Charleston, SC – The Trip That Almost Didn’t Happen

In the midst of the chaos that is my life these days, I came down with a cold – sore throat, achiness, sneezing. This happened 48 hours before I was supposed to leave for a long weekend in Charleston, SC with my hubby. I was heartbroken because I really needed to get away for a short while and relax. How could I do that if I was miserable the whole time?

In addition to feeling yucky, the illness had rendered my taste buds useless and my appetite pretty much non-existent. Ultimately that is what forced me to make the decision to cancel our hotel room and face the reality that I would be staying home in bed all weekend. I mean, c’mon, Charleston is all about the food- if I couldn’t eat or taste, this trip would be a complete bust.

Then, lo and behold, miracle of miracles happened. I woke up on the day we were to be departing and I felt completely fine! A quick call to the hotel found that they still had a room available, so we were once again booked and quickly packing to head to the airport.

Amen Street Calamari

In today’s post I’m going to walk you through just a few places we dined while there. These are spots that we enjoyed, but to be completely honest, we weren’t blown away by. However, they each had some stand out dishes that I’d hate not to mention.

First up was our first meal upon arrival to Charleston – Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar. The standouts from this meal? The calamari and the cocktails. Of course I couldn’t drink the cocktails, but they got thumbs up from my better half and he can be as tough a critic as me when it comes to these things.

The calamari, however, I could partake in, and believe me, I devoured it. Served tossed together with corn, diced tomato, bacon, green onion, and lemon aioli, this was perhaps the best preparation of calamari I’ve ever had. On the next trip, I would go back and sit at the bar and order a bowl (or two!) of just this dish.

Virginia’s on King fried pickles

My favorite part of our brunch at Virginia’s on King were the fried dill pickles. Probably not the healthiest brunch food, but it’s hard for me to pass them up when they’re on the menu.

Question for you- do you like the fried pickle chips or the spears? I have to be honest, I really don’t understand the idea of frying the spears. For me, the chips are the only way to go.  (For those of you that live here in Nashville, I have a tip for you. My favorite fried dill pickles are the ones at Whiskey Kitchen. They have slices of fried jalapenos mixed in! So good.)

For our meals I had the quiche of the day, which was a sundried tomato, goat cheese, and arugula served with a small side salad with lemon vinaigrette and he had the blackened shrimp omelette. Mine was good, but not earth-shattering, whereas he was beyond pleased with his.

Hominy Grill is one of those places that I’d read about in several magazines and seen featured on Food Network, so my expectations were pretty high. Maybe too high.

Hominy Grill’s Picnic Sampler

I did love the picnic sampler, a plate of pimento cheese, shaved country ham, okra pickles, pickled eggs and buttery toasts. Honestly, this was my favorite part of the meal. The texture of the pimento cheese was really unique, and I could’ve snacked on the pickled okra all day long.

Part of what I’d heard was that they had the best shrimp & grits in town, so I purposely held off ordering that particular dish until this meal. Sadly, I was let down. They were good, but the best? There certainly have to be better in Charleston.

Hominy Grill’s Sesame-Crusted Catfish

I do have to give props to my husband’s entree though- a sesame-crusted farm-raised catfish with sautéed okra, deep fried cheese grits & geechee peanut sauce. It was really interesting, and I’m glad the server pushed us toward it, because we probably wouldn’t have ordered it if she hadn’t.

This dish was unique, and to both of us, much better than the shrimp & grits.

Maybe I’m a really tough critic when it comes to shrimp & grits, or maybe it’s just that I need them to be a little more jazzed up than what Hominy Grill offers. To this day, my favorite shrimp & grits are the bygone Radius 10 version, a Top Chef recipe I’ve made myself, and as of yesterday, the Riffs Truck creation that won them the Battle of the Food Trucks.

 What about you? Any thoughts on shrimp & grits and where the best can be found?

Cru Cafe’s Calamari

Recommended by several people, Cru Cafe was a lovely spot. Their preparation of calamari, tossed with an asian slaw and sesame dressing, was light and refreshing and the Shrimp BLT was divine. We sat on their front porch on a beautiful Charleston day to soak in the last bit sunshine and fresh air as we ate our final lunch before heading back to reality.

Now don’t start thinking that is all I have to say about Charleston. No way. Stay tuned for the three spots that rocked our world from start to finish….