Neighborhood Guide: Charleston Chew

Writer Daniel Browne isn’t necessarily a food writer, but the topic pops up frequently in his work (his latest story, in Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, is now available as a free download). I’d tell you why, but I’d spoil the story. Let’s let him explain how he ate so damn well on his latest trip to Charleston, South Carolina.

When your wife is a seasoned food professional (or rather a seasoned professional in the food world, not a professional who deals only with seasoned food—although, I’m sure all the food Lisa writes about for work is well-seasoned)…Let’s start again.

When your wife is a food writer and editor, you tend to eat well on vacation. As usual, Lisa had planned the itinerary for our long weekend in Charleston to a T: a few reservations at respected restaurants, a few lunch options, plenty of opportunity to play it by ear. So I was fully expecting to eat well.

What I wasn’t expecting was a food town to rival Portland, Oregon, my favorite eating destination in the country. Not only was every single meal in Charleston remarkable, just about every server we encountered was warm, knowledgeable, and serious about their food. Charleston doesn’t seem to have the same reputation in the gastrosphere as Portland, but that may have more to do with a lack of hipster signifiers than a lack of worthy eats. Here are a few of the highlights:

Hope and Union

For years, my favorite coffee spot has been the lobby of the Ace Hotel in Portland (last Portland reference, I promise!), but Hope and Union (199 Saint Philip Street) gives it a run for its money. As at the Ace, the coffee is Stumptown and the drinks are made with care by friendly, good-looking youths (or as a New Yorker visiting the South is obligated to say, “yoots”). The difference is that Hope and Union, like so many things of interest in Charleston, is located in an old house on a quiet side street—a house with a wraparound porch. Sitting on that porch, nursing a latte while regulars drift in from the beach…it’s the kind of experience that gets you thinking seriously about relocating. [UPDATE: , , ,

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  1. says

    This trip sounds awesome. Charleston’s long been high on my list of places to visit in the U.S. (it’s got a minor league baseball team, so …) and now I’m more intrigued! Not that I needed another reason, but that burger sounds like it was worth the trip …

  2. says

    I never fully appreciated Charleston when my husband was going to school in SC, but that’s because I was too busy staring at him when I was there to visit. We’re planning a trip back, though, and I so look forward to eating my way through the city.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Shaina, you’re adorable (and so is your husband!) – maybe the next time you go, you can enjoy your cute selves, the architecture, AND the food equally!

  3. WINO says

    I love Charleston, it is one of my top 5 US cities. I haven’t been there for a while, but after reading your article, I believe I should get back there soon.

  4. says

    Team Charleston! I adore hope & union too and have to pipe up in support of the gin joint, home of the fennel G&T that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about for almost a year.

  5. mgmb says

    I grew up in upstate SC, and in all those years, and to this day, visits to Charleston never disappoint. Just try not to go too late in summer (unless you like to swim in your own sweat and detour around roaches the size of Priuses at night).

    There used to be more french style restaurants years ago, but now it’s all over the culinary map. The problem with living there (as members of my family do) is that you easily go broke eating out! I’m going to visit and attend Spoleto Festival in June, and Two Boroughs Larder is at the top of my list this time.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      mgmb, if you love Charleston, you’ll really dig a cookbook giveaway I’ve got scheduled for March! Don’t touch that dial….