Block by block, the food in Charleston just seems to get better and better. The once out-of-the-way Cannoborough neighborhood—basically Spring Street, Cannon Street and its surrounds—has so much good food cooking that it doesn’t feel like an outlier anymore. It makes perfect sense to walk here before or after visiting gallery shows, or partaking in retail therapy, on upper King Street.
Hominy Grill, set in a tall old Charleston house, was the first restaurant to make a splash in the neighborhood in the mid-1990s (the chef, Robert Stehling, eventually won a James Beard award). Other restaurants and cafes, coffee shops and bakeries followed, and now the whole neighborhood is filled with eating options. Many of these are in historic buildings, with small kitchens, and owners/chefs/bakers who are hands-on and have tons of heart. Locals have come to love these places so much that we put up with the one-way street traffic to get to them. (Traffic on both Cannon and Spring is one-way—Cannon coming into the city, and Spring going out.).
This breakfast-lunch-and-dinner menu is built on many of the signature Charleston flavors I love most—like butter beans, collard greens, fish and grits, and homemade chocolate pudding. The patio and pass-through cocktails window added a few years ago made it a destination for a pre-meal Bloody Mary or Planter’s Punch; the hefty mugs of strong coffee make it equally ideal for weekday breakfasts.
Two Borough’s Larder
This rustic nook of a place is best known for its delicious noodle bowls made with pork broth and an egg on top (so good); but all sorts of comforting, tasty food comes from the tiny, fiery kitchen. There are interesting beverages too, including sake, brown-rice green tea, and growlers of the Larder’s own craft beer.
Xiao Bao Biscuit
There’s no restaurant sign here; just a Monkey King mural painted on the side of this former gas station to let you know you’re in the right place. The cabbage pancakes here are a must-order, with or without the egg or pork. So are the Mapo Mule cocktails. And no one minds if you go solo to the long bar for drinks, Thai spicy papaya salad, or the egg roll with duck-leg confit.
It’s fascinating to sit near the kitchen of this restaurant, and watch Chef Kevin Johnson and his crew get their farm-to-table plates ready to serve. The whole, wood-fire-roasted fish is superb; I like to put it at the center of the table and let everyone taste. But I also make sure to order the charcuterie, the bone marrow with pickled cauliflower, or the duck and beans in the cast-iron pan of cassoulet.
This place is a classic for fried seafood, turkey wings, and a can of soda while you’re waiting…and you’ll probably have to wait a bit. At this longtime corner take-out (right next door to Two Borough’s Larder), the soul food is served hot and to-order, with white rice, lima beans or French fries.