The answer, my friends, is a lot.
There are many things I miss about Charleston: the good food, the good beer, and the amazing people I met in my ten years living in South Carolina. Last week I traveled to the Lowcountry at the very last moment to pack up the rest of our belongings. The stress of moving, especially in the blazing Charleston summer heat, was offset by getting to see the people I miss so much, as well as eating #ALLTHETHINGS that I have been intentionally sectioning off from my brain as a way to survive not living around some of the best food ever.
So what to do if you find yourself in Charleston for a couple of days? Feel free to follow this timeline of biscuits, bookstores, and beer.
Where are We?
Charleston is a coastal city located in South Carolina and known for its food, culture, and history. Originally dependent on slave labor for crops including indigo and rice, the city’s economy is now dominated by tourism. Having been away for two years, it was insane to see just how much Charleston and the surrounding areas have grown and changed. The city is a lot more than what you’ll see on Southern Charm; the area is diverse, unique, and 100% recommended.
Prepare yourself for the brutal heat and humidity in the summer; recognize that you will be in a constant state of sweatiness. But on the plus side, everyone is just as sweaty as you are, so use the heat as an excuse to drink all the sweet tea (no thanks), beer (alright), or Royal American Signature Punch (yes please).
With only one week and a million things to finish, these were my absolute musts while in town (see below for my added must-do, see, and eat list). Disclaimer: I lived and stayed with our friends in Park Circle, so most of my recommendations and favorite places are in this area. Park Circle is located in North Charleston, about a fifteen-minute drive from downtown and probably holds the biggest piece of my heart.
+Special shout out to my amazing friends who traveled last minute to see me, helped with moving, and supported us via text when things were stressful. My roomies for the week, Heather and Karl (and their amazing pets), made a stressful time manageable and not only withheld judgment on all the biscuits I consumed that week but even encouraged it by leaving out homemade preserves.
My Charleston in a Week:
After a 17+ hour travel day all I wanted to do was visit my favorite locations in Park Circle, which I realized is mostly carbohydrate and breakfast food-related places. Embrace it my friends.
Stock Up on All your Carbohydrate Needs at EVO Bakery:
EVO Craft Bakery was an absolute staple for us when we lived in Charleston. I always tried to race to the bakery before they closed to buy bread, biscuits, and scones. Thankfully they are now open later and on the weekends! Kids these days just don’t know the struggle.
The super nice lady behind the counter barely judged me as I bought two biscuits, a scone, and an entire loaf of rye bread and shoved them all in my backpack. “I’m visiting from Hungary,” I repeated, hoping to not give off a super desperate-for-Southern-biscuits-vibe. “Oh, I understand!” she calmly responded as I talked myself out of buying a couple of chocolate chip cookies for the walk.
Grab a Coffee and Re-Stock your Greeting Card Inventory at Orange Spot:
With a backpack full of breakfast food, I walked to Orange Spot‘s new location for an iced coffee. I must admit, I was a little sad to find out that they switched spots (just a short walk from the original location) because I love their first building. However, I’m beyond excited that they needed a bigger space for their growing business of honest coffee, sandwiches, and snacks. Plus, I was able to stock up on all my favorite greeting cards from Ink Meets Paper.
Have Breakfast or Lunch at the Junction:
Now with a backpack full of biscuits and stationary (the most Ashlyn sentence ever?) I finally decided to have actual breakfast at the Junction Kitchen & Provisions. Located just a couple of streets from our house, we used to visit for brunch periodically. I love their hash browns and Veg BELT (mushrooms, lettuce, egg, tomato). They have also started a partnership with the new bookstore in town, Itinerant Literate, to host the “Get Lit Book and Dinner Club”.
Order the Best Pizza and Breadsticks in all of Charleston (fight me, I don’t care) at Park Pizza:
Park Pizza is the absolute best pizza in Charleston. I could have only eaten their pizza the entire time I was in the states and would have been 100% okay with that. They have a monthly special (July’s was a cheese curd concoction) and sometimes add those specials to their regular menu. Two of my favorite specials are the Kurt Brussel (now available all the time) and their take on a Thanksgiving pizza (probably my favorite pizza in the history of the world). I ordered one of my go-tos, the Seven Layer (black bean spread, mozzarella, cream cheese, cheddarjack, black olives, pico, jalapenos, cilantro) which was also the last pizza I had before we moved.
Meeting up with Friends to Discuss Life and True Crime at the Mill:
Last month Chris and I were watching the true crime series Confession Tapes on Netflix when one of the episodes mentioned a murder that took place at the Mill. “Maybe they mean our Mill?” I jokingly said as I let the dogs outside. As I shut the door, I head the narrator say, “Located on East Montague Avenue in North Charleston, a body was found in the Mill after a fire broke out…” Crazy sometimes how home randomly arises unexpectedly (you can read more about the forced confession of Wesley Meyers and the death of Cynthia Margiotta here).
I love the Mill. You know you can grab a drink, play pool, see a band, or just hang out on the back patio. Happily, I was able to meet up with Jen and Joel to catch up on life.
Get your Fancy Taco on at Pancito & Lefty:
Pancito & Lefty recently opened in the northern area of downtown Charleston. After a long (and so sweaty) day of moving, we had dinner at Pancito & Lefty after it cooled off outside. Their menu is AWESOME and we ordered a ton of food including tacos, the super addicting street corn, and mushroom tamales. In addition to their menu, Pancito & Lefty also offer a Mezcal tasting option, which I would never try on my own, but was nice to sneak a taste from a more experienced Mezcal-enthusiast friend (Adrian, who should probably put that on his resume).
Bonus: Try and Entice the Owl across the Street to Hoot at You
Karl was successful, Heather and I were not.
Praise all that is Wonderful at Los Reyes:
When in Charleston, I have to visit Los Reyes. An absolute staple for us when we lived in South Carolina, Los Reyes also helped me overcome all of the stress and terrible-ness that comes with working retail for five years. They have multiple locations, but my favorite is off of Rivers Avenue in North Charleston. Their no-frills food is quick, easy, and genuine. I met the owners while working at Best Buy and absolutely fell in love with the couple. It was amazing to visit Los Reyes with a group of awesome friends (both in town and that came to visit! I know the best people), to catch up on all things life: new and terrible music, youths, and how refried beans are the best addition to any meal.
Enjoy Live Music at the Royal American:
I was so excited to learn that my friend’s new band would be playing at the Royal American the weekend I was in town. Argot, created by a couple of the members of the now-retired Great Yankee, played a set on Saturday. I love the Royal American, not only because of the above-mentioned Signature Punch, but also for their “No PBR, Don’t Even Ask” sign and $2 house-made whiskey shots. It’s a great venue to see a show too as the bands play on the left side of the bar. I loved being able to visit one of my favorite bars, hear fun music, and see an awesome friend. You can read more about Argot’s great EP in the Charleston Post and Courier.
We were planning on leaving after Argot’s set, but after seeing the final band warm-up, we decided to stay to watch the Tan & Sober Gentlemen play an for more than an hour. The North Carolina-based band is a hybrid of Carolina folk music and the Irish band Flogging Molly, or as they state: “Scotch-Irish hillbilly insanity they dub ‘Celtic punk-grass.'” They were a lot of fun to see live.
Bonus: Check out Argot’s B-Side Session recording of “Beast of Your World“.
Bonus: Have a Dance Party:
Sometimes after having one of the best days ever, you just need to come home and have a Cardi B and 90s R&B dance party. Morbo is definitely not impressed:
Sleep in because you’ve Had a Long Week and you Deserve to #TreatYoSelf:
Have Brunch (or Finish your Graduate Thesis) at Holy City Brewing:
Real talk though, brunch at Holy City Brewing is the best. I consider myself a brunch-enthusiast and their menu is one of my top choices in Charleston. Our friend Joel develops the changing brunch options and always creates something fun and genuine. I mention that you can finish editing your graduate thesis during brunch because that’s precisely what I did the last month before I defended. Sometimes in order to proofread forty pages of your own writing, you need an empty picnic table, a couple of light beers, and solid breakfast options.
Get a Friend Like Mine who Makes Delicious Bruschetta:
One of the absolute best bruschetta dishes ever.
Roll up kids, its Keanu Time:
Movie time means Keanu-time. We chose the Bad Batch because the preview leads you to believe this film has a Mad Max-esque setting starring Khal Drogo as a high-waisted pants-wearing gangster and Keanu Reeves with a giant mustache. The actual movie is… well… not so much that. I’m still processing my feelings about it.
But there’s always time for John Wick but-every-gunshot-is-Owen-Wilson-saying-“wow”.
Enjoy Breakfast Scones at EVO Bakery:
We enjoyed a couple of scones for breakfast (goat cheese for me, lemon for Heather) and were actually able to eat outside before it became too stifling hot to breathe. I can’t decide if I like EVO’s biscuits or scones more… and prefer to live in a world where I can have both.
Pick out a Couple of Books at Itinerant Literate Bookstop:
As mentioned earlier, I was a little sad to see Orange Spot move to a new location, but was immediately fine after realizing that the Charleston Bookmobile now had a permanent spot in Park Circle at Itinerant Literate Bookstop (in Orange Spot’s building). The store is absolutely adorable and they have a ton of cool workshops and events in the area. One of the most interesting initiatives is their “blind date with a book” where customers choose a book based off of a sentence written on the cover. Pretty awesome.
The store also boasts a large local author section including a couple of books penned by professors I’d worked with at College of Charleston. I’m excited that they ship books as well so I can continue supporting them even in Hungary.
Devour a Cheese Plate at Goat. Sheep. Cow., North:
Goat. Sheep. Cow. is an amazingly adorable cheese and wine store that recently opened a second location north of downtown Charleston. Started by two friends, Patty and Trudi, I was so excited to hear that they had expanded. My friend Jen suggested we visit for lunch and I happily agreed, having only visited the downtown store once before moving. The north location is awesome, with a wine and lunch menu that is all the heart-for-eyes emojis. We had the “crack” cheese, vegetable plate, and split a grilled cheese (you’re seeing the theme here) for lunch.
Tomato Pie and Karlitos for Dinner because YES:
Heather is basically world famous for her tomato pies. For those unfamiliar with this dish, a tomato pie is exactly what it sounds like: a savory baked pie of tomatoes, onions, and cheese. I first had a slice at the Stono Market Cafe, owned by Ambrose Farms. In 2015 I even won a “Most Local” award for my version at the Tomato Pie Competition hosted by Mixson during their “Tomayto Tomahto” event. Heather’s is AMAZING and so perfect for a hot summer night. Karl also mixed his version of mojitos, known as Karlitos, and they were fantastic. Cheers all around to one of the best dinners ever.
Have a glass at Stems & Skins:
Stems & Skins opened in Park Circle a couple of months before we moved, so it was great to stop by with friends. Husband and wife team Matt and Angie Tunstall have established a fun rotating menu of different wines from across the world, beer, and snacks. When I visited they had both a Slovenian white wine and the Hungarian Tokaji style that is developed on an old volcano less than an hour from our house in Hungary. It was awesome to see some of my international finds at a small wine bar in Charleston.
Tomato Pie for Breakfast because you’re Living your Best Life:
How do you get through the stress of moving, working with a ton of different entities (on three different time zones) trying to accomplish one goal in a limited amount of time? Tomato pie for breakfast. Trust me on this.
Vaccum-seal Park Pizza because what a Time to be Alive:
Karl had the best idea in the history of mankind when he jokingly suggested we break out the vacuum sealer to package pizza to take back with me to Hungary. “What the hell?” we shrugged. It was worth a try. So we successfully vacuum-sealed Chris’s favorite pizza (Steeler minus the mushroom: marinara, mozzarella, pork sausage, hot cherry peppers, caramelized onions, and provolone) and mine (Bradwell w/ veg crumbles: olive oil, mozzarella, provolone, veg crumbles, fig preserves, caramelized onions, apples, bleu cheese, pecans) and an order of triple cheese garlic strips because if you’re going to go through airport security with vacuum-sealed pizza, make it count.
All the Broccolini:
Broccolini–a cross between asparagus and broccoli–was one of our summer staples in Charleston. Chris and I used to grill these crispy vegetables at least twice a week. Their existence in Hungary however, is non-existent; the closest we came to finding the elusive broccolini was in the Netherlands, but a friend grabbed the last bundle. I was so excited and happy to snag two portions at the overwhelming Whole Foods and Karl was nice enough to roast broccolini for us to enjoy with our Park Pizza. What a time to be alive, indeed.
TUESDAY IS BOCCE NIGHT IN CHARLESTON BUT IT WAS CANCELED BECAUSE WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.
EVO Bakery Small Dishes:
While I was in town EVO Bakery was hosting a week-long menu of small dishes with a different menu each day. A friend who now works at EVO designed and cooked Wednesday’s menu, which featured a ton of unique (and veg!) options.
We had the Bloody Mary Toast, Hot Kale and Mushroom Salad, Apple Jicama Salad, and Baba Ganoush. All were great, but the Bloody Mary Toast with the horseradish sauce was out.of.control.
Saving the Best Fries for Last at Holy City Brewing:
We started our trivia team–the Only People Paul Likes–a few years before we moved and I’m so glad the team has continued to play each week. Chris and I take trivia really seriously (as does the rest of our team) so being able to play twice while I was in town was amazing. HCB’s trivia is fun, unique, and not for the faint at heart; if you are looking for a place to play trivia in town you should definitely check out Dave’s Wednesday competition.
French fries are Joel’s favorite food and he makes the best version of loaded fries, perfect for when your team is working diligently for that first place title. This is a version of their Collision Fries (sharp cheddar beer cheese, house smoked bacon lardon, melted cheddar cheese, house fresno ranch, scallions, and Bull’s Bay smoked sea salt) but the “Ashlyn style” meaning no bacon.
Our team tied for first this week, making Wednesday the best end to a super quick and busy visit to Charleston.
Things I successfully brought back from SC to Hungary:
- (2) containers of Pawley’s Island pimento cheese
- (2) pizzas and (1) order of cheesy bread from Park Pizza
- (1) freezer bag of seitan and tempeh products
- (2) bottles of Duke’s mayo
- (2) six packs of Holy City Brewing’s Overly Friendly
- (3) books from Itinerant Literate Bookstop
- (6) cans of Amy’s refried black beans and soup
- (3) packets of French Onion dip mix
- (4) small bags of seeds harvested from our yard by the incredible Heather
Bonus: If you find yourself in Charleston for a week, here are a couple of additional must-see dos, eats, and drinks:
Twenty Six Divine: A husband and wife culinary team that run a beautiful restaurant specializing in small bites and afternoon tea (Charleston, SC).
GrowFood Carolina: The first food hub in South Carolina, I worked with this amazing group of people to bring locally sourced items to the College of Charleston. Look for their label at restaurants.
Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor: The Gullah Geechee have a long history in Charleston and the surrounding barrier islands. You can learn more about their history, culture, and language at one of the many sites located on the Corridor that stretches from North Carolina to Florida. We also hosted Queen Quet my final semester at CofC.
Stono Market and Tomato Shed Cafe: Owned by the awesome people at Ambrose Farms, they have the best southern dishes and also sell a variety of their produce, casseroles (including tomato pie), and locally sourced meats (John’s Island, SC)
Coast Brewing: Family owned, Coast is another one of the original breweries in Charleston. They have limited hours and beers but are expanding to include longer tasting times (North Charleston, SC).
Sea Island Savory Herbs: The most beautiful and magical place to buy plants and learn more about growing your own herbs, flowers, and vegetables (John’s Island, SC).
Gene’s Haufbrau: Gene’s is my favorite place to have a beer, fried green tomato sandwich, and play board games with friends (West Ashley, SC).
Double Charleston Bonus: Share Your Story CofC. Before moving in 2016, a team of students, staff, and I collected over fifty stories of experiences in Charleston. Inspired by the aftermath of the AME Church Massacre, we wanted to provide an outlet for those in the Lowcountry to share their stories of friendship, love, and justice.
Currently Reading: All of the Women in My Family Sing (Edited by: Deborah Santana)
Currently Watching: The Confession Tapes (Netflix)