Let me start off by saying that there really is such a thing as Southern hospitality. I thought Justin Timberlake’s restaurant with the same name was just a nice idea — but after visiting Charleston, SC I found out it does exist! People in the South really are nicer (and better looking). That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact.
Another fact? The food in Charleston is delicious. And pretty bad for you, but that’s OK. I like to think it’s all the fried food that’s making these people nicer and better looking. A girl can dream…
Speaking of fried food, my first stop in Charleston came at Jestine’s Kitchen. It comes with the recommendation of a little someone named Oprah. OOOOOOOPPPPPPPPRRRRRRRAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH (that’s her saying her own name). The small country cookin’ restaurant was pretty empty around 7 o’clock on a Tuesday night. Southern Living magazine articles and New York Times write-ups were hung on the wooden walls.
We started with the fried green tomatoes with a home made relish seen above. The batter was pretty light and I liked that the tomatoes were cut thin. It made me feel less guilty when eating
For dinner I ordered the special of fried flounder with a cream based green pepper sauce and grits with a side of mac ‘n’ cheese. I told you the food was bad for you.
I’ve never been a fan of grits, but after having a bite of Jestine’s I realized I never truly had grits. These were creamy and even more flavorful when paired with the tad spicy sauce. My parents went with fried chicken and blackened pork chops with caramelized onions. My dad’s meal came with cornbread that was out of this world. Every bite seemed to have butter in it.
At this point the restaurant suddenly had every seat taken. Normally, Jestine’s has a line and after eating the food I can see why.
How convenient that framed next to me was a blurb from O Magazine telling me to not leave Jestine’s without getting the Coca-Cola cake. So…I didn’t.
Resembling and tasting more like a brownie, the fudge topped cake was so moist and chocolaty. A good ending to an insanely unhealthy, but scrumptious dinner.
We got a little fancy the next day for dinner. High Cotton is commendable in that they get a majority of their food from local farmers. They even list all the farms on their menu.
The waiter first brought over a complimentary amuse-bouche of beef tartar. I’ve never had beef tartar before, but I was willing to try.
I realize beef tartar is an upscale dish, but I don’t understand how people order it for a full on entree. A bite of raw meat was enough for me.
For an appetizer, my mom went truly Southern and ordered some fried shrimp and grits.
For our main courses, the pictures are as follows. A bone in porkchop with smoked bacon hollandaise and crawfish.
Lobster wrapped in pork with grits. Obviously I’m not a connoisseur of grits, but I do believe it’d be hard to find grits better than these.
Flank steak and braised short ribs with mashed potatoes.
While the food was all great, it was the dessert that made this restaurant memorable. Since High Cotton was celebrating their 11th anniversary, there was a special menu including a birthday cake souffle dessert. Anything with birthday cake involved and you can sign me up.
As the waitress set down the souffle she took a fork and then poured a cup of raspberry sauce inside. This dessert is too much to take in!
Sprinkles with a little crunch were a festive decoration to the airy cake. I ended up scrapping all of the souffle up from the ramekin. One of the best desserts I’ve ever had.
A trip wouldn’t be a trip without a stop for cupcakes. And where’s a better place to stop than a bakery called Cupcake? The cute store is decorated with chandeliers and cupcake murals. We got the lemon, red velvet and mocha flavors, but the flavors change daily.
The cupcakes tower with frosting that is light and not too sweet. The cake itself is hard on the outside and extremely moist and soft within. The density of the cake pairs nicely with the frosting.
I also made a stop at a bakery called Sugar. With little pumpkin pies and a blueberry muffin it was pretty obvious that if I ever move to Charleston I will put on an extra 100 pounds.
Some other standouts included Hominy Grill for breakfast. While it’s been written about in countless publications, and their chef has won the prestigious James Beard Award, it still seems to remain authentic and far from a tourist trap. Two locals chatted us up about how they had been coming here for years. One lady also mentioned how her downtown Charleston house may be haunted but that’s another story for another blog.
And the Peninsula Grill’s seven layer coconut cake. The New York Time’s called it “A little slice of heaven.” I don’t know if I’d call it little, but it was pretty heavenly. In fact, the cake is so popular that the restaurant’s website has a whole page dedicated to the dessert.
The Southern hospitality, and more importantly the Southern food, makes me already want to go back…