Charleston has been through a lot since its establishment in 1670: a pirate invasion, a trade boom, a handful of wars, a civil-rights movement – not to mention hurricanes and an earthquake. Nearly 350 years on, the waterfront city still looks like a set for a genteel period drama. But its five-square-mile downtown, lined with live oaks, landmark mansions, and pastel-colored Georgian townhomes, is more than just a beautiful time capsule. Forward-thinking chefs and entrepreneurs are making one of America’s oldest cities one of its coolest too.
Charleston’s reputation as a groundbreaking food city, for instance, dates to the early 2000s, when Mike Lata and Jason Stanhope launched Fig
and Sean Brock opened Husk
. Their modern, sustainable spins on Lowcountry cuisine paved the way for more innovation in the kitchen – and while Charleston’s food pyramid may be built on the three S’s (seafood, the South, and soul), the current diversity on the table here is a thrill. Over on King Street, one of the oldest, busiest, and prettiest thoroughfares in town, homegrown design collectives, colorful storefront displays, and hands-on classes showcase Charleston’s creative side.