I did it right, I nailed it. During my quick foodie tour through Charleston, South Carolina, I sidled up to the bars at five restaurants I urgently wanted to hit, the places that songs are written about, that journalists spill fragrant ink over, that Uber drivers gasp in amazement, “You got into (restaurant name here)?”
I researched and read. The internet was my friend. I watched Anthony Bourdain and “Chef’s Table” and “The Mind of a Chef.” I emailed eateries for the tricks and maneuvers that would guarantee I’d get in without a dinner reservation. (Simple: Arrive well before 5 p.m. Wait outside. When the doors open, nab a seat at the bar. Eat. Drink. Rejoice.)
Charleston is a powerhouse food destination, cutting-edge and farm fresh, and not one thing I ate was less than exemplary. Vittles vaulted me to that pleasure zone, a kind of palate paradise, where you sigh and go, Yeah.
Where and what I ate:
(Assume I loved every dish, passionately, and click the restaurant name for more info.)
- HUSK, 76 Queen Street:
Wood Fired White Stone Oysters, Green Garlic Butter, Lemon Vinegar, Fermented Chilies, served on a bed of rock salt
Confit Duck “Cassoulet,” Heirloom Peas, Lowland Farms Brassicas, Pot Likker Broth, Pan Fried Farm Egg
- FIG, 232 Meeting Street:
Ricotta Gnocchi alla Bolognese Parmesan, Mint
A dazzling Chicken Confit with Brussels Sprouts and Fig (and lots of other complex goodness I can’t remember) over Polenta
A little about FIG: “The name is an acronym for ‘Food Is Good,'” writes Bon Appetite, “a simple epithet that doesn’t do justice to the level of cooking set forth by Mike Lata, the godfather of Charleston restaurants (he also owns The Ordinary).”
Speaking of The Ordinary …
- THE ORDINARY, 544 King Street:
A quartet of immaculate, sweet and salty raw oysters, hand-chosen by the suave server/bartender. The orange beverage to the right is the zesty House Daiquiri: Plantation Old-Fashioned Traditional Dark Rum, Plantation 5-year Rum, Cane, Lime.
Crispy Oyster Slider with a whisper of jalapeño (unbelievable)
New England Style Fish Chowder with Oyster Crackers — better than you think. A knockout loaded with generous chunks of white fish and potatoes.
- LEON’S OYSTER SHOP, 698 King Street:
Spicy Two-Piece Dark Meat Fried Chicken with Cole Slaw: Buttermilk Dressing, Currants, Seeds
Second visit: Four Raw Oysters (only one shown here), Signature “Old School” Scalloped Potatoes (divine) and a Gin & Tonic
- LITTLE JACK’S TAVERN, 710 King Street:
The famous Tavern Burger, a 4-ounce Patty Topped with American Cheese, Tangy Tavern Sauce, Griddled Onion on a Sesame Bun, with House Salad. This glorious, glorified slider goes for a mean $15, and it’s worth it. So hypnotic I couldn’t even focus the camera. My eyes were crossed.