Quaint cobblestoned streets nestled between classical architecture meets with a new generation of southern hospitality—just one of the many reasons sub-tropical CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA is our new favorite locale. The juxtaposition of old and new sets the stage for a liberating celebration of culture, art and cuisine. The historic brings in fabled aesthetics with verandas and steeples aplenty paired with quintessential southern charm. And the modern ushers in a contemporary-edge that makes Charleston’s quaint personality exhilarating and alluring again.
And what’s more: We’re christening The Holy City as the friendliest place in the states. Between the buzzing French Quarter, The Battery promenade and the city’s fervent gardening prowess, Charleston presents all the right hospitable details and unveils the most amicable destination that seems too good to be true.
All over the city we met with the movers, shakers and makers reinventing traditional mediums and crafts in a more modern, contemporary way. We put together a handy guide of people, places and things to do in Charleston that honor the history of this colonial mainstay, but continue to adapt—it’s what really makes this city thrive.
From the smoked salt to gilded cockroach jewels—yes, roaches—follow along to see how Charlestonians are spreading southern charm and happiness through their Pretty City. >>
We unpacked at ZERO GEORGE STREET HOTEL—a Mr. & Mrs. Smith-approved property!—located in the historic Charleston Ansonborough neighborhood. This boutique hotel boasts classic southern opulence with a contemporary twist—and the mix is magical! Set in a secluded courtyard complete with delightful palms and colonial cues, the intimate setting of Zero George created a laid back atmosphere perfect to kick back and relax. The historic house also boasts a wide porch of what Southern dreams are made of.
Beyond the rooms with plush and local details like sweetgrass basket coasters and city-sourced treats, Zero George offers amenities and experiences to get the most out of your Charleston visit. The hotel’s eatery, Zero Restaurant, not only boasts delectable bites, but Head Chef Vinson Petrillo offers cooking classes on the premise in the original circa 1804 Kitchen Carriage House. We’re also crushing on their tailored packages for out-of-towners. We got our fair share of fun with a Photography and Curated Shopping Tour package, too.
The small-but-mighty Zero Restaurant has garnered national recognition with CHEF VINSON PETRILLO at the helm of their kitchen. As winner of Food Network’s Chopped and San Pellegrino Young Chef Competition, Vinson pays homage to Charleston cuisine by utilizing its bounty of local farms and fishermen to create a totally unique and one-of-a-kind dish. And with a breezy patio for al fresco dining, the combination of delicate dish and ambiance is unmatched.
Through thoughtful use of ingredients and attention to detail, Vinson’s kitchen rarely makes the same dish twice. Although Vinson is dropping knowledge on an updated southern classic, he explains his favorite ingredient to cook with right now is melon from local farmers, the essence of summer for your palette. But just how he’ll serve that melon is as pleasant a surprise as the city is itself.
“I think people are surprised after visiting Charleston how progressive it is,” says Chef Vinson, “Lots of people have the notion that it is all cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages, but the city is much more than that these days.”
Watch on as Chef Vinson shows us how to totally upgrade traditional deviled eggs—adding an edge of modern flavors and garnishes for an unexpected delight on the classic hostess dish.
at Zero George Street Hotel
0 George Street, Charleston + 843.817.7900
Much like the transforming atmosphere of Charleston, CANDLEFISH is all about reinventing the classic americana craft of candle making into a modern and fun experience for everyone. The sensorial shop boasts a fragrance library of over 100 scents and expert chandlers are ready to take you through a DIY workshop—not to mention the shop’s impeccable attention to detail in every nook and cranny.
“Light up a sea salt candle if you live miles away from the ocean and vacation seems far away,” says Candlefish resident chandler Jordan Napper, “Scent is so personal, and closely tied to memory, so whatever fragrance brings you back to the lazy, hazy days of summer is your perfect choice.”
And the quintessential Charleston smell? Think honeysuckle, jasmine, grapefruit and florals! When walking through Charleston you can’t help but smell the sweetness of blooming Jasmine. Combine that with some energetic grapefruit and you’ve got yourself a scent that describes the relaxed days of strolling the Holy City, explains Jordan. We tied on a canvas apron and picked through the apothecary of smells to bring you a behind-the-scenes video at one of Charleston’s most beautiful and inspiring shops.
71 Wentworth Street, Charleston + 843.371.1434
Over a century ago, jeweler and hand engraver William Joseph Croghan opened the doors of his namesake shop in Charleston. Now, CROGHAN’S JEWEL BOX is the oldest family-owned jewelry store in Charleston featuring fine jewels, custom designs, estate treasures and antiques. Four generations later, William Croghan’s granddaughter MINI HAY is creating her very own line and legacy paved in all its gilded glory.
Mini’s Goldbug Jewelry pays homage to Charleston’s unofficial mascot: the cockroach. Cockroaches may still evoke terror in the squeamish, but Mini’s gold dipped insects feel nostalgic and chic. The giddy Mini explains even the most beautiful, historic homes in Charleston are home to cockroaches, and the pests’ mainstay should serve as a reminder of all the memories and happiness within the city.
“People wear the goldbugs to be a statement—they don’t want them to be safe,” says Mini. “So now I don’t hold back! Our best sellers are the big bug drop earrings that are so realistic in size my grandmother can’t look at me without laughing when I wear them! I like to think people wear the bugs because they remind them of their happy times in Charleston.”
See why we’re falling in love with Mini Hay and her metallic cockroaches as she shares her family’s legacy and how she’s making her mark in it—and why we can’t help but adopt her mantra of “embrace it and wear them in gold!”
Available at CROGHAN’S JEWEL BOX
308 King Street, Charleston + 843.723.3594
While Charleston is known for its historic arts and culture institutions (Spoleto, anyone?), the city’s dining and shopping destinations have been following suit and dolling out typical southern charm with bold new spins all over the peninsula. We’ve gathered up a few of our favorite places so you can make the most of your Holy City tour. The star on the map above marks ZERO GEORGE HOTEL (and the not-to-miss Zero Restaurant). Grab a bike from the concierge and take Charleston’s cobbled streets by storm!
Dining: In the trendy Cannonborough neighborhood, dine on a creative asian menu in a converted gas station at XIA BAO BISCUITS (6) or head to GNOME CAFE (2) for plant-based fare in their bright, cheery bakery and cafe. Sunday brunch calls for CANNON GREEN (4) or hike up King Street for LEON’S FINE POULTRY AND OYSTERS (1) for a laid-back happy hour spot. HOMINY GRILL (10) will satisfy your low country cravings while THE ORDINARY (8) is our go-to spot for an unpretentious but uber-scene-y Charleston vibe. Our favorite coffee spot? THE DAILY (9). The new PARLOR DELUXE (7) is a pint-sized and super chic soda fountain for a quick dog and something sweet—The Sorbet Spritzer is a must. And if you still haven’t gotten enough southern cuisine, CALLIE’S HOT LITTLE BISCUIT (11) is the perfect snack for in between King Street shopping.
Shopping: No trip to Charleston is complete without a stop at HISTORIC CHARLESTON CITY MARKET (17). While pickings are slim for authentic goods, we love the Sweetgrass goods made on-site by local artists—You can’t miss them. Hanging in Cannonborough? Stop by PROUD MARY and FLOWERSHOP (5) who share a space and a penchant for lovely things. Looking for gifts? CANDLEFISH (14), THE PORT MERCANTILE (15) and MAC AND MURPHY (3) have grab-and-go items galore. We love Candlefish’s signature scent candles. Something fancier? CROGHAN’S JEWEL BOX (13) stocks Mini Hay’s Goldbug jewelry while IBU (16) has offerings from all over the world in a chic King Street showroom. Charleston shopping insider Andrea Serrano recommends DANDY (12) for retro-inspired threads at incredible prices.
We visited sister property to Zero George, CANNON GREEN for a lesson in cocktails and socializing southern style. Old and new are seamlessly interwoven at Cannon Green, not only in the food, but in its physical space. With a hospitable modern vibe, the Restaurant is actually built around the facade of an 1840’s historic home. Chef Amalia Scatena explains the southern dining etiquette she loves about Charleston:
“I love the ‘always an extra seat at the table’ approach to entertaining that southerners have. One of my favorite culinary experiences at Cannon Green is our Chef’s Table: four courses served family-style, plates of food are put on the table and everyone self-serves.”
Amalia says this is also great for home entertaining because the host can sit down and enjoy the meal, and be apart of those memorable moments at the table. And Amalia gave us something else to bring to the table at our next get together. Cue the Tuscan Smash cocktail. This refreshing gin cocktail plays with basil, tomatoes, lemons and topped with soda water for a glass of happiness with a nod to Charleston’s affinity for garden freshness.
Expert Tip!: For the orange basil simple syrup, gather up 2 orange peels, juice of 1 orange, 6-12 basil leaves, 1 pint sugar and 1 pint water. Combine everything into a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let stand for about 2 hours. Delish!
103 Spring Street, Charleston + 843.817.7311
NAKIA WIGFALL’s family has been hand-crafting sweetgrass baskets for over 300 years. As a 5th Generational basket maker, Nakia uses the art of weaving as a way to to teach the history and ancestry of West African slaves. We’re in awe by the stories she tells, using the art as a form of living history. In a city as diverse as Charleston, preserving the past is as important as holding steadfast for the future. Nakia’s drive to keep her family’s tradition moving forward is a testament to the strength of a community once divided by slavery.
The Sweetgrass Basket is the official craft of South Carolina. Sweetgrass baskets were brought to the United States as early as the 1600s and this traditional way of basket weaving has been passed down in Nakia’s family from generation to generation since then. Nakia also advocates on the conservation of the natural resources needed for traditional basket weaving: sweetgrass, long leaf pine needles, palmetto and bulrush.
Nakia plans to share her experiences, history and the Gullah life through a series of children’s books she’s currently working on. Watch Nakia tell stories about growing up as a basketmaker and Gullah Girl in South Carolina, and how she plans to continue to keep this African Legacy alive.
843.813.3648 + SweetGrassGullah@yahoo.com
Lily Peterson opened FLOWERSHOP with the mission to provide sweet and simple flowers for the everyday. Her beautiful studio highlights the wondrous beauty of all her living plants and petals. And even though she creates floral designs for special occasions, Lily explains she’s the happiest when a little bit of flower power can brighten someone’s day, and that the joy she puts into each arrangement is contagious for all.
“In the morning, I love a walk in Hampton Park. We’re so fortunate to have this amazing park filled with windy paths the most incredible flowers and plants,” says Lily of her daily routine, “It’s truly a gem and where I look for inspiration.”
We visited Lily’s studio to bring out our inner flower child and craft a classic southern belle flower crown. The best materials? Ranunculus, spray roses, wax flower, rosemary and olive. Follow along as we talk inspiration, Charleston’s deep respect for flora and how-to create the perfect summer accessory.
125 1/2 Spring Street, Charleston
and at Mixson, 4491 Summey Street, North Charleston
Located in a crimson sided-home within historic Charleston, Hominy Grill is all about blending the traditional low country food of the south with a modern way of eating. James Beard Award-winning CHEF ROBERT STEHLING explains that super fresh product and seasonal cooking are modern ideals that are also deeply rooted in Charleston’s cultural history. And the thing most people misunderstand about the southern diet? There’s more to it than pork and deep fried things.
“The south has always been an agrarian society, rich in gardens and unique varieties of vegetables,” says Chef Robert. “Yes there is pork but it is used mostly as a seasoning for other things like collard greens and pots of beans. This is why Hominy’s menu is built around the vegetable side dishes.”
Chef Robert is sharing a taste of Charleston with us as we whip up a southern classic: Shrimp and grits. A secret ingredient? Bacon! Reserve some bacon fat for pan frying the shrimp for an extra rich flavor. Follow along and bring a little southern cooking into your dinner plans. For optimum authenticity serve with a side of southern hospitality.
207 Rutledge Avenue, Charleston + 843.937.0930
We met up on the docks with South Carolina’s most-loved fishmonger and veteran of the sea, MARK MARHEFKA. Mark heads up Abundant Seafood, a purveying company that supplies Charleston’s best restaurants with the freshest catch of the day. Mark also brings the freshest fish to the masses through his dockside Community Sustained Fishery (CSF).
Mark brings so much more to the area than his fresher-than-fresh fillets straight from his boat. Mark has been evolving the commercial fishing business model to suit the sustainable needs of the southeastern sea shores. Between introducing chefs to more sustainable species and placing greater value on the resources, Mark has been able to educate customers on the implications of overfishing.
We unloaded some fish on the Geechie Dock in Mount Pleasant to figure out exactly what to do when life hands you a freshly caught fish. Mark gives us tips and trick on how to precisely cut, gut and clean a fish to prepare it for optimal feasting.
Geechie Dock, Sham Creek, Mt. Pleasant + 843.478.5078
After spending time in the Charleston area, you’ll notice a distinctive smell and taste: the salty sea. For TERESA AND RUSTIN GOODEN, they’re taking note and packaging it up. The earthy couple run a small and mighty salt-making operation called Bulls Bay Saltworks.
After harvesting water from Bulls Bay—which is known to be the cleanest water on the east coast—the water is evaporated in a big greenhouse, and then salt is crystallized using solar and wind evaporation. Shortly after, some salt is smoked for a delicious taste and all the different salt varieties make their way into the perfectly kitsch and nautical packaging.
Teresa and Rustin truly embody the friendliness and kindness we encountered all over Charleston, and we can’t help be in awe of the duo using the resources of Charleston to create a product and flavor unique to this southern city. So what are the duo most amused by after visitors pay a call to their fare city?
“Southern time,” says Teresa, “It’s a real thing—and of course the generous hospitality you’ll experience here, too.”
Bulls Bay Saltworks makes a cottage industry gone chic look so relaxed and so conscious. Watch as they talk about the accidental birth of their smoked salt and take us on a tour of how they make the perfect crystals.
BULLS BAY SALTWORKS
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