Over the last couple years during every instance that Charleston was mentioned in conversation, one would turn to me and say, "Cara--You must go to Charleston. It's made for you."
So when my parents suggested a trip over the Fourth of July, my pitch for Charleston was accepted by all family members (except my sister, Julia, who was pining for an Instagram-worthy sprint to Santorini). I was dubbed "program director" by my father, who usually handles family trip itineraries. Not much to their surprise, our programmed five-day vacation was bookmarked by restaurant reservations...the rest of the activities, whether historical or recreational, fit snugly in between.
While it would be wise to one-day break down every detail of each meal we enjoyed, I must keep you apprised of the overarching culinary and cultural highlights (which did not disappoint in the least). Plan your trip to Charleston in a similar fashion, if you'd like; and if you notice I missed some spots, please share in the comments for our next trip to South Carolina!
Before breaking into our daytime and evening categories, I must first brag on our hotel, The Restoration, which exceeded all expectations of charming and elevated Southern hospitality. Alex and I enjoyed a breathtaking suite with picnic basket breakfasts at the door, robes so comfy I was tempted to wear them on King Street, and nightly library happy hours for the books. We were most impressed by the concierge, who arranged rentals for Sullivan's Island and offered historical Downtown routes for our complimentary cruiser bicycles.
To get acquainted to the city and its gripping history, I recommend the following tours and routes:
OLD SOUTH CARRIAGE CO. TOUR
Our carriage ride through historic Downtown was magnificent. The triple-digit heat index seemed to bask behind the jaw-dropping architecture and accompanying tales of Charleston's elite. Our tour guide, a fourth-generation Charlestonian, was sweet as can be, enriching us in the details of a city that, while so trendy in style, holds 200 years of historical depth.
This plantation holds the most exquisite gardens, reflective of my walk through Versailles five summers ago. The house tour is enthralling, recapping a family's struggles and strengths throughout American history and, most specifically, slavery in the South. We enjoyed the Revolutionary soldier impersonation and random livestock trotting along the grounds.
Especially on the morning of July Fourth, this tour was concise but captivating. After hopping off the ferry, My dad, brother and Alex volunteered to raise the American flag, which visitors watched in silence before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in unison. We witnessed a beautiful moment!
Our lunches were casual and, for the most part, catered toward the carnivores in our family, as we knew dinners would comprise of Charleston's finest seafood catches! Since we didn't have one weak link, I'll briefly summarize what to order at all five. If you can go to all five, do it.
Little Jack's Tavern
burger + reuben
tuna poké + oysters
The Obstinate Daughter
orecchiette + farro with roasted chicken
brisket + slaw + corn soufflé pudding
pit and pendulum burger + edgar's nachos
Though the humidity did not die down after dark as much as we hoped,w e relished in beautiful appetizers and suppers throughout Downtown Charleston. Family-style plates were the usual strategy. Our eight-top Zero George private cooking class was especially eye-opening. Chef Vinson Petrillo, in the most unassuming and authentic style, walked us through a two-hour, three-course dinner with sous vide tilefish and the daintiest summer squash tart. The open dialogue was much appreciated as I took notes on technique and ingredients. If you are in Charleston on a Monday night, book your seat at Chef's table!
mushroom pizza + jumbo lump crab gnocchi + whole fish
okra + sugar snap peas + charcuterie (and all the beers)
Zero George Cooking Class
anything chef puts in front of you
oysters + oysters + oysters
I hope you enjoyed our taste of Charleston!