Work (and food) Trip: Charleston
A couple weeks ago, my company had its fiscal year kick-off meetings in one of my favorite cities: Charleston, South Carolina. To say that Charleston is a foodie hub is an understatement…it’s rated one of the top food cities in the country. In addition, the architecture and history of the city as amazing. You can’t walk a block without seeing a building that has survived for over a hundred years. By far, the best way to see the city is from the water because it is, after all, a port city.
After arriving on Tuesday evening (thanks Delta!), I stopped by our AirBnB which was a super cute compound with three houses. Two of the houses were mirrors of each other with one bedroom, one and a half baths, a small kitchen and rooftop deck while the third was the larger two bedroom, two and a half bath with a full kitchen, living and dining room. I stayed in the larger house with two of my coworkers and we also had our meetings there. After catching up on some work, I met up with our friend Derek who recently moved there from Orlando for his new position at The Citadel.
We picked a restaurant that is an all-time favorite of ours and one that Derek hadn’t been to yet, Fleet Landing, the only waterfront restaurant in the city. Our other friend Billy happened to be in Charleston for work too so he joined us for an amazing dinner. We started with the Fleet Landing Stuffed Hush Puppies which are a must order at this place. Imagine a perfectly cooked, extra-large, traditional southern hush puppy cut in half and filled with lobster veloute, rock shrimp, leeks, and corn covered in a delicious Creole tomato sauce. Decadent doesn’t even begin to describe. While Fleet Landing has some of the best shrimp and grits in the city, I went with the pan-seared tilapia which is served with fingerling potato hash, charred asparagus and a citrus basil butter. After dinner, we headed to the Bay Street Biergarten for a few cocktails (and an awkward proposal, a whole other story) before heading home…after all, I had meetings starting at 9AM in the house I was staying in haha.
The next morning, we were up early to head out at 7:30AM because, well, we are gluttons. We started the day off with breakfast at Hominy Grill. If you’re looking for good old southern breakfast, this is one of the best places in the city. We ordered an assortment of breakfasts but my coworker Josh and I went with the Charleston Nasty Biscuit…yup, that’s its name. The Charleston Nasty consists of a perfectly fried boneless chicken breast topped with cheddar cheese inside a dense, delicious, fresh baked biscuit, all of it smothered in thick sausage gravy. I basically consumed my caloric intake for the day. We passed a coffee shop with fresh made juices on the way home and I had every intention of getting one but it seemed like a lot of work after eating all that and really, the damage was already done.
We “skipped” lunch on Wednesday, mostly because we were still full from breakfast but also because we had a 2.5 hour walking food tour scheduled for that afternoon. After a morning of successful meetings, we made some roadies and headed to the meeting point, Poogan’s Smokehouse, the second restaurant from the amazing team at Poogan’s Porch. To start the tour, we got a little history from our guide and Poogan’s presented their Pimento Cheese Fritters, Cast-Iron Cornbread and Pulled Pork Smokehouse Sliders. After the Smokehouse, we walked over to Henry’s On The Market for some Spiced Gator Bites which were lightly breaded then served with a side of sweet chili sauce and fries as well as a heaping portion of Jambalaya with shrimp, chicken and sausage over a Carolina red rice, both of which were delicious. It’s so easy to mess up gator but Henry’s cooked it perfectly so it wasn’t overly chewy. After some history about the Charleston City Market, we headed over to Oyster House Charleston. As if we hadn’t eaten enough, we had four more courses here: she-crab soup, hush puppies with Charleston praline butter, shrimp and grits with a smokey tasso gravy and finally, pickled fried green tomatoes with panko crust and a siracha ranch. By this point, we were walking a little slower because of allllll the food we’ve eaten but we had one final stop. We walked a little longer to the last location which I think was the trick to make sure we had room for our desert at Blossom Charleston. Once we finally made it, the pastry chef came out to present our final course, an amazing red velvet bread pudding topped with strawberry cheesecake ice cream. OMG, what a way to end a food tour. I love bread pudding and red velvet and strawberry cheesecake and ice cream but have never had them altogether in one perfect little dish. I would highly recommend Charleston Culinary Tours and their team for an awesome experience of not just great food but also a remarkable history tour.
Once the tour was over, we went to a local dive bar for a couple of drinks before our dinner reservation. Yes, we actually still went to dinner after all of that food haha. We ended up at Hank’s Seafood Restaurant where we had a little wine and some great seafood. I went with the pan seared scallops with seasonal greens and a grapefruit soy ginger vinaigrette. The rest of the team went with everything from wahoo special to roast grouper with a fried grit cake (YUM!) to southern fried seafood platters. Everything was good quality and flavor but nothing was overly remarkable. We were too stuffed to even drink anymore so we headed back home to relax and get some rest for the next day.
Thursday morning, we woke up early again, this time for a breakfast walk to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit on Upper King Street. If you haven’t had a Callie’s biscuit before, you are certainly missing out. I’m talking about butter on top of butter with a little side of butter and some buttermilk for good balance. The BLT with fresh tomatoes and thick cut bacon on a hot biscuit was calling my name so that’s what I went with. It took everything in me not to bring some frozen biscuits home for Andrew but they probably wouldn’t have still been frozen by then. After finishing up another successful half-day of meetings, we went to the tiny yet super busy and delicious pizza place on the same block as our house, D’Allesandro’s Pizza before heading to the pier for our afternoon harbor tour. Like I said earlier, there is no better way to see Charleston than by water. Charleston Harbor Tours offers several options including combo tours to really show you all that the city has to offer. Having done a private boat tour of the city as well as a carriage tour and a walking tour, I can tell you that you can’t go wrong with any of them.
After a stop for some drinks at this awesome bar called 5Church (which you can read more about here), we headed to dinner at Poogan’s Porch. We started with the pimento cheese fritters and some specialty cocktails. My coworker Josh and I decided to split the country fried chicken with collard greens, mashed potatoes and a sage gravy and the braised short ribs ragout with sweet potato dumplings, turnips and delicious fresh from the pot jus. Shrimp and grits, a perfectly fried catfish dinner and crab cakes also had a place at our table along with a side of their amazing mac and cheese.
We spent equal parts having incredibly successful meetings to set us up for success in our new fiscal year and eating our way through the city. If you haven’t made a trip to Charleston, South Carolina yet, add it to your list. Be sure to check out some of the places linked above and comment below if you want more recommendations cause we’ve got plenty like HōM and The Rooftop at the Vendue for example.