J and I traveled a few weeks ago to what has become one of our favorite places to visit, Charleston, SC. We have found ourselves there multiple times within the past several months. Our first time was around Independence Day last year, neither of us had ever been before and we wanted to try a new place. The fried food and southern drawl came as a shock to my Pennsylvania-raised northerner, but eventually we steered clear of all things “homestyle” and found ourselves some really delicious meals.
Arguably our favorite dining establishment in Charleston is Butcher & Bee. Community tables mixed with J’s outgoing personality means that every time we go to there we have great conversations with nice southerners. The first time we went a couple gave us the rest of their bottle of wine (BYOB) which I was FORCED to drink by myself because J prefers his drinks unfermented. This past time we overheard the man across the table from us talking to one of the Butcher & Bee culinary geniuses about his job at FIG. Now J and I LOVED FIG last time we were in Charleston so our ears perked up… The couple was so nice and gave us recommendations for MORE places to eat.
You know how there are some things that you want to like and nobody else can like them as much as you? Soccer fans can be like this. If you are a loyal supporter of an EPL team then when the world cup comes around and guys at the office are suddenly soccer fans you tend to roll your eyes. Well sometimes I feel that way about food establishments. Butcher & Bee is one of those places. I want it all to myself, but since I don’t actually live in Charleston I don’t mind sharing it with you.
If you can appreciate fresh food full of flavor and creativity then you will surely appreciate B & B. The concept and the ambiance are unique and hip in their own way, but it’s just as much substance as it is style. In the past, C and I stumbled upon the place when we were looking for a good sandwich for lunch. We didn’t realize how much of a gem it really was, didn’t anyone else notice?
In a four day trip C and I ate at B & B 3 times and in another 3 day trip we ate there 2 times. In a city with a variety of delicious options and excellent food this has become a staple. What do they do best? I actually am not sure there is one thing.
Fries and Ketchup: The fries are sprinkled with sea salt and cooked to the perfect marriage of crisp and crunch. The Ketchup is obviously made of tomatoes, but I had to ask them what the other ingredients were. Red wine vinegar, molasses, garlic, onion. It basically tastes like magic tomato soup.
Sandwiches: C and I have both had a few of their sandwiches, the Banh Mi, the Roast Beef, and the Sabich (an Israeli sandwich) to name a few. The Banh Mi is only on their “Late Night Menu” (B&B is open 11am-3pm and 11pm-3am every day, every night). We tried it one evening thinking we could save it till the next day; instead, we didn’t even make it to the car.
Other Eats: They have brunch items on weekends, I had the Fish and Chips and C had the Mezze plate. The fish was cooked perfectly golden and flaky but substantial. Often times with fish and chips you get mostly breading but this was a generous ratio of fish to breading. The Mezze plate offered a healthy variety of goodness.
Despite our obsession with B & B, we did save a COUPLE meals on our our last trip to indulge in other delightful cuisine. Let me tell you first that this list is most definitely not exhaustive.
xiao bao biscuit: This fabulous little restaurant is located in an old gas station. You would never know it from the interior, but the exterior gives it away. It is owned by a woman and her husband who moved from Brooklyn after living there for about 6 years. We were able to talk with her and heard about the way they learned to cook their Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake). I have had some pretty heavy Okonomiyaki before, but theirs was fresh and light and delicious. At Xiao bao biscuit they use more vegetables than batter, a trick learned from a Japanese farmer who told them that in order to eat them every day he had to make them healthier than the street food version. They top off the cabbage, carrot, onion and kale pancake with a bit of sriracha (which she mentioned the farmer would definitely not have done), special mayo and sesame seeds. I also had brussels sprouts with sticky rice and J had some sort of sausage with sticky rice. The atmosphere was definitely a nod to their Brooklyn roots, J and I both noted. The owner was cool and kind, hugging and mingling with some friends at the bar. The whole place was understated with no names in blaring lights on the outside of the building, just xiao bao biscuit painted in medium-sized print on a couple windows. Two thumbs up!
The Ordinary: As we were eating I told J that words wouldn’t do the food we had in our mouths justice and I definitely mean that as I sit here and try and simplify the flavors that rocked our mouths. The Ordinary was opened by the same team as our beloved FIG. You know when you eat something and it makes you think everything you have tasted up until that point was just stand-in food? Insert crab toast. Rich, buttery fresh crab in thin shreds with fresh lemon juice and aioli on a crunchy piece of toast. Seriously makes my mouth water just writing about it. We then had a white fish lightly battered on a bed of julienned granny smith apples. The broth was sweet and tart, tasted bit like apple cider and was poured on the dish at the table which allowed the fish to retain its perfect crunch. We enjoyed Cauliflower steaks with green parsley butter sauce that basically melted in your mouth. It reminded me slightly of this fantastic recipe. I finished the meal with chocolate squares that blurred the line between fudge and mousse over a creamy coffee sauce. J inhaled his lemon pot de crème with blueberry pie topping that was bright and beautiful until he mixed it all together.
On your way out of Charleston you should grab a homemade whole wheat English muffin from Caviar and Bananas.
Charleston- thank you for letting us eat your fabulous food.