Lest the following sound petulant, I want to emphasize at the outset how much I enjoy responding to reader requests for restaurant recommendations. As my grandmother might say, I don’t eat eight burgers a week for my health. The fun of exploring the local food scene is sharing what I find: I love trading tips with residents and helping visitors plot their Charleston dining adventures.
But it’s astounding how many e-mails don’t provide any details about what the writer’s seeking. “You probably get questions like this a lot, but it looks like there are many great restaurants in Charleston,” a correspondent wrote this morning. “Can you recommend any that would be within walking distance of the Embassy Suites near Marion Square?”
According to a downtown Charleston restaurant map I picked up at Tales of the Cocktail this summer, that narrows the choices down to about 107 eating places. I consider many of them pretty great, but I have no idea whether the writer and I have the same definition of greatness. He sounded like an awfully nice guy, so I’d hate to steer him wrong.
By contrast, another future visitor last week sent me his tentative dining agenda, along with the following guidelines for additional ideas:
– Seafood (especially out of the way coastal shacks like Bowen’s Island)
– Lowcountry/Gullah cooking
– Any other traditional regional Carolina/Charleston fare or smart chef-driven takes on it
- Haven’t seen if Charleston has any immigrant populations of note, but I always look for small, traditional ethnic restaurants to try.
– Bars that specialize in craft beer, wine, or cocktails.
– Divey local and industry crowd bars that stay open late.
Not interested in:
- Breakfast/Brunch fare (one particular challenge seems to be finding a Sunday lunch place that isn’t just serving brunch)
– Butcher & Bee or gourmet sandwich shops in general
– Bakeries and Dessert shops
– New American cuisine that isn’t focused on a specific local or regional theme (Fig seems to be an example of that)
While I can’t fathom coming to Charleston and skipping out on FIG or Butcher & Bee, it’s not my job to change firmly-held culinary opinions. I deeply respect everyone’s right to eat what they like, whether or not it’s on my favorites list. By providing me with a thorough overview of his likes and dislikes, the writer guaranteed I’d come up with useful suggestions for him — which is my top goal.
I want to connect diners with memorable dining experiences. So please do keep asking, but don’t hesitate to start telling too. Tell me if there’s food you refuse to eat: I wouldn’t send vegetarians to Cypress, or dieters to Husk. Tell me if you’re dealing with food allergies, so my rhapsodizing about The Ordinary doesn’t send you lurching for an Epipen.
But, most importantly, tell me about you. How old are you? Where do you live? What’s your favorite restaurant? What’s the last restaurant you loved? What made it so special? (Don’t worry: I’m a fast reader.) If I can size up what you value in a restaurant, I’m much more likely to match you up with the perfect meal.
Again, I don’t want to discourage any readers from asking for restaurant advice. But I’m hoping you’ll help me find the best restaurants for you.