At the very end of March, I met a friend who lives in D.C. in Charleston for a Friday-Monday weekend of fun. Charleston is the perfect city for a weekend getaway: Southern food, historic buildings, ocean breezes, unironic bowties, and strong drinks.
And late March is a great time to visit in terms of weather (low 70s for the win), though I’d check the city calendar if your dates are flexible. We were there the weekend of the Bridge Run, a 10k across Ravenel Bridge. It didn’t put much of a damper on our plans–we weren’t up and moving on Saturday until the race was over–but we did spend all weekend telling Uber drivers, “No, we didn’t do the Bridge Run…no, we didn’t know it was happening.” Or I guess you could go to Charleston FOR the Bridge Run, if you’re into that…you do you.
We landed late afternoon Friday and went to our hotel, the Mills House, to drop our bags. The airport is an easy half hour ride from downtown; they have shared taxis for $14 or an Uber is about $30. The Mills House is perfectly situated downtown; the rooms are a tiny bit dated, especially the bathrooms, but it’s very comfortable.
Friday night we had drinks at The Gin Joint, and they are not messing around with those cocktails. In addition to a solid menu, they have a list of words to choose from: pick any two, and the bartender will make you something. I got a drink that was “refreshing” and “spicy”–it was also delicious. But to be honest, the cocktails were a bit of a mistake because I was already slightly buzzed, when we got to the main event for the night: the tasting menu at McCrady’s, complete, of course, with wine pairings.
We had 15 delicious plates, seated at long, high tables with just a small handful of other diners and the chefs working nearby. There wasn’t an off note on the menu, but my personal favorite was the carrot tart. To paraphrase Willy Wonka, the carrots just tasted exactly like carrots. But the dish that won best presentation is pictured on the right–the Virginia Oyster, a single, gorgeous bite with a plateful of pomp.
We got a late start on Saturday, after tipsily going to another bar after dinner, but it was a perfect, sunshiney day. We stopped in at the very adorable City Lights for coffee to fortify us for a long walk up King Street, the main shopping drag (mostly chains, but a few independent boutiques mixed in). Determined to eat my weight in carbs, we stopped in for biscuit brunch at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. For less than ten dollars, I got FOUR biscuits–two cheddar and chive with ham, two buttermilk with cinnamon butter. Heaven, basically.
Then we walked and walked and walked–through the Market, (which is mostly junk, but I did find a lovely vintage jewelry stand of course), out to Waterfront Park, where I took that lovely photo of Ravenel Bridge above, down along the Battery, with a nice recovery sit in White Point Garden, where we watched people get engagement and wedding photos taken and a true hero assemble a DIY hammock.
In the early evening, we took a house tour with the Charleston Historic Foundation, as part of their annual Festival of Houses and Gardens. We went into about half a dozen homes on the Church Street Tour, and it was fascinating to see how people restored and renovated these centuries-old homes, preserving the old while allowing for modern conveniences. Our tour wrapped just after 8, and we finished the evening with a tasty–though not a standout–meal at The Grocery.
Sunday was my favorite day. It started with gospel brunch at Halls Chophouse, and I can’t imagine a better Sunday morning. The music was gorgeous, and the baby back ribs and sweet tea I had took me back to my Southern childhood (I could kill a rack before age 10, and I have the sticky face photos to prove it). We had caramel cake for dessert because obviously, dessert with breakfast is a must on vacation.
We hopped in an Uber after brunch for a 30-minute trip over the bridge and through Mt. Pleasant to Sullivan’s Island, where we took a walk on the beach that was the highlight of my weekend. The wind was serious; most people laying out were hiding back in the dunes. But the sun was out, and the wind was perfect for kite surfers, who we watched fly through the air. Even better than the acrobatics, though, were the sandpipers scurrying around the shore and dodging the waves. It was a fun camera challenge for me–they move fast.
There are a few cute bars and restaurants with big patios on the strip of road just up from the beach, but on a sunny Sunday, they were packed, so we opted to head back to the hotel, drink some wine in the courtyard, then lounge on the pool deck for a bit. Later on, we went for pre-dinner cocktails at the Vendue Hotel rooftop bar. It was too windy, but we were determined. The view is pretty, and the drinks are tropical.
Dinner that night was the showstopper: Husk, which is famous for a reason. We had pig’s ear lettuce wraps to start (I know some of you are grimacing, but the flavor and texture were fantastic), and then I had a perfectly cooked (too rare!) and seasoned pork chop. Dessert was the pinnacle, though, which it never is for me. I’d usually prefer a second appetizer, but the blueberry “cobbler”–in quotes because they were actually bite-sized pieces of herbaceous pie crust instead of the traditional format–with goat cheese ice cream was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.
We went to bed early that night and made the most of our final morning, starting with breakfast at Hominy Grill. I’ve heard it gets crazy on the weekends (it’s become a bit of a tourist attraction), but on a Monday, we were able to get a seat right away for our Charleston Nasty Biscuits, with fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese, and sausage gravy. After dessert (of course), we Ubered to the Angel Oak on Johns Island. It’s a bit of a haul for a tree, but it really is beautiful.
As full as the weekend was, we didn’t quite get to everything. Charleston has gorgeous museums, and there’s a slice of coconut cake with my name on it at the Peninsula Grill. But we hit a lot of the highlights, and we definitely ATE a lot of the highlights.
Have you been to Charleston? What were your favorite spots? Let me know if you have any questions about the city, too. And for more photos, make sure to follow my Instagram.