Not only am I fortunate to have the bestest, awesomest brother in the entire universe, but I am fortunate that my bestest, awesomest brother in the entire universe lives in one of the bestest, awesomest cities in the US: Charleston, SC. If you’ve never been to Charleston, it is known for its southern charm, its beaches, its mix of both trendy and historical elements, but above all, I think it is known for its food.
Charleston’s food is mostly southern/low country cuisine. Shrimp and grits, collard greens, She-crab soup, fish, fried chicken, mac and cheese, and the like are found on all menus. I’m not going to lie, after a few days of this heavy soul food, I get tired of it, but during those few days, it is absolutely delicious.
Over the holidays, the Grape Pairings family got together in Charleston and dined at some fantastic restaurants. Here was our take on where we visited:
Dress: Dress up. This is a white table cloth kind of place.
Ambiance: Be prepared to take your time. This is a nice place, and the waiters want you to enjoy your courses. The light is dim, but not so dark that you can’t see. Even though there are lots of tables around, you don’t feel crowded. The noise is quiet to moderate, even when crowded, which is good for talking with your table.
Wine Menu: The wine list is quite extensive. Not only do they have your typical chardonnays and cabernets, but they then break their wines down by country and then by region. If you are intimidated by wine lists, this is one that is daunting to look at, but all of the waiters seemed to be quite knowledgable about what they have in stock. They are there to answer your questions and make sure that you, the consumer, are happy, so ask them for their recommendation based on what you want to eat and your price point.
Food Menu: Lots of options, vegetarian and not, with both heavier and lighter dishes available. You can leave feeling overly stuffed, or just right. They have a nice balance of fish and meat dishes.
What I ordered: As a table, we got the homemade chips with bleu cheese. My meal was the Cedar Plank Salmon with Orin Swift “Abstract” Grenache/Petit Sirah/Syrah. The salmon comes with an artichoke, fennel, green bean, potato side. I didn’t choose the wine, so I can’t say that I would have thought of this pairing on it’s own, but the heavier red wine went pretty well with the salmon!
Food Quality: Very nicely done! Everyone was happy!
Price: Expensive. This is definitely a place for a special occasion.
Don’t forget to: Order dessert! The Peppermint Cheesecake is out of this world!
Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar
Dress: Casual. You could get by in jeans and a nice shirt.
Ambiance: There were rockstar posters on the wall and sports on the TV, but the booths and high tops were made of fine wood. The place is a like a classy sports bar, with a raw oyster counter in the center. I didn’t notice the noise level being overly loud, and that was with a football game going on.
Wine Menu: There was a nice variety of wines, especially by the glass. There were a few of each varietal available. They had a nice range of prices for each one as well.
Food Menu: Hope you like oysters, because their oyster menu is almost as big as their regular menu! So many oyster options! Most food options are fish related, but there are a few meat options available as well. There were a lot of fried or cream based sauce menu items, but if you’re like me and feel sick after too much of that, there are some lighter appetizer/salad dishes as well. However, oysters can easily make a healthy meal!
What I ordered: 1/2 dozen oysters, shared w/ Dr. GP (can’t remember where from), cup of She-crab soup (cream based crab soup), and a seasonal salad with a crabcake. The wine was Textbook Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. We ordered the wine as a table. Ordinarily, I would never pair this wine with this meal, but they were both great separately!
Food Quality: Delicious! The fish was so fresh. I didn’t order it, but Bro GP was in food heaven from his shrimp and grits.
Price: Not crazy expensive, but not cheap either.
Don’t forget to: While I didn’t go for it, I hear they have a great happy hour menu.
Grace and Grit
Dress: Nice casual. You could go in jeans, but make sure you dress them up.
Ambiance: Trendy. Lots of booth seating, with tables in the back. This was the day after Christmas, so lots of large groups eating out together after the holiday.
Wine Menu: Quite amazing! They have a little bit of everything, including some sought after pricy wines (Caymus, Rothchild, Hall…), by the glass or bottle! They had an even amount of whites and reds and of all price ranges.
Food Menu: My favorite of the trip! They have a section of the menu where you chose the protein and way it’s prepared. There are lots of your typical southern dishes, as well as healthy appetizers. The best part is the “grit” menu, where you can choose savory or sweet grits. Each is a side portion. Flavors range from brie, to truffle, to pesto, to coconut cream, among many others.
What I ordered: “J” Vineyards Pinot Noir and the Pan Roasted Chicken (butter on the side). This comes with a Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, bacon, beet “hash”. With all of these flavors, I specifically ordered this Pinot Noir. This was a 5 grape pairing! I ranked this one because I purposely paired them together, where as the other meals, the bottle was chosen by the table regardless of what we were eating.
Food Quality: It’s hard to make chicken memorable, but wow, this chicken was out of this world! It was perfectly cooked! Dr. GP had the Blackened Chicken, and he was amazed about how good his chicken was, too! Bro GP graciously shared some of his truffle grits, which were also mind-boggling good.
Price: Kind of pricey, but for our last night in Charleston, it was worth it!
Don’t forget to: Order some kind of grit! I’m not a huge grit fan (I don’t get why everyone likes them so much!), but with truffle oil or cheese or what-have-you on it, it’s decadent!
View from the porch