Saturday, April 3, 2021

Charleston, South Carolina photo essay: A solid pandemic spring break choice

Charleston is a beautiful city on the coast of South Carolina that I had never visited. It's got beautiful architecture, is walkable and bikable, has great restaurants (see my accompanying article), and great Atlantic beaches nearby. It's claims to fame are that it's the state's largest city and was a major port in the slave-trading business.

There's fresh fish to eat on just about every street in the bustling downtown area.


The architecture makes it a must to walk or bike (we also took a fun carriage tour with the highly recommended Palmetto Carriage Works) up and down just about every street. You can't catch the beauty of buildings like this "half" house in a car.


Our second AirBnB of the week was on Mount Pleasant, across the famed suspension bridge from downtown, and featured a French-language poster of Hitchcock's North By Northwest above the master bed. And Rico, of course, always right at home anywhere.


The trees and my favorite Spanish Moss are a constant wonder.


Our carriage tour, headed towards the old Catholic church. There is a little history for just about all religions in Charleston.


It didn't take much research to find an expansive skate park under a loop of interstates north of downtown.


The beaches of Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's Island are can't miss, and we were somehow able to splash all afternoon in the surf on a balmy March day.



Again, with the Spanish Moss and bikes.


Huriyali, a funky coffee and smoothie bowl place north of downtown, ended up being our go-to breakfast stop. My favorite was the chocolate acai bowl.


Wandering around the campus of the College of Charleston is a must.


Same with the beautiful Hampton Park, north of downtown and best with a bicycle.


There are historic graveyards across the city, including this one at the Circular Congregational Church off Meeting Street.


Sullivan's Island.


Biking past several more of the city's churches with gorgeous steeples.


More biking out around the shore of Mount Pleasant.


And around the downtown, here at famed Rainbow Row, down near the southern tip of the city. Downtown Charleston is shaped a bit like Manhattan, and we were able to bike from our first AirBnB down the west side along the water, where we spied a porpoise, along to the Battery at the southern tip.


We didn't take a ghost tour, but I bet it would be fun to see the creepy insides of the old Charleston prison.


More biking down a long boardwalk and dog park on Mount Pleasant.


And probably the best dinner spot we hit: Slightly North of Broad in downtown Charleston.

Dining delights in the seaside foodie paradise of Charleston, South Carolina


If you want to go on vacation to eat, look no further than Charleston, South Carolina.

Knowing our Pandemic Spring Break 2021 could likely be mostly carry out and eating in parks or on the beaches, we were pleasantly surprised when we were able to eat comfortably for most meals on comfortably socially distanced restaurant patios in the beautiful spring weather.

See my copious and messy notes to the right from research about where and what to eat in the city. We tried to stay mostly on this plan for our five days in Charleston, but threw in a couple of unexpected surprises along the way.

Our first three nights were in downtown, and night 1 we hit Slightly North of Broad to take care of our requirement of a shrimp and grits meal. This is a must restaurant, as we sat at one of the outside tables with a yacht rock guitarist performing within earshot just inside the door. The Charleston crab soup had to make due until we could later find some she-crab soup, and it ended up probably being the best soup of the trip.

The next morning we deviated from the plan because of a coffee and smoothie bowl place within family biking distance from our AirBnB, which was located down the street from the military university The Citadel. Huriyali was so good and funky that we ate there on days 2, 4, and 5. Speaking of family, most days we filled up with two big meals and ate leftovers the rest of the time, to minimize time the kids had to sit at restaurants and to minimize our exposure to the pandemic. Day 2 was one such day, as we grabbed lunch/dinner to go from the much-hyped Hymen’s Seafood. The place was way busier than we would have risked dining at, with lines down the block, so it was nice to take it back to our place. The she-crab soup, peel-and-eat shrimp, and Wadamalaw delight (fried green tomatoes and grits) were all very good, albeit more of a touristy good than a true foodie good.

Day 3 also took us off script with a gem of a find near our place in north downtown and off the tourist track. We left the kids at home and ordered pizza for them while we went to Xiao Bao Biscuit, a hipster place in an old gas station with ample seating out front. The Japanese cabbage pancakes and spicy Thai beef were mouth watering and the fried rice peanut and caramel pork dumplings were the superstar, leaving a minty numbing of the mouth that I don’t recall ever experiencing before.

Day 4 brought about our move to a different AirBnB over in Mount Pleasant, across the bridge from downtown in an area near the beach. After a full day lounging and splashing at the beautiful, wide Sullivan’s Island beach, we headed again off script to a place recommended by friends, Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ. It looked and smelled like something for the college spring break crowd. But we easily secured a table outside away from the masses (why would so many people eat inside on a perfect day amid a pandemic?) and proceeded to devour can’t-miss bar food. Get the wings with Alabama white sauce (vinegar based) and nachos. I also had one of the best frozen drinks ever - a Vietnamese coffee loaded with Tullamore Dew whiskey.

Day 5 was for exploring Mount Pleasant by bike, which is a bit of a harrowing thing to do. Most of the shops and restaurants are along a car corridor with 30 mph signs posted and cars in reality flying 55. That said, we did navigate by bike and some of the detours are much better with a bike in hand. We hit Vintage Coffee Cafe, which is connected to a pizza place called Coastal Crust and had the best avocado toast I’ve ever tried. Granted, I don’t eat that selection much, but it was very tasty, as were the Belgian waffles. Despite also not being on my list, Shem’s Creek Crab House looked like a better option for an early dinner, especially since it was a little off the main roads and had outdoor seating along the water. The peel-and-eat shrimp, raw oysters, and she-crab soup were all good.

And of course we stopped by for our last Huriyali on the way out of town for our 8-hour drive back home to Takoma Park, Md., which, incidentally, could use its own Huriyali.