Travel with Christina Valhouli: Charleston

CharlestonSimply put, everyone loves Charleston. This port city consistently tops travel polls as one of the favorite cities to visit in America, and with good reason. Charleston offers a sophisticated dining scene and graceful architecture, all served up with classic Southern charm. The city’s compact size and walkability make it perfect for a weekend getaway. Architecture buffs love the cobblestoned streets and Charleston’s signature “single” homes, which have long verandas and front doors placed on the side of the house. The city is also famous for its antique shopping and traditional Lowcountry cuisine, which includes grits, crawfish and boiled peanuts. While some traditions remain firmly in place, the city is hardly stuck in the past, thanks to a vibrant creative class shaking everything up from the hotel to the dining scene.


WHERE TO EAT & DRINK | Two Boroughs Larder (186 Coming Street) is located on an up-and-coming street and houses a small retail shop selling locally made cocktail mixers from Jack Rudy and Bittermilk. While enjoying the rustic industrial decor, try a bowl of steaming ramen or fried softshell crab with Meyer Lemon. Butcher & Bee (1085 Morrison Drive), a firm Charleston favorite, is famous for its sandwiches served on homemade bread, often made from heirloom grains. Tuck into a banh mi or a plate of grits and greens. Located in a restored 1920s bank, The Ordinary (544 King Street) serves shellfish towers and oyster sliders in a vast space framed by Palladian-style windows. James Beard-award winning chef Sean Brock is behind legendary restaurants Husk and McCrady’s Restaurant. His newest restaurant, Minero (153 East Bay Street) serves casual Mexican food.Edmund’s Oast (1081 Morrison Drive) has elevated the brewpub concept. The sleek space has more than 48 beers on tap, handcrafted cocktails and a menu that includes housemade charcuterie. Locally sourced ingredients are the star of the menu at The Grocery (4 Cannon Street) Brunch options include a softshell crab BLT and a charred tomato Bloody Mary. Charleston’s craft distillery scene is booming, and one of the biggest players is High Wire Distilling (652 King Street) launched by husband-and-wife team Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall. The duo are whipping up small-batch spirits using traditional Lowcountry ingredients such as sorghum and juniper. Their Southern Amaro Liqueur is made from yaupon holly and includes Charleston black tea, Dancy tangerine peel, licorice and gentian roots, and cane sugar. Visit for a tasting or Bendy Boozy yoga events.

[nggallery id=105 template=”sliderview” display_content=”0”] WHAT TO SEE | The Commons (54 1/2 Broad Street) carries its own line of glassware, ceramics and cutting boards, and showcases handmade crafts from American artisans. To bring some Southern style back home, pop into Indigo & Cotton, which sells clothing and accessories for men. Look out for Shinola watches, and jeans from Raleigh Denim jeans. The Gibbes Museum of Art (35 Meeting St), recently reopened after a $13.5 million renovation and the collection spans the Colonial era to the modern day. Tour historic homes such as the Nathaniel Russell House (51 Meeting Street) owned by a prominent merchant, or the Aiken-Rhett House (48 Elizabeth Street). Both date back to the early 1800s.

`SPOTLIGHT MICK MATRICCIANO | Matricciano is one of the three “jerks” behind Cannonborough Beverage Co., which creates small batch artisanal sodas from freshly pressed juices and hand-picked herbs and fruits. Flavors include Ginger Beer, Grapefruit Elderflower and Honey Basil. The sodas can be found on tap and bottled in some of Charleston’s best restaurants. Matricciano shared some of his favorite local spots:
The Westendorff (114 Saint Philip Street) A truly beautiful restaurant inside a restored building – super charming, great food – and they use our soda in the Paloma cocktail which is Grapefruit Elderflower soda and mescal. The Belmont (511 King Street) My favorite bar in town, and definitely a “bartender’s bar,” It’s the kind of place where the bartenders remember your name and your drink, even if it’s only your second time in the door. The Park Cafe (730 Rutledge Avenue) THE brunch spot in Charleston. Beautiful space with excellent food. 167 Raw (289 E Bay Street) Counter service fresh seafood restaurant and raw bar. Not only can you get local oysters on the half shell or a killer lobster roll, but you can also pick up local fish, shrimp or oysters to take home to prepare. Parlor Deluxe (207A Saint Philip Street) Fun little (really little) hotdog and ice cream shop that has a modern soda shop feel.

+201404_JackRudy_25725_VF_SquireFoxSPOTLIGHT BROOKS REITZ | The dapper Brooks Reitz is one of the biggest players on Charleston’s food scene. He’s the man behind Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., which creates small batch bitters and cocktail mixers in flavors including Sweet Tea Syrup, Elderflower Tonic, and Small Batch Grenadine. His restaurants include Leon’s Oyster Shop, housed in a former garage, and the adjacent Oyster Shed. His latest venue is Little Jack’s Tavern, a classic American chophouse. Some of his favorite spots in Charleston include:
Xiao Bao Biscuit (224 Rutledge Street) Vietnamese, Thai, and Sichuan influences shine through in this high-energy eatery set in a former filling station. The staff are cool but warm, the drinks are delicious, and the soundtrack is one of the best in town. Chez Nous (6 Payne Court) A hidden gem in every way the best date spot in the city. The owners of the celebrated wine bar Bin 152 opened a petite French restaurant serving a small, ever-changing menu in a gorgeous old Charleston single. Hampton Park (30 Mary Murray Drive) Designed by the Olmstead offices, this park is set in the center of my favorite neighborhood and is steps away from the action of King Street. An evening stroll through the gardens is one of my favorite ways to decompress. Curiosity (56 1/2 Queen Street) The vintage finds are selected with an amazing eye. I source lots for the restaurants from this tiny shop.

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