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Charleston's Best Restaurants for NYC Foodies?

Back from a wonderful weekend in Charleston - exceptional weather and delicious food and drink. Will give you a quick run-down ...

To recap, my husband and I are from NYC (although I am originally from the South), we eat out quite a bit and possess typical high NY standards when it comes to food, but enjoy all types of styles & atmospheres - taco trucks to tasting menus, we just want good food, a good experience and expect good value all things considered.

Magnolia's (Dinner)
We began at Magnolia's for dinner, looking for a Charleston classic, low country cuisine, and we were pleased. We had the Down South Egg Roll (a signature dish), She Crab Bisque, Shrimp & Sausage Over Grits (small Plate). The Egg Roll is a unique mish mash of flavors and it works. Collard greens, chicken and tasso served with a spicy mustard sauce + a peach chutney that mimics an Asian duck sauce. The Bisque was of course yummy, but what is not to love about crab and cream. I ended up having Shrimp and Grits 3 times I think, and this was by far my favorite. Smokey & spicy flavors of the sausage and shrimp were perfect over the creamy grits. (Keep in mind they serve a different version as an entree, this was the small plate)

Entrees -
I had the buttermilk fried chicken with biscuits, mashed potatoes, collard greens, cream style corn, and sausage herb gravy. By this time, I was probably too full to objectively judge and/or appreciate. The friend chicken itself was not particularly memorable, but the sides were delicious. Some of the best collard greens I've ever had - sweet and spicy. Probably could have settled for just a plate of sides/veggies at that point in the meal.

Husband had the Parmesan Crusted Flounder with creek shrimp pirloo, sweet corn, tomato, and asparagus salad, lump crab, and a lemon beurre blanc. Recommended as best fish dish by our server, and he loved it. I tried the accompanying salad which managed to be sweet and delicate at the same time.

I would say we enjoyed our early courses more than the entrees, but perhaps because we simply became too full. Service was friendly, but could have been a little more attentive. The room is warm, traditional, not too loud given how crowded. Overall experience I would say = B+. Would recommend for an out-of-towner looking for traditional low-country cooking.

Cru Cafe (Lunch)
The following day we went to Cru Cafe for lunch, set in an old house just north of Market. Charming space but very small, so always crowded. Recommend a reservation, although we did not have one and were able to get a table a little before noon. (People with 1pm rez were waiting when we left). Dining on front porch and indoors.

We ended up at Cru for lunch instead of dinner, and I have to say the menu / dining room looked like my ideal lunch spot - simple, straight-forward dishes with high-quality, fresh ingredients; light lunchy fare if you will.

I had the Shrimp BLT w pepper jack on toasted sourdough w a side salad- simple, fresh flavor como that hit the spot. Perfectly grilled shrimp layered on maple-smoked bacon with a spicy kick from the pepper jack.

Husband had the Coconut Fried Oyster Wrap with Chipotle Mayo and Asian slaw (Cru has a very slight Asian influence) which he loved. In a moment of weakness, we also ordered the 4 Cheese Mac n' Cheese. I've sampled quite a few in my day (being trendy the last 5 yrs in NYC), and it was to die for. Orchiette with cheddar, fontina, jack and mozzarella, I believe, lightly breaded on top and baked so the top had the perfect crust and gooey middle. Was planning to have just a bite and we ate the whole thing.

Our server was knowledgeable, friendly, not too rushed given the lunch crowd. Room is really charming, and not too cramped given its small size. Overall experience = A-. Obviously, can't speak for dinner, but would recommend for lunch as a great stop during a day of sight-seeing.

Sticky Fingers (BBQ) / McCrady's (lunch)
As part of the wedding we were attending, we went to Sticky Fingers BBQ for the rehearsal dinner. I can't recommend based on our experience - rather unmemorable - but we weren't ordering off the menu.

The wedding reception was in the Long Room upstairs at McCrady's. A beautiful space! I enjoyed the food we had - esp passed hors d'oeuvres - but imagine the experience dining in the restaurant is completely different. Would love to try for dinner next trip.

Fig (Dinner)
The big dilemma was whether to go to Cru or Fig for our big Saturday night dinner. Fig won out once a local friend recommended without hesitation between the two. Fig bills itself as "seasonally-inspired cuisine with a commitment to using local and sustainable foods". So doing the organic, locavore thing but with a low-country influence.

To start, the hosts that greeted us were extremely friendly when we walked in the door for our 8pm rez. The place was packed, but they assured us things were running on time, and indeed our table was ready at 5 after. Pretty good for a busy Saturday night.

We started with the Anson Mills Polenta w poached sea island egg, ramps, early morels, asparagus, herb butter, and the Caw Caw Creek Pork Trotters w sunny side up farm egg, endive, mustard vinaigrette - of course, this item caught my husband's eye, and it was a stand-out. Trotters consist of the meat from the shank and feet, and in this case is slow cooked, therefore shredded and formed into a patty - basically like pulled pork - layered with the egg on top, and it was excellent. Much more interesting than the Polenta. The poached egg was lost in the creamy polenta, and the ramps and morels unfortunately did not add enough flavor.

Entrees -
I had the Bistro Steak w ramp butter, salade verte, sauce agrodolce. It was good, but not great. The steak was cooked to the right temperature, and the agrodolce sauce was interesting, but the steak itself was simply not my favorite.

Husband had the Soft Shell Crabs spring vegetables, yukon gold potato puree, lemon, which was a winner (basically he out-ordered me this round with Trotters and Crab). Very simply prepared with lemon and great if you are a fan of soft shell crabs.

We added the Wadamalaw Island Sweet Onions and Pureed Yukon Gold Potatoes as sides. Both were great! I love roasted sweet onions, but was not sure if husband would, and he was a huge fan. The purred potatoes - not the consistency I usually prefer - were also excellent, wonderful creamy flavor.

Our server was knowledgeable and friendly, but overall it was slow. First course took too long to come out. Also, I was very much underwhelmed by the room. It did not fit the ambitious cuisine, and felt uninspired and without character esp after all the gorgeous, rich rooms we'd been in. Overall, I'd give it a B-. At the risk of sounding like the NYC food snob I might be, this is not the place I would recommend for serious out-of-town foodies bc frankly we do this style much better in a place like NYC. I am sure it is innovative for Charleston where the focus is mostly on the traditional, and there is probably nothing else like it around town, but it does not measure up to a similarly-styled place restaurant in NYC. I think whether you will enjoy it, just depends on where you are coming from. That's my 2 cents for visitors.

Hominy Grill (Brunch)
On the contrary, many have called Hominy Grill overrated, touristy, "not worth the wait" and for an NYC visitor I would disagree. We loved it despite the 40 min wait. To begin, we probably got there at the worst / busiest time - 11am. I think if you got there by 10am or waited until 1pm, the wait would be considerably less. We came with coffee and the paper, and we waited outside in beautiful weather - really wasn't bad at all. They told us a 45-50 min wait, we were seated in 40 min.

I ordered Fried Green Tomatoes with ranch dressing to start, my husband the egg and cheese biscuit. Not my first fried green tomato, and these were some of the best I've ever had. Perfect crispy, salty crust that adhered perfectly to the tomatoes and easily the best home-made ranch dressing I have ever tasted - tangy and herby and just delicious. Maybe it's the recession-friendly comfort-food trend in NYC, or eating thru so many "trying too hard" fusion fads, but I find great pleasure is simple, fresh flavors, and this dish won me over.

Barely saw the egg biscuit my husband ordered bc it was gone so quickly.

For entrees, I ordered off the special board - Egg, cheese, sausage casserole with a hominy crust and pimento cheese sauce, served with a biscuit and home fries. Husband ordered the Cinnamon French Toast w/ apple maple syrup & pecan butter. Neither of us was disappointed in the slightest. Even bad biscuits can be pretty good, and great biscuits are what I imagine heaven is like. These are great - flaky, fluffy, crumbly, not remotely greasy, perfectly sweet and salty at the same time. Spread with the blackberry preserves on each table, and you will be happy.

The French Toast was the perfect consistency - thick, fluffy bread perfectly browned and the apple maple syrup, almost the consistency of apple sauce, really made the dish.

Our service was excellent, the room is casual but very charming including the lovely patio out back where we ate. Overall experience = a solid A. Would definitely recommend, and would love to go back to try weekday breakfast or dinner.

That is my summary for Charleston. As you can see, no dessert reviews bc sadly, we never had room. Obviously there are so many more places to try, but hope this is helpful for some out-of-towners trying to finalize your reservations, like I was. One last suggestion not restaurant specific, order a tea-infused Firefly vodka on the rocks with lemon. Wonderfully refreshing drink served at most bars, goes down way too easy.

Hominy Grill
207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

Apr 19, 2010
bdurrett in Southeast

Charleston's Best Restaurants for NYC Foodies?

Thanks! This helps tremendously. Looking into your brunch suggestions.

Apr 13, 2010
bdurrett in Southeast

Charleston's Best Restaurants for NYC Foodies?

monab - where did you end up and what were the highlights? i too am nyc foodie heading to charleston next month ... also having a hard time with final choices.

i will be in town for a wedding and will only be able to explore for a couple of meals - a dinner and brunch. can't decide between FIG and CRU for dinner. think Hominy has won for brunch.

Mar 12, 2010
bdurrett in Southeast

Mia Dona environment?

I have dined here a few times - both lunch and dinner - and always enjoyed the experience, particularly bc of the atmosphere for a midtown restaurant. I think the space is quite pleasant. Never found it cramped or overly noisy. Good service, and great pasta.

Feb 09, 2010
bdurrett in Manhattan

Lunch near High Line

Cookshop serves a fantastic lunch and brunch. Northern entrance is literally across the street.

Oct 14, 2009
bdurrett in Manhattan

Best Omakase in City?

Agree with all these recommendations, but what about Kanoyama in the EV if you actually want to come in around $100 pp or less?

I haven't been there too recently, but believe they offer true omakase at the bar, and some variation at the table ... never been disappointing there.

Oct 13, 2009
bdurrett in Manhattan

thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant

Every year NY Mag does a Thanksgiving special including caterers and restaurants that are open etc.

2007 -
2008 -

Oct 13, 2009
bdurrett in Manhattan

good place for drinks, tapas, first date

Just had a great meal at Txikito on 9th Ave @ 25h Street - from the Tia Pol couple. Same style minus the wait. Went last Wednesday at 7pm and got a table right away.

Oct 13, 2009
bdurrett in Manhattan

Madison & 63rd for lunch

Rouge Tomate - - @ 60th and Mad.

Oct 13, 2009
bdurrett in Manhattan

Overnight trip - in search of local gems

I walked into the Little Owl last Saturday at 6pm on a whim hoping to get 2 bar seats. All 4 seats at the bar were all empty + additional tables in front for walk-ins. I would think your chances on a Sunday would be even better.

Oct 13, 2009
bdurrett in Manhattan

Looking for Toronto Classics

all the input is great, but to clarify the thread is now aimed at both a "classic" and also a neighborhood-ish, small kitchen.

for the high-end mainstay Splendido, Canoe, Opus etc is what we are going for.

but for the latter, amuse bouche sounds great. i think black hoof, harbord room, etc as new as they are, will be crowded and tough to get in to.

did i mention we're coming for TIFF? we have a PR agency working on our rezzies so i think we'll be fine, but just want to be clear about the mix we're after.

JPJ i think you get it ... thx

Looking for Toronto Classics

JPJ thanks for these recommendations! the restaurants you mention were not on my radar and menus for each look great.

Best place for Produce in Gramercy/Murray Hill?

it's a challenge in this neighborhood no question. oh how i miss the garden of eden that used to be on 3rd and 24th. i suck it up and go to the one on 23rd b/tw 6th and 7th. they ALWAYS have everything i need and not as much of a cluster as Whole Foods / Trader Joe's. It's worth the trip. Also, they were doing "recession saturdays" giving 20% off.

Somewhere in this thread a poster mentions Morton Williams as best grocer (generally, not specifically producer). Can't confirm personally.

Sep 04, 2009
bdurrett in Manhattan

Looking for Toronto Classics

First off, thanks to all the thoughtful feedback. This is extremely helpful. Splendido, it seems, is just what I'm looking for ...

Restaurant Dish, fair question with two part answer. My husband and I (early 30's) tend to stay downtown, often try new places and enjoy a lively atmosphere, but also have high expectations when it comes to food. Recent favorites have been Scarpetta, Corton, Momofuku franchise, Little Owl, Allen & Delancy, Sorella, A Voce, (before Carmellini left), Aldea.

That said, I would not compare my meal at Momofuku to one at say, Eleven Madison Park, which happens to be my favorite meal in this city for the past few years. Other favorites in the same vein as EMP are Cru, Blue Hill (Stone Barns and NYC), Convivio, Sushi Yasuda. Obviously a higher price point, but these places are in a different league than the new, flash-in-the-pan, chef-will-be-gone-in-6mos, type places that we get a lot of in NYC.

I have done Le Bernadin, Jean George, Daniel, and had exceptional meals at each, but frankly that type of atmosphere is a bit too stuffy for my taste. I much prefer the feel and the food at EMP or Blue Hill ... perhaps more accessible/ comfortable?

Hope that gives you some idea as to my inclinations. Overall, I’d like to try one of the newer, trendier places – Grace was going to be my pick, but sounds like that is a mistake – once of the “standard classics” – leaning towards Splendido – and dim sum – Lai Wah Heen.

Again, I appreciate everyone’s responses and will let you know how the trip turns out.
Many thanks!

Looking for Toronto Classics

dear toronto chowhounders ... visiting from NYC for a long weekend. based on my preliminary research i've got a good feel for the new shining stars in town - Black Hoof, Harbord Room, Nota Bene, Grace - and will probably try one or two of these in addition to the Lai Wah Heen dim sum.

wondering what classic standard / reliable "go-to" restaurants on the higher end i should consider as well. budget is not really an issue. must be "parent friendly" as i'm traveling with my mother-in-law who requires a bit of pampering (read: loud, cramped spaces do not work; must accept reservations).

any suggestions would be much appreciated, including thoughts on the newish restaurants i listed above. leaning towards a meal at Grace. the menu looks right up my alley, and the room looks gorgeous. what about Union? or Gilead Cafe?

thanks for any feedback!

1st date drinks near Union Square

I think the House is a great rec. Interesting wines/beers and nice bartenders.

Oct 29, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

Praise for Graffiti

Had a delicious meal last night at Graffiti in the EV. Tiny little jewel box. Menu consists of small plates designed to share. The owner (Jehangir Mehta) who will serve you is extremely accommodating (not to mention very kind) e.g. we were 4 and the watermelon salad serves 3 pieces, he immediately offered to add an extra piece.

Signature of the menu is mixing flavors and textures. Mehta has obviously taken great care in preparing the menu and takes the same care explaining it and serving his guests. Seriously, he's the nicest guy I've encountered in this city in a while.

We covered a lot of the menu, and were not disappointed by any item. We had the watermelon feta salad (mint sorbet made the dish), pork dumplings, pickled ginger scallops, chili shrimp, braised pork bun and the burger. It is hard to pick a stand out bc it was all that good - scallops, shrimp, pork bun and burger were all fantastic. The burger meat is done kabob style and has great spciy flavor. Every dish seems to have one or two extra unexpected ingredients which make the dish unique.

I am as jaded as the next NY diner, and feel I am rarely overwhelmed by the creativity of a menu or the care/service, and Graffiti did just that in both categories. Definitely recommend.

Aug 27, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

What are some new restaurants in NY with great food? Don't care about price or type of cuisine.

Little Owl is great, and I just had a suberb meal at Market Table (sister property). Lamb Shank there is yum. Both are in the West Village and have a similar feel. These in addition to Perilla and Allen & Delancey are definitely the current CH downtown favorites. I would do one, not all.

For a higher price tag, Eleven Madison Park is a great bet. Daniel Humm took over while you've been gone. A Voce, also nearby, serves great Italian. I absolutely love it although you will see complaints re: dining room noise.

Lastly, Momofuku Ssam Bar!! Surprised I am the first to suggest. Go for the pork buns and a ssam. David Chang is doing wonderful things with pork!

Feb 25, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

Pamplona: Never again

I live in the neighborhood and having heard great things about Alex Urena, I really wanted to like it. It sounds like a lot of people were rooting for him, but my entire experience there was god awful ... and sadly, it sounds like the place is consistently bad.

WindyCity - I highly recommend Tia Pol, Boqueria and Alta. Each of these places is great!

Feb 21, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

bars with real ginger beer in manhattan?

I was just at East Side Company Bar the other night. Had a moscow mule and a dark & stormy and they were pretty darn good!

I love a good ginger beer cocktail as well ... yum.

Feb 21, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

Top 5 Brunch Places with Breakfast Food

Five Points, Eisenberg's, Great Jones, Egg, Penelope

Feb 20, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

Oysters on the Bar?

I think the Mermaid Inn does as well ... although they usually have a small assortment. Shaffer City is probably your best bet.

Feb 20, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

Favorite tiny restaurant?

I second Le Gigot. It is really lovely.

For something a little pricier, Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar. Upstairs is tasting menu only, delish and probably 4 tables. I do love Degustation as others have suggested but note it is counter seating only.

Feb 19, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

VA Cook's Report - 1 Week Culinary Tour of Bay Area

Hustla - you've left us hanging! Would love to hear your reviews and recommedations from San Francisco.

Coming for a visit from NYC in a couple of months.

where to go for great pints and pub food

3rd ave is your bet. there is no shortage of pubs stretching from the high 30's to the 20's. some are painful. the classic spots are McCormick's, Molly's (a favorite for sure), and Rolf's.

there are tons others ... Fitzgerald's, Hairy Monk, Bull Head Tavern, Cooper Door, Plug Uglies ... the list goes on and on.

For REALLY interesting beer and food, the best place in the neighborhood is Resto ... although save this one when you're not doing a bar crawl .

Feb 02, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

Good Mexican downtown that takes reservations?

Mercadito in the East Village? or Itzocan Cafe - frech influenced mexican which i realize sounds crazy but it's quite good and BYO which keeps the bill down.

Feb 01, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

EV ... I miss my old 'hood. What's new?

I agree with the above and add the following ...

Cafe Cortadito

PS - burger is great at Back Forty

Feb 01, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

late night dining -- with a good bar scene?

downing street bar - across from mas from the blue ribbon people. it's small, but very fun with interesting wines and great small plates.

Feb 01, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

PF Changs-type Chinese in NYC

i won't tell any one ... Buddakan? Chinatown Brasserie? Ruby Foo's?

Jan 31, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan

downtown upscale rest. recs for next weekend

EMP, Blue Hill, Mas, Cru ... probably in that order.

Jan 31, 2008
bdurrett in Manhattan