"It's like a weekend trip to a movie set" is how my husband Joe described it Sunday night; and that's a pretty spot on description of Charleston- at least this past weekend we visited. Blue skies, temps in the mid-70s, horse drawn carriages winding through the streets, people enjoying cocktails all day long on patios and rooftops. Such a charming city- with amazing food/drinks/restaurants/bars, atmosphere, history, and architecture.
We stayed at an Airbnb on a small side street called Ashton, which was right off the Septima Clark Parkway. This was about a 15 minute walk to King Street (where all the action happens), and a 30 min walk to the Battery district which is the tip of the peninsula with all the gorgeous mansions and historic homes. We did an Airbnb because frankly the hotels in Charleston are crazy expensive- but the rest of the city is extremely affordable. Even the best restaurants had $6 cocktails and $15-20 entrees.
The thing about Charleston is- their are a ton of restaurants, and they all seem to get packed come the weekend. If you don't make reservations ahead of time for everything (brunch, lunch, dinner) prepare to wait.
Here are some of the highlights of our trip:
Flew in, dropped off our luggage at our Airbnb, and walked 20mins up to King Street
- Late dinner at the Darling Oyster bar. Delicious food and great drinks
- Ran down to the Battery district and back.
- Brunch at Prohibition on King Street (would recommend for drinking with groups- the food was decent but not amazing- probably our own food miss of the trip).
- Walked the city - hit up the Charleston market, walked up and down King Street, checked out the Waterfront Park and Rainbow row, more Battery district
- Watched the playoffs at Republic- great outdoor area with a big TV behind the bar, lounge sofas and live music. Average drinks, little food so did not eat here and would not recommend it for eating
- Back to Airbnb- then back up to the city for drinks at W (amazing drinks) and dinner at Coast. Ridiculous seafood- huge place-average drinks- jalapeno cornbread for the win
- Dessert at cupcake place on King Street- chocolate chip with peanut butter icing boom
- Brunch at Hominy Grill. They did not take reservations, we saw they opened at 9am so we showed up at 8:55am. It was already packed, and just after us the wait for tables started. My advice- it is definitely worth going to- the food was incredible- but go as early as possible. By the time we left at 9:40 they were already on an hour wait and people were lining the block. The chicken and waffles and brown sugar poundcake were the bomb. Sat outside on the front patio.
- Yoga at Mission Yoga - we needed a stretch from pounding the pavement. This was a free "donation" class and was worth checking out- pretty easy but did the trick.
Lunch at Poogan's Porch- sweet potato chicken and waffles with free biscuits, Joe had shrimp and grits- both famous for a reason. Adorable old house turned into a restaurant, great location between King/Queen St and the Battery.
- Bike Ride! Rented bikes - rode around the perimeter of Charleston and down all the small side street for about 1.5 hours (7$ an hour rental) Charleston is extremely flat- so perfect for bikin
- Walked back to Airbnb to pack up
- One last dinner at Salt and Sorghum - adorable place a few streets before King in a more residential area. Amazing tapas- mostly veggie centric. So so good.
- Uber to airport and back home late Sunday night.
Only thing we missed out on was doing a plantation tour (I've done one before in the area, very nice way to spend a few hours), or checking out the beaches (Folly beach, Isle of Palms- only a 15min drive from downtown Charleston! highly recommend for people staying 3 days or more)
Airbnb 3 nights (I rented it an extra night so we would have a homebase all day Sunday): $800
Transportation: Ubers to and from airport about $30 each time/$20 at home: $100
Extras: $20 (bikes)
All the food and drinks: $620
Update- Since this post I've been back to Charleston mulitple times- most notably in March 2020 and December 2022
I just can't stay away! It's such a short plane ride from Philly and the food is just too good! Some places to note from my additional trips
Maison- French restaurant way down the other way on King Street (not towards the water but a good 30 min walk from downtown)- worth it to check out what looks to be a ongoing developed pocket of bars/restaurants
The Ordinary- packed when we went in 2020 and recommended by many to be the spot for seafood. Cocktails were spot on, we grabbed bar seats since we couldn't get formal reservations and that did the trick! Beautiful space, good food- worth the trouble
Callie's Hot Biscuit- right on King St- no where to sit but this take out biscuit spot for breakfast is so so good. Plus, if the weather is nice, find a good coffee place with a courtyard and enjoy some breakfast with coffee outdoors like we did in both March 2020 and when we went back in December 2022 (Kudu coffee courtyard just a couple of blocks away)
Big Bad Breakfast- perfect diner-ish feel but nicer, food portions were huge, refills on good coffee
Tempest- this dinner was ok- portions were small, pretty overpriced, the building itself is beautiful, we actually went next door the next night for drinks at Church and Union and I feel like that experience was the one I was looking for.
Toast on King- decent breakfast in the heart of everything, huge biscuits, well-priced, definitely where people go for the brunch drinking scene, but the food was decent and decently priced too
82 Queen- beautiful building, I think the oldest restaurant still going in Charleston, amazing food, there is a reason they have been in business for so long. Definitely recommend for any meal
Amen Street- such such good food. Spicy shrimp as well as the shrimp and grits were fantastic. I left completely stuffed and satisfied.
Carmella's dessert cafe- packed around 9pm, great place if your dinner restaurant doesn't have a satisfying dessert menu. We got cookies and gelato- it's a wait in line order at the counter, find a spot to eat type joint. Many alcoholic dessert options as well.
Food Hall by the market- we grabbed hush puppies from a vendor and sat outside with some mimosas- really nice option if you are with a group and everyone wants something different
Barsa tapas- another place more up King off the beaten path (actually on the way to Maison) - I heard it's great for dinner, we just made it for happy hour and snacked on a couple tapas which were delish. Outdoor patio looked cute
Off track ice cream- really really good small batch ice cream shop downtown- not too crowded