A mere two-hour flight from New York City, South Carolina’s oldest and largest city Charleston is a perfect weekend getaway, especially for those who love to eat and drink, play golf, visit historic homes or just chill out. Here are some of our favorite spots visited during a recent December long weekend trip. It’s hard to choose just a few restaurants to hit—and you’re certain to return home several pounds heavier.
CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — If you take a trip down Unity Alley and have a meal at McCrady’s Tavern, you’re taking part in an experience shared by some of histories most influential people.
This establishment on East Bay Street was founded hundreds of years ago by a man named Edward McCrady.
McCrady wore many hats. In historical records, he is listed as a barber, an inventor, a breeder and racer of horses, but he was known best for his tavern.
Not everyone is ready to consume freshly shucked oysters and caviar in the mornings (though, why not?), so McCrady’s Tavern updated its menu with some new brunch-crowd-friendly items. Chef Orlando Pagan, who joined Sean Brock’s Gilded Age-inspired restaurant as the new chef de cuisine in April, added more updated, crowd-pleasing items.
A few of the existing favorites are still available, including the quiche lorraine, but now diners can order preserved lemon souffle pancakes with sorghum syrup or baked eggs with Carolina Gold rice boudin noir or a croque madame with country ham. Pastry chef Katy Keefe also creates a weekly brunch pastry, which is a pumpkin cinnamon roll this weekend.
McCrady’s Tavern offers brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The restaurant has earned high praise from local critics for the dinner service, so brunch is worth a look.
The split personality of Chef Sean Brock’s McCrady’s and McCrady’s Tavern, one part envelope-pushing, tasting-menu-only experience and one part classic Franco-American gastropub, appeals to Pastry Chef Katy Keefe’s dessert philosophy that she learned baking with her mother: get creative when you have to and appreciate the classics. As the overseer of the sweeter offerings at both restaurants, Keefe creates historically informed modern marvels like Foiechamacallit, cured foie enrobed in peanut chocolate with puffed rice and caramel, on one side while serving a perfected, no-fuss slice of French Silk Pie at the other.
There are few Southern cities with as dizzying food scenes as Charleston. While in the past, it was known as a sleepy, historic town where visitors could find a plate of genuine shrimp and grits, now the peninsula is packed with some of the region’s best restaurants, and new ones are constantly opening.
For a first-timer, or even a returning visitor, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to decide where to spend precious vacation days. This list mixes classic and current favorites so whether you’re strolling on King Street at breakfast or driving by Hampton Park during lunchtime, you’ll always be able to find an option.
With the historic sights of Old City and a growing food scene along Upper King Street, the Holy City offers the best of both new and old. Often described as a living museum, everything in Charleston has a story to tell. From the cobblestone streets and antebellum homes to the spate of new boutique hotels that dot its storied corridors, the “Holy City” (named after the city’s many churches) has come a long way since it was settled in 1670. In recent years, the city has become just as recognized for its food scene — home to world-famous chefs and restaurants serving up a mix of haute cuisine and new takes on Southern fare — and has grown from a colonial seaport into a hot spot that attracts more than four million people each year.
Charleston has idyllic antebellum architecture, stunning harbor views and charming cobblestone streets but a trip to Chucktown is really about the food. For such a small geographic area, the peninsula and its surrounding islands pack a huge culinary punch. The city is full of Beard award-winning restaurants and even more Beard nominees. Here’s how to strategically pack in a week’s worth of quintessential meals in just one day.
Late last summer, McCrady’s, the grande dame of haute cuisine and special-occasion splurge dining, shuttered its doors for a mysterious overhaul, reopening as a dual entity. The main dining room is now called McCrady’s Tavern, true to the original name of the 1778 establishment that’s spirit infuses its walls. (McCrady’s now designates the adjacent, hot-ticket, multicourse tasting room, which is not the subject of this review.) McCrady’s Tavern is, once again, a tavern.
Brunch at McCrady’s Tavern — reopened by the chef Sean Brock last summer with an eye toward the Gilded Age — comes with a side of history: George Washington ate here in 1791. While the exposed brick and timber of the circa 1778 Georgian building along busy East Bay look unchanged, the menu is respectfully modern. Try the house’s version of Charleston’s hallmark she-crab soup — blue crab bisque with vermouth and tarragon ($14) — before embarking on a fried pork chop sandwich ($13 including fries) or the daintier quiche Lorraine ($14).
Southern star Sean Brock’s latest gets raves from James Beard Award–winning journalist Matt Goulding, a chief editor of the influential Roads & Kingdoms and the author of Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture. The new revamp of Brock’s legendary Charleston institution, set in a 1778 Georgian town house, includes a high-end tasting-menu restaurant upstairs and a “more relaxed but no-less-astounding tavern below,” he says. “You’ll find Brock’s obsession with historical cooking filtered through a mixture of familiar flavors and innovative technique—tater tots with sour cream and caviar, Thomas Jefferson’s macaroni (given an umami lift from kombu), bone marrow stuffed with escargot. The new McCrady’s reaffirms Brock’s status as one of the most talented and soulful chefs cooking in the U.S.”