Hello, internet friends! It’s been a minute since I’ve written a blog post. The last few weeks of the spring semester were full of challenges, some expected and others unexpected, just like most semesters. Anyway, I try to minimize talk of graduate school in this space for two primary reasons: 1. This blog serves as my escape from the ivory tower life I’m living. 2. Grad school is an incredibly stressful experience for us grad students, but it’s a particularly boring subject for most people in the real world.
Prior to the shit show that defines the end of every semester, I managed to take a long weekend getaway to Charleston with two of my best gal pals. After I read John T. Edge’s The Potlikker Papers last summer, I vowed to visit Charleston at least once while I live in this part of the country. Edge explains that New Orleans and Charleston are the main Southern “foodie cities,” so I obviously had to experience them both. I was fortunate to present some research in the Big Easy in January of 2017, and I fell in love with the city. NOLA seems like a polarizing place, especially after Katrina, yet I loved every part of my trip from the rich cultural heritage of the city (e.g. street art, architecture, jazz music) to the delicious dishes and strong drinks I consumed while taking in the sights of this progressive place. While New Orleans is not a favorite among some groups, I had never heard of anyone who disliked Charleston. Thus, I could not wait to explore Charleston to enjoy more classic southern fare and see if the city lived up to the hype!
We arrived early in the evening on Thursday after driving from Chapel Hill, and we began our food tour with dinner at Poogan’s Porch. The food here was impressive, so I could see why this place had such a crowd. The ribs and pickles appetizer was my favorite dish, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the complimentary biscuits. These biscuits were the perfect starter after being on the road and not eating much during the day. The atmosphere was classy, which added to the experience, despite the service being a bit lackluster.
Subpar service unfortunately was not confined to our dinner at Poogan’s Porch. On Friday, we ventured to 167 Raw, a famous oyster bar with an infamous line out the door. While waiting for our table in this small establishment, we had a beer at the nearby Craftsmen Kitchen and Tap House. This classic beer bar offered quite the selection of local brews and rare finds from around the country. They had bottles of Jester King beer, my favorite Texas brewery (seriously, y’all, I want to get married at this brewery! It’s so beautiful, nestled in the Hill Country about 45 minutes from Austin with views for days). Anyway, after waiting for an hour and a half, we went back to 167 Raw for our table. In short, most of the food was delicious, but it was a bit pricey. The service was worse than Poogan’s Porch, as the servers were not simply inattentive but rude. Arguing with me about my dairy allergy is a major pet peeve of mine, so when the server sparred with me over removing cheese from the pastrami swordfish sandwich (which was not my favorite dish to begin with, but I digress), I was less than thrilled. Because of the crowd, lingering is discouraged, so we left within an hour of our arrival.
Thankfully, the service on the remainder of our trip was fine, if not stellar. The real stars of the show were the bartenders at the many bars we visited. My favorite bars were 492 (excellent beer selection and bartender selection ;)) and the Getaway (a new bar where I had a frozen fernet and Coke that was the perfect remedy for a heated political argument that ensued against our wishes at 5 Church earlier in the evening). The Gin Joint was another unique place where you can order drinks based on your preferences about the components of a cocktail. For example, I prefer fizzy, strong, floral drinks, so I ordered a bartender’s choice that followed the aforementioned criteria. North Carolina should really consider legalizing Happy Hour. Just think of the revenue.
I won’t bore you with the details of every meal, but I will mention that we were able to enjoy a well-rounded Charleston food tour in a short amount of time. We dined at Husk, the Charleston classic run by James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock. Because of my dairy allergy, I could not order the shrimp and grits, but the smoked quail was satisfying without being too heavy. We sampled various sushi rolls at O-Ku, and I was not expecting this restaurant to top my list, but the service and food together comprised the “full package,” so I am ready to return anytime. Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit was also incredible, despite making me feel slightly ill on the ride back to Chapel Hill (They use cream cheese AND buttermilk in the biscuits, which makes them delicious, yet dairy-laden…oops!).
Overall, I want to return to Charleston soon to explore more places, especially those that are more popular with locals than tourists. Sullivan’s Island and Fort Sumter also sound like key sights to see. If I were to choose between Charleston and New Orleans, I would pick the latter as my favorite Southern foodie haven. The culture of the city is more my style, as I appreciate the progressive vibes and historical beauty of the French Quarter. Have y’all been to both places? Which destination do you prefer? While you think about this pressing issue, scroll through the slideshow below for a selection of food pictures from my visit.