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Foodie’s Ultimate Winter Checklist for Charleston

Foodie’s Ultimate Winter Checklist for Charleston

By Patty Osborne

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Charleston, S.C., is where it’s happening. That’s not news, because Charleston has been a happening place since it was founded more than a century before the American Revolution. This coastal city has a history drenched with pirates (Blackbeard once laid siege to the city), revolutionaries, and planter aristocrats. The Civil War began at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Now, 350 years after its birth, Charleston is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

One thing has been a constant over the centuries: Charleston is famous for its food. Long before the word foodies existed, bon vivants in tri-corner hats converged on the city to indulge in its epicurean offerings. And the trend hasn’t stopped! Because of its history, Charleston is famous for its Lowcountry cuisine. People come here for the satisfying blend of Southern comfort recipes and seafood spiced up by a rich African influence.

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Fine food and drink establishments nestled in historic Downtown buildings and the French Quarter are steeped in a diverse culture that makes Charleston a foodie’s treasure chest. Be forewarned — many of Charleston’s restaurants are so popular it’s wise to book reservations in advance. Also, take a full wallet or good credit line because anything this fulfilling will cost you a few dollars. With Charleston’s ideal weather, winter

is a great time to tour the city’s gastronomical superstars.

Here are some of the top spots:

Husk – 76 Queen St.

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According to executive chef Travis Grimes: “If it doesn’t come from the South, it doesn’t come in the door.” Because the ingredients are homegrown, the menu changes with the seasons, but you can always count on localized Southern cuisine. A specialty is skillet-roasted chicken with farro and herb pistou. The restaurant is in a Victorian mansion in downtown Charleston, and was formerly the long-time homebase of celebrity chef Sean Brock.

The Fig – 232 Meeting St.

The Fig is another popular spot that believes in localized, lowcountry farm-to-table cuisine.  Try Bay Scallops Barigoule with artichoke, cauliflower, and tender greens. The atmosphere is casual corner-bistro, but the eatery is hailed as one of the best restaurants in the country.

Zero Restaurant + Bar – 0 George St.

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Vegetables from their own gardens and ocean bounty from local fishermen highlight the menu at this fine dining establishment in a centuries-old carriage house. Some entrees are made with vegetarians in mind. Go for the four-course menu or get a taste of everything from the chef’s tasting menu.

Magnolias – 185 E. Bay St.

Upscale elegance meets downhome cooking in this classy setting in the historic district. One specialty is the Down South eggroll, stuffed with chicken, ham, and collard greens served with spicy mustard sauce and peach chutney. Magnolias has made the foodie lists in countless national publications.

The Ordinary – 544 King St.

This restaurant in a great old bank building is anything but ordinary. Local fish and shellfish are the specialties, and the menu often includes exotics like razor clams and Spanish octopus. Try the coddled eggs topped with mushrooms, crab meat, and croutons.

McCrady’s – 155 E. Bay St.

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McCrady’s is the only South Carolina restaurant to hold the AAA 5-Diamond Award. The menu may include specialties ranging from sea urchin to local clams or aged beef. Visit the adjacent McCrady’s Tavern which has been serving up drinks since 1778.

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Charleston is by no means limited to low country cuisine. Restaurants like Trattoria Lucca and Kairos Greek Kitchen provide an international flavor. Swig & Swine and Lewis Barbecue serve up the BBQ the city is famous for. You’ll also find little jewels like Jestine’s Kitchen, Eli’s Table, and Tattooed Moose. In fact, the list of palate-pleasing places makes Charleston an unlimited taste tour!

Patty Osborn is a writer who loves to travel. She spends much of her time cooking gourmet meals and searching for restaurants that can compete with her home cooking. She grows most of her own herbs and vegetables.

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