This proud American traveler could start anywhere, but why not start with the single best city in the nation?
Charleston, South Carolina.
Blue skies, balmy beaches, palm trees swaying in a gentle wind.
Stunning Victorian and Colonial era architecture, rich Confederate history, and breezy bars with outdoor cornhole.
This only begins to scratch the surface of what makes Charleston not just a place on the map, but a Southern cultural experience like no other.
Shrimp n’ grits, oysters, Frogmore stew, Palmetto Pale Ale, Low Country jambalaya, she-crab soup, mint juleps, fried green tomatoes, and Tasso ham studded lima beans are just a few of the reasons why Charleston surpasses New Orleans as one of the best places to eat and drink in America.
If you don’t believe me, just check out 82 Queen, The Roof Top Bar, Poogan’s Porch, Hyman’s Seafood, Shem Creek Bar & Grill, Poe’s Tavern, Jestine’s Kitchen, Blind Tiger Pub, Bowen’s Island Restaurant, Hominy Grill, Wild Wing Café, or Page’s Okra Grill for yourself.
But I’m going to recommend two places that, while they couldn’t be more opposite in appeal and charm, both capture the uniqueness that makes Charleston so great and the perfect night out in the “Paris of the South.”
Wreck of the Richard & Charlene
106 Haddrell St.
Mount Pleasant, SC
It’s essentially a trailer down by the creek with a dilapidated front porch. No sign, and no air conditioning. Forget your GPS. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll never find it.
So look for the oyster shell parking lot crammed between two boat yards and an American flag pole out front.
It’s like a line right out of a Jimmy Buffett song—it’s right next to “the shrimp boats tied up to the pilings.”
After you walk up the creaking wooden steps that have thankfully never seen an OSHA or ADA inspector, open the front door and you are standing in the kitchen.
The cook is pulling mounds of fried oysters, shrimp, crab cakes, and fried fish out of bubbling vats of hot oil. The sweat dripping from his brow no doubt adds to the flavor of the steaming seafood being piled high on paper plates.
Did I mention this place has no air conditioning? Did I mention it is Saturday afternoon in late June and the temperature outside is 95?
Not to worry though.
Walk through the kitchen and step out onto the back porch. You’re met with a refreshing breeze blowing from Shem Creek and the soft whirr of old ceiling fans that will keep you cool while you sip ice cold beer and wait for your feast.
As you soak in the scenery, you’ll realize this is a locals only kind of place. In fact, the owners never bothered to replace the sign when it blew down in a hurricane almost three decades ago. You think this place is going to be advertised in the ubiquitous hotel magazines? Nope. There’s no need.
South Carolinians know exactly where it is.
Tommy Condon’s Restaurant
160 Church St.
Tommy Condon’s Restaurant is everything The Wreck isn’t. First of all, it’s an Irish pub in a southern town.
Second, it’s air conditioned to a comfortable 72 degrees—and mobbed with tourists.
But don’t worry, this place isn’t touristy by a long shot because it’s also pretty darn authentic.
As someone who considers himself somewhat of an expert on the subject, I could tell you a few things that automatically disqualifies an “Irish pub” from being considered a true Irish pub.
Most importantly, a true Irish pub can pour a perfect pint of Guinness. And Tommy Condon’s pours a perfect pint of Guinness.
Is there any sight in life more beautiful?
Also, a true Irish pub will never play rap or dance music.
Irish pubs play Irish music.
And that’s exactly what you’ll hear at Tommy Condon’s.
So you get to drink Guinness and listen to Irish songs about drinking? What’s not to like?!
If you can’t find the joy in that, then just stay home and visit your local TGI Friday’s.