Charleston - Hominy Grill
A Taste of Charleston, South Carolina
By Adrian Genesir
Published Jul 2014
Charleston, South Carolina’s food landscape was heavily influenced by the presence of Johnson & Wales University. The mix of wealthy residents looking for investment opportunities and chefs graduating or teaching at the university amalgamated into an explosive mix, which created what is now the classic food scene of the city. After Johnson & Wales decided to move its campus to Charlotte in 2006, the reputation of Charleston kept attracting tourists who came to enjoy the city’s pristine historical district while taking advantage of its vibrant food scene. That, paired with an influx of new residents attracted by the arts and food options in Charleston, provided the sustenance to further evolve the list of prime dining choices. The gourmet food scene in Charleston is somewhat geographically divided, with the most “traditional” restaurants running along the eastern edge of the peninsula on East Bay and Meeting streets and the newer additions in the so-called midtown area as the latest part of the peninsula to suffer gentrification in the now fastest-growing city in America. Aside from the high-cuisine options, the city recently started to see a rapidly growing number of casual eateries that are not to be underestimated. If you stop a Charlestonian on the street and ask where to eat, you will likely hear his or her favorite choices followed by “or just walk along East Bay and enter any restaurant you see.” This is where the city’s food scene started, and governed by Darwinist rule, only the best restaurants survive the increasing demand for quality. This is the place to go for a fine meal in some of the oldest and most prestigious restaurants of the city—McCrady’s, Fig, and Magnolia are just some of the options to include in your culinary tour. It won’t be cheap, but the memory of your meal will far outlast the hit on your budget. A classic restaurant that stands out from the rest is Hominy Grill. Perhaps it is the short distance from the high-priced real estate that allows this Southern gem to provide excellent food at a reasonable price. When chef Robert Stehling came to Charleston to open his restaurant, he was sure of two things: He wanted to serve traditional Southern food, and he wanted his grits to come from the old mill at Guilford, one of the last existing water-powered mills, continuously operational since the 18th century. Hominy, the variety of corn used to make grits, is present throughout the menu, from the exceptional shrimp and grits to Sunday brunch specials like the corn bread Benedict made with chef Stehling’s hominy cornbread. The declaration “Grits are good for you” on this iconic wall art of the Trident Peninsula is nowhere truer than in this dining establishment. While it may lack the elegance of other gourmet options, it more than makes up for it in quality and abundance. To get started, visit the bar for a Cheerwine Negroni. Traditional restaurants are with no doubt excellent, but Charleston has much more to offer. So many new restaurants open every year that even a local may find it difficult to keep up. In the midtown area, you can find some jewels such as The Ordinary, which is anything but; Xiao Bao Biscuit, which will forever change your concept of ramen; and The Grocery, whose wood-fired oven delivers some of the best food on the peninsula. These new additions have a delicious common theme: farm-to-table produce as the basis for modern takes on traditional cuisine. Impulsed by the city’s ban of food trucks on its narrow streets, this culinary revolution has taken a different shape in The Holy City with a surge of low-cost casual spots in up-and-coming areas of town. With odd hours and a hidden spot known almost exclusively to locals, Butcher & Bee is perhaps the finest example of this trend. Lacking even a printed menu, the four or five items on the chalkboard change almost daily with the rhythm of seasonal produce. Of course, Charleston is not completely deprived of food trucks (they are just not allowed on the streets); the food truck rodeo was born in order to capitalize on the fact that parking lots are fair game. You can also enjoy their tasty offerings at one of the country’s top five farmers markets. With nearly five million visitors each year and the complete approval of locals, the hype about Charleston’s food scene is not unmerited. This Southern city has a wide variety of excellent options to please every palate and every budget. If you are a traveler and love food, The Holy City is an essential destination on your short list. Experience Charleston Dining at HOMINY GRILL 207 Rutledge Ave Charleston, South Carolina TNE NEW AMERICAN CUISINE - foreword by Jeremy Joven America’s Cuisine is known to the rest of the world as fatty, sauce dribbling, pre-packaged foods. We’re famous for hamburgers and hotdogs and just about anything that is entirely unhealthy, riddled with sodium and food you would never serve royalty. This gross idea of American Cuisine is not exactly a misconception, but a reflection of our Corporate Food Culture. The type of food we are famous for around the globe are the foods served at global chains like McDonalds and KFC. There’s nothing wrong with that image, although - after centuries of evolution, a new American cuisine is taking hold - the Locavore movement. It is not a novel idea, or even a publicly accepted one. Though now more than ever, the locavore movement is wildly popular from coast to coast. It’s roots have been growing in top restaurants for decades and it is now reaching a tipping point as it penetrates even the lowest of the food chain; fast foods. The New Asterisk explored 6 American Cities, showcasing this trend in “New American Cuisine” (not to be confused with New American restaurants - this is an exploration of the "New" ways of how Americans eat) with the help of local writers in each city, from our home city, San Francisco, all the way to Denver, Kansas City, Atlanta, Charleston and of course, New York - we dove in to find out what every city’s food culture is like and where it is leading with a sampling of each area’s most popular restaurants and chefs. In regards to exploring the ‘New American Cuisine’ by means of its ingredients - we asked 6 chefs featured to tell us their most used ingredient in their kitchens - many are things you most likely do not have in yours, something you can aspire to create and use in home cooking. read our exploration of other foodie towns - SAN FRANCISCO | NEW YORK CITY | CHARLESTON | ATLANTA | DENVER | KANSAS CITY