As you can tell from the title, I went to Charleston a few weeks ago for a girl’s weekend getaway. I had heard much about Charleston’s culinary scene and being that my companions were also fellow foodie lovers, it’s no surprise that our weekend getaway was largely centered on food! Of course we still managed to squeeze a few activities in between meals and check out what Charleston has to offer. Here’s our take on a 3 day getaway to the South!
I can’t think of a better way to start our trip than with a decadent Southern brunch! Poogan’s Porch definitely lived up to it’s reputation as a great brunch spot. We arrived there slightly before opening time at 11:30am on a Thursday and by the time we got seated, the restaurant already had a wait!
While we ate at a bunch of great restaurants, this place was hands down everyone’s favorite of the trip. To start, you get a basket of warm, sweet biscuits that were moist and delicious. We shared the duck confit grilled cheese (duck confit, crispy bacon, pimento cheese, I mean, how can you go wrong??!!), the buttermilk fried chicken, and the shrimp and grits (one of many that we would be trying throughout the trip!). All three dishes were great, but the clear winner was the duck!
Some exploring and walking was in order after all that rich food. Downtown Charleston is really charming and full of historical buildings. King Street between John and Broad Street, is really the heart of the downtown Charleston shopping district. There’s a number of boutiques, eateries, high end stores, and big chain retailers housed in historical structures. Walk east on Market Street to check out the City Market, an indoor/outdoor market space full of vendors selling local products that make for great souvenirs like sweetgrass baskets and low country culinary mixes (shrimp n’ grits, gumbo, hush puppies, she crab soup, etc.). You’ll also pass by a number of fudge and praline shops so be sure to stop by for free samples! We also stumbled upon a few old fashioned stores selling candy that will make you nostalgic over your childhood (Mallo Cups! Bit O Honey! Razzles!).
So what is there to do after brunch and snacking? Why, dinner of course! Since we were in the South, we wanted to try fresh seafood. We debated between Pearlz Oyster Bar and Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar, and ended up with Amen since it had a wider selection of dishes. Both are located on East Bay Street, which boasts tons of restaurants and is a great area to visit if you’re looking for dining options. As you can see below, we certainly ordered a number of dishes but to be fair, all but one of them are starter dishes so we created our very own seafood tapas meal. We had the hush puppies served with wildflower honey, fried green tomatoes, hot shrimp & crab sandwich, she crab soup, Amen Street’s famous shrimp corndogs, fried oysters, and a mix of raw oysters (not pictured). Again, each dish was delicious and you can’t go wrong with any of them. I particularly enjoyed the hot shrimp & crab sandwich, it was flavorful and the baguette was so soft, I wanted to buy a roll to take home! The shrimp corndog was also memorable and the fried oysters were cooked just right, crispy batter on the outside while the oyster texture stayed smooth and soft.
No visit to the South would be complete without visiting a plantation. Middleton Plantation is one of the more popular plantations known for it’s extensive grounds and beautiful gardens. It’s located about 20 minutes outside of downtown Charleston and requires a car to get there. There may be tours that go there but our hotel was not aware of any. The cost of a rental car for 1 day was about $30 so it’s not a huge cost if you go that route and you do have it for 24 hours.
The grounds were certainly beautiful with magnificent Oak trees and Camellia’s in bloom. But the real highlight of the visit was seeing all the animals. There were sheep and their lambs grazing openly in the fields, huge Belgian draft horses, cashmere goats (!), water buffaloes, hogs, and tons of roosters running around. What’s also great about the plantation is that they have a number of free tours that were interesting and informative. We spent about a half day there (4 hours), which included 3 tours and some touring of our own. There’s a really nice restaurant on site that looks over the grounds, but we opted for a quickie lunch since we had other plans for food later on! If you have an early start there, you may also want to visit Drayton Hall nearby. It’s another historic plantation that is highly regarded, especially for it’s main building, which survived the Civil War.
So what was our foodie plans? Why Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits! I had heard much about this famous fried chicken chain so I was stoked to find one on the way to Middleton Plantation. I have to say, it did live up to it’s reputation! I like it more than the other chicken chains, like KFC and Popeyes, the sides were delicious (dirty rice! mac ‘n cheese!), and the sweet potato pie was a great ending to the meal!
Being that we had a heavy, albeit delicious, late lunch, we capped the night off with desserts back in downtown Charleston at Kaminsky’s Most Excellent Cafe. What can I say, we’re wild girls! The desserts there were definitely most excellent! We had the tollhouse cookie pie, key lime cheesecake, italian cream cake, and their flavored steamed milks. They were all really decadent and delicious but the tollhouse cookie pie was the clear winner! I highly recommend going there for an after dinner night cap since they’re opened pretty late.
We started our last full day in Charleston with a visit to the famous Hominy Grill for brunch. We had heard that the wait could be pretty long on the weekends, but we ended up going around 10:30am on a Saturday and had no wait, which was a very pleasant surprise. Although by the time we left around 11:30am, there was a sizable wait list. The restaurant itself is very homey and the staff is friendly. We ordered the home made pop tarts, the big nasty biscuit (fried chicken biscuit sandwich), shrimp ‘n grits, and one of their beef specials (the dish name escapes me). We finished off with a slice of their buttermilk pie. I thought the home made pop tart was excellent and while I’m certainly no expert in shrimp ‘n grits, it was definitely the best I ever had. The other dishes were good as well, although the group consensus was that Poogan’s Porch offered a better brunch.
After brunch, we headed over to Market Street for our Carriage Tour. On our way there, we stumbled upon a hip coffee shop, Kudu Coffee House and ordered a couple of iced coffees. If you love coffee, I highly recommend stopping by here. It’s just off King Street, has great coffee and a cute outdoor seating area.
Apparently one of the highly rated activities in Charleston is a carriage tour, and it did not disappoint! We went with Palmetto Carriage Works, but there’s a number of carriage companies there which I imagine to be quite similar. The tour is 1 hour long and takes you through Charleston’s historic district and by the waterfront. Our guide was extremely informative and provided lots of historical tidbits. I highly recommend the tour as a good way to orient yourself to the history of Charleston. We went back and did our own leisurely self guided tour after the carriage tour and I’d say we definitely viewed the antebellum homes with a lot more appreciation after learning about the architecture and history from our guide.
Cute kids at Palmetto Carriage Works:
Beautiful mansions: Fun fact, the mansion below is the Calhoun Mansion, which was in the Notebook.
Again for dinner we opted for seafood. When in Rome right? This time we chose Coast Bar & Grill, which is known for some of the freshest seafood in Charleston. We had the BBQ local oysters, lobster and crab gratin, plantain encrusted mahi mahi, and the duo seafood platter of oysters and scallops. Looking back, we certainly ate our fair share of fried food for such a short weekend! My favorite dish of the evening was the lobster and crab gratin, hands down. The oysters were very good as well. I must say, Charleston certainly does oysters very well, whether raw, BBQ’d, or fried, the oysters were consistently good.
So this is where we say goodbye to Charleston, but not without one last meal! Even with a morning flight, we made sure to stop by Wildflour Pastry at 8:30am for their cinnamon rolls. If you read their reviews, most people rave about Sticky Bun Sundays, but the cinnamon buns are the same, only with a hefty serving of frosting on top so feel free to get those if they run out of sticky buns. We got there at 8:30am and they were already out of sticky buns! Being that we had a flight to catch, we couldn’t wait for the next batch, so we got the cinnamon buns instead and they were delicious! Happy faces all around! They have many other pastries that looked yummy as well. Word of warning though, the buns seriously are the size of your head so plan to share or you’ll end up eating it throughout the day.
So that concludes our short weekend getaway to Charleston! I’ll leave you guys with some general information and tips:
- Stay in the heart of downtown Charleston. We stayed at the Hampton Inn which was not only convenient but also nice and included a satisfying breakfast.
- Rent a car. While downtown Charleston was charming, I felt it didn’t warrant more than a full day of exploring. Rent a car and go visit a plantation. If we had another day there, I probably would’ve tried to visit Savannah, GA while we were down there since it’s only a 2 hour drive from Charleston. If you’re there in the summer, the beach would probably be a good option too.
- Make sure you make room for all the food! Charleston certainly lives up to its reputation as a great culinary city. And a pleasant surprise was that no matter how popular the restaurant, we never had to wait more than 20 minutes, which is so different from NYC and SF!
- If you’re planning on visiting Charleston, look up their calendar of events before you book anything. We missed the Food & Wine festival there by about 2 weeks and the Festival of Houses and Gardens by 1 week. Both seemed like they would’ve been really fun and interesting and had we known those festivals were happening, we might’ve booked our trip to coincide with one of those events.