Dispatch from Charleston: Unholy Treats in the Holy City

Last week, I told you about all the high profile, fancy-schmancy places Boss K and I hit up in Charleston a few weeks’ back, including our celeb-ridden hotel, Charleston Place, and Sean Brock’s sublime Husk. Today, I want to tell you about the less headlining eats of Charleston that were still pretty good, including one hell of a biscuits and gravy plate. Be still, my bypassed heart.

Turndown service AND chocolates on my pillow. Sigh.

My first day there, I ventured out to grab a very late lunch and do a little exploring on King St, the main shopping thoroughfare of Charleston’s hoi polloi and spoiled college kids, alike. Although I admired the wares in Kate Spade and J. Crew, I most enjoyed the Tory Burch, Emi-Jay and Ella Rose finds at the carefully-curated Finicky Filly boutique. The ladies there recommended I grab a bite to eat from Caviar & Bananas, just up the street and around the corner, closer to the college. From there, I procured some of Charleston’s famous benne wafers, (thin, slightly sweet sesame cookies, reminiscent of peanut brittle if it were made into a cookie and spread with a smidge of hummus) plus a tub of delicious pimento cheese and some crackers on which to spread it. Caviar & Bananas was immaculate and lovely on the inside, and had it not been going on 4 p.m., I would certainly have indulged in one of their decedent-sounding duck confit sandwiches or some Carolina tomato pie and broccoli slaw.

On my last night in Charleston, two friends I met at my conference from Abu Dhabi, Australian Tony and Brit Kelly, had drinks with me in Charleston Place’s luxe bar before we ventured out for a late dinner in the neighborhood. We set our sights on the renowned Fig, but they were full up and we were run down. We settled for a BBQ feast at Sticky Fingers, a place I wouldn’t ordinarily choose (I like my BBQ from a shack), but that my foreign friends were delighted to try.

I’ve had really bad chain BBQ and some not-so-bad. My Southern friends cringe when I tell them I’ll happily eat Sonny’s Real Pit BBQ, but hey, I’m a Yankee and I don’t know any better. Sticky Fingers fell somewhere in the moderate range of what I consider acceptable, but it was not without its merits, and Tony and Kelly liked it quite a lot, considering Abu Dhabi isn’t exactly a porcine-friendly eating locale. I had the brisket platter, from which I enjoyed the beef brisket and the Carolina Classic variety of their five sauces, though what I thought was going to be dirty rice was very bland and dry. Tony and Kelly very much liked their rib platter, and had fun sampling the different, sweet sauces. Sticky Fingers would not be on my must list for Charleston, but if you’re trying to feed a family, it’s laid back, has a great wait staff, and completely serviceable food.

My final morning in Charleston, I got ready early and hit the City Market for some souvenirs for my Mom. The Market is one of the cooler sights in Charleston, being that you can sight-see AND shop there, plus score a famous and extravagant Sweetgrass basket, crafted by the Gullah people of Coastal Carolina. The Market is located on (Duh) Market Street, which I perused while waiting for the stalls to open. I happened on a completely old, creepy and charming cemetery just a block away. I just love old graveyards.

Also in that neighborhood is Dixie Supply & Bakery, a really cool place to grab breakfast or lunch if you want to eat like a local instead of a tourist. I discovered Dixie Supply via Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, natch, and could not wait to wade through the extreme heat and humidity to walk the few blocks to this place, cop a squat, and grab the biscuits and gravy breakfast AKA the State St. sandwich. It’s not on the set menu, but it’s what Guy made when he was there, it’s what I ordered, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll eat it, too. Guy really does know best.

This truly hometown spot will be chock-a-block with friendly local patrons and Food Network fans like me, and you’ll see food deliveries made throughout your meal from local producers, which is encouraging. For the first time ever dining at a Triple D joint, the chef I saw on TV was in the kitchen, which is roughly the size of my downstairs powder room. I grabbed a seat at the window counter and gently eavesdropped on the locals enjoying their hearty breakfasts while I waited for my nuclear-temp coffee to cool enough to sip. The place is so tiny and unassuming, I can’t even imagine how disruptive Guy’s crew was when they visited, but the sheer volume of customers made me smile – we all should be supporting our neighborhood eateries this way.

State Street Sandwich

The grits here are supposed to be some of the best in the South, but I’m glad I didn’t order them, because after this massive breakfast sandwich, I couldn’t tolerate another morsel of food. The fried chicken breast cutlet may seem an out of the ordinary breakfast item for my Yankee compatriots, but to those with a Chik-fil-A in their neck of the woods, this is commonplace for the most important meal of the day. The biscuit was stellar – fluffy and soft inside, with the tiniest, most miniscule touch of chew to the crumb, and light and crisp on top, with a salty, buttery taste on the tongue. The gravy was showstopper – tons more sausage than you usually get in so-called sausage gravy (Cracker Barrel’s doesn’t even have sausage in it, period!), but surprisingly lighter than most cream gravies. If you saw the Triple D episode at Dixie Supply, you’ll learn that this is because Chef Woodham uses blasphemous corn starch instead of flour in his roux, which may render him a Southern pariah, but is 100 percent A-OK with this little piggy.

From that single, solitary, mammoth sandwich, I’m going to go ahead and give Dixie Supply a 9 on the BHS scale. When I return to Charleston, I will bring others here, and we will eat green tomato pie, shrimp and grits, and some baked goods. I wish I could have crammed in some more food this visit, but how much can a Big Hungry pig out at 9:30 in the morning on a weekday? Overall, I was charmed by Charleston and everything there. From swanky King St to historical Market St and our amazing tour of Boeing South Carolina, I simply loved it there – save the ungodly heat. For a Holy City, it’s awfully Hellish, humidity-wise. Thank Heavens they have enough good food to sooth the sweatiest of beasts.

I’m off to Amsterdam for a work trip next week, hungries, so I don’t know for sure what my availability or connectivity will be like. If it’s good, I will try to post my review of the Edgewood Resort’s Oscar’s Harborside prime rib buffet and dinner service. If not, I’ll be back the following week with that review, and trust, I’ll be tweeting @BigHungryShelby all of the weird eats I encounter in Amsterdam as well. Herring, anyone? My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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