Beyond the obvious reasons that we obsess over cities beyond our own, there are innumerable reasons I keep coming back to Charleston and why it’s currently my most frequently visited US holiday destination. This college town, with its rich history, has more to offer than simply staying alive, its the pinnacle of sunbathed beach ease, southern charm and not yet potentiated city limits. Door to door from New York City, you can basically get to the waves of Folly beach in the time it takes to get to the Hamptons on a summer weekend but with significantly less crowds of selfie enthusiasts, notably superior fresh seafood and all at a sweeter price point! Here is my list of absolutes, I hope it lends some clarity to the many delicious and intriguing options that await you.
Browns Court: The perfect pastry is not something I take lightly and the croissants at Browns Court is worth the trip. This unassuming walk by café with a heavy hitter list of options from not so simple cookies, donuts, danish and an extensive pizza list, you are sure to leave satisfied and properly caffeinated with some of the best coffee in the area.
Babas on Cannon: With a nod to European cafes this sweet little spot has a simple well thought out menu that you dream for. Order the Tall Quiche, its worth the wait and will leave you wondering why you don’t currently make this your weekend routine from home. Better still, this spot blends into the evening with a proper cocktail list, wine and local beer, as well as bar bites and gorgeous shared pastas
Daps: Who doesn’t love a breakfast burger? I guess the obvious answer is, some people, but I for one am a lover! Daps is the kind of feel good food that sets you up for a long day, or helps pull you together after a long night! With delicious meat free breakie sandwich options as well and pancakes you won’t forget, I prefer to order to-go and bring my breakfast to the beach for a pre-frolic or surf fill up!
Basic Kitchen: There is something so satisfying about a not specifically vegetarian restaurant that puts such thoughtful cerebration to their vegetable dishes. From the curry, to their rotating veg soups, and each salad impossibly better than the next!
Try to go at an off peak time, because this place gets busy! The coffee shop across the street The Rise, has great coffee and a cute courtyard to help you kill time.
Chez Nous: Although this gorgeous home turned restaurant serves a brilliant dinner, but due to its ever changing menu based on the freshest ingredients of the moment the dinner menu can be a slight challenge for those pickier eaters. Of the many meals I have had here, I can attest that you cannot go wrong, but there are two items that have left me daydreaming of this place when I am away- which is why it makes the cut for my lunch/brunch options.
The shrimp and tomato salad I had was nothing short of exquisite and to have an entire bread and baked good basket as an on the menu option to start your breakfast shows their astute attention to detail and gift of anticipating any of their customers potential desires!
Pink Cactus: Tacos and tequila happy hour, Oaxacan style. Local fish and fresh ingredients make this place a must! Great place to enjoy a marg and taco before taking a sunset stroll.
Le Farfalle: With ferry lights wrapped around the tree topped patio, I love this place for a group dinner, or a casual and extremely satisfying date night. The menu is typical, but what sets Le Farfalle apart from the rest is in its execution and slight twist on the expected classics. Do not skip the Warm Rosemary Focaccia or the Fusilli Lunghi and top it off with the Vertical Railroad cocktail.
Melfi’s: Along with serving Charlestons coldest martini, this Italian gem is a go-to every time I’m in town! The steak Florentine is perfection and a large enough portion that I usually make a sandwich with it the next day with cheese and bread from Goat Sheep Cow. Everything from the Beautiful Lettuce Salad, to the straciatella topped pizzas is thoughtfully balanced and completely delicious! The ambience here will sweep you off to old New York!
167 Raw: Always busy and always worth the wait! Go with friends or pull up at the bar (for a unique conversations with the bartender), the variety of fresh fish po’boys, oysters and tacos you truly must try a bit of everything! The Meccal Negroni holds its own, but it may be a challenge to turn down the Frozie’s from the table next to you! I usually go for the oysters, guac and fresh catch1
The Darling: Celebrates the bounty of the sea and the rhythm of the seasons, I love to pull up to the bar here for a happy hour cocktail and if I’m feeling bold enough, which after the first cocktail I tend to be, a seafood tower! When you think of Charleston and its abundant fresh seafood, this should be your first stop! I always lust after peas in pasta, but the Blue Crab Tagliatelle is quite special!
Zero George: Absolutely exquisite! I generally am not a fan of prix fixe dinners, as the portions sometimes leave you grabbing a slice on the way home and often have at least one course that leaves you questioning its intended purpose. My experience at Zero George was not only one of discovering playful new textures and delicious combinations, but enjoying this beautiful meal on a candle lit balcony tucked away in a quiet courtyard, truly was the icing on the cake!
Big Work Fitness: There is something about a no frills garage feeling gym that just makes me workout with a little more grit! That is one of the reasons I love this indoor outdoor gym (another being the take away tacos from the brewery next door). The members (and staff) are friendly and hard working and its not the kind of place that you go-to and feel like people are watching you. Respectfully, everyone is there to do their own thing! They offer day passes, but call ahead to make sure someone is there to set you up.
The Works: Known for its heated hybrid yoga cardio and hype bae instructors, their 45 min
After finally taking class from the owner Sarah Frick, you can clearly see how her frenetic energy meets passion, positivity and strength to blend a slightly confusing and powerfully feel good sweat. She brings a focus of shedding doubt and fear and moving through connectivity through physical movement, breath and intention. You may leave not knowing what just happened to you, but you’ll return because you felt so good after it all!
Holy Spokes Bike Rental: Charleston is a gorgeous city by foot, but it’s worth renting a bike and slowly taking in the neighborhood architecture and heavy tree lined streets, or maybe to ride off a long lunch. The bike pickups are easy to find and worth cruising the battery at sunset. I often run this same path and surprisingly on multiple occasions have seen dolphins on the water.
Folly Beach: Even with a bit of traffic, a sunset from Folly Beach is an absolute dream! With frequently decent surfing and great bodyboarding, Folly Beach is a must. The water is much warmer and clearer than New York and they allow dogs on the beach! That is…. on the far end of the beach (which is where you want to go anyway).
Instead of driving straight to the end off the main road, which is quite touristy, take a left anywhere before you get to the end (to avoid traffic), or hang a left when the road ends and drive past the numbered roads till you get to the straightaway.
Off Track: This ice cream parlor alone is worth the trip to Charleston! Everything is made in house and the Springbok cold brew and cookies is the flavor you have been missing from your local ice cream shop. Nothing artificial and without any additives or stabilizers, your biggest challenge will be not going everyday you’re in town!