“You have to visit Charleston,” people say when they find out that I have a food blog and I love to travel. “Make dinner reservations in advance to go to Husk,” is the typical follow-up. “You’ll want to come back,” they end with a knowing smile.
Wow, were they right. Charleston was one of the prettiest places I’ve ever visited in the US. It’s like the entire city was made for (my) Instagram: pastel houses, cobblestone streets, gorgeous food, lush greenery, and lots of pink.
Charleston is often voted as a top destination for travelers bcause of its cuisine, culture, and historical beauty. Its skyline is peppered with church steeples, the air wafts of magnolia blossoms, and the people are welcoming and chatty. My husband Matt and I decided that it was an ideal spot for a 3-day weekend with our close friends Anthony and Sean, who are fellow foodies and wanderlust seekers.
We visited in July, which was the hottest month of the year, with temperatures over 90 degrees and heavy humidity. But it was well worth it, and nothing that two showers a day can easily quelch. I had glowing skin and big hair the entire trip. To me, the weather felt like the Philippines. You can take this girl out of the tropics, but the tropics can never be taken outta me.
Below are some highlights of our weekend, which I hope can help guide you when you plan your own Charleston trip. Just make sure you make dinner reservations in advance.
What To Do and Eat During a Weekend in Charleston
Stay at the Spectator Hotel
(This is not a sponsored post.)
The Spectator is a sleek boutique hotel right in the middle of Charleston’s bustling historic district. They had my heart the minute they offered us palomas (grapefruit + tequila) as welcome drinks. Then I found out that they refill the mini-bar with snacks every day, we get a personalized butler service, complimentary room service breakfast, plus little baby cocktails every night in chocolate shot glasses as part of turndown service. Our friends did experience a hiccup checking in, but I loved our stay. It was so easy to walk to the restaurants on our list, to the City Market (one of the nations oldest public markets), and to the lively King Street, which was bursting with cocktail bars, art galleries, and local boutiques.
Eat Shrimp & Grits
I had shrimp and grits two times in three days (I would’ve had eaten it three times, if we had time). This bowl is from Slightly North of Broad, also known as SNOB, also known as my favorite restaurant in Charleston. SNOB is a lowcountry bistro boasting a menu of fresh local ingredients and some incredibly well-crafted cocktails. Our group shared appetizers, cocktails, wine, dessert, but I got this plate of shrimp and grits for myself. It came with house sausage, country ham, tomatoes, green onions, garlic, and perfect creamy grits. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Next time we’re back in Charleston, this would be my first stop.
Visit Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens
Boone Hall is America’s oldest working plantation, and is still growing and producing crops: cotton, pecans, strawberries, tomatoes, peaches, and other seasonal produce. We did a tour (which was heartbreaking, when you hear the history and see the slaves quarters), we saw the Budweiser Clydesdales (who happened to be there that day), we visited the butterfly garden, and we saw the locations where some scenes from the Notebook were shot. But the most spectacular feature of Boone Hall is the Avenue of the Oaks, the entrance lined by evenly-spaced live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. It’s beautiful and kinda eerie, and so, so majestic.
(try to spot Matt who blends in with all the pink and green)
Enjoy the Beautiful Streets of Charleston
We did a lot of walking (and sweating) and were just in awe of all the pretty sights. I can not get over the number of pink houses and the abundance of flowers. I loved the cobblestone streets, the many churches, the trees dripping with flowers. We walked over to Rainbow Row, a series of historic houses in pastel colors that embodied the architecture of Charleston. These houses were originally used by merchants who sold their wares on the ground floor and lived on top.
Go Near the Water
Go to the Charleston Waterfront Park (look for the famous pineapple fountain) or to Folly Beach and get brunch at Lost Dog Cafe (get a bellini in a mason jar). Being near the water was so relaxing and offered a little respite from the unrelenting summer heat.
Share a Tray at Lewis BBQ
Try to go on a Saturday, the only day they offer the beef short ribs which are so tender and perfectly fatty. Get pork ribs (of course) and Texas hot guts (housemade sausage) and a bunch of sides: mac and cheese, corn pudding, pickles, pickled onions, collard greens, potato salad, coleslaw. Get some beer, different sauces, plenty of napkins. No one is going to judge if you also get an order of nachos with queso at the bar. Bond with friends over your meat sweats (I told you we did a lot of sweating). All hail the king, indeed.
Try the Food and Drinks at Husk
Husk opened in 2010 and paved the way for an explosion of new restaurants and bars that would transform the city. It remains as one of Charleston’s darlings, and James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock continues to pen his love letter to Southern cuisine with local ingredients and creative dishes. We had a really nice dinner, with reservations made two months in advance, and the highlights for me were the appetizers pictured above: southern fried chicken skins with pimiento cheese ranch (please read that again and try to imagine how decadent it is) and crispy pig ear lettuce wraps (as a sisig-loving Filipino, I can never resist a dish with crispy pig ears). I also thoroughly enjoyed the cocktails (I got one with rum and a homemade strawberry shrub) and dessert (Carolina Gold rice pudding).
We liked Husk so much, we decided to buy it:
Obviously kidding, but doesn’t it look like we just closed on our new home?
I’m looking forward to returning to Charleston, most probably during one of the colder months of year.