By Margaret Loftus
Photography by Andrew Cebulka
Originally appeared in November 2015 issue of Virtuoso Life
Charleston chefs elevated shrimp and grits and heritage hams to national acclaim. Now a second wave of restaurants is expanding Lowcountry dining with exciting and beautiful results. Pull up a chair on the front porch for all things comfort, corn, and seafood.
As its name implies, dining at this Charleston single – the ubiquitous one-room-wide house unique to the city – is like visiting the home of a friend who’s a fabulous cook and drinks great Mediterranean wines. The Elliotborough neighborhood favorite doesn’t take reservations and offers a hand-scrawled menu of exactly six dishes (two starters, two mains, two desserts) that change daily. Owners Fanny and Patrick Panella, the couple behind the popular Bin 152 wine bar, admit it’s not for those who thrive on choice, but for French or Spanish twists on regional specialties – say, triggerfish à la Provençale or grouper with anchovies and olives – it’s well worth the sacrifice. 6 Payne Court; 843/579-3060; cheznouschs.com.
Opened last year by the proprietors of the cult favorite Charleston Beer Exchange, this airy space in industrial-cool NoMo redefines the city’s notion of a brewpub. Along with an enticing beer list, from its own Carolina Farmhouse to obscure Belgian lambics, bartenders serve a robust cocktail lineup – bourbon-based Old Thyme Punch on draft is a favorite –and some of Charleston’s more interesting by-the-glass wines (less chardonnay, more txakoli). Snack on house-made charcuterie or spicy salami-boiled peanuts at the bar, but save room for the chicken and Carolina Gold rice porridge with blue crab for dinner. 1081 Morrison Drive; 843/727-1145; edmundsoast.com.
A lover of grits, cornbread, and bourbon, James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock is obsessed with corn. Perhaps that explains why the Southern Foodways champion – his Husk Restaurant sources all its food south of the Mason-Dixon Line – turned to Mexico for inspiration. Before casual, brick-walled Minero opened last year, Brock reportedly spent months perfecting his tortillas – the foundation for everything from carnitas crunchy with chicharrónes to hoppin’ John (peas, rice, and bacon). Pair a couple with mezcal or tequila from the bar’s formidable offerings. 155 East Bay Street; 843/789-2241; minerorestaurant.com.
Housed in a 1920s bank with soaring ceilings and Palladian windows, this seafood hall from chef Mike Lata – the farm-to-table pioneer who opened FIG (perhaps Charleston’s most beloved restaurant) in 2003 – conjures a Paris brasserie. Order a tipple of vermouth or rum and a fried oyster slider on a Hawaiian roll to ease into the setting. You can’t go wrong with a shellfish tower: stacked littleneck and razor clams, blue crab, local oysters, shrimp, and a full complement of mignonette, horseradish, and other condiments. 544 King Street; 843/414-7060; eattheordinary.com.
Where To Stay In Charleston
There are three Virtuoso hotels in South Carolina.
How To Eat Like A Local In Charleston: Pickled Shrimp
Long a Lowcountry cocktail party staple, pickled shrimp is more of a citrusy marinated salad than a true pickle. It’s traditionally served on toothpicks, but at least one restaurant, Edmund’s Oast, has given it a modern spin: Served open-faced on sourdough rye with aioli and a healthy sprinkling of dill, it’s reminiscent of Danish smorrebrod and hearty (and delicious) enough to call dinner.
A Virtuoso Advisor Tip On Charleston
“Before dinner, drop by Stars Rooftop bar on trendy Upper King Street for great craft cocktails and sunset views of downtown landmarks.” – Angie Lynch, Virtuoso travel advisor, Charleston
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