Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Calling All Charleston, South Carolina Foodies...

Let's see if I can get some feedback from the experts...

I'm looking for "insiders" advice on which restaurants, pubs, bars, and "joints" to hit during an upcoming "first ever" trip to Charleston, S.C.

I've gone through "the act" - done my research and narrowing down - and here's what I've come up with:

Robert's of Charleston -- Supposedly the one place you've got to go to when visiting Charleston...

Fulton Five -- Charleston's "most romantic restaurant." Very expensive wine list; least expensive bottle $40! Interestingly enough, the food menu is priced moderate-high; not outrageous. Plenty of yummy dishes for both my wife and I, both appetizers and entrees. Fine dessert and after dinner drinks selection - also reasonably priced for the quality.

Poogan's Porch -- Upscale Lowcountry cuisine. Nice wine list, reasonable number of wines in the $20s and $30s range. Apps and entrees a bit less expensive than other Charleston "fine dining" establishments. We both love the dinner menu! Nice lunch menu too!

The Fat Hen -- Located on Johns Island serving comfort food with a "Lowcountry French" flair. Interesting, affordable wine list. French "comfort" desserts. Very, very nice menu; French with a Southern twist; all priced very reasonably. My wife would love it as much as I!

Swamp Fox Restaurant and Bar at the Francis Marion Inn -- The menu is to die for and for fine dining the prices are a steal!

Magnolia's -- Wine list is upscale but with a fair amount of choices in the $30's and $40s. Great desserts and decent after-dinner drink selection. Yummy dinner menu; plenty of stuff to tweek my palate as well as Mary's. Lunch looks good as well!

Fish -- Nice wine list with a few choices in the mid-$30's plus a truly outstanding cocktail list; less expensive than most similar lists! Same deal with the dessert list; as "fancy" and inventive as any, less expensive than most. Creative "Southern/Asian" fusion menu with plenty of goodies for Mary and lots of stuff I'd just love to try! Affordable "fine dining" choice.

Anson -- Supposed to be (along with Robert's and McCrady's) among the best restaurants in Charleston. Excellent menu; less expensive than I thought it would be; a menu that offers both of us choices we'd be more than happy with.

Sermets Corner -- Eclectic menu featuring everything from soups and appetizers, burgers and paninis, interesting entrees. Mary would be happy here; so would I. "Foodie" food at low prices!

S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad) -- Reasonably priced wine list. "Comfort" desserts! Reasonably priced "fine dining" menu with plenty of choices for Mary.

39 Rue de Jean -- Excellent wine list. Classic French with a "mirror" Asian menu. Mid-priced.

High Cotton -- If we end up hitting a steakhouse... this looks like the one! They seem to have everything going for them at more reasonable prices than you'd expect.

Grill 225 (in the Market Place Hotel) -- Very, very expensive, but... it's where they have prime filet mignon stuffed with Roquefort cheese wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon ($44). For Mary there's a $35 bone-in veal parmesan. Sounds damned yummy!!!

OK... then we have upscale bars...

Rooftop Bar at the Vendue Inn -- A MUST STOP...!!!

Carolina's -- Great cocktails! Definitely stop in for happy hour!

Finally... we have the "joints"...

Momma Brown's -- BBQ joint!

The Hickory Hawg -- BBQ joint!

Mellow Mushroom -- Pizza and Calzones... munchies, soups, salads, sandwiches... and a kick-ass beer selection! Funky, funky place...! (It's actually a mini-chain!)

Hyman's Seafood (and deli!) -- Casual "real deal" seafood restaurant for locals and tourists alike. Huge portions; fair prices; huge menu! Cocktails served in pitchers!

A.W. Shucks -- Another "Charleston tradition" family seafood restaurant. A bit more expensive than Hyman's, perhaps, but still most entrees in the $15-$20 range.

Tommy Condon's Irish Pub -- Great beer list! Pub grub with a lowcountry twist.

The Griffon -- English style pub!

Queen Anne's Revenge -- I'd stop and have a beer there for the atmosphere. Menu looks fine. Not upscale. I'm sure the food's fine. Kitschy yet compelling!

Well, Charlestonians... any thoughts, suggestions, cautions... perhaps some additional recommendations...???


sallyanncavanaugh said...

Well, you have some good and some bad on this last. Let's first talk about the places that you should skip...

Roberts...meh. I've never recommended this place to anyone.

Hymans. A HUGE NO!!!! Most overrated tourist trap in Charleston. You might as well go to Bubba Gumps. Do yourself a favor and skip the mile long lines and find some real Charleston food.

Poogan's Porch. Apparently there was a time when they served good lowcountry cuisine. That time has gone.

Swamp Fox. See comments about Roberts.

Rue de Jean. No.

Grill 225. The food is definitely good, but you can do better for the price. Grill 225 doesn't serve any local food as it isn't "consistent." That puts them off of my radar right away. For a fab steak I would go with Oak.

However, the rooftop bar at Market Pavilion (where Grill 225 is) is better than Vendue's rooftop bar.

Carolina's is more than an upscale bar. It's actually a better restaurant than many on your list, but you are correct when writing that it's one of the best happy hours in Charleston.

What you're missing on this list is McCradys! That is the one "must do" restaurant in Charleston. I've dined all over the world and it doesn't get better than Sean Brock's cuisine. Amazing restaurant.

You're right about Fish. Great restaurant with great prices. All of their seafood entrees are amazing.

I hope this helped!

William R. Barker said...

Oh, wow... I'm excited!

Thanks for replying, Sally!

Why don't you like Robert's? (Food... service... prices... atmosphere...???)

What caught my attention was the "schtick" of "The Singing Owner."

I like that sort of thing.

Also, the guide books were pretty uniform in their praise - though of course I take the guidebooks with a grain of salt. (It's the consistent kudos that get my attention though...)

Finally, the fact that "Robert" is leaving on June 12th... it's kind of a last chance thing.

Now that you "get where I'm coming from" please follow up with your critique of Roberts; I'd really appreciate it.

As to Hymans...


Here's the deal: My brother-in-law and nephews (the band Fragile Tomorrow) moved to Charleston last year and this is our first visit to see them - and Charleston! I was kinda looking for someplace to take them that would be "fun" and affordable - loud and crowded adds to the fun. But, hey... I hear ya! That's exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for.

As to the Rooftop Bar at the Pavilion... is it "open seating" as well as "cover-priced reserved seating...???"

(The hotel's website gave me the impression that the bar is more of a club... more of a "Miami" type deal. I'm all about relaxation...)

McCrady's... (*SIGH*)... I liked McCrady's but my wife wasn't knocked out by their menu.

See... (*SIGH*)... I'm the "foodie." My wife isn't a seafood eater (except for calamari) and so when we were going over our list of possibilities that's why McCrady's didn't make the cut - at least not on a "menu to menu" "price to price" comparison focused on compromise between my love of the more "exotic" and her's of steak and chicken.

STILL... we're definitely reconsider based upon your recommendation.

Thanks for verifying my good vibe on "Fish."

Yeah... definitely your feedback helps! That's why I posted this!

I really, really appreciate it.


William R. Barker said...


Just found a website called Charleston Foodies ( which definitely agrees with Sally regarding Hyman's and also rates A.W. Shucks as a tourist trap.

They too love McCrady's!

They also love S.N.O.B. and High Cotton from my list!

They also like Hank's... with was originally on my "short list" but for whatever reason (I can't remember why) didn't "make the cut."

They also liked "Fulton Five" - whose website had me salivating during my initial research!


They also gave the thumbs up to Momma Brown's and Bowen's Island - which was another "initial find" of mine which for whatever reason didn't "make the cut."


Richard Berg said...

I think Griffon closed some time ago . . . Poogan's is passee (in the sense you can pass it up), Virignia's on King could be interesting if it's recovered from its recent slump, but definitely McCrady's, Tristan, Amen Street (all on the same stretch of east Bay St!!)

Eat your way across the city . . .

William R. Barker said...

Thanks, Richard!


Dani said...

To add to this string of comments,

I pretty much agree with previously stated "skips".

I've never personally been to Roberts, but it strikes me as incredibly overpriced, and the singing "schtick" does not really appeal to me at all.

Hymans is definitely a skip. Cheesy, touristy, and not a bit of fish on the menu hasn't been frozen. This is not your local seafood spot. If you want that loud, hustle and bustle fun seafood place, I would go for Hank's. You can have a 3 course sit down meal or a quick one with the kids, but the seafood is fresh and well-prepared. I agree with Fish as a more fine dining, elegant seafood spot to hit as well.

McCradys, Tristan, SNOB, High Cotton, Charleston Grill, and Peninsula Grill are the most noteworthy higher-end restaurants in Charleston.

The Griffon is still very much open. Fun dive bar, if you're looking for a good place to drink cheap beer. Very college-y on the weekends, but then again, every bar can be that way around Charleston on the weekends.

That's all I've got for now. William, thanks for stopping by the blog! I'd love to know where you end up in Charleston.

William R. Barker said...


Thank you so much! I really appreciate the feedback.

OK. Hyman's is definitely OFF the list!

Hank's is now definitely ON the short list!

I take everyone's word that McCrady's is at or near the top of Charleston fine dining; it's just that I've gotta compromise with my wife and the menu just does nothing for her - at least in relation to other menus we've gone over. (And believe me... we've gone over the menus at restaurant after restaurant!)

As for Robert's... all I can tell you and others is that I'm into singing... I'm into "tradition"... I'm into supporting multi-generational family businesses... and most of all... I'm in to memories. The fact that this is a "last chance" opportunity to experience Robert's really cements it for me.

I'll DEFINITELY tell you if I made the right choice. And, yeah... when we get home I'll definitely do a "review" of our entire Charleston trip.

Thanks again, Dani. Thanks to everyone who has thrown in their two cents worth. MUCH appreciated!