A French Tort, African Rice, and Pastel Colored Homes
Charleston’s reputation may be that of a genteel Southern city, but English, French, African, and Jewish immigrants have created a lively tapestry of culture in the Holy City. It seems every corner of Charleston is filled with history, and every menu reflects that.
A Short History
A native tribe of Sewee Indians lived in the area of Charleston when the English began settling “Charles Town,” named for the king, in 1670. French Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution, arrived in 1680.
The Sewee sided with the English against the Spanish, supplying them with corn. The Sewee were active trading partners with the English, but soon became unsatisfied with the terms of trade. So, the Sewee build a navy of canoes and attempted to cross the Atlantic to England to secure more favorable trade terms. The canoes were soon swamped, and the English saved the Sewee from drowning. However, they then sold them into slavery in the West Indies. The rest of the tribe died out soon after from smallpox and other diseases.
Colonists faced attacks from the Spanish and French who disputed England’s claim on South Carolina. Native American and pirate attacks were also common. The famous pirate Blackbeard laid siege to Charles Town for a week in May 1718, plundering ships and kidnapping their passengers, only releasing them after the governor agreed to give Blackbird the ransom of a chest of medicine.
By the mid 18th century, the city had grown rich, primarily through the trade of humans from Africa and their stolen labor. Slaves were sold in public and imprisoned Africans made up more than half of the population.
Jewish settlers also arrived from the Iberian Peninsula where they were fleeing the Inquisition. Charles Town was home to the largest Jewish community in the colonies.
South Carolina declared independence from England at the Custom and Exchange House. During the Revolutionary War, The British Navy tried to capture Charles Town in 1776, but was repelled. In 1780, British General Clinton laid siege to Charles Town, cutting off supplies to the undermanned American troops, resulting in the worst American defeat of the war. When the Americans eventually won the War of Independence, the name of the city was changed to Charleston.
After the war, Charleston became even more prosperous, due to the stolen labor of African slaves. With the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union and Citidel cadets fired on a Union ship as it entered Charleston harbor on January 9, 1861. Then, on April 12, 1861, soldiers led by P. G. T. Beauregard, fired on Fort Sumter, starting the Civil War.
Union forces wanted to take Charleston for its strategic port, but were unable to take the city, even though they repeatedly bombarded the city from Navy ships. But, in 1865, we the Confederate Army was crumbling, General Beauregard abandoned the city and troops from two black regiments, 21st Infantry Regiment of the US Colored Troops and the 55th Massachusetts Infantry, entered the city.
With the city in ruins and the economy collapsed, Charleston tried to rebuild. But, a 7.0 estimated magnitude earthquake struck the city in 1886, destroying much of Charleston.
In a twisted way, this destruction and subsequent poverty may have saved Charleston. With little economic activity or investment, few were interested in building Charleston. So many historic buildings were not torn down like in other cities. Still, many of them remained abandoned and neglected until the 1920’s and 30’s when a strong preservation movement took hold which is still strong in Charleston today.
Charleston has undergone a foodie renaissance over the past few years. Low Country dishes have been elevated to Haute Cuisine at the many high-end eating establishments in the city.
There are ways to experience traditional Low Country favorites in a more casual atmosphere as well.
Present day Senegal and the Niger River Basin is where African Rice (distinctive from Asian varieties) was first cultivated. Senegalese people were so proficient in rice farming that they were enslaved by Europeans and brought to the New World to forcibly work rice plantations.
Rice became a huge cash crop in the colony but today little rice is farmed in SC. The descendants of the slaves are know as Gullah (or, Geechee in Georgia) and because of the community’s isolation on barrier islands and remote parts of the state, developed their own language, customs, and cuisine.
Of course, in our modern society, much of Gullah culture has disappeared. However, The Gullah Society has events, exhibitions, and programs to preserve it.
The most common Gullah dish is Charleston Red Rice, known locally simply as Red Rice. The grain is cooked with crushed tomatoes and bacon or smoked pork sausage. Vegetables like celery, sweet peppers, and onions are also added.
Sweet Grass Baskets
Another visible part of Gullah culture is the Sweet Grass Basket. Originally, used by African slaves to carry rice from the field, Sweet Grass Baskets are now an art form all their own. Each basket is a unique piece unto itself, expressing the talent and personality of the artist.
Sweet Grass Basket makers often set up stands and tents along Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant (just over the Ravenel Bridge). Driving along 17 and stopping to check them out is a good way to spend a couple hours.
The Mount Pleasant Visitor’s Center at Patriot’s Point (a nice spot for a walk and near the pedestrian access for the Ravenel Bridge) also has an exhibition of Sweet Grass Baskets and vendors selling their work.
Be aware that these baskets are quite pricey. Each are works of art that takes many hours to create. Prices start at $30 for a tiny basket suitable for holding candy to larger works costing several hundred or even thousands of dollars.
In Charleston, a Tea Room isn’t what you think. It’s not a cozy business establishment where you sit with your warm beverage and work on your laptop or quietly chat with a friend.
Here, Tea Rooms are held at churches in Charleston each spring. They operate as fundraisers for the church. Started in the 1940’s when Old St. Andrew’s Church needed money to repair the building, Tea Rooms have expanded since then to several other churches raising money for all kinds of charitable endeavors.
Old St. Andrew’s still has a Tea Room each spring. In fact, theirs kicks off the Tea Room season which normally runs from mid March to early June. This is where you can find some traditional dishes that are usually difficult to track down at local eateries.
Of course, you won’t be able to find all of these treats at every Tea Room. My advise is to arrive early and ask around. You never know who’s going to show up with your favorite!
The Huguenots were a branch of the Calvinist Protestants in France. Once numbering over one million adherents, the Huguenots were persecuted by the Catholics in charge of France and their numbers soon dwindled to under 100,000. The Huguenot diaspora found a foothold in the Netherlands, Germany, England, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, and the New World, especially Charleston. There is still a Huguenot church in the French Quarter of the city.
So, what do the Huguenots have to do with the Huguenot Torte? The Huguenots brought something with them to the New World called the Gâteau aux noisettes, a hazelnut cake. But, because hazelnuts weren’t commonly found in the colonies, pecans were substituted.
The chopped pecans and fruit (often apples, Granny Smith, especially) were baked with custard to make a pie. This custard pie later made its way to the Ozarks where the dessert is called Ozark Pudding. Bess Truman used to make Ozark Pudding and it was supposedly a favorite of her husband, President Harry.
Today, it’s not often that you’ll see a Huguenot Torte on menus in Charleston, despite its history with the city, Fleet Landing is one place that has it as does Middletown Place. But, you’re most likely to find the Huguenot Torte at the Tea Room church festivals in the spring around Charleston.
Hummingbird Cake is a three layer cake with cream cheese frosting, canned pineapple, chopped pecans, and smashed bananas. Yup, it’s awfully sweet, and it’s also a southern tradition.
The cake’s history is uncertain, even though the Hummingbird cake is a rather recent culinary invention. The Jamaican Tourist board began sending out Hummingbird Cake recipes as a way to grow tourism on the island as far back as 1968. Others give credit to Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, NC as the inventor. Her recipe was published in an edition of Southern Living in 1978.
Like the Huguenot Tort, the Hummingbird Cake doesn’t often show up on local dessert menus. Local bakeries will make the cake to order and slices are sometimes on offer at Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe. But, like the Huguenot Tort, the best way to experience the sweet decadence of the Hummingbird Cake is at one of the church Tea Rooms that pops up in Charleston each spring.
Lady Baltimore Cake
The novel “Lady Baltimore” by Owen Wister was first published in 1906 and is set in Charleston during the reconstruction. In it, a character exclaims “But, dear me, this is delicious!” after sampling the Lady Baltimore Cake. Supposedly, Wister was served the cake in Charleston and enjoyed it so much he made it a part of his book.
Legend has it that the cake was invented at the Lady Baltimore Tea Room (sadly, long gone) in Charleston. The cake likely wasn’t called Lady Baltimore, it was just served there, but Wister made it famous in his book and the dessert soon became ubiquitous in Charleston.
The cake itself is made using egg whites (no yolks) and “boiled frosting.” Raisins (and sometimes dates) and pecans are added to the frosting. This makes for a light cake, not nearly as heavy as the Hummingbird Cake.
Sugar Bakeshop will make a Lady Baltimore Cake on special order (Lady Baltimore Cupcakes, too!) but it’s not on their regular menu. So, like the Huguenot Tort and Hummingbird Cake, it’s often best to look for the Lady Baltimore Cake at one of the spring Tea Rooms in Charleston.
Oh, and if you’re thinking of picking up a copy of the novel Lady Baltimore, know that it hasn’t aged well. It does describe Charleston society, but the racist language and depictions are ugly and outdated.
Shrimp & Grits
If there is one dish that defines Low Country cuisine, it’s Shrimp & Grits. It seems every restaurant in town has it on the menu. And, why not? Both ingredients are in abundant supply here. Who knows, maybe someday local McDonald’s will start to carry it.
Back in the day, the dish was called Breakfast Shrimp, because it was usually served in the morning. The grits? Well, they were implied, even if, in Charleston, grits were commonly known as Hominy.
Of course, there many ways to prepare Shrimp & Grits. Bread and fry the shrimp or add peppers & onions, or maybe some hot sauce. And, of course, you can add cheese to the grits to make cheesy grits.
But, most purists will want their Shrimp & Grits served simply; Shrimp sauteed in butter with salt and fresh cracked pepper served on a bed of Hominy (grits).
Choices abound when looking for Shrimp & Grits on local menus but Glass Onion makes a mighty good one even if they change the presentation depending on what’s available and in season.
One of my favorite spots is relatively new. Grace & Grit serves grits in every way imaginable. Of course, they offer Shrimp & Grits, but they also have creative takes on grits like the Blueberry Grits, Pecan & Maple Grits, and Pimento Cheese Grits. For the indecisive there’s a flight of four different kinds of grits.
Grits-averse folks can find lots of other favorites on the menu.
As much as I like Grace & Grits, I like sister restaurant The Grit Counter even better, which is right next door. Open for lunch only, you get to pick your grits, your fixin’s, your sauce, and create your own custom grits bowl. The atmosphere is more casual and the place is filled with workers from nearby businesses grabbing a bite before returning to the grind. Grind? Grits? See what I did there?
Peanuts were originally domesticated in South America, but took a circuitous route to the southern colonies of the United Sates. The Portuguese took the legume from Brazil and transplanted it in Africa where enslaved people brought it to the New World.
So-called Green Peanuts, a term used not for their color but for the fact that the peanuts are raw, are boiled, unshelled, in salted water. This gives them a creamy rather than crunchy texture. Boiled Peanuts can also be seasoned with Cajun Spices, hot sauce, ham hocks, or even beer. Boiled Peanuts are so popular that they were declared the official snack food of South Carolina in 2006.
Timbo’s is a great spot to get boiled peanuts and Mike’s Peanuts sets up at several farmers markets selling their boiled peanuts and fried peanuts. Or, sit down at The Wreck of Richard & Charlene who offer boiled peanuts as a side dish on the menu.
Drinking in Charleston
Charleston is a cocktail town. There are great cocktail bars all over the city, especially around King Street, but you can find great mixologists in other parts of Chuck Town and over the bridge in Mt. Pleasant, too.
The Moscow Mule, and variations on the mule theme, is by far the most popular drink in Charleston. Who knows why the Mule became the go-to drink here. It doesn’t have any roots in the city, the Moscow Mule was invented in NYC and popularized on the West Coast. And maybe tomorrow a new trend will take hold in Charleston’s drinkeries.
A traditional Moscow Mule is made with vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and often garnished with a lime wedge. That said, there are lots of variations on the MM, including Prohibition who adds mint, and Tavern & Table who make a Black & Blue Mule with blueberry and blackberry compote.
Some Mule recipes swap out the vodka for bourbon (Kentucky Mule), tequila (Mexican Mule), spiced rum (Jamaican Mule), or even absinthe and cinnamon schnapps (the appropriately named Dead Man’s Mule).
In Charleston, you’re likely to come across a Carolina Mule. The Carolina Mule is just like the Kentucky Mule in that bourbon is substituted for vodka. The only reason I can think of for this being called a Carolina Mule instead of a Kentucky Mule is regional pride. Whatever the reason, you can find the Carolina Mule on the menu at King Street Dispensary.
The #1 spot for a Moscow Mule is The Rarebit on King Street. Maybe it’s the Green Mark Vodka that makes Rarebit’s MM special. Green Door is a Russian Vodka which is inexpensive, but of exceptional quality. The Rarebit also has a nice food menu, which is also not too expensive; less and less common on King St.
Moscow Mule’s are typically served in copper mugs. But, copper is a toxic material. And, when copper comes into contact with acidic liquids, copper is released. This is a problem because a Moscow Mule is acidic; both vodka and lime are quite acidic. Even though the amount of copper released when a Moscow Mule is served in a copper mug is small, low dosages can do damage.
Most establishments will serve their Mules in a copper mug lined with stainless steel to prevent the acidic beverage from coming in contact with the copper. That said, it’s best to check with your bartender and if they are serving Mules in a pure copper mug, ask for it to be made and served in a glass.
Proof is one of the best saloons in Charleston. They will serve a Moscow Mule, of course, but they also have a unique cocktail called the Knuckleball. This is a bev made with bourbon, cola reduction, orange bitters, and pickled boiled peanuts. Truly unique.
On the roof of the Market Pavilion Hotel is the Pavilion Bar. There’s a great view of the city from here, and heaters if it’s chilly outside. But, if you want to get a Nitrotini, go downstairs to the hotel’s Grill 225. They have several cocktails, including the Classic Nitrotina, that are cooled using liquid nitrogen, making the drink look like it’s smoking.
Charleston’s Craft Beer scene is booming. There’s tons of local brewers taking over taps in Chuck Town’s bars and several breweries that offer their own microbrews.
Palmetto Brewing is the oldest and probably the most popular, local brewery. Founded in the mid 1800’s, Palmetto Brewing operated in the Holy City until 1913, when it shuttered its doors. There was no local beer brewery in Charleston until 1993 when the new Palmetto Brewing started operations on Huger Street. The taproom has many of the Palmetto’s most popular beers along with smaller batch beers. Palmetto beer is also available at many taps across the state and in cans at local stores.
Edmund’s Oast has a huge selection of beers from around the world and a dozen or so of their own brews. They also have an upscale menu to pair with your bevvie.
For adventurous taste buds, Frothy Beard is out of the way, but worth a stop. They have about 20 beers on tap and there’s always something interesting to try like the kettled sour cranberry ale.
Of course, there’s always the option of foregoing the fancy suds and plopping down $1.25 for a can of Pabst during happy hour at The Recovery Room. This dive bar proudly proclaims it sells more PBR than any other spot in the country. And what could go better with a can of PBR than The Recovery Room’s Tater Tot Nachos?
Things to do in Charleston
Charleston was built around the Charleston Harbor, and it is a very walkable city. Most of the interesting and historic sites are on “The Peninsula,” and easily reachable on foot.
The Battery is the southernmost tip of The Peninsula and a good place to start a walking tour and then making your way north. Parking can be tough, so if you have a car, I’d recommend going early on a weekday to get street parking on South Battery.
A relaxing stroll along the seawall affords great views of the harbor and rivers as well as Fort Sumter.
The centerpiece of The Battery is White Point Garden. The garden is filled with shady oak trees and a gazebo which is a popular spot for newlyweds to take pictures.
White Point Garden was used as a Battery during the Civil War. A couple of Civil War relics are on display in The Battery and White Point Garden along with a hodge-podge of other military bric-a-brac unrelated to the war or South Carolina. There’s also a ridiculous statue dedicated to Confederate soldiers that was erected during the Jim Crow era.
A series of Georgian style row houses along East Bay Street (starting at 79-81 East Bay and ending at 107 East Bay), Rainbow Row is one of the most photographed spots in Charleston. The houses date to colonial times but after the Civil War, the city’s economy collapsed and the houses fell into disrepair. In the 1930’s, Dorothy Haskell Porcher Legge began renovating some of the houses she had purchased, painting them pastel colors. Other homeowners followed the color palate as they renovated the dilapidated homes on East Bay and Rainbow Row was born.
The French Quarter of Charleston is the oldest part of the city with some buildings dating to the late 1600’s. Even though Charles Town was an English Colony, French protestants fleeing religious persecution were among the first residents. This led to a strong French influence in the city, though the area was never called the French Quarter during this time. It wasn’t until 1973, when Charleston began preservation efforts in the area that the moniker was used and The French Quarter was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Old Slave Mart Museum
Charleston was the main hub of the slave trade in the 19th century. Some 40% of all enslaved Africans were moved through the port city. And, by the mid 19th century, enslaved Africans far outnumbered whites in South Carolina.
Without the stolen labor of the slave population, Charleston would look and feel dramatically different than it does today. That doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy what the city has to offer, but I think understanding this history makes a visit better and enlightening. The planned opening of the International African American Museum in late 2021 will add more texture and vibrancy to this story.
In 1856 public auctions of slaves were outlawed in Charleston. Private auction spaces sprung up around the city and in 1859 Ryan’s Mart, the building that now houses the Old Slave Mart Museum, was used for the buying and selling of human beings. The Union Army took Charleston in February 1865, the slaves at Ryan’s Mart were freed.
The building underwent several incarnations after the Civil War, including uses as tenement housing, a car dealership, and a gallery for African American art. Today, the museum is filled with information on the slave trade in Charleston, though you won’t find a lot of artifacts from this shameful period of history.
French Huguenot Church
The Huguenots were a group Calvinist Protestants who fled France due to religious persecution. A group of Huguenots arrived in Charleston in 1680. The current Gothic Revival Church dates to 1844, although at least two other Huguenot Churches were built and destroyed on the same site.
As the Huguenots assimilated into Charleston, fewer people spoke French and the church began offering services in English in 1828. Today, services are still conducted in English although once a year, every spring, there is still a service offered in French.
My favorite contribution of the Huguenots to Charleston culture is the Huguenot Tort, a custard pie made with chopped fruit and pecans.
Taking over a derelict part of Charleston, The Waterfront Park opened to much fanfare in 1990. There is a very nice riverfront walk, pier, and one of the city’s the most popular attractions, the Pineapple Fountain.
Historic Charleston City Market
There’s been a market on this site since the 1700’s. Stands used to sell produce to Charlestonians but now the Historic Charleston City Market is a shopping mecca with clothing, jewelry, gifts, and artwork, much of it locally made. You can even find authentic Sweet Grass Baskets.
Shepard Fairey, the famed street artist, was born and raised in Charleston. Shepard created the Andre the Giant “Obey” stickers while a student at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). As someone who lived in Rhode Island during this time, I can tell you that the stickers were everywhere and people talked about them frequently.
Later, Fairey designed the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster.
Shepard returned to Charleston in 2014 and painted several murals in the city, including an homage to his his famous “Obey” sticker on the roof of the Francis Marion Hotel.
There are several other interesting murals in the city and Odyssey has done a good job of cataloging a few of the best.
Meanwhile, chART Outdoor Initiative & Gallery, has a couple of outdoor galleries of art. The folks here work tirelessly on public art projects and provide programs for new and established artists.
For art in a more formal setting, I’ve including a listing of some of the best galleries in Charleston in the Shopping section below.
High, high above the Cooper River stretches one of the iconic symbols of Charleston, the Ravenel Bridge. Technically, it’s the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, named after the politician who spearheaded the movement to build a new bridge connecting Charleston to Mount Pleasant.
Besides the sheer size of the bridge, it’s 2.5 miles long with the diamond-shaped support towers rising 575 feet above the water, the bridge has two design features that make it especially attractive. First, the cables feathering out from the towers give the bridge a distinctive look. But, most importantly in my mind, is the pedestrian and bike path on the east side of the bridge.
All day long, walkers, joggers, and bikers travel across the span and enjoy the spectacular views of the city, Cooper River, and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Access to the bridge is easy. Park at Patriot’s Point and follow the path to the bridge entrance.
There are lots of beaches within easy reach of Charleston. The most popular spots can get crowded and parking can be difficult during the busy summer months, so it’s a good idea to get an early start.
Folly is probably the most popular beach near Charleston. Surfers frequent a spot called “The Washout” for the tastiest waves. There used to be houses at the washout, but Hugo blew them away.
Non surfers can enjoy the vast beach and water activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, or a boat tour.
Lots of beach shacks serve bites and cold brew. The Washout is a fun hang and they usually have live music at night.
My favorite beach is at Sullivan’s Island. It gets crowded like the others, but maybe just a tiny bit less so. That said, parking is still a pain.
Sullivan’s Island has a cool lighthouse which is unusual because of it’s triangular shape and protruding lens room. You can walk around the lighthouse and see it from the beach, but there are no tours of the structure, unfortunately.
Sullivan’s Island also has the best restaurants and bars of the nearby beaches. Poe’s Tavern plays up a tangential association the island has with Edgar Allen Poe (he was stationed at nearby Fort Moultrie in 1827). Poe’s has lots of fun EAP kitsch to browse while you enjoy a pint and bite.
My favorite spot on Sullivan’s Island is the Obstinate Daughter. Low Country favorites are elevated to new heights at O/D with fresh, local, and organic ingredients. They make something called Geechie Fries which is grits formed into slabs and cut into thick strips and deep fried. Incredible.
They also have a flatbread. I know, so does everyone, but O/D makes theirs with an incredible butter bean puree I could eat by the gallon. Highly recommended.
Isle of Palms
Although all the beaches on this list are family friendly, Isle of Palms might the most of the lot. There are several resorts and restaurants that cater to families, plus a playground for the rugrats.
Kiawah Island is a little further from Charleston (about 25 miles) and has several gold courses. If you’re not a golfer, there is a nice beach and a bird sanctuary at the nearby Deveaux Bank. If you’re planning on going to Deveaux Bank, be sure to check their website as access is by boat or kayak only and extremely limited.
Savannah, Georgia is over a 2 hour drive, or just under 2 hours by train. Rather than a day trip (although you could do it in a day), I’d recommend staying overnight.
Georgetown is about 60 miles up the coast from Charleston. It’s a small town with a nice waterfront walk. There’s also a lighthouse on nearby North Island near the entrance to Winyah Bay. The lighthouse isn’t open to the public, and the island is only accessible by boat.
My favorite attraction in Georgetown is the tiny Gullah Museum. The Gullah people were the slaves brought from Africa to work the rice plantations of South Carolina and Georgia.
Curator Andrew Rodriges is likely to be sitting out front smoking a cigar and keeping his dog Harper (named after Harper Lee) company. Inside the one room museum, Mr. Rodriges can tell a story about every item in the Gullah Museum. He’ll guide you through the quilt his wife made that details Michelle Obama’s heritage (her grandfather was from the area) and was used in the inauguration celebrations of 2009.
About a 20 minute drive from Georgetown is Pawley’s Island. More remote and less crowded than Charleston’s beaches, Pawley’s is a good getaway since there aren’t any high rise resorts on the island. Most of the accommodations are small family-run inns or beach cottages.
There’s not much to do on Pawley’s Island, so relaxing becomes your only option. Ahhhh. Just make sure to steer clear of The Gray Man.
The historical section of Chalreston is compact and walkable (albiet with lots of uneven cobblestones). But, if you plan a daytrip, a rental car might be a good idea. Uber and Lyft widely available.
Direct flights to many major U.S. cities with seasonal direct service to London.
There is a bus from the airport to Charleston. Shuttles, taxis, Uber/Lyft are also available.
Charleston’s bus system serves the city and into Mt. Pleasant, Folly Island, and other parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties.
Amtrak has service from North Charleston south to Savannah and Miami and north to NYC. Note the train station is about 9 miles from downtown Charleston.
Charleston’s bike share program. Be aware that in the historic areas of the city, roads are cobblestone and often uneven.
Index of Entertainment in Charleston
Explore the history of slavery and the Gullah culture in Charleston.
History, ghost, and culinary tours.
Several foodie tours to choose from including the Farm to Table Experience and Mixology Tour.
Walking tours of Chucktown.
Several tours to choose from.
Offering multiple tours including a ghost tour.
Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge (aka the Cooper River Bridge)
Walk or bike across for spectacular views. Parking at Patriot’s Point.
Boat ride to the fort with a guided tour.
Walk along the seawall and gaze at the stately homes.
5.7 acre public park along the waterfront in The Battery.
Colorful Georgian row houses. Great spot for pictures.
Church of the protestants who left France in the 17th century, fleeing religious persecution.
Museum housed in the building where slaves bought and sold.
Both Charleston and a wider history of African American people and culture.
Place where South Carolina declared independence from England during the Revolution. Now a museum.
Oldest theater in the United States.
Performing arts festival held each spring at venues all over the city. A few events are free.
Beautiful park with a walk along the riverfront and the famous Pineapple Fountain.
Two outdoor art galleries.
Live music, vendors, food.
Confederate navy submarine museum.
St. Philip’s Church
Oldest Church in the Holy City.
Classy, cool jazz and funk club.
Fort where Edgar Allen Poe was stationed.
Great beach, go to station 12 at sunrise or sunset and you might see dolphins.
Nice beach south of the city.
Bird sanctuary on barrier island. Limited access, be sure to check website.
Museum dedicated to the Gullah people with an emphasis on Michelle Obama’s Gullah heritage.
Index of Food & Drink in Charleston
James Beard award winner. The place to get red rice.
Makes Lady Baltimore Cake and Lady Baltimore cupcakes to order
One of the only places where you can get a Huguenot Torte
The place for desserts. Occasionally has Hummingbird Cake.
Biscuits served plain or with all kinds of fillings.
Famous for She-Crab soup.
Shrimp and grits
Billed as “soulful food,” Glass Onion uses lots of locally sourced ingredients.
One of Charleston’s most famous eateries.
Famous for breakfast dishes, available all day.
Elevated Southern Cuisine. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.
Fun pub, great brunch.
One of Charleston’s finest, and most expensive restaurants. Check out their happy hour for inexpensive wine and cocktails.
Trailer serving boiled peanuts.
Grit-centric menu with good Shrimp & Grits.
Lunch spot with choose your own Grits Bowls. Sister restaurant of Grace & Grit.
Good happy hour and their roasted garlic tomato soup is to die.
Seafood joint has boiled peanuts on the menu.
Retro futuristic space themed hot dog joint.
Home of the first Tea Room each spring.
Has Huguenot Torte on the dessert menu.
Huguenot Torte on the menu. Note: admission to the plantation site may be required.
Sometimes has Hummingbird Cake on the menu.
Best Moscow Mule in town.
One of the best cocktails bars in Charleston. Moscow Mule adds mint.
The place to get a liquid nitrogen cooled Nitrotini.
Great bar for cocktails.
The place to get the Knuckleball cocktail (served with boiled peanuts).
Southern Mule on the drink menu.
Great happy hour lasting until 10pm.
“Cocktail Hour” has some good bargains.
Surprisingly good food and cheap beer.
Claims to be largest seller of PBR in the country. Craft beer, too.
True dive bar in every way.
Great dive bar.
Nice bar with an excellent espresso martini. Live music most nights.
Brewery featuring their own beer and a selection of beers from around the world.
Popular local beer with a taproom for tasting.
Large selection of adventurous brews.
Huge selection of beers of tap.
Beachy restaurant on Folly Beach.
Tavern dedicated to Edgar Allen with all kinds of Poe kitsch.
Great restaurant featuring local and organic items.
Great views on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant. Go for the Black & Blue Mule.
Index of Shopping in Charleston
Huge hall filled with local vendors selling gifts, clothing, jewelry, and gourmet food.
Award winning farmers market.
Saturday farmers market on the campus of Charleston Collegiate School.
Voted best studio four years in a row. Contemporary art with some trippy exhibits.
Contemporary art with several modern impressionist and abstract pieces.
Lots of interesting contemporary work with prints and original posters from Piccolo Spoleto Festival.
Sweet Grass Pavilion
Sweet Grass Baskets on display and for sale.
Old timey pharmacy/lunch counter/soda shop.
Index of Places to Stay in Charleston
Boutique Hotel in the French Quarter.
Luxury hotel right on the waterfront.
Full service hotel, centrally located.
One of Charleston’s top hotels. Great location, but pricey.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.