Walking, Eating and Drinking in Downtown Charleston, South Carolina

by Janis on March 28, 2017

When we spent a weekend in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this month, we enjoyed trying out a several dining and drinking establishments in this city known for its historic charm and hospitality.

View of Waterfront Park from Fleet Landing Restaurant, Charleston, South Carolina

View of Waterfront Park from Fleet Landing Restaurant, Charleston, South Carolina

On Sunday afternoon, we headed downtown Charleston, the oldest part of the historic city.  Our first stop was to walk along the waterfront, which led us to the Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar. The restaurant was not serving at 4 pm in the afternoon, but the indoor/outdoor bar was open.

The Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship about to depart Charleston, South CarolinaThe outdoor bar at Fleet Landing is the perfect spot to watch a cruise ship departure, while enjoying a glass of wine or a local beer. As we heard the lifeboat drill, we were jealous, just for a minute, of those on board about to set sail.

We finished our drinks, and set out to explore East Bay Street, which is filled with restaurants and bars. Yelp reviews encouraged us to check out the relatively new Pawpaw restaurant, with its modern, Southern-inspired menu.

Pawpaw, Charleston, South CarolinaSince it was too early for us to enjoy dinner, we tried a couple of appetizers in the bar area at Pawpaw.

Hush puppies, ahi tuna bites, and a cocktail at Pawpaw, Charleston, South CarolinaThe “fluffy hush puppies” made with bacon and scallions (and served a trio of dipping sauces) were a big hit.  We also enjoyed the unusual ahi tuna tartare bites, where the tuna mixture was served on tiny cakes said to be made of golden rice. These were a slightly spicy bite of interesting flavors – we could have eaten a dozen.

As for the cocktails, Mr. Jones’ martini-like drink was a little too herbal for his taste. While I was disappointed to find that wines by the glass were mostly limited to North Carolina “tap” or cask wines, I enjoyed a glass of sparkling rose that paired well with the appetizers. If you are willing to order a bottle, the menu does offer a diverse selection of wines.

No longer hungry, we decided to walk round the historic section of Charleston before sunset. As we walked, we explored Church Street, poking into various alleys and side streets as we made our way from south of Broad Street to Water Street, before looping back to East Bay Street.

ivy-covered stairs, Charleston, South CarolinaDuring our walk, we admired the architectural details of the historic houses and churches, and appreciated the signs detailing the history of some of the locations.

Post-walk, we stopped in the Gin Joint just off of East Bay Street. This bar offers a “bartenders choice” cocktail where you pick two words from a list of 16 descriptive words, and the bartender makes a drink designed to meet your taste preferences. Mr. Jones found his gin-based martini a little too “vegetal” for his tastes. “Vegetal” is one of the word choices, but was not one of his choices.

When I learned that the Gin Joint was out of my favorite Monkey 47 gin, I decided to stick with a glass of wine. I enjoyed the out-of-the ordinary Pad Thai popcorn appetizer that includes fish sauce, lime, chili and peanuts.

High Cotton bar, Charleston, South CarolinaAfter more wandering around the neighborhood, we decided to make our final stop at High Cotton – a high-end bar that’s part of a fine-dining restaurant owned by the Hall Family. Since it was our final stop of the night, I decided to try a cocktail. When in Charleston, why not The Charleston Cocktail?

Although the bartender said it was not overly “sweet,” I found it too sweet (and to easy too swill like it was a sweet tea) as a live music trio played in the background.

Argentinian Malbec. High Cotton Bar, Charleston, South CarolinaI switched to a glass of Argentinian Malbec, while Mr. Jones enjoyed a perfectly crafted martini with no hint of vegetables. We wanted a substantial appetizer, and the High Cotton meat and cheese board filled our request. It contained healthy portions of country pâté, liver mousse, salami, prosciutto, brie, smoked cheddar, and the southern staple — pimiento cheese — along with toasted bread and crackers.

If I was dining at High Cotton, the buttermilk fried oysters over arugula with green goddess dressing on the current menu would be on my “must try” list.

Check out these Charleston food, dining and drinking reference books:

The S.N.O.B. Experience: Slightly North Of Broad a cookbook by Frank Lee, Chef Emeritus, Cuisine Commando of the S.N.O.B. kitchen, another East Bay Street institution owned by the Hall Family.

Charleston Receipts is the oldest Junior League cookbook still in print. First published in 1950, this cookbook contains 750 recipes, Gullah verses, and sketches by Charleston artists.


Special Recipes from the Charleston Cake Lady Who can resist a southern cake?

Have you visited Charleston, South Carolina?

What was your favorite food or beverage?

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