Charleston Restaurant Hopping

“Restaurant Hopping” or “Grub Crawl” – The act of visiting several eateries in a specific local and sampling signature dishes at each. Anytime I go on vacation there’s usually some lengthy research into what restaurants I want to try while in town and deciding which restaurants make the cut isn’t easy. For my recent trip to Charleston, SC I had only 42 hours to cram in as many restaurants as possible while still setting aside time for a trip to the South Carolina Aquarium and plenty of R&R on the sand. My list started out with 30+ restaurants that we’re compiled by checking for James Beard Foundation Award Winners, Urbanspoon Top Rated, Local Favorites, Magazines, etc. After double checking location, price, menu’s, and reviews, I was able to narrow down the list to a dozen restaurants.

This was little man’s (6 months old) first trip to the beach and after packing plenty of water diapers, baby food, and toys, we hit the road and got to Charleston at 6pm Monday night. After a quick unloading of our ride it was off to our first stop… Poe’s Tavern :)

Poe's TavernNamed after the famous author and poet “Edgar Allen Poe”, Poe’s Tavern has standard pub/bar food with a menu full of Burgers, Salads, Tacos, Fries, Soups, Nachos, and Quesadillas. Every burger takes its name from a Poe work of art and I decided to get the Tell-Tale Heart Burger and the Hand-Cut Fries covered in Cheese & Bacon. This was an exceptionally delicious burger and way more impressive than I was expecting. The burgers are ground in house and the extra attention to the meat translates to your tastebuds very well. Then top it off with an over-easy fried egg, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and fried-onion strings sandwiched between a freshly baked bun with a side of bacon-blue cheese cole slaw… its burger heaven on a plate.

Poe's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Charleston Grill After dinner it was time to head downtown and grab something sweet before calling  it a night, so we jumped in the Volvo and set the GPS for Charleston Grill. I wasn’t  sure if we were going to be let in wearing street clothes so I made sure to put on  some khaki’s and a button-up before heading over. When we arrived we were  greeted at the main entrance by a valet and escorted straight to the Charleston  Grill (which is located inside the Five-Star Rated Charleston Place Hotel).

We told  them when we sat that we were only there for dessert and after a quick look  at the  menu I decided to go with the Peach and Pistachio Baked Alaskan with Honey  Roasted Peach Ice Cream, Pistachio Cake, Poached Peach, a Lavender Peach  Gastrique, and Sicilian Pistachios. I was only mildly disappointed that due to  “safety reasons” they weren’t able to light the Alaskan on fire at the table but after  the first bite I forgot all about that.

Every bite was smooth and the poached  peaches paired perfectly with the honey roasted peach ice cream.

Charleston Grill on Urbanspoon

After dessert we headed back to the beach for some star gazing on the beach with little man before hitting the sack and getting some rest before a full day of Restaurant Hopping. The next morning we woke up and went straight for the beach… there had been talk of squeezing in a breakfast diner but the sound of the waves crashing and the cool breeze was too strong of an allure for us. After a few hours of hanging out on the beach and trying to keep the little monster from eating “too much” sand, we got cleaned up and headed downtown for lunch.

TrexTV

Restaurant Hopping on Tuesday began at 1pm at the Husk Restaurant ran by the James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock. After a quick look over the menu it was apparent that Tuesday was going to be all about the pig :) We started out lunch with Pork Honey Butter on Fresh Baked Rolls, then worked our way into the Glazed Pig Ear Lettuce Wraps with Sweet Vinegar Marinated Cucumber and Red Onion, and finished the meal off with the Heritage VA Pork Belly with Canary Beans, Roasted Pepper, Peaches, and Spicy Mustard Greens.

The Pork Honey Butter was (my guess) butter + Honey + Bacon Fat all mixed up together and it taste just like it sounds. The Pig Ear Lettuce Wraps we’re deliciously crispy but there wasn’t enough of the cucumber / red onions and there was way too much teriyaki glaze. The Pork Belly was probably one of the best I have ever come across but the Spicy Mustard Greens got ditched after the first bite. Overall it was a pork trifecta that was creative and tasty but came across as needing a little refinement.

Pig Ear Lettuce Wrap

Husk on Urbanspoon

After Husk we decided it was time to take little man through the South Carolina Aquarium and since the parking lot guy said it was close by… we would walk :) Well, close by isn’t exactly what I would call a 1.2 mile walk but since we we’re going to be eating all day long I figured the long walk wouldn’t hurt. We got to the Aquarium and took little man through the whole building while enjoying ever last bit of A/C we could breath in. After a couple hours at the Aquarium it was time to get back to Restaurant Hopping so we set out for our next stop… Butcher & Bee.

On the way to Butcher & Bee we passed by Juanita Greenburg’s Nacho Royale and the temptation was way too strong for me to pass up so I stopped in for a quick steak taco and reminisced about my last visit to Juanita’s several years earlier. The taco was on point and served up only a couple minutes after I ordered. The corn tortilla was crunchy and hot, the steak was well seasoned and grilled to perfection, and despite already being on my way to Butcher & Bee I was really happy I stopped in and got a little something from Juanita Greenburg’s Nacho Royale.

Juanita Greenberg's Nacho Royale on Urbanspoon

Only a couple minutes after leaving Juanita Greenburg’s Nacho Royale we came across Jeni’s Ice Cream and once again… the temptation was too strong to pass up. Never heard of Jeni’s Ice Cream, oh don’t worry… you will. Jeni’s Ice Cream was created by James Beard Foundation Award Winner Jeni Bauer and the company is all about fresh… “We build our ice creams from the ground up with milk from grass-grazed cows and whole ingredients that we blend, bake, peel, chop, skin, pulverize, and blowtorch ourselves. We use no flavorings, chemical dyes, or off-the-shelf ice cream mixes. We cut no corners, we take no shortcuts.” Jeni’s serves up unique flavors like Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, and Wildberry Lavender, all created using Fair-Trade-Certified vanilla, cocoa, and bean-to-bar chocolate, herbs, Ohio wildflower honey, whole fruits, and vegetables from local farms and farms throughout the world. Jeni’s does fresh so well that they make Ben & Jerry’s look like a Wal-Mart store brand.

I got the Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt and it was by far the best ice cream I have ever had. The pineapple frozen yogurt, with roasted red cherries and golden Pineapple Lady Cake soaked in Salty Caramel Sauce came across as smooth, incredibly fresh, mouthwatering delicious, and all for only $5 :)

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams on Urbanspoon

After two unexpected stops on the way to Butcher & Bee we finally made it… only to find out we were a couple hours too late. Apparently when I was finalizing my list of restaurants to hit while in Charleston I missed the fact that Butcher & Bee was only pen for lunch :( Luckily for us there were still a couple guys inside that were more than happy to recommend another Charleston hot spot to us… Xiao Bao Biscuit.

Xiao Bao BiscuitSo we started walking again and after 15 minutes we arrived at Xiao Bao Biscuit. Xiao Bao Biscuit is a very unique restaurant that blends Asian inspired comfort food with classic Southern cuisine. I decided to carry on the pork theme through dinner and got the Jiao Zi, the Lamb Stir-Fry, and the VietRibs. The Jiao Zi was Chao Shou style pork wontons in spicy chili sauce and not a favorite at the table. The wontons were rubbery, the spicy chili sauce was flat, and the pork was barely noticeable. The Lamb Stir-Fry was on the other side of the flavor spectrum and came across both sweet and spicy with a strong orange flavor. Our favorite dish of the night was by far the spicy Vietnamese pork ribs which was incredibly flavorful and worth driving from Charlotte to Charleston to get again.

Xiao Bao Biscuit on Urbanspoon

King Street CookiesAfter Xiao Bao Biscuit we walked a couple blocks to WildFlour Pastry to pick up a couple sticky buns… but they were closed. So we decided to check them out on our way out of town and made our way over to the Macaroon Boutique… but they were also closed. Im not the type to give up easily so I kept walking and came across a pretty new dessert spot called King Street Cookies. We popped our heads in to see what they had on hand and once I saw the “Milk Bar” I knew I was in the right place :) King Street Cookies has three dozen cookie flavors, coffee, and sweet treats to put a smile on your face any day. We got the George Washington’s Revenge and the Apple Delight cookies, drowned them in milk, devoured every last crumb, and started our journey to the last restaurant on our list for the day.

King Street Cookies on Urbanspoon

After another short walk we arrived at the Wentworth Mansion and immediately felt underdressed for the occasion. Circa 1886 is located behind the mansion (we didn’t know that yet) but the sign in front appears to say the restaurant is inside… so we went inside. When we opened the door there was nobody around… no guest, no staff, no sounds, nothing… really creepy. I wasn’t sure if the house was an elaborate prop, if we were walking in on a spooky crime scene, etc… but after walking around for a couple minutes we found someone (not very creepy) and they escorted us to the back of the mansion.

Circa 1886Circa 1886 was our final stop for the night and it made for a great ending to a day full of eating and plenty of walking. We were seated at the bar and within a couple minutes we had a Croissant Donut with Raspberry Ice Cream sitting right in front of us. The croissant donut aka “Cronut” was delightfully flaky and the raspberry ice cream made a beautiful balanced dessert.

Circa 1886 on Urbanspoon

After Circa 1886 we headed back to the beach for a late night stroll and soaked in a couple more minutes of ocean breeze before calling it a night. When we woke up we took little man back out and hit the beach one more time before check-out. Then we made a B-Line straight WildFlour Pastry so we could get our hands on some delicious Sticky Buns. When we got there we were told sticky buns were only made on Sundays… so we got a Raspberry and Nutella Scone, a Chocolate Ganache Brownie, and a Doughnut Muffin :) The brownie was too chocolatey for me but the scone and the doughnut muffin washed down with some ice cold milk made for a perfect breakfast.

WildFlour Pastry on Urbanspoon

The last stop on our journey was a great hot dog joint called Perfectly Franks. Every hot dog on the menu is named after someone “frank” and the choices are plentiful. I got the Aretha Franklin (pulled pork, cole slaw, bbq sauce, onion strings), the Franklin’s Tower (bacon, cream cheese, grilled onions), the Frankie “Elvis” (peanut butter, honey, grilled bananas, bacon), and beer battered onion rings. The Aretha Franklin was delicious but felt like the safest bet on the table, the Frankie “Elvis” was way better than I would have expected a hot dog covered in peanut butter could be, but the best hot dog at the table was Franklin’s Tower. I was skeptical about the cream cheese and hot dog flavor combination but when paired with the grilled onions and bacon it blended together to create one of the best hot dogs I have ever come across.

Perfectly Frank

Perfectly Franks on Urbanspoon

After visiting 10 restaurants in 42 hours we were pretty well stuffed and it was time to head back to the QC. With little man strapped in the back seat, my lady to my right, and a full tank of gas, I headed back to Charlotte and our 2014 Charleston Restaurant Hopping vacation was officially over.

Beach Trip

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