Seafood and Spirits in Charleston

A dispatch from a short stay full of cultural and culinary charms.

I’VE BEEN A bit morbid as of late — ghosts on the mind, thirsty for walls that whisper and narrow streets paved in old stone. I am devoted to my city and my neighborhood: the East Village in New York City. But an energy ceaselessly buzzing with the newest and hippest had me longing for the quainter charms of an older world. So I journeyed south one recent weekend to one of the oldest cities in America: Charleston, South Carolina.

My home base was the Zero George hotel, a hazy dream of Southern charm and epicurean delight. Made of three restored historic residences and two brick carriage houses surrounding a courtyard, its architecture dates back to 1804. Rooms feature details such as period millwork and heart pine flooring. I loved clomping up the old wooden staircases, creaking with memory, to my room swathed in long, ivory curtains and taking my breakfast in the chandeliered Drawing Room, all silver chintz and golden sun. Upon arrival in Charleston, I explored The Battery, a frozen-in-time neighborhood at the southernmost tip of downtown, where secret alleys hide between stately colonial homes. I dined at the moody Brasserie La Banque that night, located in a former bank dating back to the 1700s, on a platter of chilled seafood and a sultry, tender duck cassoulet. Below lies a speakeasy — a dim, lively cavern called Bar Vauté. The tequila-based La Colombe is a bright, spicy delight — the whiskey-based Broad Street its brooding, honeyed counterpart.


After a historic tour of the Edmondston-Alston house, I dedicated the next day to three iconic culinary destinations. For lunch: the beloved Bertha’s Kitchen, a Black-owned cathedral to soul food, for a steaming bowl of okra stew and fried chicken. For drinks and bites: the bar at Husk. I wailed along to Beck’s “Loser” and Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” slurping down wood-fired oysters and coconut-washed bourbon drinks, and dining on a dazzling dish: tuna tartare over rice, topped with smoked roe, koji mayo, and crispy potato strings. For dinner: Fig, the restaurant equivalent of a warm kiss on a cold night. Surrounded by burnished mirrors and oxblood walls, I enjoyed a tangy chopped cabbage salad laden with pickled shiitake and a too-delicate-for-this-earth scallop dish.

Vern’s was the next day’s brunch destination, in the hushed neighborhood of Elliotborough, where Spanish moss coats the trees and every house feels like Miss Havisham’s. I had a smoked salmon with a lip-smacking lime yogurt on sourdough alongside a bouncy gnocchetti in a rich, savory pesto, under a ceiling crisscrossed in dark, glossy wood. After a stroll through Hampton Park, I visited Sullivan’s Island to see the beach, which was gray and misty that afternoon. Back downtown, I stopped into Farside Vintage to buy an old Coogi jacket, loud and deranged with giant patches of a joker and a king. I experienced the hotel’s Caviar Bar for a drink and bites, a romantic outdoor experience featuring spreads like Regiis Ova caviar with all the fixings. Their Cala-Luya Classic (gin, calamansi, ginger, yuzu, quatre épices) was a masterclass in balance and complexity. Dinner was at Wild Common with a tasting menu featuring dishes of serious skill that do not take themselves too seriously — the first course was a hearty, umami steamed bun full of lobster and Japanese curry, made for fingers and joy. Meanwhile, the restaurant’s entrance is awe-inspiring, down a long, lofty hall of old bones and quiet grace — a metaphor for the city itself.

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Our Contributors

Sophie Mancini Writer

Sophie Mancini is an editor at Departures. Born and raised in New York City, she holds a degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and has a background as a writer in brand and editorial.

Hisham Akira Bharoocha Illustrator

Hisham Akira Bharoocha is a multimedia artist based in Brooklyn, NY, working across various mediums including large-scale murals, paintings, drawings, collages, audio/visual installations, and performances. Bharoocha has had solo exhibitions at Snow Contemporary and Ginza Mitsukoshi in Tokyo, D’Amelio Terras in New York, and De Vleeshal in The Netherlands, and has exhibited his work in numerous group shows in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. His work has been published in Artforum, NOWNESS, i-D, V, and Flaunt Magazine to name a few.


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