A Tale of Two Cities: Charlottesville and Charleston

So I’m not quite Charles Dickens, nor is this about London and Paris, or a war (you get the point), but it is about two delightful and charming cities I’ve visited recently.

Let’s start with Charlottesville……Jason introduced me to Charlottesville, which is one of the most charming and wonderful cities. He went to law school at UVA, and therefore, he spent three glorious years there. We now take trips down (well up now) several times a year. Charlottesville has the university, great vineyards, hiking trails, really awesome restaurants and bars.

One of our three trips up to Cville in the past few months, we stayed at High Meadows Vineyard Inn, which is actually in a town called Scottsville that is about 15-20 minutes outside of Charlottesville. It was one of my first real experiences staying at a B&B besides the South Street Inn (also in Charlottesville), which we stay at often when visiting. (Side Note: South Street Inn is conveniently located a few blocks from the downtown mall and has AMAZING cookies!) We had a wonderful time at High Meadows.The house is a beautiful old home in many just happy colors (pinks, blues and yellows), and each room is themed. The breakfasts were amazing (including Belgian waffles one day and a scrumptious fritatta the next day). Nancy, the inn keeper was a charming lady and they had a pet peacock named Henry!

High Meadows Inn (picture by me)

Scottsville is a very small town, so when we got in Friday night, we enjoyed a late dinner at Horseshoe Bend Bistro in Scottsville. I had the steak au poivre, which I had no complaints about.  After listening to some live music, we found out the one cab company that existed in Scottsville was no longer operational, so we were going to walk the mile or so back to the B&B, but due to the fact that it was pretty late at this point and the road there was a windy road with no sidewalk or shoulder for that matter, the bartender very kindly stopped working for a few minutes so she could drive us back. Talk about southern hospitality! Needless to say, this one goes on the list of restaurants to revisit for that reason alone.

We spent Saturday afternoon watching the UVA v. UNC Lacrosse game. It was my first time watching lacrosse, but seemed pretty easy to understand enough to get into it, and the weather was quite perfect (as always).
We discovered Citizen Burger, which is now a must-hit restaurant on all trips to Cville (and we have all three trips. The burgers are incredible (they have truffle parmesan fries and a truffled brioche), and they use local free-range beef, and have “red”, “pink” or “no pink” for the temperature options, which is fantastic, since most people don’t know what in the hell “medium rare” actually means. I would say this burger rivals a DuMont burger, which is one of the best burgers ever.  Other awesome things about Citizen is they have great beer selection and a good tv set-up at the bar for watching games, and it is conveniently located on the downtown mall with outdoor seating.


Annabelle and Jason brunching at Citizen
My handsome brunch date
Here are a few more restaurants in Charlottesville:
  • Mas Tapas: This is my favorite restaurant in Charlottesville. They update their menu daily, and there is nothing on the menu that won’t wow your tastebuds (Bacon Wrapped Dates are incredible), and they have excellent sangria! I haven’t been to Charlottesville without a trip to Mas. It’s normally our first night restaurant and is great for large groups. They have a patio with heaters, so even on chilly nights it’s still enjoyable. (Sadly I don’t have any recent pictures from Mas….the food is normally inhaled).
  •  The Local: farm-to-table style. Great food and really big and good for large groups.
The Local: Steak Special with a cream sauce, asparagus and mashed potatoes
West Main: Steak and Eggs on a Bed of Grits
  • West Main:  This is a good staple, and the food is always reliable. They also start serving brunch at 10:00am, which is great if you’re an early riser and hungry for a good meal.
  • The Virginian: This is the restaurant where President Obama ate when he went to Charlottesville. It’s owned by the same family that owns West Main, Citizen Burger, No. 3., and the Biltmore. It’s also a dependable go to for southern food.
The Virginian: Eggs Benedict with Creamed Spinach and Artichokes
Another wonderful thing about Charlottesville is that it is located with driving distance of many good wineries in the Monticello wine region. We always try to go to at least a few of them and end up taking home a few bottles of wine (and sometimes a case or even a wine club membership), and will likely spend several hours of an afternoon just sitting out on the lawn of one of them enjoying a bottle of wine and the beautiful views. Some of our favorites are Barboursville, King Family Vineyards (they have polo matches on the premises), Del Fosse, Cardinal Point, Keswick, Veritas…. (I could go on and on).
View at King Family Vineyards (photo by me)
The different vineyards make fabulous wedding venues (we’ve attended a couple at some of the aforementioned places). Here are a few pictures from Sujan and Steph’s wedding on Memorial Day Weekend.
Us at Sujan and Steph’s Wedding at Castle Hill Cider
The group with the newly married couple!


Caroline, Diem, Jason and me at the cocktail hour
Charlottesville also hosts the Foxfield Races in the fall and spring. The fall Foxfields is the family day and much more tame, whereas the spring one has quite the rowdy undergrad showing, but the undergrads are sectioned off into the orange section, so if you’re not looking for to partake in something that could appear on a reality tv show and rival Snookie, then you can head over to the green and other sections with grad students and alumni, and still have a fantastic time with plenty of champagne and maybe a sighting or two of horses.




And now on to Charleston…I took my first trip to Charleston in May, and immediately fell in love with it. It is absolutely beautiful, historical, and best of all full of amazing restaurants (easily some of the best meals I’ve had). Here are just a handful of pictures I took during many walks around the city. There are plenty of walking tours or tours in horse drawn carriages, but I found it nice to wander around the city and create my own walking tour, which I enjoyed having more flexibility to see what I want and make detours as I pleased. Many of the houses and buildings have signs affixed to them explaining their significance, and there are many websites with do-it-yourself tours.

Beautiful old trees in White Point Garden
Murray Street houses near the battery
and right off  Charleston Harbor

Historical Houses on East Bay Street
For our first brunch of the weekend, we decided to take a stroll around the streets below Calhoun and see what we found. A high majority of the restaurants in the area are below Calhoun Street. We happened upon Poogan’s Porch, and the wait seemed reasonable (we were told 15-30 minutes at 12:30, and only waited about 10 which was awesome considering it was prime brunch time on a Saturday). Poogan’s Porch is one of Charleston’s oldest culinary establishments housed in an old Victorian house built in 1888, so as you can imagine, the restaurant itself is built into the house, so there are many rooms on two floors that can accommodate various sized parties. Poogan’s has an awesome brunch menu full of the richness of southern and low country cuisine, and a drink list that encourages good brunching. They start you off with these wonderfully fluffy and hot biscuits, which even Jason enjoyed even though he claims to not like biscuits. We also had the alligator bites to start, which had a good bit of cajun flavor (but not really spicy, at least by my standards) and were not chewy as some alligator can be if poorly prepared. For our main dishes, Jason and I almost always end up order the same thing, but because I wanted one of everything on the menu, we “compromised” (=Jason ordered one of the things I wanted so we could “share”. Sharing does not happen with us and meals). Jason ordered the chicken and waffles, which were topped with a blueberry Texas Pete syrup; it was definitely good, but neither of us are big chicken and waffle lovers, and the spiciness was bit lacking for our tastes. I totally won this meal and got the pulled pork benedict, and holy hell was it fantastic! I will venture to say this is certainly one of the top five brunch dishes I’ve ever had. The chef smokes the pork on site, and adds a perfect barbecue sauce that has just the slightest vinegar taste to give it a bit of a bite, and then adds a poached egg and hollandaise. This dish should certainly be a staple in any restaurant with barbecue and brunch. As you can tell, I loved this restaurant, and it’s reasonably priced ($9-15 plates, but the drinks are on par for large city cocktail prices).
Poogan’s Porch Menu
Blueberry Vodka Sparkling Lemonade! Delish!!
Fried alligator bites with a spicy aioli
Homemade Biscuit-Poogan’s Porch


Something pink and sparkling…I had to have one 🙂

Pulled Pork Benedict….the best brunch dish ever!
Chicken and Waffles with a blueberry Texas Pete syrup
After spending the afternoon walking off brunch and exploring, we were in need of an afternoon snack and stopped by Peninsula Grill for steak tartare. I would highly recommend this place for late afternoon snacks off of the bar menu (because sparkling rose and tartare are reasonable snacks), and based on the bar snacks, I venture to say the dinner would be equally pleasing. It is also a good place to have a meal at the bar if eating alone, without being limited to solely bar-style food. They have a subtle influence of the local low country cuisine in their rich steak and lamb dishes.  The Peninsula Grill is attached to the Planters Inn, which is a very well known hotel.
Sparkling Rose at Peninsula Grill
(in my trend with pink sparkly things)

For brunch on Sunday, we went to Husk where we were without a reservation again but seated immediately up on the front porch. Sean Brock, former executive chef of McCrady’s (another renowned Charleston restaurant focused around the postmodern gastronomy movement), is now the executive chef at Husk, and he focuses on using local heirloom ingredients, and changes the menu daily, which allows him to serve only the freshest, local, and inventive dishes. We started brunch with 28-ingredient bloody marys (and challenged the waiter to name all 28…he didn’t quite get there), and house made pork sausages with pimento cheese and green tomatoes. The sausage was packed with flavor and complemented nicely by the creaminess of the pimento cheese (which is something I’m not a huge fan of, but it is ubiquitous in the Carolinas) and the tartness and juiciness of the tomatoes. Per usual, I ordered steak and eggs, except they served Wagyu beef (cooked rare) with a sunny side up egg, red wine jus, and sausage and confit potato hash. The steak was so tender that I didn’t need a knife, and totally upped my standard for brunch steak and eggs. I have no recollection of what Jason ordered, because I was so consumed with my meal. We also had a side of cheese and grits, that came out with a nice thick crust of cheddar cheese on top and cheese baked into them. We ended brunch by trying Madiera, which came to be widely drank by colonists because of the lack of wine grapes in the region. Madiera is a fortified wine that is heated as high as 140 degrees Farenheit, and is quite sweet and found at many places in the area.

The Bar at Husk is also awesome. I stopped by as a break from exploration another day to have an afternoon cocktail. The mixologists have created some really refreshing and locally-inspired cocktails, and they have quite the extensive bourbon selection. I had heard that Husk was over-hyped, but my god, after our meal, I think it’s worth every bit of hype, and I loved that the wait staff was so attentive and unpretentious.

Husk brunch menu
Front Porch at Husk
Breads with bourbon flavored salt and sesame seeds
House made pork sausages
with pimento cheese and green tomato
Wonderfully cheesy grits!
Wagyu Steak and Eggs

We had a few more meals in Charleston, and I neglected to take any pictures. While Jason was at conference dinner, I had dinner alone at Hall’s’ Chophouse, and had the best bone-in filet that I’ve ever eaten. In my gluttonous streak from the weekend, I also had sides of pepper jack creamed corn and lobster mac and cheese (and they were the “for the table” sides). This steakhouse is on par with Lugers, Delmonico’s and Marc Joseph’s in the city. They also have live music frequently; when I was there, it was a blind man who beautifully sang many of the classics from the 50s, which adds the olden days ambiance I love at steakhouses. Our last dinner in Charleston was at Cypress, which has typical low-country cuisine. We were limited to a pre-selected menu because we were dining with a large group from the conference, so I’m not sure we got to experience the range of the menu. We started with a lobster bisque, that was too salty for me, but lighter than most bisques, then had a delicious heirloom tomato salad, and steak diane with a truffle peppercorn cream that was very good. Although it wasn’t my favorite, Cypress seems to be a local favorite, and they have an extensive wine selection. The interior of the building is a blend of the traditional architecture and exposed brick with modern fixtures and was really nicely done. As you can tell, I only tried a few restaurants in Charleston in the four days I spent there and would dare say that you would have to work very hard to get a less than an excellent meal.

In between meals, there is no shortage of things to do. There are quite a few museums including the Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon that hosted many notable historical figures; I couldn’t resist going to tour an old dungeon! I did the tour, which was about 30 minutes and was really cool. I also spent a rainy morning at the Charleston Museum, which is America’s oldest museum founded in 1773. There are also several beaches within half an hour from downtown Charleston including Folley Beach, Sullivan’s Island, Kiawah Island, and Isle of Palms. I went to Sullivan’s Beach, which is supposedly one of the more natural and less commercial beaches in the area. I was told by locals that Folley Beach was the place to go for more of a scene and beach party.  Additionally, there are also military and naval attractions in the area.  Charleston is definitely on my list of cities to get back to soon!

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