Love Letter to Charleston, SC

I love traveling to new places, but there are some places that tug at my heart and beckon me to come back. Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA are two of those places.

I first visited Charleston, SC in 2013. After having visited San Francisco for the third time, my mom and I decided that Charleston would be our next vacation spot together. I can no longer remember what exactly triggered our decision, but it quickly became a part of our list of cities that we could return to over and over again.

My first introduction to the wonders of Charleston happened as soon as we checked into our hotel, The Restoration. At that time the hotel, known then as The Restoration on King, occupied an intimate 3-story building full of exposed brick and charm. The hotel was in the process of being expanded to encompass a building next door. I had no idea when I booked this hotel that our room would be a spacious private suite with a huge bedroom and bathroom, washer and dryer, full kitchen, large open living space, and a private rooftop deck. Squee!

After situating our luggage and refreshing ourselves, we decided to take a walk in search of our first meal in Charleston. Upon leaving the hotel, we realized how central it was to attractions, like King Street (main avenue for shopping) and the Charleston City Market.

As we explored King Street, we stepped into Jim ’n Nick’s Bar-B-Q for dinner. We drank fresh squeezed lemonade and dined on Catfish and Brisket & Link tacos, and pulled pork with sides of mac-n-cheese, fried green tomatoes and cheesy corn muffins.

An excellent intro to the Charleston food scene, indeed.

After our meal, we continued to explore a few shops on King Street. We eventually stopped at a CVS on King Street to pick up some essentials (i.e. bottled water and snacks) for our hotel room. As we walked out of the CVS, the Route 211 DASH free trolley pulled into the stop. We hopped on the trolley and took it to the stop less than 100 feet from our hotel to drop off our purchases.

Not ones to need a lot of rest, we made our way over to the Charleston City Market, only to realize that it was later than we both thought and the Market had already closed. As we continued to walk and explore the shops surrounding the Market, the sun set. It was beautiful.

We ended our first evening by stopping at the City Lights Coffee to have a frozen mocha. YUM!

Our first full day in Charleston started off with the continental breakfast served at our hotel. The presentation for the breakfast so charming. It was hand delivered in a picnic basket that contained coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, and an assortment of full-sized pastries, croissants, biscuits and muffins. It also included butter and an assortment of jams, honey and teas, just in case we wanted them. It was a great way to start our day in the city.

As we walked out of our hotel, we decided that our first stop would be the Charleston City Market. Established in 1790s, this market, which runs four city blocks between Meeting and East Bay Streets, independent vendors sell their wares including art, clothing, food, tchotchkes and souvenirs.

We spent hours walking through the market, looking at every item in every stall, and working up quite an appetite. That’s when we happened upon one my all time favorite restaurants in Charleston, Cru Cafe.

Cru Cafe is one of the best restaurants in Charleston. The food tasted amazing and the service was impeccable. We arrived just as the lunch service was starting. One of the first things that was asked of us was, “Do you have a reservation?” Even though we didn’t, we still was seated within a few minutes of arriving. This was pure luck because the restaurant filled up extremely quickly. [NOTE: I highly recommend eating at Cru Cafe multiple times to try their entire menu and making a reservation in advance to secure a table during your visit.]

Being our first time at Cru, we partook fresh squeezed lemonade and sweet tea, a beef burger with cooked onions and french fries; a mixed green salad with bacon, cherry tomatoes, fire roasted corn, goat cheese and grilled chicken with a peach vinaigrette; and a slice of their orange cream sickle cake with a peach twirl.

I know what you’re thinking, “It’s just grilled chicken and a burger.” It was one of the BEST tasting grilled chicken and burger I’ve ever put in my mouth. The orange cream sickle cake was wow inducing and swoon worthy. This cake is the pinnacle of amazing southern dessert eating. This was our first time eating here, but we knew it definitely wouldn’t be our last.

What do you do after you eat one of the best meals of your life in a new city: you go for a walk and luck into a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city with Palmetto Carriage Works.

This tour was so much fun. The carriage ride took us into and through the historic streets of Charleston where our tour guide told us about the homes, gardens, mansions, churches, flora and people who lived there throughout the history of city. The added bonus was that our tour guide, whose name I no longer remember, was very entertaining and engaging.

After making our way back to our hotel and resting for a while, we realized we were hungry. Despite having compiled a list of restaurants to we wanted to visit, we decided to walk around and play it by air when looking for a place to eat dinner. We wound up at a restaurant called, Fish.

The restaurant had just opened for dinner service when we arrived, so we easily scored a table. My mom and I decided that we were going to try a sampling of food from the menu that we would split. The bread flight, which was complimentary, was different from every other place we ate at during our trip. The bread was flash fried steam buns with a sweet chili soy sauce. Yum! We ordered calamari and the fish and shrimp sliders with Bibb lettuce, picked beets and roasted tomato spread as appetizers. Our split entree of 72 hour short ribs with tomato & freebie pie, bacon fries and a bordelaise sauce was unexpectedly presented to us on separate plates. We simply informed our server that we were splitting the meal and the chef plated the food on two plates. I thought this was really classy. My mom loved the food. I enjoyed everything but the tomato & freebie pie. Overall, this was a pretty tasty meal, too.

With full bellies and a smile on our faces, we made our way back to our hotel to prep of our early morning day trip to Savannah, GA.

Winter S., Savory Sweet Neat

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