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November 27th 2019
Published: November 28th 2019
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We sleep so much better on vacation, mainly because we are just so much more physically active, I woke up about 30 minutes before the 7 am alarm went off. That doesn’t mean I jumped out of bed, instead just lounged and cuddled with Tarragon. We did not have a heavy day planed, not nearly as much as yesterday. The day consisted mainly of a walk by, a historic building tour, lunch at a place north of down town and some antique stores.

After the morning routine we headed down to breakfast. This is a good time to describe the place we are staying. It is currently undergoing major renovation, but that hasn’t impacted our stay as they are working on other buildings not the part we are staying at. The front desk is located in a conference room as is the breakfast room, but other than that the rooms are nice, clean and roomy. Yes, a bit dated and could use new furnishings and perhaps a firmer mattress, but it is very centrally located. I am not mentioning the name, because in 2020 it will be called something else. In any event it is very centrally located so getting most anywhere we need to is pretty walkable. Breakfast which is included in the price we are paying is pretty standard, the coffee is strong and hot, so that is all that really matters.

We had a lighter breakfast, because of our lunch later today, that was going to be heart attack central, so just needed enough fuel to get us to lunch.

Four Corners of Law

The first stop today was what is known as the Four Corners of Law. Located at the intersection of Meeting and Broad it represents the laws of nation, state, city and church. One corner is city hall built in 1801; the second is St. Michael’s church (Anglican) the cornerstone set in 1752; the third is the US Court House; and finally, the County court house (representing state). These were all walk byes but the City Hall did have some historic portraits in the council chambers if you wanted to venture in.

From there we walked down Broad street to our next destination and tour.

Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon (1771)

When I think of the South and South Carolina specifically, thoughts of the revolutionary war do not cross my mind. Most of us think more of the Civil War, since South Carolina was the first state to succeed from the Union. However, Charleston was actually fairly significant during this time. It was strategically important and the richest colony at that time, because of the rice and indigo trade (not to mention the slave trade). The Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon were important during the war.

The building at one time served as the commercial and social center of Charleston, it is where the U.S. Constitution was ratified by South Carolina (the 8th state to do so) and a ball in honor of President Washington was held on his tour of the Southern states. It was also used as a prison by the British during the Revolutionary War. Both men and women were held here and the conditions were horrific, everyone was in the same small room and if you died, they left you there with the rest of the prisoners for days if not weeks. The tour of the provost was guided and lasted about 20 minutes, after that you were free to tour the upper floors on your own.

The entrance fee can be purchased in combination with the Slave Market tour (which we will be doing another day) and normally costs $15 a person. If you are military you get a $4 discount. This is the one and only time Jerry’s service in the Navy got us a discount on something, including on my ticket.

Martha Lou’s Kitchen

This place has been written up in the New York times and is a local favorite. Even with favorable press and many trip advisor and yelp reviews, it still is not a tourist hot spot. In fact, the woman at the front desk of our hotel was surprised we even knew about it. It is about 3 miles from downtown Charleston, but it is worth the trip for truly authentic soul food. An insider tip, is that you can get there free by taking the HOP shuttle. This is a shuttle service that runs between a park and ride near Martha Lou’s to down town. It started as transportation for hospitality works downtown, hence the full name of the shuttle is Hospitality On the Peninsula. It is free of charge, and almost no tourists use it, but they don’t have a rule that says you can’t. It saves you from driving or taking a taxi.

The menu is traditional southern soul, and please don’t expect it to be healthy, gluten free or vegan/vegetarian friendly. All the meat is deep fried and the sides are carbalicious. An insider tip, is make sure to ask what other sides they may have available that day, just because it is not listed on the menu, doesn’t mean they don’t have it. Collard greens was not listed, but they certainly had it, along with potato salad, yams, stuffing and many more. The price is $14 per person and includes a drink (water, ice tea or lemonade) the ice tea is sweet but they do have unsweetened if you ask, not that I knew that at the time. Also included is a choice of meat (deep fried in peanut oil) and three sides. I had the chicken and Jerry had a pork chop. I have never had a deep-fried pork chop, yum yum, but that will probably be the only time, I wish to live longer than the end of the year. We both had the same sides, mac and cheese, corn bread and bread pudding. All of it was very good. The fried chicken was piping hot and not cooked ahead of time. It is mostly run by the daughters and occasionally grandchild for Martha Lou, I think after 30 years, he is enjoying some downtime and letting the next generation turn over. But you can certainly taste the love in her food, even if she didn’t cook your lunch that day.

Edmondston-Alston House – Federal Style (1825)

This was actually not on the itinerary for the day, but Jerry wanted to see what is known as a Charleston Townhome, so we added it to the day. This house was quite large in appearance from the outside, but really only had 4 rooms per floor on the inside with a hallway that divided the front from the back. It was a guided tour and no pictures were allowed inside as the family still owned everything inside, in fact a descent actually still lived on the third floor.

The furnishings were very well maintained and all owned by the family and many of them original to the house. The kitchen/slave quarters were attached to the main house in one of the renovations so it is not how it was originally. The carriage house and the kitchen building have in fact been turned into a bed and breakfast. The house is on the river front looking out over the harbor and Fort Sumter. Because if its location next to water, it gets a nice breeze which helped it cool during the summer months, not that they lived there during those months. It is also built on land that was in fact the river, it was filled in after the seawall, which formed part of the original wall around Charles Town.

As a bit of aside and some family history, Charles Town was named after Charles II of England, King during the time it was settled. King Charles II was also the great grandson of Mary Queen of Scotts (which allegedly I am also a descendant.) I know that on my paternal grandfather’s side of the family, they originally settled in Virginia and least one came over on the Mayflower. None of this is known for sure, but family legend is strong, so I choose to believe I have some connection to the area.

After our tour we slowly walked back towards our hotel. Walking up King St., which is supposed to have several antique stores. There were a few, but it appears that most have relocated or gone out of business. Jerry did go into a couple, while I rested my aching feet. He is always on the lookout for some wall sconces, but these were not in our price range, one set at $1,000 the other $6,000.

On our walk-up King street, we did walk by another historic house built in the late 1700’s. It was quite large, and you can see in the picture that it had an interesting iron gate with spears on the top. This was done in reaction to one of the slave revolts (imagine, they didn’t want to be owned.) The tops of the iron gate were added to protect the slave owners from any rebellion. I think they forgot that their slaves actually lived on the same side of the wall as they did.

Now back in the room, enjoying our wine and giving kitty some love. Dinner tonight is another of the Hall Family’s establishments. More on that when we return from dinner.

Slightly North of Broad

It is becoming very clear that Charleston is very much a foodie town. There are so many places to choose from, you never know if you are missing out on something. Tonight’s dinner was at Slightly North of Broad or SNOB. Don’t let the acronym fool you, there is really nothing snobby about this place, at least not among the wait staff, the kitchen staff, well they all needed a major attitude change. They all seemed to be competing against each other not working together as a cohesive team. But this did not detract from the very well-prepared food.

They have a chef counter, which we normally love to sit at. We did get seated there, but it really wasn’t worth it as it isn’t really a chef counter, it is a bar about 20 feet from the kitchen, so you don’t get that up close and personal touch you do when you are actually sitting at a counter looking directly in to the kitchen and actually able to speak with the chefs as they prepare the food. We still saw a fair amount of the kitchen activity, but much of it was unnecessary drama and one ups manship by the various sous chefs.

All of that being said, the dinner was very good and reasonable priced. We started with our traditional glass of bubbly, in this case Prosecco. It took us a while to get through the menu because everything looked very good. We opted to scale down on the appetizer’s this evening so we would not be so stuffed by the end of the night. We started with a grass feed beef carpaccio, lovely presentation with a really nice sauce, which for the life of me I really can’t remember. We then both had a simple lettuce with a nice vinaigrette, even the pickled fennel worked.

The entrées were very difficult to choose, the rack of lamb sounded great and the ones I saw being cooked and served made my mouth water. But there were other great sounding dishes as well. Finally, we made up our mind. Jerry went with the pan roasted flounder, with a butter bean succotash and bacon jam. I did the shrimp and grits, with country ham and andioulle sausage. The twist to this dish was the spicy tomato sauce that was the base of the dish. The grits were perfectly cooked (it does beat
Shrimp and GritsShrimp and GritsShrimp and Grits

Dish of the Day
out the shrimp and grits for Halls, if your keeping track). This was all paired with a very nice 2016 Kings Estate Pinot Noir, (Oregon is always close).

The service was nicely timed and we were not rushed. It was the night before Thanksgiving and the kitchen staff started breaking down an hour before the place closed. This was about to cause some serious drama. At 9:45 a two top was seated (and what I could say about them and won’t) right in view of the entire kitchen. The facial expression on lead chef, was not one of happiness, literally everything had been put away. We were in the midst of enjoying our Turtle Tart, a chocolate mouse tart with a caramel sauce and pecans. We split it in stead of overdosing on sweats. It was very good. We could have lingered to see the unfolding drama, but decided to leave instead.

The overall impression was very good and definitely worth a visit in the future should we find ourselves back. However, would not choose to sit at the chef counter again, because don’t really enjoy kitchen drama. Was like an episode of Hell’s kitchen with out the yelling and swearing.

The walk home was very slow, both our backs our flaring up, but that should resolve itself soon, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and not much in the way of sightseeing is on the agenda. The dish of the day, was the shrimp and grits.

Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, looking forward to a very nice dinner and there is a parade tomorrow as well.

Additional photos below
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28th November 2019

My Kind of Turtle
But will the parade be comparable to Macy’s in NYC? LOL I was drooling over the turtle torte dessert. Yum. That slice looked HUGE. Definitely something to share. Happy Thanksgiving.

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