How to Eat Your Way Through Charleston
Food & Wine's Editor-in-Chief Hunter Lewis takes us on a tour of the city's warm and inviting restaurant scene.
For a tiny city, Charleston has an insanely impressive food scene, thanks in part to its decade-long mission to revitalize indigenous crops. Since 2008, farmers and organizations like the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation have been working hard to bring back local ingredients like cowpeas, benne seeds and Ossabaw Island hogs—and it's paying off. Just try to find a recent "best food cities" list without Charleston on it.
That's why Food & Wine Editor-in-Chief Hunter Lewis took a trip to Lowcountry to meet with some of the farmers, fishermen, chefs, and managers behind the city's best restaurants (and give us a quick checklist of top-notch places to visit if you happen to be in Charleston for a day). Check out his 24-hour diary, above, and read through his recommendations, below.
The Charleston Grill
Executive chef Michelle Weaver specializes in elegant comfort food, which translates to a menu full of dishes like creamy sweet corn custard tart with salted popcorn whipped cream, and Colorado lamb served over puréed potatoes with mint chimichurri. "You come to a restaurant not just to eat," Mickey Bakst, the restaurant's general manager tells Lewis in the clip above. "You come to a restaurant, in my world, to be pampered, catered to, and to make new friends."
This Charleston institution values fresh, local ingredients above all else. "The most important part about going to the source and finding the best ingredients is finding the people producing those ingredients," Mike Lata, Fig's chef and owner, says. "We felt a responsibility to grow the market for young producers." Expect to see standout fish entrees—sourced from local fisherman—like mustard-crusted amberjack with brown butter jus, and grilled grey triggerfish with lime vinaigrette served over Evangeline sweet potatoes.
To cap off the day, Lewis recommends heading to Little Jack's and ordering one of the tavern's classic martinis and a burger (their's are half chuck, half brisket, and topped with sunchoke relish, gooey American cheese, and a mayo-based "special sauce").