Charleston Charms

Thanks to all those of you who offered up suggestions for my Labor Day trip down to Charleston, South Carolina. Here are some of the highlights from my visit:

Cruising through Charleston with the dog in the front seat. That’s me in the mirror, taking the picture.

There is perhaps no better way to see Charleston then from the seat of a maroon 1974 Buick LeSabre convertible. That’s how I got my first glimpse of the city, thanks to my friend Abby, whose fine ride was passed down to her by her grandmother (and, thanks to the new engine she installed a few years ago, will probably outlive us all). I didn’t have big plans for my Labor Day weekend, but I did manage to take some of your tips and, more importantly, relax. Because things move slower in the South, and there wouldn’t really be any other way to do it.

On our first night, we were convinced to ditch the reservation I made at a classic Charleston eatery; we instead snagged a seat at the bar at FIG

(Food Is Good), a neighborhood restaurant that I was told more than once was one of the best in town. From our barstools, we watched the master mixologist fix our fancy drinks, wielding a blowtorch to melt the sugar that lined the rim of my sidecar. We doubled up on our tomato appetizers, my fiance ordering the heirloom salad, which came splayed out in a rainbow of colors, while I sampled John’s Island Roasted Tomato Tart-Tatin, which was a delightful mix of creamy goat cheese to offset the acidity of the tomatoes. After becoming friendly with our seatmate at the bar, we learned that his southern hospitality extended to his plate when he offered us a bite of his trotters: a deep-fried pork dish breaded and cut into rounds that was rather incredible. Dinner consisted of a pot of pork shoulder and roasted vegetables and a pancetta-wrapped grouper, both of which came perfectly prepared. (We typically share our meals, but in this case we got greedy.) Dessert was a local peach glazed with blackberries and cream…I wish I could describe it in more detail, but we ate it so fast that its presentation was wiped from my memory in the tumult of spoons.

When we weren’t eating, we were exploring, which meant a trip to Folly Beach, a lazy seaside town that was just eeking out a few more beach days before fall passed through. Back in Charleston, we grabbed drinks on the roofdeck at the opulent Market Pavilion Hotel, then went for a stroll through the historic homes along the water, pausing to watch families sway in the porch swings that line the waterfront park. As the sun set, we admired the gorgeous white expanse of Arthur Ravelel Jr. Bridge, which opened a few years ago, before heading to dinner at Pane et Vino (17 Warren Street, +1 843 853 5955), a trattoria with reasonably-priced pasta dishes, a fantastic wine selection, and a lovely atmosphere. There’s still so much left to see of the city, but I’m glad to have ample reasons to return.

Photos: Janelle Nanos

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