Where would I live? I ask this question each time I touch down in a new town. This query isn’t based on fact (I don’t actually have the means to purchase property everywhere I travel) but more a desire to find the local, the quotidian, the vibe that appeals to my tastes. In Charleston, I found my home beyond the crosstown expressway.
Quick geography lesson: Downtown Charleston is on a peninsula nestled between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. The crosstown expressway connects to bridges that lead to Charleston’s outer neighborhoods. South of this freeway is the historic district: Charleston’s central core. Downtown is home to postcard-perfect buildings, restaurants, shops, residences, and college students. As pretty as a Southern belle, downtown is where most visitors spend their days, but since Charleston is so compact—only 3 miles across at the widest point—Uptown is just a short cab, walk, or bike ride away from downtown hotels.
Eager to find the less polished, more diverse, and, dare I say, hipster ‘hoods, I headed north. Here in the Uptown/Upper Peninsula area, I found North Central, a gentrified neighborhood of fixer uppers near bucolic Hampton Park. To the east, NoMo, at the northern end of Morrison Street, is an industrial, commercial zone that boasts some of the city’s best eateries. Following is my uptown guide of where to sip, nibble, and roam:
Leon’s Oyster Shop
Keeping with the hipster aesthetic of repurposed old buildings, Leon’s is housed in a former auto body shop, from which it got its name. The garage door opens onto a convivial patio which shares the stylishly rustic décor of the inside space. Opt for the eponymous eats: oysters, especially those char-grilled with butter, lemon, and parsley. Chef Ari Kolender’s fried chicken is extraordinarily juicy and crisp thanks to brining and a buttermilk bath. The affable bar staff serves local brews, bubbly, and cocktails, cleverly divided cheap, decent, and fancy. Don’t miss the quirky bathrooms.
After hovering at 2nd place since 2013, this popular dive bar became the number one seller of PBR cans in the U.S. of A this February. This beloved haunt clinched the trophy thanks to a steady stream of loyal customers who come for wings, pool, and the hipster suds, just $1.25 at happy hour. Savor warm nights on the lively patio, which boasts expressway views.