Last week, I spent 2 days in Charleston, and man oh man, was it a delicious time.
Now, to try to do a comprehensive "best of" post here would not be possible, because we barely scratched the surface of Things That Are Delicious in Charleston. However, in our all too brief visit we did OK, and I'd like to share six highlights that might be worth exploring should you ever find yourself in this lovely Southern city. They're not listed in order of preference, but rather, chronologically on our visit:
1. Pie from Toast
When we first arrived in Charleston, we had heard that Toast was a great downtown option, so we checked it out. This mini-chain offers a fairly straightforward and family-friendly menu of southern favorites. We enjoyed our dinner, but the real treat was dessert: a rich, assertively sized coconut cream pie. With a creamy texture and mild coconut flavor, it was a pleasant introduction to Charleston indeed.
Website: Toast of Charleston
2. Desserts from Carmella's
Interestingly, our server at Toast let us in on a secret: while her restaurant's desserts were great, she said (as we were eating aforementioned pie), the ones a few blocks away at Carmella's were (shh!) even better. So we hastened to see for ourselves!
We got a good variety of desserts here: Oreo mousse, pistachio pie, and buttermilk pie. Each was more gorgeous than the last. The mousse was intoxicatingly rich yet airily light at the same time, with a lovely contrast from pairing a nostalgic flavor (cookies n cream) with a dignified dessert; the pistachio pie was a surprise, with a thick, custard-like texture and a secret layer of chocolate just atop the crust at the bottom of the pie; the buttermilk pie was a pure southern classic. Go here!
Website: Carmella's Dessert Bar
3. Pastries both sweet and savory at Wildflour Pastry
Weird little story: I was ambivalent about going here because a year or so ago I went to another, TOTALLY UNRELATED bakery with Wildflour in the name (I'm not saying where!) which was very lackluster. However, I am glad that good sense and the fact that this was an unrelated bakery prevailed, because oh, what wonders awaited at Wildflour of Charleston.
We tried the doughnut muffin, which was a perfect nugget of carbohydratey delight, with a cakey muffin base featuring a crunchy-crispy exterior coated with cinnamon and sugar; a caramelized apple turnover, which had an out of this world flavor; and also a savory pimento cheese and tomato pie, which was like a mini quiche, and tasted nostalgic and naughty and nurturing all at the same time. The coffee was good, too! Apparently they have another location (we went to the "West Ashley" one), but I am sure the offerings are of equal quality at both.
Website: Wildflour Pastry
4. As much as you can possibly stuff in your face from Early Bird Diner
We stayed near the Early Bird Diner, and drove past it as we were heading toward our hotel. Immediately we both knew we wanted to give it a try; positive online reviews only helped fuel our fire.
We went to Early Bird for breakfast, and basically, what I want to tell you is this: you cannot go wrong. We got a number of different things: biscuits, corn cakes benedict, grits, and a curried veggie scramble, and everything was fantastic. All of it. We all but licked our plates.
I wouldn't say that this place is fancy, but their chefs know what they are doing, and the flavors are thoughtful. The food is well executed. It will leave you longing for more. I want to go back here right now!
Website: Early Bird Diner
5. Dinner at Glass Onion
Situated nearby the Early Bird Diner, this restaurant was also in the area where we stayed, and piqued our curiosity as we drove by. We were rewarded with our decision to go here for dinner.
The menu apparently changes daily, and features local food whenever possible. It shows in the cuisine. While the menu offers fairly standard southern fare, the execution of everything is exquisite. My boo got the fried chicken; I got the shrimp and grits. Both were flavorful and fresh and delicious. Our salad was perfectly constructed, and I have to say, the cornbread that was delivered as an aperitif was awesome--apparently we are not the only ones who think so because they ration it out stingily--our request for more was denied!
Website: The Glass Onion
6. Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts
For a sweet A.M. treat, we loved the offerings from Glazed Gourmet. When we went, they were nearly sold out (good for them!) but we were able to pick up a small sampling, and the doughnuts were well-made, fresh, and well-sized. While I wish I'd had the chance to further investigate their creative flavors, the glazed classic variety certainly hit the spot.
These were definitely fancy doughnuts, but not too fancy, if you know what I mean. Like, they were satisfying, not just fancied up, if you know what I mean? Visit here!
Website: Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts
While unrelated to food, I should also tell you that we took our pugs to the beach, and it was glorious.