A plate-by-plate guide to the Holy City.
In the words of the wise comedian Jim Gaffigan, “Vacation is eating somewhere you’ve never been before.” I was reminded of this sentiment on an hourly basis during my recent trip to Charleston. Sure, there are beautiful beaches, historic churches and gorgeous gardens to explore, but the Holy City shone brightest at its restaurants. And since small plates reign supreme and each hot new restaurant is within walking distance of the next one, it couldn’t be easier to hop around. Forget progressive dinners—Charleston is a city made for a progressive vacation. Here, a plate-by-plate guide:
XIAO BAO BISCUIT
An avant-garde Asian soul food spot.
THE PLATE: The menu changes frequently, but there’s a reason the okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake) is always offered. Top yours with a fried egg and pork candy.
A local-and-seasonal hotspot run by James Beard Award winning chef Mike Lata.
THE PLATE: Ricotta gnocchi is their most popular dish, but to truly taste the season we recommend the nine vegetable salad spiked with crispy quinoa.
LEON’S OYSTER SHOP
A seafood mecca where bivalves are dished out alongside the city’s best fried chicken.
THE PLATE: It’s too obvious to recommend the oysters— though they’re not to be missed— so order the herbaceous Siam salad (1) with fried shallots, paired with your choice of “fancy champagne” or “cheap beer”.
A modern brewpub with a bustling patio.
THE PLATE: A lesson in balance, and a testament to Carolina’s abundant waters, chef Andy Henderson’s pickled shrimp toast (2) is a perfect plate, best washed down with one of their 40+ draft beers.
An Italian eatery anchored around a wood-fired oven.
THE PLATE: Naturally, pizza is perfection—expect a rotating menu of pies drawing on seasonal ingredients—but so is chef Michael Perez’s handmade pasta. Get the brisket-filled agnolotti laced with tangy pickled shallots.
Where chef Jeremiah Bacon puts the same thought and creativity into his plates as most Michelin starred chefs (his decidedly more casual restaurant is so much more approachable and fun).
THE PLATE: A seasonally changing menu means you’ll rarely eat the same dish more than once (though the bone marrow bread pudding (3) deserves to be eaten at every meal)—a standout was a corn-three-ways salad: pickled, grilled and popped.
BUTCHER & BEE
Easily one of the best sandwich shops in the entire country (it’s BYOB).
THE PLATE: Go for the roast beef sandwich topped with smoky onion jam and zesty chimichurri (4), and stay for their seasonal additions, like heirloom tomato BLTs. They even make their own bread.
WHERE TO STAY: THE SPECTATOR
In between bites, check into Charleston’s newest boutique hotel: The Spectator. Situated in the heart of the bustling Market Street District, this 1920s-style property (it’s named after the iconic spectator shoe and adorned with period details like wrought iron railings and Lowcountry millwork) is bursting with charm and hospitality, particularly if you choose to have a cocktail in the Hollywoodesque lobby bar … which you should.
Not only does each of the 41 rooms come stocked with complimentary snacks from local artisans, C.O. Bigelow bath products and a butler, but also room-service breakfast is gratis. And what’s served is better than what five-star hotels charge upwards of $50 for: organic yogurt parfaits bursting with berries and housemade granola, country ham and cheese biscuits from local legend Callie’s Biscuits and gourmet quiches alongside fresh-brewed coffee and juices. The hotel also lends out free bikes, including antique replicas, high wheels and tandems.
STORY: Kate Parham Kordsmeier
Simply Buckhead is an upscale lifestyle magazine focused on the best and brightest individuals, businesses and events in Buckhead, Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Chamblee. With a commitment to journalistic excellence, the magazine serves as the authority on who to know, what to do and where to go in the community, and its surroundings.