Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lovin' the Lowcountry

Kendra and I went to Charleston, SC for our first anniversary trip. We ended up going there mostly based on the recommendations of others saying how great the culture, history, and food were, which is a winning combination for me. They were not wrong about any of those things, and as a lifelong New Englander I was very pleased with my first extended visit to the South.

The people were all super friendly (as advertised) and there are tons of really cool cultural and historical things to see and do there (which appeals to the history nerd in me) but this blog is more about the food than those other things and the way to my heart is directly through my stomach. Needless to say, I am in love with Southern cooking and was lucky to escape our vacation with pants that still fit.

Rainbow Row Houses
Charleston has SO. MANY. restaurants it was actually impossible to decide where to eat for most meals. We were staying in the downtown area, which has to have the most restaurants per block in America [unverified fact, but likely a reasonable assumption]. One would think that with all those restaurants competing for customers in such a small area that they might struggle but we didn't have a bad meal all week so I imagine that they all do pretty steady business all the time - it's hard to go wrong down there breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

I am not going to mention every place we went to, as there are far too many to go into specifics, but I do want to recommend that you have at least one dinner at Mercato on North Market Street. They have fantastic food (and provide a break from the delicious, yet unhealthy, deep-fried trend), live jazz every night and a really cool atmosphere. Make it a point to hit the bar either before or after your meal and get Zach to make you a cocktail and tell him I sent you; he makes great drinks, has a fantastic mustache, and happens to be a good friend of mine dating back to the elementary school days. You won't be disappointed.

The man, and the 'stache, behind the bar!
Where are the savings, you ask? Well, we were on vacation and splurging a bit for our anniversary, so we didn't exactly come armed with coupons and deals. We did however, take advantage when opportunities presented themselves. Free wing samples that come with a free desert or appetizer coupon? Don't mind if we do. Free BBQ, hot sauce, and salsa samples to my heart's content? Yes, please. Taffy and praline samples? Bring it on.

Keep your eyes open when vacationing for opportunities like these, and don't be afraid to ask for a freebie every now and again. Many places are happy to dole them out and the worst they can say is no. Make it a point to check with your hotel for guidebooks and info packets as well. While they can provide some guidance on how to experience some of the highlights of the area you are visiting, you can also score some solid coupons for local fare as well. Since we book a lot of our travel on for the discounts and extra credit card points, this trick earned us our first free night. Perhaps we'll save it for an adventure in Europe next year?