Platter at Hank’s Seafood, Charleston
Eat, drink and meet in grand styleIt’s no secret that South Carolina has become a foodies’ paradise, known for enhancing simple fare such as shrimp and grits, Frogmore stew, roasted oysters and boiled peanuts. Coconut cake or peach cobbler, with a tall glass of sweet tea, rounds out most meals there. In Charleston, the dynamic culinary scene continues to captivate visitors who also savor the historical architecture, barrier islands and beaches. Tapping into local resources, the food is seasonal and fresh, stirring the indigenous culture into favorite recipes of past and present. Columbia’s college-town atmosphere translates to more casual dining options, but with the same commitment to quality and taste. From a converted auto garage to a 19th-century firehouse, dining options are unique and eclectic. Myrtle Beach caters to a variety of palates by blending old with new. Old-school diners, artistic burgers, sushi and chemistry-lab libations can all be found there. Taste the Lowcountry like a local on Hilton Head Island, where beachside meals are as enticing as upscale dining. The proximity to the ocean allows Hilton Head to offer an unsurpassed “bait-to-plate” experience. New eateries and creative menus are surfacing all over Greenville. This food revolution has redefined the city as a culinary destination similar to Charleston, and foodies are raving. Zagat recently named Greenville one of 16 Under-the-Radar Southern Food Destinations. In South Carolina, expect to be fed very well by chefs who plate up a heaping serving of colorful history, flavored with rich local traditions and served with a side of relaxed Southern charm.
Charleston’s downtownBoasting two cooking schools and a plethora of restaurants, Charleston’s cobblestone streets and antebellum homes provide a charming backdrop for world-class cuisine—hence, the best grits in the country. In 2016, Le Farfalle Osteria began serving Italian fare such as Octopus Carpaccio and the Toscano Family Chorizo and Egg Platter by New York City chef Michael Toscano. For casual dining, former Texas La Barbecue pit master John Lewis serves his style of perfectly smoked meats at Lewis Barbecue. McCrady’s Tavern offers an upscale menu with authentic Calf’s Head Soup and Broiled Flounder Vin Blanc, prepared by James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock in an 18th-century pub with a rooftop garden. Burning off those calories isn’t a problem. “Charleston’s many leisure accolades have also increased our visibility as a meeting destination,” says Linn Lesesne, chairman of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau board of governors. Eat, drink and meet in grand style. Beneath the courtyard’s majestic magnolia, 82 Queen honors its historic location with the likes of Buttermilk Fried Okra and an unfathomable amount of She-Crab Soup, served since 1982. Irish chef Frank McMahon has mastered Lowcountry seafood favorites including Fried Oysters with Green Tomatoes and Sweet Corn at world-famous Hank’s Seafood, tucked inside a late-19th-century cotton warehouse. Taste a legendary Charleston Nasty Biscuit made with fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese and sausage gravy at Hominy Grill, a restaurant and courtyard where James Beard Award-winning chef Robert Stehling keeps the stove hot.
ColumbiaHome to University of South Carolina, Columbia’s high energy extends to the numerous restaurants, cafes and food trucks that dot the landscape. “Columbia is an affordable, accessible destination that offers the exciting attractions, dining and entertainment of a big city with the ease and community of a small town,” says Jason Outman, executive director of Columbia Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. New places to dine include The War Mouth, a converted auto garage now serving catfish stew and craft cocktails with intriguing names, such as Backsliding Southern Baptist, Snake Juice and Bee’s Knees. For superior fast-casual, noted New York City chef Sarah Simmons exceeded expectations with Rise Gourmet Goods and Bakeshop, featuring delectable breakfast bowls, gourmet sandwiches and enticing bakery specials. Drop in at Spotted Salamander for lunch, maybe on Fried Chicken Tuesday, although the Sweet Tea Vodka BBQ Meatball Sub is another winner. Delight in small plates prepared by chef Russell Jones at the upscale Tallulah, serving classic French and modern American food such as Cornmeal Fried Oysters with Watermelon Radish and Fennel, or Chicken Liver Mousse Tart. A Columbia institution for 26 years, Motor Supply Co. Bistro creates new lunch and dinner selections daily for contemporary American, French, Italian and Asian cuisine. Sample the house-cured charcuterie with a seasonal craft cocktail such as Rum Forest Rum, or Gin and Jam. Columbia’s oldest restaurant is Villa Tronco, where four generations have dished up authentic Italian recipes inside a 19th-century firehouse for 75 years. Villa Tronco won a 2016 Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine.
Myrtle BeachThis coastal beauty attracts families and businesses, and includes an array of dining atmospheres serving Lowcountry cuisine with freshly caught seafood. Or simply bask in the Slow Food Movement that is perfectly suited to the relaxed surroundings. “Myrtle Beach is a great place to visit year-round,” says Keith Pierce, public relations strategist for Myrtle Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “With its moderate and often unseasonably warm climate, visitors can stroll 60 miles of sandy beaches or scenic outdoor parks, even in the fall and winter.” New places to frequent include The Chemist, serving craft cocktails in lab flasks and a modern gourmet menu. New York Prime plates up excellent steak and seafood with an extensive wine list in an elegant supper-club environment. Watch for the Radio Flyer wagon carting around Big Red, aka the largest lobster in the tank, to whet your appetite. Don’t miss Art Burger Sushi Bar, where art is reflected in gourmet burgers, sushi and the liquid nitrogen bar. Local art for sale adorns the walls of this very popular restaurant. Other local favorites include Sea Captain’s House, where for more than 50 years, superior food and service has rivaled the spectacular ocean view. Set in a 1930s cottage, the restaurant serves shrimp, scallops, fish, clams, mussels and more. For 80 years, Peaches Corner has dazzled diners with incredible burgers and hot dogs. Step back to a slower time inside this charming diner on the corner.
Hilton Head Island
The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & SpaCrab shacks and barbecues—as well as posh dining—can be enjoyed on Hilton Head Island. Watch the sun set at an oyster roast or grab fish tacos for the beach. “There is something for even the pickiest palate on Hilton Head Island,” says Charlie Clark, vice president of communications for Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Visitors & Convention Bureau. “From fresh seafood to award-winning barbecue or international tastes, the island is home to more than 250 restaurants with every cuisine imaginable.” Skull Creek Dockside restaurant will open this summer with outstanding waterfront views, spectacular seafood and an outdoor playground for kids and adults, including an event stage. Wood-fired pizza can be found at Local Pie. Try “The Gump,” consisting of Carolina shrimp, scallop sausage, garlic calamari, roast tomato, green olives, goat cheese and arugula. Since 1982, Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte has been offering the freshest daily menu and specials based on availability of local seafood for its French-American cuisine. For seafood right off the boat, try Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks, featuring extraordinary views of Port Royal Sound. Groups can see the day’s catch of oysters, shrimp and crabs being unloaded onsite. Once full, relax in Southern luxury at The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, or head to Jazz Corner, a Lowcountry landmark and renowned jazz room that combines big sounds with gourmet cuisine.
Ballroom at The Westin Poinsett, GreenvilleSituated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville is now being sought out for its culinary offerings. Some 600 restaurants fill the city, which is on the verge of becoming a gastronome’s haven, with 30 more new restaurants opening in 2017. “Greenville is quickly becoming known as a ‘foodie paradise,’ with an enticing and diverse collection of dining experiences and cuisines—from traditional to global to downright eclectic,” says David Montgomery, vice president of sales for Visit Greenville SC.
Art Burger Sushi Bar, Myrtle BeachChef Michael Kramer (formerly of McCrady’s in Charleston) is opening Jianna, a casual restaurant serving fresh oysters and modern Italian fare on a heated second-floor veranda overlooking Falls Park. Husk will open this summer with ingredient-driven cuisine that defines chef Sean Brock’s menu. He also co-hosts PBS’ The Mind of a Chef.
Steak dinner at Halls Chophouse, GreenvilleVoted Best Steakhouse in America by Yelp, Halls Chophouse downtown on the Reedy River serves wet- and dry-aged USDA prime and choice beef, and local fish and poultry. It’s known for providing exceptional customer service.
Halls dining roomAt Up on the Roof, located in the new Embassy Suites by Hilton Greenville Golf Resort & Conference Center, awestruck guests enjoy panoramic city and Blue Ridge Mountain views while sipping handcrafted cocktails and grazing on local and seasonal small plate offerings. Spoonbread Restaurant at The Westin Poinsett, Greenville serves up its own spin on Southern-accented cuisine for breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch.
Terrace and lawn at Embassy Suites by Hilton Greenville Golf Resort & Conference CenterWilly Taco–Feed & Seed features items such as Crispy Avocado Taco, containing tempura battered avocado, shaved cabbage, microgreens and sesame seeds. Chef William Cribb, the 2017 South Carolina Chef Ambassador for the Upstate, promotes locally grown, healthy ingredients. Soby’s New South Cuisine offers refined dining with signature fare, including Barbecue Shrimp and Grits and Crab Cakes Remoulade. Free valet parking and rooftop dining are available. Forget the white sandy beaches, luxury resorts, and natural beauty of the Palmetto State. Come for the hospitality and stay for the food. Mona L. Hayden is an independent writer and an award-winning photographer. She publishes Louisiana Road Trips magazine.
Greenville’s Culinary Uprising
South Carolina can satisfy most any palate, and Greenville has stepped up to become its latest culinary destination. The city boasts more than 100 distinct restaurants downtown, and 2017 openings include The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, premiering in October. Brazwell’s Premium Pub, Ink N Ivy and Butch’s Diner will also be opening this year. Recent openings include the wildly popular Asheville’s Biscuit Head and The Kitchen Sync, which plates up contemporary comfort food and was named the No. 1 certified green restaurant in America by the Green Restaurant Association. Several other Charleston restaurants and bars have expanded into Greenville, including Tucanos Brazilian Grill, Tin Lizzy’s Cantina, Cantina 76 and Caviar & Bananas. Food trucks continue to dot the landscape, with 20 vendors serving up everything from gourmet cupcakes to gyros to barbecue. At Coastal Crust Pizza, enjoy offerings made in a wood-fired oven on the bed of a 1955 Chevy truck, as well as the items featured at Chocolate Moose, Henry’s Hog Hauler and Chuck Truck. Also, Automatic Taco Truck ranks No. 5 on BuzzFeed’s 19 Best Tacos in America list for 2016.
Charleston, named one of the world’s 10 Best Delicious Destinations for Foodies by Travelocity, is as rich in culinary quests as it is in coastal adventures. Excursions offered by Charleston Culinary Tours, one of the city’s main tour companies, can be as general as restaurant visits and as specific as a chef’s kitchen tour, a farm-to-table event, a mixology tour or an excursion to sample the flavors of a specific area. For a nominal fee, your group will enjoy tastings and samples, collect recipes and mingle among some of the most creative culinary professionals in the country. Attendees can spend a couple of hours gaining inside information from distinguished chefs and bakers, as well as tips from the area’s best growers and producers, as they stroll the historic cobblestone streets. The authentic tastes of the Lowcountry are celebrated with dishes such as oyster stew, shrimp and grits (pictured), pimento cheese, pickled okra, and benne wafers made with butter, sugar and sesame seeds. Carolina Gold Rice and She-Crab Soup round out local offerings.
Major Meeting Venues
CharlestonBelmond Charleston Place AAA Four Diamond luxury property; 434 guest rooms; 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; recent $30 million renovation; rooftop pool. Charleston Area Convention Center 150,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, 77,000-square-foot exhibit hall; 25,000-square-foot ballroom; connected via skywalk to Embassy Suites by Hilton Charleston Airport Hotel & Convention Center. Charleston Marriott Overlooks Ashley River; 348 guest rooms; 50,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 9,680-square-foot ballroom; city’s only rooftop bar. Kiawah Island Golf Resort Located a few miles from Charleston; The Sanctuary Hotel offers 255 guest rooms; The Resort Villas provides 10 villas; five golf courses; tennis; spa; 35,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina Boutique hotel opened in late 2016; named one of Fodor’s Best New Hotels in the World; 92 guest rooms; spa; 40,100 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space. The Dewberry
Forbes Five Star hotel; harbor and city views; 155 guest rooms; 7,500 sq. ft. of event space.
ColumbiaColumbia Convention Center Near open-air cafes, hotels, sports venues and airport; 145,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 17,135-square-foot ballroom. Columbia Marriott Near convention center and attractions; neighbors Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel; 300 guest rooms; 27,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Hilton Columbia AAA Four Diamond property; next to convention center and near entertainment; 222 guest rooms; 5,956 sq. ft. of event space.
GreenvilleEmbassy Suites by Hilton Greenville Golf Resort & Conference Center
Newly renovated; located in foothills of Blue Ridge Mountains; 268 suites; more than 44,000 sq. ft. of event space; championship golf course. Hilton Greenville Downtown property; 256 guest rooms; restaurant; fitness center; 14,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Hyatt Regency Greenville AAA Four Diamond downtown property; 327 guest rooms; 35,000 sq. ft. of event space. TD Convention Center 280,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space; 60,000 sq. ft. of meeting space includes 30,000-square-foot ballroom. The Westin Poinsett, Greenville Built in 1925; known as “Carolina’s Finest”; AAA Four Diamond historic property; 200 guest rooms; 12,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space.
Hilton HeadHilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa Luxurious beachfront property; 513 guest rooms, with private balconies; 46,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 17,600-square-foot ballroom. Montage Palmetto Bluff Luxury property in Bluffton, between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, Georgia; 200 guest rooms; 16,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Omni Hilton Head Resort Opulent waterfront hotel; 323 studio suites; 15,000 sq. ft. of event space including 10,000-square-foot, open-air Shore House. Sonesta Resort Hilton Head AAA Four Diamond coastal property; 340 guest rooms; 23,000 sq. ft. of event space, 10,000-square-foot ballroom and 7,000-square-foot Oceanfront Pavilion. The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa Oceanside property; 416 guest rooms; golf and tennis; 30,500 sq. ft. of event space, including 13,200-square-foot ballroom and 9,500 sq. ft. of outdoor event sites.
Myrtle BeachDoubleTree Resort by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Situated on 27 acres; private beaches; all 452 guest rooms renovated in 2016; 35,000 sq. ft. of event space. Embassy Suites by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Resort 255 guest rooms; 500 villas and condos; 70,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 14,520-square-foot ballroom; Royale Day Spa. Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort 385 guest rooms, with private balconies; business center; spa; fitness room; pool; 35,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes Oceanfront resort; 405 guest rooms; 35,650 sq. ft. of meeting space; spa; championship golf and tennis; luxurious amenities; new carpeting installed in 2016. Myrtle Beach Convention Center
Adjoins AAA Four Diamond Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel; 250,000 sq. ft. of space includes 100,800 sq. ft. in column-free exhibit hall. Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel Connected to Myrtle Beach Convention Center; 400 guest rooms; business center; fitness center; indoor heated pool.