SAMPLING DIVERSE SOUTHERN CUISINE,
‘ALL ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE’
Written by: DAVE KELLY
Charleston is known for many things. Think
Fort Sumter overlooking Charleston Harbor
and playing a key role in U.S. history. Or
the abundance of museums, galleries and
artsy colleges. And the historic charm of its
architecture is legendary.
But if all of that is not enough reason to visit this
enchanting South Carolina city, we have one more that you
just cannot resist.
Charleston’s unique history—the city has been influenced
over the years by such diverse cultures as British, African
American, indigenous and southern Lowcountry—has led
to the wide range of flavors and tastes incorporated into the
local cuisine today. From high-end, romantic dining rooms
to rowdy port taverns, Charleston offers up an exceptional
culinary experience that is unmatched in the south.
To prepare ourselves for our foray into the local food and
drink scene, we looked to find accommodations that were
convenient and walkable to the busy King Street district
and were thrilled to find The Iris, Charleston’s freshest entry
into the newly popular Apartment Hotel category.
A mere block from King Street in one of Charleston’s
most lively and growing areas, The Iris is a gateway to
shopping, dining and exploring the city’s rich culture. Its
contemporary design features modern amenities expected in
premium accommodations, including an incredible state-ofthe-
art parking carousel system that guarantees your car a
spot in this busy town.
It is a wondrous mix of classic architecture and superb style.
We checked into our Signature Suite and were amazed at
its size and premium amenities. In addition to our bedroom
We made ourselves comfortable in our new surroundings
and prepared for the gastronomic excitement ahead.
area with a Casper mattress and plush linens, the suite
featured an additional queen sleeper sofa in the oversized
living area and two 55-inch TVs. There was also a kitchen
for light cooking, including an induction cooktop, full-sized
fridge and a Keurig coffee machine.
We made ourselves comfortable in our new surroundings and
prepared for the gastronomic excitement ahead, confident
that The Iris was the perfect choice for our trip’s home base.
FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE
We headed out the next morning to one of the area’s most
unique locations—the Charleston Tea Garden. Located on
picturesque Wadmalaw Island a few miles out of town, it is
the only large-scale commercial tea plantation in the U.S.,
and it boasts hundreds of thousands of tea bushes on 127
acres as far as the eye can see.
The first tea was planted on this land in 1963 and research
was conducted on an experimental farm. William Barclay
Hall purchased the land in 1987, and the Charleston Tea
A mere block from King Street in one of Charleston’s
most lively and growing areas, The Iris is a gateway to
shopping, dining and exploring the city’s rich culture.
Garden was founded. During his 17-year tenure,
Bill’s original American Classic tea became the
first ever to be 100% American grown. It remains
hugely popular with tea-lovers in the Carolinas.
Charleston Tea Garden offers up free tours
of its factory. You learn how tea is made; for
example, did you know that all tea, green,
white, black or oolong, comes from the same
plant, Camellia Sinensis? You can see it all as you
walk down a glassed-in, air-conditioned gallery
that runs the length of the facility. Plantation
trolley tours are also offered.
Our knowledgeable and funny tour guide, Steve,
led us on a winding 45-minute trip through the
fields and filled our heads with tea facts. He
informed us, for instance, that twice a week the
harvesting machine runs but only takes the tops
off each bush, leaving the rugged upper root
system to grow again and again. The schedule
is rotated so that each plant is harvested about
every 15 to 18 days, keeping the tea leaves fresh.
The trolley comes and goes from the gift shop,
a beautiful store stocked with tea-related items
such as infusers, mugs and tea sets. There’s also a
selection of specialty teas produced onsite, many at
their tea bar served daily hot or iced.
THE CULINARY TRAIL
Back in Charleston we headed to the Waterfront
Park area for lunch at one of the city’s most
unique pub concepts. Bumpa’s is named after
owners Dan and Conor Sullivan’s grandfather and
is nestled into an old brick building, a 150-yearold
converted phosphate warehouse winning
numerous awards for its exceptional design.
The pub’s menu blends the best of traditional
and creative. While offering up such Irish pub
classics as fish and chips and Scotch eggs, they
also lean into the unique and savory, with dishes
such as the Stag & Boar Burger and Wagyu-beef
hotdogs with beer cheese.
But the centerpieces are Chef Tim’s fry plates. Built
like the Canadian classic poutine—French fries
and cheese topped with brown gravy—Bumpa’s
renditions take the concept to a new level, with
offerings that include such variations as coleslaw,
banana peppers, jalapenos, BBQ sauce and more.
Wash it all down with a local beer or a craft
The city has been influenced over the years by
such diverse cultures as British, African American,
indigenous and southern Lowcountry.
cocktail, and you will see why Bumpa’s is a popular
destination on the Charleston culinary trail.
And if you are looking for the spirit of Charleston,
it does not get purer than Hyman’s Seafood.
Located on Meeting Street in the true
heart of the city, Hyman’s family history is
the soul of all that is Charleston. Founded as
Southern Wholesale in 1890 by W.M. Karesh,
the successful business has been passed down
through the family, eventually evolving into
Hyman’s Seafood and Aaron’s Deli in 1987.
We were joined at our table by Victor Hyman,
fifth-generation owner, who explains the Hyman’s
commitment to customer satisfaction that is the foundation
of the family business philosophy. If the doors are open, there
is an owner in house, he tells us. The company’s no-nonsense
approach to this policy is the reason Hyman’s Seafood is now a
Enjoy free tours at
Charleston Tea Garden
(Top left and right
photos). Shrimp and
grits from Hyman's
Seafood, a Charleston
left photo). Stop by
for Bumpa's traditional
(bottom right photo).
Charleston landmark and is listed as a Legacy Restaurant,
a fixture or generational eatery.
Not surprisingly, each table comes with a box
of Conversation Cards, containing inspirational
and spiritual quotes to start positive
conversations at your table. Even the Hyman’s
Seafood motto is on the cards.
If it’s “all about the experience,” as Victor says,
then the proof is in the food, and what proof it is!
The menu embodies everything South Carolina,
from crawfish and oyster Po’ Boys to crispy fried
flounder. Their she-crab soup, made with extra
tasty female crabs and roe, is creamy, rich and
sweet. If you are looking for a genuine southern seafood
restaurant, look no further than Hyman’s.
For a steakhouse experience, however, there is none
better than Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill. Opened in 2012,
the owners have focused on a high-end, steakcentered
experience … with a modern twist.
For example, Burwell’s specializes in lesser-known
cuts of beef and local and sustainable sourcing.
While most steakhouses promote the same cuts of
beef over and over, Burwell’s helps ranchers by serving
the cuts others do not traditionally use.
The diner features hanger steak, for example.
In the past hanger steak was among cuts labeled
butcher’s steaks, as butchers would keep the cut for
themselves. Hanger steak at Burwell’s is high-grade Wagyu
beef, sourced from Snake River Farms, the pioneers of
The team at Burwell’s takes incredible pride in technique and
preparation yet keeps the atmosphere easy and social rather
than stuffy and traditional. This feeling was passed on to us
as guests, as GM Zack and Chef Don visited our table to recommend,
explain and simply chat about their methods and
recipes. Don told us that they only live-fire cook their steaks.
He also spoke of local sourcing, noting that the night’s chanterelle
mushrooms were supplied by a local farmer who visits the
restaurant daily with his latest and freshest produce.
Additionally, while Burwell’s features steaks and beef, fresh
seafood is on the menu as well, such as succulent shrimp,
jumbo sea scallops and a fresh catch of the day.
The chef suggested we start our night with two of their
signature appetizers: Burwell’s deviled eggs and their Hot
Rock appetizer. The deviled eggs have been a Burwell’s
staple since the early days and are the most exceptional
combination we have ever tasted, an incredible blend of
pickled root vegetables, candied bacon, red wine gastrique
and truffle oil.
The Hot Rock appetizer is a unique interactive activity in
which you sear your appetizer (your choice of filet, Wagyu,
and their signature
or lamb lollipops) on your tabletop, 700-degree
black lava stone, then dip your seared meat in
several house-made sauces. It was an experience
we will never forget.
We left just enough room to try the hanger
steak, and we were not disappointed.
Burwell’s partners with socially conscious and
environmentally friendly farmers from around
the country with the purpose of bringing only
the best to their guests while supporting these important
businesses. Their sincerity and commitment to quality
shines through in everything that they do.
On our last night, we dined at Circa 1886, a AAA Four
Diamond restaurant. Owner Richard Widman purchased
the historic Wentworth Mansion in downtown Charleston,
converted it into a luxury hotel in 1998, then in 2000
transformed the carriage house on the property into Circa
1886, a nod to the year that the mansion was originally built.
Widman’s vision for the restaurant was to blend the culinary
traditions and flavors of that era, harkening back to simpler
times. He hired Executive Chef Marc Collins in 2001 to help
him realize that vision, and they have been together since.
Chef Marc’s menu combines some Lowcountry favorites like
shrimp n’ grits and features two new tasting menus nightly,
curated with imagination and a focus on combining flavors
and textures to elevate each dish into superb art.
As we entered the restaurant, the old carriage house
radiated warm, luxurious southern hospitality, from the cozy
table placement to the gentle candlelight. The menu was
divided into four parts, each representing a culture and taste
palette that influenced the cuisine of Charleston. English,
African, French, and Caribbean/indigenous categories each
had choices of appetizers, entrees and desserts, all infused
with Chef Marc’s Lowcountry influences.
As an exceptional culinary experience,
Circa 1886 is second to none.
Additionally, each evening features an a la carte
menu shaped by the textures and flavors of the
Expert wine pairing is an integral part of the
experience at Circa 1886. Sommelier Charles
Adkins brings years of wine knowledge,
recommending only those with the appropriate
acidity, tannin, alcohol, sweetness and body to
complement any aspect of your meal.
We sampled much of the incredibly crafted menu,
from the southern grilled cheese with pimento
cheese mousse, grilled brioche, prosciutto and
paddlefish caviar to the venison with root
vegetables and yogurt mashed potatoes.
The distinctive flavors and textures were amazing.
As an exceptional culinary experience, Circa 1886 is
second to none.
Charleston is a city to return to again and again,
truly encompassing all that is good—and delicious—
in the South. FCM