Food

Gwen Fowler

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Challenge: Can you eat on $40 a day vacationing in Charleston?

Posted 11/16/2010 1:09:00 PM

Food Insider Gwen Fowler took that challenge and set out on a statewide pilgrimage. Second stop: Charleston

For years, people from around the world have been traveling to Charleston to see history preserved – from brick streets lined with row houses from the 1700s to some of the most beautiful Southern plantations ever built and now lovingly preserved.



But increasingly, they travel to Charleston because it has some of the world’s finest dining. And that’s not just my opinion. The dining is so fine that Charleston chefs have claimed the James Beard Best Chef in the Southeast for the past three years. The award went to Sean Brock of McCrady’s in 2010, Mike Lata of FIG in 2009 and Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill in 2008.

So when you’re picking places to eat in Charleston, the hard part is deciding where to go. There are just so many excellent choices. And, not all of them are budget-breakers. You can eat very well without spending a fortune. Here is what we ate on our $40-a-day mission.

Breakfast:

Going for breakfast at Toast seems a little like stopping by your grandma’s house, if your grandma is a great cook. We were seated in an area that resembles a porch.

Toast calls itself home of the Bottomless Mimosa, and as enticing as that sounded, I passed to stay on budget. My husband, though, did try a bloody Mary and said it was once of the best he’d ever tasted.

I couldn’t resist ordering Eggs Meeting Street ($8.50), a breakfast that includes a fried green tomato and a crab cake. The tomato is topped with the crab cake, which is topped with a poached egg. Then the whole stack gets a generous dousing of remoulade sauce. It was served with grits and a biscuit. The crab, egg and fried green tomato made a delicious combination, and I ate every bit of it.

What I spent: $10.64 (including tip)

Lunch:

If you’re not looking carefully, you might miss Gullah Cuisine. Don’t, because it’s a great place to indulge your vegetable cravings.

This small gem of a restaurant is on U.S. 17, just north of Mount Pleasant. Even if the food weren’t fantastic, Gullah Cuisine is worth a visit to see the colorful art work of Jonathan Green.

But the lunch buffet was amazing. We chose from chicken – fried, baked or barbecued, barbecue pork, fried fish, mashed potato casserole with bacon and cheese on top, collard greens, rice with okra, succotash, lima beans, and those were just some of the treats on this buffet spread. The banana pudding was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Chef Charlotte Jenkins, who opened this restaurant in 1997, wasn’t in the day we visited, but she has obviously set high standards for the food served here.

What I spent: $9.58 (including tip)

Dinner:

Slightly North of Broad has been one of Charleston’s most popular restaurants for a long time, and for good reason. You can always count on an excellent meal and outstanding service here. And despite the nickname SNOB, the atmosphere is casual and relaxed.

Chef Frank Lee is the Maverick Southern Kitchens vice president of culinary development, but he also is executive chef at SNOB, and you can often spot him in the open kitchen, with his trademark red pepper cap and glasses low on his nose. Lee was creating his menu using the best local foods long before it became the trendy thing to do.

Everything I’ve ordered here has been excellent, but I usually stick to my favorite, Maverick shrimp and grits, ($16.50) which includes shrimp, sausage made in house, country ham, tomatoes and green onions. I’ve never had better shrimp and grits anywhere.

My husband tried the pork belly, which was a special appetizer that night, and it was a very tender, succulent bit of pork.

What I spent: $19.82 (including tip)


My total for the day: $40.04. So I blew my budget by 4 cents. For the food I ate that day, I can live with that.


There are so many fabulous places to eat in Charleston, but here are a few that I’ve been wanting to try: 17 North Roadside Kitchen in Mount Pleasant; the Glass Onion; Wild Olive in John’s Island; Cypress Lowcountry Grille; Marina Variety Store Restaurant; Alluette’s Café; Fat Hen in John’s Island; Coast; and Cru Café.

Read Gwen's account of eating on Hilton Head Island for $40 here.