As someone lucky enough to call Charleston, S.C., home and who happens to be a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, I’ve spent the last decade eating and writing about Charleston’s radiant food scene. And, as part of the research for my latest book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Charleston and Savannah, I spent the better part of 2011 doing the same thing in Savannah. I called them "nibble and scribble" tours, and did I ever have fun. Both colonial port cities with long, agrarian and sometimes tragic histories, and gorgeous historic architecture, they are close neighbors (just 110 miles apart), but very far removed from each other in terms of personality and looks — kind of like fraternal food twins.
The following is a brief excerpt from the Charleston section of the just-released book to give you a sense of some of the deliciousness that awaits Low Country visitors. Adapted from Food Lovers’ Guide to Charleston and Savannah — The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings (Globe Pequot Press, December, 2011):
Downtown Charleston is indeed a peninsula of land bordered by two tidal rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper, named after two of the Lord Proprietors of the original colony. The peninsula gets broader and deeper above Calhoun Street, before it finally gets swallowed by land and reaches over the waterways to neighboring communities forming greater Charleston. The land that extends south of Calhoun Street comprises the area that most people think of when they think of Charleston. Dotted with stately old mansions, gracious parks, water fountains, and the tolling bells of countless ancient churches, it includes the bustling College of Charleston campus and the cherished enclave known as South of Broad, the place where the "S.O.B.’s" live, if you believe this jocular nod to Charleston high society.
Restaurants and eateries comingle beautifully with the neighborhood ambience and are very concentrated, so getting to them by foot is a cinch, especially between Calhoun and Broad. Below Broad Street is exclusively residential and eatery-free (except for the private Charleston Yacht Club), so build your appetite with a morning stroll along the Battery and bring it a bit uptown for lunch or dinner (or dinner and supper in Charleston-speak!) at one of the many, many wonderful choices available here.
Amen Street, 205 E. Bay Street, downtown Charleston.
Amen Street is one of my favorite places to go to eat when I want really fresh, local, and beautifully prepared seafood, especially for lunch, which Amen Street does especially well. The inspiring name breathes new life into the former name of Cumberland Street (which flanks one side of the restaurant). Local lore says Amen Street was so named because "amens" could be heard coming from neighboring churches. You’ll say amen and hallelujah to Amen Street’s impeccable setting, which showcases 19th-century exposed brick walls, gleaming, golden pine, and stunning chandeliers made from oyster shells and iron. Executive chef Stephen Ollard (that’s just one “C” shy of collard, folks!) is a talented disciple of good cooking and local seafood and only uses the freshest from local waters, including the Low Country’s celebrated shrimp, flounder, and oysters…