and then split two entrees, because we like to try everything we can. One of the entrees was the Hot Shrimp and Crab Sandwich - Judged as ridiculously good.  The magic to Charleston's great food is that while they don't shy away from the fat, they use fresh ingredients and acid (meaning lemon, lime, or vinegar) to create a well rounded flavor. I loved this sandwich, but I don't think one can eat the whole thing, I was glad I split it with my sister.  The other entree was the fresh bass with a risotto.  The fish at Amen is brought in fresh every day and there is a list of the fresh fish they are offering that day, the bass was on the list and true to their word, it was fresh and delicious.  Amen Street - Judged as a great place for seafood. Also, I loved the oyster shell chandeliers.

Shrimp Po'boy at Hyman's
Lunch on day-two was at the famous Hymans Seafood.  Here we ordered shrimp po'boys in cajun sauce.  So rather than fried shrimp they sauteed the fresh shrimp in cajun seasonings.  We got lunch at their to-go counter because we had a meeting to get to and the line for the restaurant was long.  The great part about this was that we could watch the cook prepare the shrimp, which was done in her frying pan on the stove-top.  The po'boys were really good, but the best part were the hushpuppies, which where were the best I've ever had.  They were more like donuts, but whatever! So good..... Judged - classic institution for a reason.

Dinner on day-two, 82 Queen.  This is a nice place for a date, but I went with my sister because I was there and it's one of my favorite restaurants, so we had to go. It was romantic.  As they say on their website, "Nothing compares to the fine dining experience offered by this charming restaurant nestled in Charleston's historic French Quarter." The ambiance is wonderful and the food is amazing. I especially love their collared greens - I know this is a beautiful, fancy place, but they have amazing collard greens!  My sister ordered the brisket which was good and moist and laid on top of mac and cheese and collard greens.  After trying her dish she said, "let me try your collard greens because mine have barbeque sauce on them." then she realized that collard greens, cooked the right way, are actually just that sweet.  I had the fried fish over collard greens with pimento risotto. Good, but I had a hard time with the bones in the fish and it really got in the way of my collard greens and risotto.  I had the fried chicken there before but unfortunately it wasn't on the menu because it was really, really wonderful friend chicken.  Judged - a beautiful, romantic spot for a date in Charleston.

You think I'm done, but no, we kept eating. 

Inside Fort Moultrie
Day-three, I had lunch at the Mills House.  This is a historic hotel that sustained some serious damage during the American Civil War, but has since been rebuilt. I had lunch here with the tour guide who is going to lead a tour for my upcoming work event.  The food at lunch was fine, but the location and history of the hotel is really what it's about.  I suggest stopping in and peeking around.

On day-three we went out to Fort Moultrie, which was a fort from the Revolutionary War to WWII (if you're a real nerd, like me, check this out it's a 3D walk through what was once Fort Moultrie). 

Since we were out at the beach already, we decided to stay at the beach for dinner. We did a quick web search and found Bowens Island Restaurant. On our way we stopped at a great farmers market in Mount Pleasant and found a caterer for my event as well as some delicious kettle corn. 

Steamed Oysters to Bowens
Bowens Island Restaurant is off the beaten path, literally, you need to take dirt roads to get to it.  The base of the restaurant is cinder blocks and the main level, where you eat, is kind of like a giant deck.  There are walls around the deck (also a bar), which I believe are made of plywood and there are windows cut out with screens in them.  These windows are all open, letting the breeze through and allowing everyone to see the beautiful view and lovely sunset.  Bowens does not have an extensive menu, but what they do have is perfect and as fresh as you can get.  The oysters, which come steamed, are freshly harvested from the water you are looking at while dining.  These oysters are the best I've ever had, you do not need all the fixins' they are perfectly flavorful all by themselves. Order them by the tray (yes, the lunch tray) or "all you can eat."  Then go downstairs to the cinder block area to pick them up from the oyster cook, who will rinse them off with the hose, throw them into a pot of boiling water and then hand them over to you. The oyster cook and I had a nice conversation about where they oysters come from and how they are harvested.  Only, being a novice, I didn't know that I had to tip the cook and that's how he gets paid, so be sure to leave him some dollars on your way out. Judged - one of my favorite places to eat - it's relaxed, the food is fresh and delicious, the staff is friendly, and the ambiance is nature at its best. Be sure to seek out this hidden gem while in Charleston.

The view from Bowens

I can't wait to go back to Charleston, there's so much more to eat!!!

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