Before this trip I had only been to Charleston once, when I was about 14 years old. We took a roadtrip as a family which became one of my favorite childhood memories. Of all the new places we saw on the east and south coasts, Charleston stole my heart. Our hotel was across the street from the garages where the horses and carriages are kept, so all day we'd watch men in straw hats and white button-ups lead horses and buggies in and out. We walked through the brick and cobblestone roads, wandered the large street market, and happened upon Battery Park at sunset. I loved it then, and ever since I've known Caleb have been trying to go back with him!
It's turned into a little joke because we have had flights booked/trips planned FOUR times and somehow something has always come up! So when we booked flights for an anniversary trip sans kids (our first time ever!) I wanted to make sure we made the most of it. The suspense and anticipation had been building for so long!
It's not secret that food is more than just a need for us... it's a memory, it's an experience, and it's a true joy! I spent lots of nursing sessions and stretches of highway as we traveled making lists and reading reviews about where to eat. And, so, I share with you now... What We Ate In Charleston!
"R Kitchen" is, as their website says, "a kitchen, not a restaurant." There are three window slots for dinner almost every night: 6:00 pm, 7:30 pm, and 9:00 pm. You make reservations by calling (but really texting) and you MUST have a reservation. Every night there is a different chef, who makes a custom menu based on what is available in the kitchen and the preferences of the guests. (So make sure you let them know what you like/don't like/are allergic to/etc when you make a reservation. They will literally tailor dishes to your needs and wants!)
The name "R Kitchen" is a play on ideas: R for Ross, the owner, and R for "our kitchen" as a concept. The building it is in is so simple and unmemorable you'd almost miss it. More like a tiny shed or garage. Inside is a commercial kitchen with a butcher block bar and a couple of tall "cocktail tables" with bar stools. We sat at the bar and watched our chef cook every single dish and he served it to us right off the stove with steam still rising and bubbles still bubbling. We agree this was our favorite meal of our lives! The "best" part? It's $30 flat rate per person (plus tip and wine, if you want it!). We thought this was such a reasonable price for such a special meal!
- The first dish was a duck confit gordita topped with pico. This was basically like the best pork taco you could fathom. I think it was my favorite part... except that every dish was better and better.
- The second was a simple spinach, apple, and cashew salad with a dressing of only sugar, oil, and white vinegar. I've made it again (though mine wasn't as good) because it was truly killer.
- Dish Number Three was an piece of almond-stuffed pork covered in an avocado-mango sauce over a zucchini-potato-corn hash. Good lord, right?
- The next plate was prime rib with a sweet-and-spicy caper sauce of arugula. Once cutting it all up it was basically the best steak salad I've ever had. I could have licked the plate.
- And the last-but-not-least: dessert! A piping hot corn fritter (basically the perfect marriage of a funnel cake and corn dog batter) topped with cold blackberry-mango whipped cream. This will be in heaven.
We went almost exclusively for Caleb to try the Charleston Nasty Biscuit... a piece of fried chicken and jalepeno cheese sharing a made-from-scratch biscuit drowned in sausage gravy. WELL THEN. I got fruit and eggs because I'm not the biggest "breakfast food" person and wanted to hold space for other meals later in the day! Ps. *Someone* drank their mimosa a little too quickly... ;)
- This was probably our least favorite place we ate, but if we lived in the area we would definitely drop in once or twice in the warm seasons. We came in-between lunch and dinner hours so it wasn't busy at all, but the location and atmosphere would be so perfect for a summer night! We biked past it once it was dark and was hopping!
- We got the potato, tomato, and cauliflower salads, brisket and ribs, and street-style corn. Nothing was bad but nothing was memorable... We think it looked more beautiful than it tasted! The meat was probably our favorite part, though!
- Whoa mama, is this place a food experience or what! From personal reccomendations to everything I was finding online, people said Xiao Bao Biscuit was a "must." Asian Soul Food, here we came! And... everyone was right!
- This is a random start, but their rice is perfect. Absolutely perfect. The standard has been set for me!
- Based on reviews online, I ordered the "SOM TUM" (from their menu: "Kickass spicy green papaya salad with local veggies.") It was quite spicy but I loved it. Cool, crisp, refreshing, and full of flavor.
- Then, also based on "what everybody said" I ordered the "OKONOMIYAKI." It's a cabbage pancake with pork candy on top. Which sounds and looks so weird but if you like roasted brussels sprouts/broccoli/asparagus and Thai food like pad thai, you'd like this. It's memorable and a unique and better with every bite. I will 100% go back here next time we're in Charleston!
- Peace Pie is one of our favorites in Cape May, so when we saw a store in Charleston we had to stop! These little guys are cookie outside, with ice cream and pie-filling inside.
- Our favorite flavor is Caramel Coffee Toffee. No other description needed.
- Pro Tip: wait about five minutes after buying one to start eating... it helps to let it melt and soften a little bit since it's so big!
- Photo Credit: Monza's Twitter / I ate mine so fast I didn't take a picture.
- Monza was fantastic! A really great, solid, delicious wood fire pizza. I feel like we're a little spoiled with pizza places on the east coast, so I don't know if I'd "waste" a meal in Charleston here again... but not because it wasn't amazing. Just because we can get insane pizza so often "back home." But if you're in Charleston and want a good pizza, go here!
Coming Next: Part Two | What We Saw