For the past 4 years, my high school friends and I have taken a trip to a different destination to reconnect and sightsee. This year we chose Charleston! I have to admit, while Charleston has already been on my radar for some time, I am an avid Bravo fan and watching their series "Southern Charm" really made me want to visit ASAP. Here are the highlights and recommendations - I did a lot of research beforehand consulting some of my favorite bloggers (particularly Grace Atwood @ The Stripe who has great recommendations on so many topics), and an interview consulting the Southern Charm cast on their favorite spots. Between Charleston and New Orleans so this year, I've really enjoyed getting to know more special spots in my own country. ♥
Charleston's a very popular destination right now and we really struggled even months out to find a decently priced AirBnB in a good location. I decided to search for hotels, and found this one through Booking.com. The reviews were amazing and the price was surprisingly low for the location (under $200/night, split between 3 people). The rooms are 2 floor suites with a kitchenette, living area, 1/2 bath and TV downstairs and 2 beds, full bath and TV upstairs. The decor was a bit dated/old fashioned but everything was clean, the staff was mostly friendly and the location was UNBEATABLE. We were right in the heart of the historic district, could walk to plenty of shops & restaurants and were right next to the Charleston City Market (see below). I would most definitely recommend this place!
Charleston is SUCH a foodie city. Before we went I joked with my friends that we would have to eat 8 meals a day during our trip to get everything in. While we didn't do THAT, we were able to hit some great spots during our time there. I'm still dreaming about the scallops at The Macintosh...
Black Tap Coffee | 70.5 Beaufain St, Charleston, SC 29401
Cute coffee shop a little off the beaten path downtown. I tried the famed "Black Julep" which was refreshing, they also have wifi and plugs aplenty if you are trying to get some work done there like I was.
Callie's Hot Little Biscuits | 476 1/2 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, Also in Charleston City Market
So good! We went to the location in the Charleston City Market as it was so convenient to our hotel. It was SUPER busy on a Saturday morning, so if you want to beat the line maybe try it during the week if you can. The wait was worth it though - I tried a 3 pack of their mini biscuits which was the perfect amount of food for breakfast. I had the Cheese & Chive, Blackberry & the Buttermilk Biscuit.
Bitty & Beaus | 159 Church Street, Charleston, SC
Another coffee place! A really special place where they employ people with physical and intellectual disabilities- it was so warm and inviting. The coffee was really good too! Please support this business if you can.
The Obstinate Daughter | 2063 Middle St., Sullivan's Island, SC 29482
Oh my gosh - where do I begin? Our lunch here was epic. We got there right at noon (this was on a Thursday) and had our total pick of seating & we chose the porch. As we were leaving it had really filled up, so getting here early is good. I had the Pan Bagnat which was served with the most delicious balsamic veggies. My friend Tyler's Chicken, Brussels & Farro was equally good if not better - everything was so flavorful and seasoned perfectly! I also had their Blonde Bloody Mary- not as salty as a normal bloody and made with yellow tomatoes, quite tasty and refreshing! Please eat here - you will not regret it.
Poogan's Porch | 72 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401
This wasn't my favorite meal of the trip, but let's face it, it had some tough competition. The atmosphere was really cute - we ate indoors as it was chilly but the porches looked nice. I had a pimento cheese BLT which was good but not out of this world and my friends felt the same about their dishes (french toast & quiche). It is a VERY popular spot though so I would definitely give it another chance, or go back for drinks!
FIG | 232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
All my resources and everyone we encountered in Charleston said FIG is THE BEST restaurant in Charleston. As soon as you know you are going to Charleston, go to their website and try to snag a reservation. If there aren't any available, you can add an alert for yourself on the RESY app telling you if/when a table opens up for the date and time of your choice which is exactly how I was able to get us a table at 8pm on a Thursday. Wonderful ambience, amazing food ("elevated takes on Southern Classics"), awesome service. They change their menu frequently, but we got their pillow-like gnocchi as an app & the grouper and they were both excellent. It was pricy but not crazy, I think we payed around $100 for the both of us (just 2 of us on the trip went to FIG) plus wine. If you want to treat yourself, this is the place.
The Macintosh | 479 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
This place was also VERY good. Hipster vibe with exposed brick and industrial lightbulbs. Our waitress knew a lot about food & wine and was really fun, suggesting things for us & making good conversation. It's tapas style so the 3 of us shared a bunch of yummy treats, including the best scallops I've ever had. It was a similar price point to FIG and closer to the bars and restaurants on King St for going out after if you choose.
Republic | 462 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Okay I'll admit - I dragged my friend here because they often go here on Southern Charm and I was hoping for a cast sighting. My friend was a good sport and indulged me, and honestly I thought it would be a little cheesy...but it was surprisingly cool! It was a Thursday when we were there and the outdoor patio was really nice, we were able to get drinks and a seat right away. There was also live music! The inside seemed less quaint and I can imagine it gets really busy and possibly annoying on weekends.
The Commodore | 504 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403
This was another Southern Charm pick - cast member Shepard Rose is a co-owner. A little off the beaten path this place has a total retro 70s vibe. The staff was friendly, we got a seat right at the bar and they had good live music. We got there before they started charging cover (a perk of being in our 30s - we go out early and come home early now!) which was a plus. It started getting crowded right as we were leaving.
Kamiskys | 78 N Market St, Charleston, SC 29401
This is a well known dessert place in Charleston, but if you go for Happy Hour like we did you can enjoy $5 dessert martinis with your decadent pastry! We all split the cherry crumble and each tried a different dessert martini. I had the Kahlua Espresso for a pick-me-up and my friends tried the Thin Mint & Chocolate respectively, all delicious.
The Red Barn Carriage Tours | 8 Guignard Street, Charleston, SC 29401
If you stay in downtown Charleston you will see a constant stream of horse & carriage tours in the streets. We opted for this company which was recommended by our hotel - tours run pretty frequently. The tour takes you through the historic district where you see GORGEOUS homes and our guide was very informative. Definitely a must do in Charleston.
Boone Hall Plantation | 1235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
Beautiful & expansive property & gardens and lots of history - about a 25 minute Uber from downtown. The house on site is not actually the original plantation home but was built in 1936 by a Canadian family that bought the property. They still have original slave cabins with museum exhibits inside and you can hear a presentation by a Gullah woman. The Gullah are African Americans who live in the Lowcountry region of the U.S. states of Georgia and South Carolina, in both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands, and this women did such a good job telling the story of slave history in the area and the Gullah culture. The property has also been used in numerous TV & Movie productions, including The Notebook (!) and was where Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds got married. Also - if you are in the market for a sweetgrass basket - there is a woman making and selling them here and the prices are lower than the City Market (see below).
Sullivan's Island Beach | Atlantic Ave, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482
This beach was clean and pretty - there was a lot of wind when we were there but otherwise it was very pleasant! We were told Folly Beach had a little more going on in terms of bars, restaurants and shops but we were happy with this quieter beach. It was also during the week when we went so I imagine it would be more crowded on the weekends/in the summer.
Walking up King Street you will find everything from antique stores, high end designers, chain department stores & local boutiques. Here are a few spots that I thought were special:
The Charleston Preservation Society Shop |147 King St, Charleston, SC 29401
Loved all the local flair at this shop! The owner/staff were so nice and they carried a variety of items made in Charleston as well as a large collection of books. I was obsessed with the Brackish Bowties, made entirely of feathers.
The Skinny Dip Charleston Edition | 345 King Street, Charleston, South Carolina
Beautiful space with clothing & accessories. They have such a nice collection of local Charleston designers and cute/preppy southern staples! Also, they have an upstairs which is a cafe/bar with a terrace! Hello? You have everything you need right here.
The Charleston City Market | 188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
This reminded me a bit of the French Market in New Orleans - a large (partially enclosed) corridor with vendors selling local products, food, art & souvenirs. The locally crafted famous Sweetgrass baskets are also for sale here and are a popular (but expensive) souvenir!