One of the highlights of any trip to the South is Southern cooking. Besides New Orleans, Charleston, South Carolina, is a must for any foodie. And the best meal is a Charleston brunch. After eating through most of the city, I was able to uncover the best Charleston brunch and some pretty solid back-ups.
Best Charleston Brunch: Poogan’s Porch
In my experience, most restaurants paying homage to a dog are sub par. But the charming Poogan’s Porch on Queen Street, with its various dining areas–narrow porch, quaint courtyard, bright back room, darker side room, and upstairs–serves up the tastiest and heartiest brunches by a landslide. I spent a long time struggling to decide between ordering the chicken and waffles, crab cake or pulled pork Benedict, or Charleston Fry, which was an omelet with fried oysters, Gouda, applewood-smoked bacon, and a drizzling of remoulade.
My waitress, who had a pretty face and a trusted paunch, was adamant that I order the chicken and waffles. I took her advice and settled that post-order anxiety with delicious biscuits swathed in sweet butter and a serving of fried green tomatoes. When the fried chicken topping a waffle arrived, I was in foodie heaven. The chef utilized simple ingredients, like Texas Pete’s hot sauce and maple syrup, and transformed them into a sumptuous sweet and spicy blueberry reduction that covered the crisp, juicy chicken and the rich waffles. For under $15.00 it was the perfect combo of sweet and savory. Poogan’s also made a strong coffee, which was surprisingly rare in Charleston.
Best Brunch in Charleston North of Calhoun Street: Hominy Grill
Most visitors to Charleston won’t venture north of Calhoun Street. But near the intersection of Rutledge and Cannon is the second best Charleston brunch: Hominy Grill. Again, I struggled to order. Shrimp and grits or the Big Nasty Biscuit, stuffed with fried chicken and gravy? After eating shrimp and grits from the atrocious Fleet Landing, one of the few waterfront restaurants that will hopefully be taken care of in the next Hurricane Hugo, the concept of shrimp and grits left a bad taste in my mouth.
But after reading the backs of the waiters’ t-shirts–“grits are good for you”–I took my chance with Hominy Grill’s $16.00 dish. Served with slivers of mushroom, medium-well pieces of bacon, a dash of lemon, and crisp chives, the shrimp and grits was excellent. It could have only been better if they had given bigger portions, though I did appreciate having room left over for a wonderful slice of pecan pie.
Best Charleston Brunch for Dinner: Jestine’s Kitchen
You’ll recognize Jestine’s from the long lines that form down Wentworth Street. And while I only dined at Jestine’s for dinner, the offerings are the same no matter the time of day. Best was their meatloaf, which was soft on the inside, but crisp outside. I also loved their simple fried chicken. All dishes were served with two sides. Go with their fluffy Mac ‘n cheese or simple collard greens. Jestine’s pecan pie, with a minced pecan top, was as good as Hominy’s.
Best BBQ Brunch: Cru Cafe
Whether its porch dining or eating inside the Charleston Single House, you’ll love the $10.00 brisket sandwich topped with slaw. I only got to sample a quarter of the sandwich from someone else’s plate because I ordered Cru Cafe’s pulled pork with a side of cheesy broccoli. While it was delicious, the brisket sandwich is the way to go.
Best To-Go Sandwich: Food for the Southern Soul
If you don’t have time for Cru Cafe and need a great brisket sandwich in a hurry, stop over at the market, near the Church Street entrance for Food for the Southern Soul. For $11.00 walk out with a juicy sandwich with thick slices of brisket in a sweet bun. The sandwich comes with two sides and a lemonade. Slather the meat with their sour Carolina mustard and go with the red rice. Nix the Mac ‘n cheese. Your second option should be slaw or banana pudding.