Road Trip :: Charleston, Part II – Food

So my sweetie and I celebrated our fourth anniversary mid-August in Charleston. Which means, amazing food. While I was trying to “not plan” as much as possible, I told my mom before we left that with that many fabulous restaurants, the one thing I felt I needed to plan was the food. One bad meal just isn’t an option when there is so much good stuff to choose from. So here’s the food scoop:

Our anniversary dinner was at Magnolia’s, the only reservation I made ahead of time. Magnolia’s is classic southern low-country cuisine and the home of my own recipe for shrimp and grits. One of my selfish motivations for eating here was to sample (again) the shrimp and grits to make sure that my own recipe hasn’t strayed too far. What made the meal, though, was their fried green tomato appetizer. Two slices of fried green tomatoes (corn meal, not flour) stuck together with a bit of goat cheese, served on stone-ground grits surrounded by tomato bisque and topped with tomato chutney. It is bad when the best thing you eat all weekend is the first thing you put in your mouth, but this may have been it. I promised the hubs that I would try this at home. I’ll let you know how it goes. (And I could kick myself for not taking a picture! I just wasn’t thinking.)

I did have the small plate of shrimp and grits (and there was nothing small about it! At least a dozen shrimp plus the sausage…), and I was ecstatic to taste how similar mine is. The only real difference I could detect was that they use a spicier sausage, and my hun actually prefers mine since he’s not crazy about spice. He had the shrimp and scallops over succotash which was divine and much lighter than my selection. We were talked into the pecan pie, which was good, but by that time, I had lost all ability to decipher flavors.

Our other incredible dining experience was Saturday night at Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar. I had hands down the best lump crab cakes I’ve ever eaten. I don’t typically order crab cakes because I’m so picky about them. But, with a name that claims seafood as a specialty, I gambled and won. Scott had the lobster and shrimp risotto (with large chunks of lobster) and while he thought it was delicious, it was probably too rich as a whole meal.

What made this dinner was, again, the appetizer. We had been handed on the street a coupon for a free serving of fried green tomatoes and had we not just eaten two nights previously at Magnolia’s, we probably would have been blown away. A flour crust, the tomatoes were served along side pimento cheese and pickled okra. But the real hit – and we had been told it would be – was the crispy jumbo calamari. Six to eight large calamari tubes were fried and served mixed with a corn, finely chopped tomato, bacon and green onion in a light lemon aioli. Oh my. The bacon flavor with the crisp corn crunch and succulent calamari… it may be worth a trip back just for this. And, because we had eaten so much, we opted to have the berry bread pudding “to go” and we enjoyed that back in the room.

On the day between, we had a light mid-afternoon snack of boiled shrimp at Hyman’s Seafood┬áso we didn’t have a real dinner. Later that night, we met my friend as well as another couple who are friends of his at Leaf Cafe’ and Bar for drinks and appetizers. Opened less than a year, we had an enjoyable couple of hours on the patio. We also had a good lunch on Saturday at Southend Brewery and Smokehouse.

If you’ve been to Charleston, where is your favorite place to eat? What have you eaten that is worth driving there for?

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One Reply to “Road Trip :: Charleston, Part II – Food”

  1. Ok, I have already beaten you to death with the tale of Husk so let me just reiterate: Husk = Top Three Best Meal (and maybe no. 1 of the 3) in my life to date.

    We also love Hominy Grill. We went there on our first trip to Charleston 9 years ago and have visited again when within a 2 hourish driving distance. We actually drove from Hilton Head to Charleston just to go to Hominy Grill. We went again on our recent trip. While I will say it paled in comparison to Husk on this trip, it is excellent food, as well. Like Husk, everything is made from scratch, from local, seasonal ingredients. MY recipe for shrimp & grits comes from Hominy, whose chef won the James Beard Best Chef Southeast award in 2008.

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