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MUST TRY place in Charleston?

Good list Danna. I haven't been to Sienna yet but I've heard lots of great things about it. I can't wait for Ken Vedrinski's new place Trattoria Lucca downtown to open.

FIG is one of my very favorite restaurants in the city. Mike Lata is awesome. Al Di La is great of the few West Ashley places that could probably survive downtown. I'd also recommend Fat Hen on Johns Island, great, downtown quality food with a more homestyle atmosphere and about the only reason worth driving out there as far as I'm concerned.

- DH - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

MUST TRY place in Charleston?

Seriously? If you had to pick one "must try" place in Charleston it would be Boulevard Diner? With all of the other restaurants and great chefs we have?

Boulevard is alright...if I'd rather eat there than, say, Fridays or Applebee's but you can't put it in the same breath as MANY of the other places we have.

- DH - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Bobby Flay Coming to Charleston's 2009 Food + Wine Festival

I agree with you Jon in that I wish it was more open to less affluent masses. I'm a college student and even though I worked at the festival, I can't afford to really go to any of the events.

The one thing you've got to keep in mind, though, is that unlike some of the other food and wine festivals out there, Charleston's is a non-profit (any revenue above cost goes to charity, scholarships, etc.) and like any other non-profit is in a constant state of fundraising and grant-writing just to cover expenses, so it's not like anyone is making a bunch of money off of it. I wish they'd publicize that fact more though, because I don't know if most people really realize that.

Bobby is definitely a really good chef, but obviously the main reason they wanted him was because he's a good draw. I'd be much more upset if they had brought in someone like Rachel Ray or Paula Deen, who really aren't "chefs" at all. Interestingly enough, one of my jobs this summer was to go through all of the responses to the the survey the festival sent out after last years festival, and Paula Deen was the top choice for who people wanted to see come this year, but she wanted WAY more money than anyone else to come (which in my opinion is a good thing, because I would have no interest in seeing her)...

Also, jimmy, the three nominees were Sean Brock from McCrady's (Rising Star Chef of the Year), Mike Lata from FIG (Best Chef Southeast), and Robert Stehling from Hominy Grill (won the Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast)...

- DH - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Bobby Flay Coming to Charleston's 2009 Food + Wine Festival

This is something that I've been eager to share for a long time, since I figured this is something that a lot of this crowd would be interested in, but I couldn't because it hadn't been announced to the public until last night. Anyway, since my internship with the Festival is over and I'm no longer associated with them, I got the chance to go to the 2009 launch party last night as your standard Charleston resident.

Anyhow, the gist of the evening's major announcement was that Flay is going to be coming to next year's festival with several of the chefs from his NYC restaurants and doing a charity lunch and a demonstration on making gourmet burgers.

The festival has grown a little every year, but I'm hoping as a resident, that luring a huge name like that, along with our three James Beard nominees this year, will help really cement Charleston as one of the major culinary places to be.

- DH - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Visiting Charleston, SC in September

I've never had as bad an experience as you've had, but I agree that it is overpriced and touristy...they draw so much of their business from the ghost tour crowd that that's inevitable though...

The one thing that I thought was above average there was the she-crab soup, but if you're in charleston and can't make a decent rendition of that then you have no business running a restaurant.

Charleston area reviews

I do like Santi's (their mole sauce is awesome) but they seem to be more like the La Hacienda style Mexican places in terms of most of their menu. They do have some pretty great dishes, but overall I like the North Charleston places more.

Santi's has the best chips in town though.

Charleston area reviews

As far as I'm concerned, you have to go to North Charleston or John's Island to get good Mexican food in the Charleston area. The little hole in the wall places where they don't speak much English are almost always the best. I've heard great things about the taco carts on Ashley Phosphate (in fact there was something in last summer's Charleston City Paper dining guide about them) but my favorite place has been La Nortena. I wrote a review on my blog a while back, here's what I said:

"I was a little nervous on the way because the (person who recommended it to me) led me to believe that I was going to need to call on my limited Spanish skills to make it through the meal. Unfortunately, even though I took Spanish for three years in high school and two semesters in college, mi Español no es bueno. The good news was that it really wasn't an issue. English was obviously our server's second language, but she knew the basics and was willing to put up with us butchering the pronunciation of her native tongue.

Anyhow, on to the food. In a pleasantly surprising twist from your typical cookie cutter Mexican place, La Norteña brings out 5 different types of salsa for their free chips. Be forewarned though, some of these pack some serious heat. I thought I had learned from experience that green salsas usually were safer to go ahead and dig into, but I learned my lesson pretty quickly. I didn't love all of them, but one of the green ones (a more typical salsa verde) and a darker-red-on-the-verge-of-brown one really hit the spot. The chips were fine, but I'm still hoping that someday all Mexican restaurants will start learning from Santi's and have the same big, thick, awesome chips.

The menu is pretty large and gives you all sorts of options. I had heard that things like cabeza (beef cheek) and lengua (tongue) were pretty common at the more authentic Mexican establishments, and although I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater, I decided to play it safe on my first visit there. That being said, I don't think that either of the above things are gross, and I will probably try them both the next opportunity I have. My stance on foods I'm not used to seeing on a menu is this: if something is commonly found on the menus of a given type of cuisine, then that means that the restaurants sell enough of it for it to be worth it, which, in turn, means that there is probably a reason that so many people buy it.

Sorry, I went on a bit of a tangent there, but back to the subject. I ended up getting four tacos (which are sold at $1.49 a piece, an obscenely good deal). Two of them were carnitas, which just means shredded, braised pork, and two were al pastor, which is essentially the Mexican equivalent of gyro meat or shawarma. Wikipedia describes the preparation tacos al pastor as:

Usually pork, it is marinated during one or two days with a blend of different spices and herbs (such as adobo), and then slowly cooked on a vertical rotisserie called a Trompo (lit: spinning top), often with a pineapple on top. When ready, the meat is then thinly sliced off the spit with a large knife.

The tacos were prepared the way they typically (from what I have read) are prepared at most traditional Mexican taquerias, which means two small (slightly bigger than palm sized) tortillas stacked on top of each other, followed by the meat, chopped onion, cilantro, red or green salsa, and served with lime (this is pretty much what is represented by the picture at the top of this post, even though it's not actually from La Norteña).

Now that we've got all of our explanations down, let me just tell you that if you haven't had tacos al pastor prepared in this way then you are really missing out. The meat was amazing. It was tender and whatever spices they used to marinate it really brought out a great flavor. It was sort of subtly sweet and tangy with a hint of pineapple. Unlike most Tex-Mex American tacos, the meat is really the centerpiece of this variety. With a lot of the ingredients we are used to being in tacos (e.g. lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese) stripped away, your palate really gets to focus on what it is supposed to. You'll wonder why you've been putting all of that other nonsense on your tacos all along (then you may remember, as I did, that you did so because the meat you'll find at a place like La Norteña is prepared with significantly more care and skill, than the chunk of ground beef you throw in a pan with a packet of taco seasoning at home). The carnitas was also very good, but not memorable in the way that their al pastor was.

Another interesting item that we decided to try midway through our meal was an horchata a Mexican iced beverage derived from rice that is milky in appearance and also includes sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Sarah and I decided that this was some sort of Mexican egg nog equivalent. It was actually very good, and did nice job of taking the bite out of some of the salsas that came with our chips. One side note on this point, we decided to get the "grande" size since we were going to share it (and since it was only $2.29). This turned out to be totally unnecessary; the grande size seriously had to have been more than a liter. I felt like they gave us a gallon bucket with two straws.

All-in-all, it was a really great meal for a really great value. I plan on going back up that way soon and getting a little more creative with my ordering. I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys Mexican food, or just enjoys good, simple food in general."

My editor at C of C's student paper wants me to review Taco Boy sometime early this semester, so I'll report back with my opinion once I get the chance.

- DH - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Overtouristed Charleston?

Jon, do you know if September is when Bowens Island Restaurant starts doing all-you-can-eat oysters again? I went there over the summer and was disappointed i couldn't get it.

- DH - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Charleston, SC

I went to FIG for my birthday dinner last year, and it was one of the very best meals of my life.

Mike Lata is an awesome chef (he was nominated along with Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill for the James Beard award for Best Chef in the Southeast), and he has a very intense commitment to using local, ultra fresh ingredients.

Their braised short rib was one of the best entrees i've ever had and their grouper changed my entire opinion of fish. I've never liked cauliflower before and I even loved that when someone at my table ordered it. If you're looking for a great meal downtown but want to spend a little less than you would at Peninsula, Charleston Grill, or McCradys, it's pretty difficult to beat FIG. Highly recommended!

Hope that helps!
- DH - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Visiting Charleston, SC in September

I'd kinda/sorta agree with the Hank's recommendation. They still do some things very well (the Grouper is still awesome and the seared rare tuna is always very good), but their prices and portion sizes have both started going in the wrong direction in the past couple years, and I don't know if it's worth the expense.

- DH - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Visiting Charleston, SC in September

i'll kill two birds with one stone here.

Here are the places that some will inevitably suggest, but will get slammed by most locals:

jestine's, poogan's porch, hyman's.

Here are the off-the-beaten-path places that will inevitably get suggested:

bowen's island (folly beach), the wreck (mount pleasant), al di la (local food critic favorite in west ashley, damn near impossible to get a reservation at), Fat Hen (John's Island). bowen's island and the wreck are paper plate fried seafood places with great views. Al Di La is great if you can get in. Fat Hen is awesome too, but like most of these places would be a pain to get to without a car. Someone will also mention Sal Parco's restaurants, Mustard Seed and Boulevard Diner. Both of which have adequate to solid food at very reasonable prices, but aren't anything that will blow you away. Cru Cafe on Pinckney street is always recommended for lunch and i would second that as well. it's a few blocks from the market. hominy grill on cannon/rutledge is good and their chef just won a james beard award, but a lot of locals don't agree that they deserve all the national hype and getting in will be difficult.

Places that might not get mentioned, but I'd also recommend:

If you're going to be at Wentworth Mansion already, you have to eat dinner at Circa 1886. their chef is great and i've heard nothing but good things. FIG is tremendous, their chef was also nominated for a James Beard award. Lana (right across the street from Hominy) is a rising star in the area. Pane e vino, a tiny italian restaurant near the college of charleston campus gets a lot of love from the local critics as well.

hope that helps!
- DH - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Best in Charleston SC

My roommate works at Poogan's and informed me that they recently laid off almost half their staff and cut the lunch shift all together. Apparently business hasn't been wonderful and they are going to try to take the restaurant in a more "fine dining" direction, which I'm afraid could be disastrous with all the competition in the immediate area.

RB's, Shem Creek

I feel the same way. I left there unsatisfied with my purchase, and I had a friend who worked there so we got free apps and drinks!

Charleston -- Fuel

Holly Herrick just posted a partial review on her blog. She said that their AC just isn't working right now. It's about 2 blocks from my apartment in the fall so I hope it's good.

Romantic Charleston restaurant?

I don't think you're going to have a ton of luck finding the combination of great view / romantic / moderately priced. You may have to shoot for 2 out of three.

Romantic / Moderately Priced / Good Food: I found Le Club Fez on James Island to have a great date night vibe. It's Moroccan / French food so it'll be unique in that regard, and entrees will run you around $20. That being said, it doesn't have any sort of a view, but it's also located next to Charleston's art house movie theater, so you have the 2nd part of a great date right next door. I wrote a full review of it when I took a friend there for her birthday a couple months ago:

Great View / Affordable / Could be romantic: Bowens Island Restaurant in between James Island and Folly Beach has one of the best views in the area, looking right out over the Sol Legare Creek. You sit on plastic furniture and eat off of paper plates, but if you went a little later in the evening there would likely be pretty few people there and you'd be able to catch an awesome sunset right on the water. The food is local/casual, but it's a very Charleston experience and could fit your needs:

Romantic / Moderately Priced: My last suggestion would be Pane e Vino on Warren St. downtown. It's a wine bar / restaurant with reasonable prices hidden away from all the touristy spots on the Market. I haven't written a review of it, but I've heard nothing but great things about it. You can read the City Paper's review here:

Hope this helps!
- DH

Recommendations for a fun place to watch the Eurocup in Charleston

It's in North Charleston. City Paper's dining guide says its the best Irish Pub around, I don't know how much we have in the way of authentic Irish pubs, but their website says they're showing the tournament and I bet there will be lots of soccer fans there.

Hope this helps!

- DH

Cru Cafe in Charleston - Only for Lunch?

I think the reason that everyone recommends it for lunch is because, as someone else stated, most other restaurants that people recommend are only open for dinner. There are so many great night spots, and while Cru definitely is good for dinner as well, the fact that they're open for lunch allows you to try them while still getting in another of the great spots for dinner.

Charleston - looking for local meat & veg

Ted's Butcherblock - On East Bay, near Calhoun is great for all kinds of fantastic bacon/cheese/meat.

The Vegetable Bin next to the Harris Teeter on East Bay St. (Corner of East Bay and Hassel) just re-opened.

There is also a farmer's market downtown in Marion Square Saturday mornings. I believe there's one on Tuesdays in Mt. Pleasant too.

Good luck!

Delivery options in downtown Charleston?

A few of the sandwich places deliver too. I like Bubba Slye's on upper King. Mellow Mushroom is the best delivery pizza downtown, but their prices are steep even before delivery charge + tip. Aroma's on Market will deliver, they've got solid but unspectacular pad thai. Pita Pit delivers if you're looking for a quick lunch. Easy Bay Deli does too.

That's all I can come up with off the top of my head, hope it helps.

Charleston SC Dining Experience

Haha, I knew as soon as I saw that they mentioned Hyman's that there were going to be a few curious replies. I'm convinced the reason that everyone continues to go to Hyman's is because of the big sign they have when you're walking out of the concourse of the airport. When I was younger and we used to fly down here to go to Seabrook for summer vacation, we used to always go to Hyman's because we were from Ohio and didn't know any better and just saw that sign that said "Voted #1 Seafood in SC!" (I still have no idea who they surveyed or when this was). Now that I'm down here full time at C of C, I cringe every time one of my friends comes into town and wants to go there.

I found Momma Brown's to be pretty mediocre as well. They have NC style vinegar BBQ and SC style mustard sauce BBQ. I found the SC style to have WAY too strong a mustard taste, and I just don't like vinegar heavy BBQ sauces so the other didn't appeal either. If you're a big NC BBQ fan it would probably rank higher.

Charleston Cheap Eats

A couple more recommendations:

If it's a Tuesday night and you're looking for a cheap burger but don't feel like waiting in line at Moe's, you have to try Sesame Burgers & Beer up in North Charleston on Spruill Ave. They grind their meat fresh every day so you can safely order it as rare as you want it. They also make their own condiments in house. I usually go with a friend of mine and we've talked on numerous occasions about sneaking the ketchup bottle out in her purse. I wrote a full review on my blog a few months back for anyone who's interested:

Also, if you're looking for super cheap, authentic (not La Hacienda) Mexican food, there are a bunch of great places in North Charleston along Ashley Phosphate (just make a left at the top of the exit if you're heading away from downtown). My personal favorite is La Nortena. Everything is cheap, most notably their $1.50 tacos, and anything with their "al pastor" meat is amazing. Just brush up on your espanol before you go or get used to pointing at what you want on the menu. I wrote a review on this one too, you can read that here:

Charleston Cheap Eats

I'll throw a vote in here for a couple of these places as well. The Daily Dose is awesome, especially if you're a vegetarian (which I'm not). They have a wrap with baked mahi-mahi, pineapple salsa, and a spicy sauce that is killer. I've only been to the Glass Onion once, but I'm planning to go back. I had the pork belly and was pretty impressed. Both of these places have a great vibe.

Moe's Tavern has great bar food and the Tuesday night half price burgers deal is so popular that it makes going to the Crosstown location nearly impossible unless you want to wait an hour. Jim 'N Nicks was good on my only visit there, but is a welcome alternative to Sticky Fingers. On a side note, can anybody fill me in on why the City Paper and P&C insist on giving Sticky Fingers such good reviews? The chain may have started here, but it really just strikes me as Chili's caliber mediocre.

I have yet to try EVO, but I've heard great things.

Fez -- Charleston

Earlier in the spring I took a friend of mine to Fez for her birthday, we both really enjoyed it and couldn't believe we hadn't noticed it earlier because we go to the Terrace fairly often. I didn't try the fries, but the Gaufrettes with Aioli were out of this world too. It's the one time in my life I can see myself being OK with paying $5 for a plate of glorified potato chips. Back after we went I wrote a review of the place for my blog, here's what I said about the lamb tagine:

"I chose to get the tagine d'Agneau (lamb), which came with figs, apricots, almonds, and shallots. . . When they remove the lid and that first smell hits your nostrils, you know you've made the right choice. It is accompanied by three small Moroccan salads of marinated carrots, cucumber, and eggplant. On the advice of my server I went right ahead and mixed these in with the rest of my plate. The tagine itself was delicious. It was savory and seasoned perfectly. The lamb was tender and fell apart on my fork. I wish I could tell you exactly what seasonings were used in this, but my palate isn't quite that developed. Just take my word that it's awesome. I really enjoyed the almonds in the dish as well. They provided a nice crunch that contrasted the rest of the dish's texture. The apricots were also a pleasant surprise. I wasn't sure what I would think of a sweet fruit in a dish like this but it really worked well with the lamb. The lamb tagine ran me $21 but was well worth the price."

I'd post the full review, but it would take up way too much space, if you're interested in reading the full review, check out the complete post here: