Where to Score the Best Meals in Charleston
The Ordinary opened last year in a restored 1920s bank building. (Courtesy photo)
When most people think about eating in Charleston, they think of the stick-to-your-ribs-stuff: the fried pickles, the fried green tomatoes and the fried oysters.
While many restaurants still serve up such heart-attack-inducing food, Charleston’s dining scene has been undergoing a renaissance.
Chefs are embracing farm-to-table cuisine, small-batch distilleries are popping up, and humble Lowcountry ingredients are being used in innovative ways.
Those beloved Southern grits? You’re just as likely to find them whizzed and frozen into a parfait as you are accompanying shrimp.
“The restaurant scene here has just exploded in the past few years,” says Matt Lee, co-author of “The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen,” along with his brother Ted. “Charleston is subtropical, so we have everything from bananas and asparagus to ocean critters available here. People are energized by all the possibilities.”
A colorful soup dish at Husk. (Photo: Andrew Cebulka)
One of Charleston’s key driving forces is the James Beard-award-winning chef Sean Brock, the man behind restaurants Husk and McCrady’s. When he opened Husk in late 2010, his credo was, “If it ain’t Southern, it ain’t walkin’ in the door.”
While it can be hard to snag a prime-time table at Husk, visitors should make a beeline to McCrady’s, which also showcases local artisanal food. The menu highlights the restaurant’s suppliers, including heirloom grains from Anson Mills, artisan bread from Butcher & Bee and vegetables from Dirt Hugger Farm. Herbs and vegetables are grown on the rooftop garden and some of the dinnerware is made by local artists; one glaze incorporates dirt from the restaurant’s own woodburning oven.
Go for the tasting menu ($65 for four courses) and tuck into a winter green salad topped with charred pecans, apple and turnips followed by aged duck served with sweet potatoes and oats. If you still have room for dessert, don’t miss the frozen parfait of grits, served with a huckleberry sauce.
For equally delicious food but in a funkier setting, head to Two Boroughs Larder. Don’t be put off by its location on a slightly sketchy-looking street. Two Boroughs has a small retail shop selling homemade charcuterie, as well as locally made, small-batch cocktail mixers from Jack Rudy and Bittermilk; try the Tom Collins mix with elderflower and hops.