The morning after Christmas, we jumped in the car for a lighting trip to Charleston. The entire reason for our quick rendezvous - getting out of town aside - was to eat at The Ordinary. Approximately a month ago, I was able to snag what appeared to be the last availability for that specific night - 7.45. In fact, I perused a series of nights. Thursday it was. Grab the bull by the horns I most certainly did. 

I first read about The Ordinary in some edition of Bon Appetit around the time of my birthday. Or at least it really came to my attention around the time of my birthday. The brief but catching pages dedicated to this place revealed a most magnificent seafood platter.  In fact, I later learned that they are famous for it. We had planned to go then but I wanted to host a birthday party and cook for my friends. As it goes, other activities to which we could not say no presented themselves and before I knew it we were on a plane to Boca Raton to celebrate Thanksgiving with the clan. In short, our date with The Ordinary would have to wait. By the way, can we please talk about how quickly 2013 flew by? Yikes!  

This restaurant aside - as well as many fabulous others I would like to add - Charleston is a most magical place. It simply defines charming. Incredible architecture. Spanish moss draped trees. The sapphire blue water. History. A marvelous culture. I love to go for the exciting restaurants and incredible food. Last summer it was hot as Hades but we shaped a superb July weekend around breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Husk, Cru, Magnolia's, S.N.O.B., to name a few. 

The nightlife is also on point. We had sunset drinks on the roof deck of the Market Pavilion Hotel. Afternoon beers at The Griffin where we signed a dollar bill, affixed it to the wall and added to the history of the place. The Blind Tiger. We painted the town red. Prior to this trip, I had last visited Charleston in my early teens. At this time we lived in Dallas but spent the early parts of summer on Hilton Head Island. Day trips to Savannah and Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House were usually on the itinerary but this summer we went to Charleston. We took a carriage ride to learn about the history of the place. I cannot say that I agree with the practice of horse drawn carriages in today's world but at the time, it was quite unbelievable. We children were enchanted.

Thursday of last week was most wonderful and set the tone for a romantic day and a half. Our objective was to see and do as much as we could. We saw it as a personal test. We are normally in bed by a reasonable hour so this was our night to shine. It was absolutely frigid. The sky was an ominous, lingering grey. We bundled up, took to one of the city's major arteries, King Street and vectored accordingly from there. 

For lunch we happened upon a fabulous spot that I read about in the New York Times this past November. This article effectively outlined how to enjoy a blitzkrieg visit to the city. The spot, Two Boroughs Larder on 186 Coming Street epitomizes cool. Everything here is local. The music that fills the space perfectly matches the atmosphere. En route from Kings Street we kept asking ourselves, is this right, have we come the right way but we found it. Upon entering, you are greeted by an eclectic combination of wooden tables as well as a plethora of goods for sale from artisan beers to honeys to goodies for the kitchen as well as Christmas ornaments. We found a new home for a paper mache walrus.

We dove in family style and our meal began with a kale salad dressed in an egg vinaigrette with thinly sliced radishes. Simple and delicious.  We sat next to two delightful couples from Spain who were on holiday exploring the gems of the south. Their second course included the charcuterie selection and as such, we followed suit. Incredible. The meat assortment was presented on a long wooden board and included everything from salami to chicken liver terrine to turkey wurst and a pair of other goodies. 

The plate came with sunchokes, okra, pickles and a pair of homemade mustards. We enjoyed the assortment with lightly toasted crostini slivers. The Clammer Dave's Clams were too good to pass up and order them we did. Prepared with small farro, mushrooms and a pair of other ingredients with which I am not familiar. They were sublime. I have been told that their noodle bowl is superb and ditto the fried cauliflower. After lunch, it was time for a serious walk to aid in digestion. 

After a marvelous pair of hours weaving through streets, we stopped for a glass of Trig Point at the Bin 152 on 152 Kings Street. This space reminded me of an old, Irish bar simply bursting with character. We sat in the window and enjoyed the comings and goings outside. We saw many a people enjoying beautiful cheese and charcuterie platters. Next time. 

From here, we raced to the hotel for a New York minute to get dressed for our night on the town. Our first stop was the The Bar at HUSK on 76 Queen Street. On our last trip, we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks here before dining at the restaurant. We found the vibe to be very cool. I am always suckered by mixology and the drinks here are on point. If you do go for dinner, I recommend starting with the pig ear lettuce wraps. They are exceptional. On this night, we enjoyed our libations upstairs. The place was slammed. It's no secret that the buzz has hit the streets.

To continue our movable feast, we ventured to the bar at Hall's Chophouse, a buzzy steakhouse located on 434 King Street. I ordered the Moscow Mule and it did not disappoint. We were tight for time so closed the tab promptly and trotted down the street to our reservations at The Ordinary on 544 King Street. The restaurant itself is simply spectacular. Housed in a former bank it is a formidable space indeed. It reminds me very much of the Wolseley in London. Tall, majestic ceilings. Dark hardwoods. A long and inviting bar. The restaurant itself is two stories. We were on the second floor with a view of the action, lively noise and excitement below. 

Our dinner selection was simple. The seafood tower. Check. Roasted baby carrots and sea salt potato chips. Check, check. And of course, a pair of rounds for the table. The tower was magnificent. Endless delicious oysters. Clams whose brine was so fresh it tasted as if they had just been plucked from the ocean. Meaty, succulent lobster on the shells. Baby scallops. The towers paired handsomely with an impressive assortment of garnishes to match the different fruits from the sea. I highly recommend eating here. Even if you pop in to sit at the bar and enjoy a lobster roll, ceviche or oyster sliders, it is a must. They too have an impressive assortment of cocktails from which to choose.

Once dinner was behind us, I was beginning to feel myself turning into a pumpkin as often times happens as I age.  We stopped at a bar whose name I do not know as they had a Marvin Gaye cover band. There were heat lamps spotted across the back porch and it was a most charming scene indeed. Many pairs were dancing. Others were seated on cozy couches enjoying the crisp evening. We closed our night with a German beer and Spanish red at a cocktail bar called Proof on 437 King Street. The space is dark and inviting. You sit at long tables that you share with strangers. My kind of place. Soon after arriving, we closed out, drew our coats around us tightly and strolled home.

The choice for breakfast was decided for us the night before. We met a marvelous couple at Hall's who live in Charleston and the wife informed us both that no trip to the Holy City is complete without brunch at Hominy Grill on 207 Rutledge Avenue. Early risers, we arrived there circa 9.30 and were told there was a wait for inside. We saw throngs of people ordering Bloody Mary's from an open window. Or the lady said, we could sit outside. A former New Yorker, the thought of sitting al fresco in the sunshine and next to heaters was too tempting to pass up. Others began to soon follow suit and before we knew it, we had a nice medley of people dining around us. 

For brunch, partner-in-crime ordered the Huevos Rancheros. Namely poached eggs with black beans, rice and a delicately spiced salsa served on a crisped tortilla. As it was the holidays and as we all know by now, I was in the season for showing zero constraint, I ordered what is known as the Big Nasty. Namely a buttery biscuit topped with a piece of fried chicken, grated cheese and sausage gravy. This took me back to Chapel Hill and those mornings following serious nights out where I found myself in the drive-through at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. It should be noted that I was not the only one.

After our brunch, we grabbed coffees to go and explored the city for a handful of hours. We ventured down to the Battery, Rainbow Row and enjoyed the crystal ocean along with many others who had the same idea as us. I peered through rot iron fences into secret gardens. We admired the stunning architecture. Circa 4.00 pm, we jumped in the car to return to the Queen City. 

Charleston is a fabulous place indeed. Those who live there are fortunate and those who can make a night trip, weekend visit or more out of it are very lucky indeed. We were both quite morose that our quick trip had come to a close but when in Rome. We had to go. Plans with my younger brother visiting from LA in Charlotte that Friday evening beckoned. So on the highway we went. I am a firm believer in leaving stones unturned. It is important to always give yourself an excuse to return!  We shall see you soon Charleston.

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