Have You Been On A Charleston Culinary Tour?

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As some of you know if you’ve been following IBIH on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter, Mr. Hungry and I took the Upper King Street Charleston Culinary Tour yesterday. It was fantastic, and much better than I expected in a lot of ways.

 

When I was first contacted about doing the Charleston Culinary Tour, I was conflicted about it. On the one hand, I was all over the food thing (I know most of you aren’t shocked by this), but tours always feel too restrictive to me. I basically see it as being trapped with a group of strangers, who may or may not be total weirdos, with an annoyingly overzealous guide, babbling on about stuff you don’t care about, until you wish you were dead.  So on the list of things I’d love to do, taking a tour of any kind is never near the top.  In fact, I’d rather shave my legs with a cheese grater, while chewing on tinfoil, than take a tour. I don’t, as a rule, like tours, got it???  Good.

 

Now, the reason I keep beating this dead horse, is because I want you to know that when I say THIS TOUR WAS AWESOME, you can take it to the bank! And it WAS!  So awesome in fact, that I’m going to tell you ALLLLL about it in this really long recap post.  Ready?  Here goes…

 

{ THE GUIDE }

 

 

Our guide for the tour was Kyle Cox, a Texas native who moved to Charleston in 2004. He became a guide because he just plain loves Charleston. His excitement about the growth in the Upper King Street area was contagious. Kyle told us that before his guide days he was a ballroom dance instructor. This training obviously came in handy, as he pretty much WALKED BACKWARDS DURING THE ENTIRE TOUR, so he could face us at all times.

 

I kept hearing Mater’s words “I’m the world’s best backwards driver!” (it’s a Cars movie reference for those of you without kids who haven’t seen it 1,234,402,943,921 times like I have) and thinking, this guy is “the world’s best backwards walker!”

 

Seriously, he avoided light posts, joggers, moving vehicles, and had there been an open manhole cover, I’m confident he would have glided gracefully around it, ALL WHILE NEVER TURNING AROUND! It was pretty impressive.

 

{ THE GROUP }

 

 

We had a great group of eight people. Sometimes the groups are larger, but I’m kind of glad that ours was rather small because it gave us the chance to get to know each other a bit throughout the tour.

 

{ THE PLACES }

The tour started at 2 p.m. and ended at around 5 p.m., during which time we visited four different eateries. The restaurants on the tour vary each time, based on who can get your group in, and you also learn about the buildings/history/architecture of the neighborhood you are touring. Mr. Hungry’s favorite non-food stop was the Coming Street Cemetery, where he could geek out over the old stone work and carvings. It was gorgeous, and we were there just long enough to get some photos, hear some fun facts, and then it was on to the next restaurant.

 

 

Important to note:  All of the food is included, but any alcoholic beverages are extra.  You should also know that you don’t eat a lot at each restaurant— you sample a few things at each place, and the guide or chef decides on what.  You definitely get your money’s worth on the tour—but you aren’t going to leave there stuffed.  Since the tour ends at around 5 p.m., it leaves you time to explore more of the city, and then go have dinner if you’re still in the mood to nosh.

 

{ HOM }

 

 

Our first stop was HOM Restaurant, and it was my favorite of the tour. It has a decidedly industrial feel with its concrete countertops and funky light fixtures. There is also some impressive and unique art on the walls, done with spray paint on canvas—gorgeous.

 

One of the cool things that sets HOM apart is the ping pong tables. I love ping pong, and while I’m no Forrest Gump, I know my way around a ping pong table (read: I will crush you without mercy, or die trying). I have my own paddle, people, and it’s stored in it’s own zippered case. Enough said.

 

We sampled the Green Gobble’n Turkey Burgers (topped with melted leeks and spinach, brie, Green Goddess aioli, and green apples!), the Dixie Flatbread (topped with pimento cheese, pork confit, caramelized onions, maple bacon, and arugula!), and the calamari, which was served with a sublime sauce of goat cheese and sundried tomatoes. It was all delicious, but Mr. Hungry’s favorite was the turkey burger, while mine was definitely the calamari—it was light and crisp and not at all chewy. Perfect.

 

I’ll definitely be headed to Hom again, and next time I’ll bring my ping pong paddle!

 

{ SUGAR BAKESHOP }

 

 

Our second stop was the charmingly vintage Sugar Bakeshop. Renowned for their cupcakes, they use locally sourced eggs and organic flours, and it shows. We tasted the Lemon Lime Cupcakes and a Pecan Bar that were both amazing (and not at all low carb or gluten free, sorry!)

 

Incidentally, Sugar Bakeshop has been listed by Bon Appetit as a top destination in Charleston, specifically recommending their Lady Baltimore Cupcake, which features sherry soaked figs and raisins in the cake, and is topped with a meringue frosting. Definitely on my list to try next time we’re out that way!

 

{ FIVE LOAVES }

 

 

Next up was Five Loaves Cafe, where we enjoyed a lovely salad of blanched asparagus and arugula, topped with the wild mushroom and soy vinaigrette, and a shaving of parmesan cheese. The flavors were balanced and complex—even Mr. Hungry ate the entire thing, and he’s not a fan of vegetables usually. Because they use locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, are vegetarian friendly, have gluten-free options and hormone-free meats, this place is a Paleo dieters dream!

 

{ PROOF }

 

 

Our final stop on the tour was Proof, for happy hour. I ordered the Charleston Buck cocktail, which was made with Woodford Reserve (one of my favorite bourbons), Tuoca, orange, egg white, and ginger beer. SO refreshing and perfectly balanced—I LOVED it!

 

The food we sampled included a steaming bag of perfectly seasoned boiled peanuts, a selection of duck rilletes, pimento cheese, and a boiled peanut hummus that BLEW MY MIND! I’m not even kidding when I say that this hummus was even better than the real thing. It was such a fun and unique take on hummus, that I couldn’t stop smiling while eating it—it just made me feel happy (or maybe that was just the Charleston Buck I was drinking at the time.)

 

Either way, I’d go back for that hummus alone.

 

We also had their signature meatball, which, while tasty, paled in comparison to their other offerings in my opinion (but we all know I’m a meatball snob, so you can take that with a grain of salt.) The goat cheese with local honey was also one of my favorites, though Mr. Hungry favored the pickled eggs with mustard over everything else. Bottom line? It was all good.

 

So next time you’re in town, don’t hesitate to devote a few hours to one of the Charleston Culinary Tours—you won’t regret it, and it may even be the highlight of your trip! In addition to the Upper King Street Tour, they also offer the Historic Downtown Tour, the Farmers Market Tour, and the Mixology TourYou can plan ahead, and order your tickets online by clicking this link!