Getting Low In South Carolina

Charleston Pineapple Fountain
Charleston Pineapple Fountain
Charleston Pineapple Fountain

The region along the coast of South Carolina, suitably called lowcountry, is a fascinating place. Rich in history, geographically intriguing and culinary wise, offers some of the most soul satisfying food you will ever try.

Cruising around lowcountry is an attraction in and of itself. At low tide a sea of tall grasses shoot out of the muddy marshland for as far as the eye can see. At high tide the grasses disappear and the water fills in just about to street level like a sheet of glass.

Lowcountry marshland
Lowcountry marshland

A mix of lumber farms and palmettos line the highways and mossy oak trees and magnolias can be found in neighborhoods and along side streets.

The intercostal waterway provides channels, inlets and rivers that snake through dozens of sea islands. Oyster roasts and lowcountry boils (also known as Frogmore Stew) are common gatherings here. Crab nets hang off residential docks and cluster oysters can be harvested all along the muddy banks of the marshland.

South Carolina Intercostal waterway
Part of the South Carolina Intercostal waterway – Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)

My trip through this area started real low, working my way up the coast with a grand finale in Charleston eating some of the best soul food I’ve ever tried in my life. The trip looked like this….

St. Helena Island –

This is where my trip started. It’s known for its plantation homes, Gullah influence and the community of Frogmore (yes, like the stew). I was particularly weary walking around the ponds on this island, which were inhibited by very large alligators. The “no see ems” are relentless here so a daily dousing of bug spray is a must. But don’t let the gators and the bugs deter you, St. Helena Island is a lovely place to visit.

Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)
Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)
Carolina Cider Company
Carolina Cider Company – coffee bar and great selection of locally made foods and pastries
Sunset on Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)
Sunset on Dataw Island (St. Helena Island)

Port Royal Island –

Right next-door is Port Royal Island where I visited local events like the Saturday farmers market and the Soft Shell Crab Festival.

At the farmers market you can find local vegetables like collard greens, and locquats, vendors selling everything from iced tea to periogis and chinese food and live music. My favorite food stand was Hank’s lowcountry. They sell local favorites like she crab soup, Charleston crab dip with saltine crackers and crab cakes the size of softballs.

local collard greens
local collard greens
Local loquats
Local loquats
Crab dip
Crab dip at Hank’s Lowcountry
Port Royal Farmers Market
Port Royal Farmers Market

The annual Soft Shell Crab Festival is where you’ll find deep fried soft shell crab, more local live music and an antique car show.

The car show at The Soft Shell Crab Festival
The car show at The Soft Shell Crab Festival

Beaufort –

Located on Port Royal Island with its cannon lined shore is the town of Beaufort. Antebellum style mansions, horse drawn carriages and a few nice restaurants. But the town’s biggest commodity now days is local artwork.

Beaufort
Beaufort

Many films have been shot throughout the years in this region of South Carolina. The Great Santini, The Big Chill and The Prince of Tides were just a few that were filmed in Beaufort. Scenes from the movie Forrest Gump where shot all over Port Royal and St. Helena islands.

Folly Beach –

Probably one of the biggest and nicest piers I’ve ever been on. Come to fish, take a stroll or shop. There’s even a full bar. Down below is an enormous sandy beach and a lively main strip with fun little dive bars like Planet Follywood and the Sand Dollar Social Club that the local’s charmingly call “the dirty dollar”.

Folly Beach
Folly Beach
Folly Beach Pier
Folly Beach Pier

Charleston –

Come ready to walk and eat because you will want to do a lot of both here.

A particular highlight for me was The battery, a long stretch of historic mansions and parks all along the water. Start down at King St. and Murray blvd., walk all the way up Murray as it turns into East Battery and eventually into East Bay St. Weave in and out of museums if you like, eventually making a right on Exchange street and a left at Concord St. ending up at the infamous pineapple fountain.

Historic mansions along East Battery
Historic mansions along East Battery
The Battery, Charleston
The Battery, Charleston
One of the many beautiful gardens in Charleston
One of the many beautiful gardens in Charleston

If it’s a nice day another awesome thing to do is take the water taxi across the river. There are 4 stops the boat makes and there are things to see and do at each one. Although, I think the boat ride is enough in and of itself. The captain is a great guy and you will more than likely have a few dolphins swimming right along side you almost the entire time.

Charleston river taxi
Spencer and I on the Charleston river taxi
Charleston River
Charleston River

Catch the sunset at the Vendue rooftop bar. It’s a lovely way to wind down your day and get ready for the evening. There are 360 degree views of the city and the river from up there.

Sunset at Vendue rooftop bar
Sunset at Vendue rooftop bar

People are super friendly in Charleston. Small talk is encouraged and a “hi, how are you” to strangers is common when walking down the street. I had to laugh when a local complimented me on my “Gamecock tattoo”, the University of South Carolina’s basketball team mascot. I smiled and said thank you. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was a Kauai rooster.

The food in Charleston is great, although at times a bit heavy. For a list of places to eat make sure to check out my top 10 best restaurants in Charleston SC list. I cover everything from lowcountry soul food to innovative Asian cuisine.

A final thought on Charleston. If you’re in the restaurant industry the industry shot here (surprisingly) is Grand Marnier. So, when someone offers you a “Grandma Shot” that’s what you’re in for. An awesome industry bar if you’re looking for one is The Recovery Room. This bar’s claim to fame is that they are the #1 seller of PBR in the country. I met one of the most talented bartenders I’ve ever seen in all my years of dive bar hopping there. He ran circles around the other bartender maintaining complete control while remembering multiple orders at a time, cracking jokes and swapping stories with customers from all sides of the large square bar. All while slamming back shots one after another. He was hysterical and had us entertained all night.

So whether you are a history buff or enjoy hanging out on a picnic table cracking crab, lowcountry has something for you. Just be careful if you are planning your trip during the summer. It’s hot as hell and you can cut the humidity with a knife. Spring or fall is the way to go!

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

My Top 10 Best Restaurants in Charleston SC

Husk
Husk Restaurant
Broadbent country ham with buttermilk biscuits and Carolina Heritage pork with local vegetables and sunflower romesco at Husk

Whether you are looking for soul food or fine dining Charleston has you covered. Most menus are pork and shellfish heavy and you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve at least a couple of deep fried items on the menu. Many chefs have impressive charcuterie programs and you’ll never eat collard greens as tasty as you will eat here. This is country southern cooking at its finest.

Here are my Top 10 Best Restaurants in Charleston SC:

  1. HuskAsk any tourist walking down the street where they are going to dinner while they are in town and they will say Husk. It’s everyone’s favorite here, including the locals and rightfully so. Chef Sean Brock is the man in this town. You can’t get food much more locally sourced than here not to mention the dramatic plate presentations and southern hospitality are also exceptional. The menu is very pork heavy offering southern staples like Broadbent country ham with buttermilk biscuits to innovative craveable bites like Kentuckyaki glazed pig’s ear lettuce wraps with sweet vinegar marinated cucumber. My favorite guilty pleasure on our visit was the southern fried chicken skins with pimento cheese “ranch” and Espelette pepper. I had to finally step away from these crunchy, salty bites smothered in that addictive sauce so that I could eat the rest of my meal. Come hungry, order as many dishes as you can and save room for dessert. There isn’t a bad choice on the menu and selections change daily. There is some serious talent in the kitchen here. **Important tip – Make a reservation well in advance or show up at 5pm and stand in line to put your name on the list. They’ll shoot you a text when your table is ready (which could be 2-3 hours from then). 76 Queen St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-2500 
    Husk
    Husk
    Husk
    The Southern fried chicken skins with pimento cheese “ranch” and Kurios Farms bibb lettuce salad at Husk

    Husk
    Dessert at Husk
  2. Xiao Bao BiscuitI was beginning to feel the wrath of southern cooking when I stumbled upon this place. I felt like I was back in San Francisco. Once an old gas station now a beautiful eclectic space filled with succulants and Asian imports offers up an exciting menu of what they call Asian soul food. Classics from Korea, China, Japan and Thailand are reimagined and refined using local ingredients, modern techniques and elegant yet rustic plating style. We ordered every dish on the menu I kid you not. Words cannot describe the complexity of flavors you will experience. I think the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy this one. 224 Rutledge Ave. Charleston, SC No reservations – first come, first serve    
    Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Local spring vegetable salad with creamy yuzu, tempura and cured egg yolk at Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Thai style minced beef at Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Okonomiyaki – Japanese cabbage pancake with farm egg at Xiao Bao Biscuit

    Xiao Bao Biscuit
    Mapo dou fu – Spicy Sichuan pork and tofu at Xiao Bao Biscuit
  3. Bertha’s Kitchen – Bertha’s and Martha Lou’s are a dead tie in my book. Both restaurants offer the best no frills soul food I’ve ever had in my life. Even though they are equally good they do have their differences and that is why you must try them both. Bertha’s is a little bit further out of town but worth the cab fare. Customers line up everyday before the doors open and once they do the line remains there all day long so just be prepared to wait. Don’t worry it goes fast. Once you get up to the front of the line there is no menu. You point and they scoop. Every plate comes with cornbread and 2 sides and their offerings are subject to change on a daily basis. Their fried chicken is a must – it’s the best I’ve ever had. I also recommend their okra soup, lima beans, hopping johns, collard greens, red rice and braised cabbage. You can not go wrong with anything you order here so go crazy. 2332 Meeting Street Rd. Charleston, SC 29405 (843) 554-6519 
    Soul food at Bertha's Kitchen
    Soul food at Bertha’s Kitchen

    The line at Bertha's Kitchen
    The line at Bertha’s Kitchen
  4. Martha Lou’s Kitchen – Martha Lou is a culinary legend in these parts. At 86 years old she still takes orders and runs food. The restaurant is tiny, I think I remember it only having about 7 or 8 tables. The fried chicken (which you are going to get) is fried to order so it takes a while for the food to come out but it’s worth the wait. If you want a cold beer you’ll have to ask because they aren’t listed on the menu. She usually has a stash of Budweiser in the back though. If they aren’t already sold out order the chitterlings, she is known for those. I also recommend the lima beans, collard greens with rice, braised cabbage and mac and cheese – all ridiculously good. 1068 Morrison Dr. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 577-9583 
    Fried chicken, mac and cheese, lima beans and braised cabbage at Martha Lou's Kitchen
    Fried chicken, mac and cheese, lima beans and braised cabbage at Martha Lou’s Kitchen

    Martha Lou
    Martha Lou
  5. The Ordinary – This is where you come if you are in the mood for seafood and especially shellfish. Their claim to fame are their shellfish towers. Huge trays piled with ice, oysters, clams, crab and whatever else they are throwing on there that day. They have an innovative selection of cold and hot small plates offering everything from vegetable crudos to oyster sliders. They even do caviar. I loved this place for wine and apps. 544 King St. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 414-7060 Closed Mondays.

    Vegetable crudo at The ordinary
    Vegetable crudo at The ordinary
  6. The Butcher and Bee – When you are ready for something a little bit healthier cruise over to this place. They are open breakfast, lunch and dinner and offer a wide variety of choices. To drink you can get a cold-pressed juice, a finely crafted coffee, specialty cocktails, local beer and wine. Their bakery produces fresh daily pastries like donuts, croissants and cinnamon rolls. Try an avocado toast for breakfast, a brown rice and vegetable bowl for lunch and come back for Moroccan fish and grits or braised half chicken for dinner. The menu is loaded with vegetables, salads and whole grains. I wish I could have eaten here 3 times a day, every day of my trip to try everything. 1085 Morrison Dr. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 619-0202 

    Avocado toast, cheesy grits and cold-pressed green juice at The Butcher and Bee
    Avocado toast, cheesy grits and cold-pressed green juice at The Butcher and Bee
  7. The Macintosh – With a name like Jeremiah Bacon you know this chef is going to have some pork on the menu. The “Bacon Happy Hour” Monday-Friday 5-7pm offers fun snacks like pork belly banh mi and totchos (tator tots served in the style of nachos). The menu is constantly changing to make room for new local vegetables and fish in season. Besides pork you will find interesting dishes like Asparagus with fish sauce, fried breadcrumbs and poached egg. I recommend grabbin’ a spot at the bar for dinner with it’s fun lively atmosphere. 479B King St. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 789-4299 

    House-made Bratwurst at The Macintosh
    House-made Bratwurst at The Macintosh
  8. Cypress – I ate the biggest hot dog I’ve ever had in my life here. If you have sat upstairs in the bar and/or are in the industry you know what I am talking about. The chef here has a damn fine charcuterie program and makes things like mortadella, bresaola and headcheese. But he also makes amazing hot dogs! He serves them on a house made pretzel bun with bread and butter pickles and ballpark mustard. But beware this thing is massive. Oh yeah, and they have amazing other food too like Lobster Bisque and Steak Diane which you can enjoy in a very fancy high end dining room. I like to sit upstairs in the bar and look down into the kitchen to see what they are up to where it’s a little bit more casual. 167 East Bay St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 727-0111 

    House-made charcuterie at Cypress
    House-made charcuterie at Cypress
  9. Slightly North of Broad – Charmingly nicknamed, SNOB this restaurant has almost a cult like following in this city. Like almost all restaurants down here the place is packed daily so reservations are encouraged. Think upscale lowcountry cuisine with a party atmosphere. You’ll find classics like she crab soup, shrimp and grits and soft shell crab here. 192 East Bay St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 723-3424 

    Beef Carpaccio at S.N.O.B.
    Beef Carpaccio at S.N.O.B.
  10. McCrady’s – Located in a building established in 1778 this beautiful upscale bar and restaurant is an elegant place to come and enjoy a romantic dinner. The tasting menu created by Sean Brock (also of Husk restaurant) includes beautifully prepared, locally sourced ingredients like Virginia oysters, Ossabaw pork and Charleston ice-cream. 155 East Bay St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-0025 Closed Monday and Tuesday
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Savannah Showtime

Oglethorpe Avenue, Savannah Georgia
Oglethorpe Avenue, Savannah Georgia
Oglethorpe Avenue, Savannah Georgia

In 1974 my Dad moved from New York to a small town called Wilmington, just outside of Savannah, Georgia. With him was his wife and what would later become my half sister, who was then 2 years old. They moved into his Mother and Father in law’s home on a large oak tree lined property along the Wilmington River until they could get on their feet.

My Dad, an up and coming piano player and his wife would perform folk music in a restaurant on River St. in downtown Savannah. To make ends meet he held side jobs like working in the shrimp market and managing a radio shack. My sister remembers setting daily crab traps off the dock behind their house and Dad playing piano for the neighbors.

A couple years later my Dad left Savannah to move to California. He would eventually meet my Mom and have me.

Still frustrated by not “making it” as a musician in NYC he and my Mom started performing rhythm and blues together in San Diego. They recorded his first album around 1980. It was called, Savannah Showtime. The first song on the album entitled “Sweet Mary Blues” was based on a old woman he cleaned shrimp next to in that Georgia shrimp market.

It was that story that led me to Savannah.

A tour guide through Savannah

Savannah was America’s first planned city. Founded in 1733 it’s laid out in a series of squares and parks lined with rows of live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss (which I’m told is neither Spanish nor moss). Out of the 24 original squares, 22 still exist today.

In addition to the Oak trees you can find Palmetto and Magnolia trees and an interesting phenomenon called the resurrection fern – a fern that remains grey and shriveled until the rain comes, turning it bright green and causing it to unravel and wrap all around the branches and trunks of the Oak trees.

Resurrection fern. Beaufort, South Carolina (just outside Savannah)
Resurrection ferns. Beaufort, South Carolina (just outside Savannah)

My visit took place in April. Usually, a nice time of the year to go, to avoid  heat and humidity. This particular weekend was unseasonably cold however and I laughed at the fact that I had to wear the only pair of pants and long sleeves I brought everyday of my trip.

Never the less I enjoyed my stay. The city is extremely walkable and there is a trolley you can hop on and off anytime as well in order to get around.

Here are my recommendations for Savannah….

Accommodations

If you are going to go, do yourself a favor and stay somewhere in walking distance of downtown. You are going to be walking around down there a lot. There are many lovely bed and breakfasts to choose from and nice hotels. I opted for a retro motel with a little more personality and a cheaper price tag.

The Thunderbird InnThis 60’s roadside style motel offers modest rooms blocks from downtown. It’s kitschy service offers RC cola and moonpies upon arrival and a variety of  retro candies in the lobby. Crispy cream donuts are set out every morning for breakfast and do wop music pumps through the hallways. Me being the healthy locavore that I am skipped the junk food amenity but it was charming never the less and fit the brand.

The Thunderbird Inn
The Thunderbird Inn

Food & Booze

Although you will find primarily low country cuisine in Savannah there are some elevated versions of it as well as some out of the box thinkers that step outside grits and fried food. This city is always a flurry of tourists so make sure you make dinner reservations well in advance.

Cotton & RyeThis was one of my favorite dinners in town. The house-made rye bread, cornmeal fried chicken livers and the local fish of the day were all very tasty and the service was on point.

Crispy chicken livers at Cotton and Rye
Crispy chicken livers at Cotton and Rye
Fish of the day at Cotton and Rye
Fish of the day at Cotton and Rye

The VaultThis old bank turned hip, pan-asian restaurant is an excellent choice when you want a release from rich low country cooking. I recommend their chicken lettuce wraps, tuna tartare and spicy Korean BBQ tacos. They offer a complete sushi menu as well.

Chicken lettuce wraps at The Vault
Chicken lettuce wraps at The Vault

The GreyOriginally a 1980’s art deco bus terminal. If you can’t score a resi stop by and have some snacks during happy hour at the bar. They have specials on oysters and wine and offer snacks like fried croquettes and pickled eggs.

Happy hour at The Grey
Happy hour at The Grey

The Olde Pink HouseTouristy but fun. When first built in the 1700s this house was originally considered a mansion because it had a laundry room included in the basement (a luxury most homes did not have at that time). It later went on to become a bank and then a tea room before reincarnating into The Olde Pink House Restaurant in 1992. Here you can find refined low country classics such as she crab soup and fried quail over black eyed pea and corn succotash.

The Pink House
The Pink House
The fried quail at The Pink House
The fried quail at The Pink House

Garibaldi – Old school Italian steakhouse. We sat at the bar and had great service. Our bartenders were from Philly and Jersey and had us in stitches the entire time.

39 Rue de JeanFrench brasserie classics like French onion soup, crispy sweetbreads and frisee lyonnaise. Unexpected sushi menu with inventive options like foie gras nigiri. High end service.

The AtlanticGood luck getting in. This place fills up fast. They do have a great patio out front however where we enjoyed a glass of rose sitting around a fire pit watching customers play Jenga.

Treylor Park –  Kitschy “white trash” trailer park theme restaurant with nice little beer garden out back. Craft beer and comfort food.

The beer garden at Treylor Park
The beer garden at Treylor Park
Treylor Park
Treylor Park

Pinkie Master’sAfter scouring downtown for a good dive bar we finally came across Pinkie Master’s. Say hi to Matt (the owner), relax with a tall PBR and hear all about the tumultuous history of this local favorite bar. Don’t let Google and Yelp fool you this place is NOT permanently closed. It’s alive and well at 318 Drayton St.

Pinky Masters
Pinkie Master’s

The Forsyth Farmers MarketEvery Saturday on the southside of the park from 9am to 1pm you can find local farms and vendors such as…

Forsyth Farmers Market
Forsyth Farmers Market
  • Gruber Farms – Strawberries and a variety of vegetables.
Gruber farms
Gruber farms
  • Sprout Mama Breads – Danish rye, brioche, and sourdough.
Sprouted Mama Bakery
Sprouted Mama Breads
  • George’s Gorgeous Greens
George's Gorgeous Greens
George’s Gorgeous Greens
  • Canewater Farm – The only certified organic farm in the low country. They make honey, stone milled grits, cornmeal and corn flour and grow greens and other vegetables.
Canewater Farms
Canewater Farms
Canewater Farms
Canewater Farms
  • Hunter Cattle – beef, pork, sausages, bacon, burgers.
Hunter's Meats
Hunter Cattle
  • Alake’s Georgia pecans.
Fresh Pecans
Alake’s Georgia Pecans
  • Fresh Pastries.
Locally made pastries
Locally made pastries

Other restaurants and bars that I didn’t get the opportunity to try out but that were recommended by the locals are:

The Florence

Alley Cat Lounge

Local 11ten

Abe’s on Lincoln

The Pirate’s HouseI’m not one for tourist traps so I didn’t end up going here. But, if you are then this would be the spot to check out. This is the spot where pirates would capture drunk men, kidnap them through an underground tunnel and take them to their ship where they would sail off forcing them to work as deck hands. I’m told my Dad and his first wife used to eat here a lot.

Leopold’s Ice-creamIf you can stomach waiting in that line (which doesn’t let up all day) then check this place out. They are rumored to be one of the top 10 best ice-creams shops in the world.

Leopold's Ice-cream
Leopold’s Ice-cream (that line though…)

Craft Beer

Savannah, like most major U.S. cities these days, has a pretty respectable craft beer scene. More often than not when you step into a bar you will find local favorites like these just as much if not more than a bud light.

Service Brewing Co. – Veteran owned and operated.

  • Compass Roase IPA – Citrus and pear notes.

Coastal Empire

  • Savannah Brown Ale – Rich and malty with a hint of caramel and roasted nuts.
  • Southern Delight Praline Amber – Reminiscent of Georgia candied pralines.
  • Tybee Island Blond Beer – This is your light, mildly hoppy, Kolsch style ale for swilling.

 Southbound Brewing

  • Scattered Sun Belgian Witbier – Coriander and citrus notes.
  • Hostess City – Tart cherry and orange zest notes.

Attractions

If you want to see all of the squares and learn a bit about each one take the Hop On Hop Off  Trolley Tour. I am usually not one for guided tours but it was actually a very interesting way to explore the city. I have to say I learned a lot about both Savannah’s history and current events that I would have never learned if not for taking the trolley tour. You’ll see  a variety of architecture from historical mansions, to brightly colored Victorians and federal style brick homes.

Down by the river you’ll stroll along streets made of ballest stones, a commodity from England once traded for cotton.

The ballast cobblestone streets near the river
The ballast cobblestone streets near the river

Forsyth Park – With an impressively beautiful white fountain in the center, this bustling park is the finish line for the Savannah woman’s marathon, the Saturday morning farmers market and the centerpiece for many amazing historic mansions.

Forsyth Park
Forsyth Park

Chipowa Square – The claim to fame of this square is Forrest Gump’s infamous “life is like a box of chocolate” speech. The scenes where Tom Hanks sits on the park bench in the park talking to strangers were all filmed here. Ironically, there is no bench here. lol.

The Forrest Gump bench (minus the bench)
The Forrest Gump bench (minus the bench)

Jones Street – Considered one of the best walking streets downtown. Lined with beautiful old mansions and horse drawn carriages. You will want to bring your camera for this walk.

Jones Street
Jones Street

The Mercer House – The famous murder house from the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. A best selling book turned Clint Eastwood film that tells the story of the  famous murder that took place in Savannah in the 80’s while depicting the quirkiness of the city.

The Mercer House from the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"
The Mercer House from the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

St. Patricks Day – Savannah is home to the 2nd largest St. Patricks Day party in the U.S. New York City is #1.

Tybee Island

If you’re in Savannah I highly recommend you rent a car and drive out to Tybee Island for the day. This cute little beach town has a nice pier, a white, sandy beach and lots of fun restaurants and dive bars.

Tybee Island Pier
Tybee Island Pier

Bubba GumbosOn the way in stop here for fresh fish caught right there where you eat. I was told by one of the regulars that there isn’t a freezer in sight in the kitchen. In fact the fish of the day special is often times caught by the Chef himself right out the back door. Your other option is to catch your own fish, use the filleting station outside and then bring it to Chef and he’ll cook it for you. The day we were there, there were guys fileting whiting and sheepshead out back.

The Marina at Bubba Gumbos
The Marina at Bubba Gumbos

Order a bucket of beer, some hushpuppies and a basket of peel and eat shrimp and convene around one of the outdoor tables. Each one conveniently has a cut out hole in the center with a trash bin underneath for you to throw shrimp and oyster shells into as you eat.

Bubba Gumbos
Bubba Gumbos
Bubba Gumbos
Bubba Gumbos
Tybee Island Marina
Tybee Island Marina

Tybee Social ClubFresh seafood, tacos and a stellar cocktail program. Live bluegrass on Sunday afternoons.

Doc’s BarHad to go here. My Dad worked at a bar called Doc’s Landing in San Diego for years. This cozy little dive bar made me feel right at home.

Doc's Bar
Doc’s Bar

Huca Poo’sStop here on your way off the island back to Savannah for a drink and a slice of pizza (beware each slice is the size of a half a pizza!). The ambiance is on point, like an old attic decked out with albomn covers from the 60’s, old signs and license plates. It’s probably never been dusted. The pizza is really effing good after a day of drinking at the beach.

Huca Poo's
Huca Poo’s

Live Music

Savannah likes to party. They have no problem with you strolling the streets of the historic district in and out of bars with an alcoholic beverage (just make sure it’s in a plastic or styrophome cup without a lid). At night there are many options for live music of all different types of genres. Congress street is usually a good place to start. Start walking, listen for something you like and pop in to check it out.

Music Venues –

The Jinx We saw an amazing band here. Their style of music was somewhere between rockabilly and heavy metal. The front man had an amazing sense of humor and finished his set off by jumping into the crowd and doing the worm all the way out the front door.

Molly MacPherson’s Scottish Pub – a fun neighborhood spot to watch a local cover band. I think I saw the band pound 3 beers and 3 shots each during their set for the short 45 minutes we were there.

The Bayou Café We hung here until 3am where we watched a guy perform Jimi Hendrix classics all night. I felt like we were watching Hendrix himself. This guy did everything the same just short of playing the guitar with his teeth. Live music starts around 9pm everyday of the week here.

The Bayou Cafe
The Bayou Cafe

I’m told Barrelhouse South and Congress Street Social Club are also good music venues to check out.

Savannah Music FestivalLucky for me this festival was taking place the week I was there. Musicians from all over the U.S. were there to participate so I decided to take in a show at one of the concert venues owned by SCAD. (A lot like The Academy of Arts has taken over much of the real estate in San Francisco, the Savannah College of Art and Design (nicknamed SCAD) can be found on almost every corner, encompassing 67 buildings in Savannah.)

The performance I went to was called Gerald Clayton’s Piedmont blues: A search for salvation. It was inspired by the Piedmont blues music that was created in the tobacco factories and warehouses in Durham, North Carolina in the 1920s and 30s. Gerald, a jazz pianist performed with a 9 piece jazz ensemble, had tap dancer Maurice Chestnut and showed reels of Film and photography behind them as they played.

Savannah Stopover FestivalBands travel through Savannah Georgia every year on their way to Austin’s SXSW music festival to play at the Stopover Festival. For 3 days local venues showcase big acts rocking the city of Savannah before hopping on the highway to Texas.

Whether you are looking for a history lesson or just to have a good time, Savannah is a marvelous place to visit. It’s full of characters, it’s stunningly beautiful and it’s oozing with southern hospitality. I can see now why my Dad was so drawn to it.

Wilmington, Georgia
The property where my Dad lived during his time in Wilmington (Savannah).
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

San Francisco to Mendocino: A Perfect Weekend Getaway

wild lilies mendocino
wild lilies mendocino
Wild lilies along the coast of Mendocino

One of my favorite road trips to take is the one from San Francisco to Mendocino. It only takes a few hours to get there, there’s plenty of farms and wineries to visit on the way and once you get there you feel like you have been transported to another world.

Getting there is half the fun!

Lets start with getting there. This could take you three hours or all day depending on how much time you have and how much you want to see.

Penny Royal Farm
Penny Royal Farm

On my most recent trip we started out by taking the tour at Penny Royal Farm. Biodynamic farming is pretty much the norm up in these parts. Animals and nature do most of the work with the help of some very skilled and passionate farmhands. Penny Royal, in Boonville, is the sister farm to the very popular Navarro Vineyard in Philo. Both towns are easily accessible on your way up to Mendocino.

Penny Royal Farm
Penny Royal Farm

We started our tour at Penny Royal Farm by learning a bit about how they process their goat and sheep’s milk for their farmstead cheeses. Unlike other farms Penny Royal drives the milk up to their creamery and pours it into vats slowly by hand as opposed to pumping it through underground pipes. This prevents the milk from getting overly churned giving their cheeses a smooth velvety texture.

The curing room at Penny Royal Farm
The curing room at Penny Royal Farm

From there we got to meet and pet the goats (including the ridiculously cute baby goats, OMG) and sheep. The animals are separated by age group and are kept in surprisingly clean and neat conditions. Lets just put it this way, if I am coming back reincarnated I want to come back as a Penny Royal goat.

The goats at Penny Royal Farm
The goats at Penny Royal Farm
Baby goats at Penny Royal Farm
Baby goats at Penny Royal Farm
The Sheep at Penny Royal Farm
The Sheep at Penny Royal Farm
Baby daddies at Penny Royal Farm
Baby daddies at Penny Royal Farm

Penny Royal also makes wine. The vines are just tall enough to where they can let miniature Babydoll sheep run through the vineyards to mow the grass but not eat the grapes. A moveable chicken coupe comes along behind the sheep to aerate the soil helping to mix the sheep’s fertilizer into the soil and eat pests. And of course, you can also buy eggs from their chickens in the tasting room. They also have an enormous composting system and an organic garden.

Penny Royal vineyards
Penny Royal vineyards
The garden at Penny Royal Farm
The garden at Penny Royal Farm

The tour finished off with a beautiful wine and cheese tasting and a primer in Bootling – the local (and nearly extinct) jargon of Boonville, since many of their cheeses have  names such as Laychee, which means milk in Bootling.

Penny Royal Cheeses
Penny Royal’s Boont Corners Tomme and Velvet Sister Camembert style Cheese
Fresh and tangy Penny Royal Laychee cheese
Fresh and tangy Penny Royal Laychee cheese

Continuing the drive through Anderson Valley is a tasty one. This is pinot noir country but also home to some very elegant Alsatian style wines like Gewürztraminer and Reisling. You really can’t go wrong at any of the wineries you pass along the 128 but Navarro and Balo Vineyards are two of my favorites. Across the street from Balo you can also taste wines at Drew Family Cellars and have an artisan pizza at Stone and Embers Pizza. Oh, ya and if you are still in Philo in the evening make sure to stop for dinner at The Bewildered Pig, a local favorite specializing in dishes made with local heritage breed meats and produce.

Navarro Vinyards
Navarro Vinyards

If you are up this way in the fall make sure to visit The Apple Farm in Philo. It wasn’t apple season this time when we stopped by but the farm still stocks their homemade jams, apple chips and famous apple juice – probably the best apple juice I’ve ever had in my life. I learned about The Apple Farm, Penny Royal Farm and Navarro Vineyards from Sarah Henry’s book, Farmsteads of the California Coast. If you like to geek out on this kind of stuff like me I recommend picking up a copy. It’s full of fun facts about each farm and the fascinating stories behind the people who run them.

The Apple Farm's apple juice
The Apple Farm’s one ingredient apple juice
The Apple Farm farmstand
The Apple Farm farmstand

Where to stay in Mendocino

If you are staying the night in Mendocino you’re staying in a bed and breakfast. I’ve stayed at a couple of really cool ones – The Algeria Inn and The McCallum House. The Alegria is right on the ocean and serves up a killer breakfast. The McCallum House has, in my option, the best restaurant and cocktail program in Mendocino. Both are centrally located in town and since Mendocino is all of about 3 blocks long,  you really can’t go wrong with either option.

The trail at The Alegria Inn to Big River Beach
The trail at The Alegria Inn to Big River Beach
Big River Beach, Mendocino
Big River Beach, Mendocino

Where to eat in Mendocino

I love the food here. Most restaurants try hard to use organic produce and sustainably farmed meat. As I said before, McCallum House is my fave. Their cocktails and food change seasonally and are always interesting. They also make everything in house from their sourdough bread, to ice-cream for desserts and bitters for drinks.

The cocktail of the day at The McCallum House
The cocktail of the day at The McCallum House

The Mendocino Cafe is my second favorite. Great for lunch or dinner you can always have a really solid meal here. Their menu is sorta all over the place ranging from curries to dumplings to Italian pastas but still manage to do all of them well. We even had meatloaf and mashed potatoes last time we went that would put your Mom’s to shame.

If it’s a nice day have lunch or a glass of wine on the patio at Flow, the only restaurant with an ocean front patio. Trillium is also a great option for dinner if you want to go high end. If you want a throw down local’s joint Patterson’s is a fun Irish pub that serves a huge menu of comfort food like fish and chips and shepard’s pie.

The bluff across the street from Flow Restaurant
The bluff across the street from Flow Restaurant

I even love the grocery stores here. Harvest Market is your main grocery store with all the regular staples plus a great local wine and housewares section.  Corners of the Mouth health food store is a not-for-profit worker operated collective like Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco only smaller. Like Rainbow they have an extensive bulk foods section filled with ingredients like spices, teas, whole grains and misos. They also carry locally made foods and skin care products.

Corners of the Mouth Market
Corners of the Mouth Market

Meandering through Mendocino along its winding beach trails is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. If you are there during the spring the whole bluff pops off with wildflowers, clovers and if you can believe it collard greens!

Wild collard greens
Wild collard greens
Wild clovers and collard greens
Wild clovers and collard greens
Succulents
Succulents
Flower garden made of wood
Flower garden made of wood

Breathtaking views, clean air and a break from the city madness await you when you travel from San Francisco to Mendocino. It is truly the perfect weekend getaway.

Beach trails in Mendocino
Beach trails in Mendocino

 

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Where is The Nearest Filipino Restaurant Near Me

filipino restaurant near me
filipino restaurant near me
House of Sisig Kamayan Dinner

I can not stop thinking about Filipino food since I started researching it last month. In fact I have caught myself twice this week googling – “nearest filipino restaurant near me”.

It’s a delicious melting pot of different cuisines. Vibrant flavors like tamarind, sweet vinegar and fish sauce swirl through each dish invigorating the taste buds.

I’m not trying to make a generalization here, but in my experience, all of the Filipino friends I have ever made have these things in common – they are all charismatic and funny as hell, the woman are drop dead gorgeous and the essence of the word hospitality is engrained in who they are.

It would make sense then that their cuisine be as equally beautiful and heartwarming as the Filipinos themselves.

A funny thing I’ve picked up on while dining in Filipino establishments.  Every spot I go to always wants me to try their lumpia. Out of all the soups, stews, perfectly grilled meats, noodle dishes and succulent roasted pork these guys wanted me to order, for lack of a better word, fried egg rolls?

I consulted my friends on this and they confirmed it. They often judged a Filipino restaurant on how good the lumpia were. And although this tasty snack is always made with virtually the same ingredients they taste curiously different from place to place.

My favorite Filipino food experiences in San Francisco have all been really different. I’ve tried food trucks, turo turos, kamayan dinners, silog joints and pop ups. Although all of them were special experiences these are the four that stood out for me.

Click on each link below to read their story:

Elena Una

The Salo Series

The Sarap Shop

AJ’s BBQ & Cafe

filipino restaurant near me
Sisig-silog at Tselogs

Other Filipino spots to definitely check out include:

Tselogs

House of Sisig

Pampalasa

Senior Sisig

No Worries – Filipino Vegan Cuisine

The Lumpia Company

FOB Kitchen

Patio Filipino

Mitchell’s Ice-cream – for authentic Filipino flavors like ume and halo halo

I am not exaggerating when I say that Filipinos truly put their heart and soul into their food and the dining experience. Your going to be blown away by how much you are treated like family.

So when you catch yourself googling that phrase “filipino restaurant near me” think of these spots.

And remember, when you go to a Filipino restaurant don’t forget to try the lumpia!

filipino restaurant near me
Another happy customer enjoying the lumpia at AJ’s BBQ & Cafe
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Elena Una

elena una
elena una
The crispy Lechon at Elena Una

Elena Una is surprisingly what started my journey down the Filipino highway of deliciousness. Ex chef for the President of the Philippines, Janice Lazaga takes this cuisine to the next level. She takes the bold flavors and homestyle cooking of her homeland and transforms them into the highest level of sophistication.

Elena Una
Chef Janice Lazaga

Dishes like the Oxtail Kansi – succulant braised oxtail swimming in a tangy lemongrass broth and Pacham – fried rice with crunchy lechon (slow roasted pork) with fried egg are addictive and comforting yet look like something out of a fine dining restaurant.

Elena Una
Oxtail kansi
Elena Una
Pacham with lechon and fried egg

Although her style is upscale Janice still has fun. Her playful presentation of buttery pandesal bread rolls served in a paper bag with coconut jam and butter evoked nostalgia in the Filipino friends I was dining with.

Elena Una
Pandesal

Her sisig is served traditionally in a cast iron pot with a wedge of lemon. She adds chopped white onion, tomato and jalapeno on top, which gives this rich dish a fresh crunchy element to it. The lumpia are nice and plump stuffed with not only pork but shrimp as well.

Elena Una
Sizzling Sisig

Desserts blew us away. Authentic flavors like ume (purple yam) and halo-halo (basically a hodge podge of ingredients like sweet beans, tropical fruit and evaporated milk) are used to make classic desserts like panna cotta and bread pudding. The bibingka skillet is a traditional Filipino coconut and rice cake baked and served in a cast iron pan and drizzled with caramel tableside. It will make you want to call home. Hurry up and make your reservation now, this pop up ends in April.

Elena Una
halo halo panna cotta and calamansi cheesecake
Elena Una
Berry bread pudding with coconut toffee sauce
Elena Una
Bibingka skillet

Elena Una

3347 Fillmore St. San Francisco, CA 94123

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

The Salo Series

salo series
salo series
Yana Gilbuena presents 7 courses with JP and Kristen of The Sarap Shop at her pop up NOLI: Pag-ibig

The Salo Series hosted by my girl Yana Gilbuena, a Feastly Chef, brought Filipino cuisine to 50 states in 50 weeks. This self-proclaimed nomad travels the world putting on her pop ups and collaborating with other chefs she meets along the way. She picks up local help wherever she goes only arriving in each city with a vision. Yana credits her success to social media and says her followers contact her in advance volunteering to help out the next time her pop up lands in their city.

On the night I went to her pop up in San Francisco she was partnering with the owners of The Sarap Shop food truck. The pop up for the evening was called NOLI: Pag-ibig. This traditional kamayan dinner had untraditional twists like silverware and fancy plate presentations.

Yana met the Sarap shop guys at a Filipino food festival called  Savor Oakland last year. Together they served seven courses spread out before us on a bed of banana leaves. Yana bringing the flavors of Visayas and Sarap shop countering each course with their vegan comfort food version. Both Yana and the Sarap shop duo delivered creative riffs on classics showcasing bright, sweet and sour flavors and varied textures.

My favorite dish of Yana’s is a spin on poke. Diced salmon marinated in the flavors of Singang ,which included tamarind, soy sauce, fish sauce and thai chilies for heat. She adds a crunchy element to the dish by sprinkling chopped cornicks on top, a Filipino version of corn nuts. Sarap shop made a lovely vegan version of this with fresh diced tomato, watermelon and cucumber.

The next course was Binakol na pugo. Yana served crispy quail over an aromatic sweet and sour broth made of coconut water, coconut meat, ginger, lemongrass and moringa leaf – a medicinal plant grown in tropical climates used in Indian, Thai and Filipino cuisine. Sarap shop created what they called a “Chinese goose” – shiitake and oyster mushrooms enveloped in a bean curd wrapper floating in the same delicious broth.

For dessert Yana brewed up a hot chocolate she called Tsokolate-ey made with Thai chilies, coconut cream, semisweet chocolate, pure cacao and pinipig – pounded young rice, which was sprinkled on top for texture. While Sarap shop threw down 3 innovative takes on classic Filipino desserts – Deep fried suman – a glutinous steamed rice cake, spicy flan and a raspberry cornmeal cake topped with crumbled vegan bacon and diced mango.

All dishes were elegantly plated and accompanied by live Filipino music which consisted of  a woman on acoustic guitar and a man on the ukulele. Their beautiful voices and brought the food, music and rum cocktails into perfect harmony. If you closed your eyes you could almost hear the ocean.

Since I consider Yana an authority on Filipino cusine in America I asked for her opinion on this surge of Filipino cuisine in the bay area. She said, “Filipino cuisine is a lot like our culture, a beautiful mutt. We had so many strains of cultures come and contribute to our existing one right now from Malay, to India, to Saudi Arabia to Chinese, to Japanese, to Spanish and American. Our islands are as different and diverse, as are the people who inhabit it. That is our strength and it should be celebrated. We are highly adaptable wherever we are. Our cusine is still hard to define, especially in the American standpoint because a lot of people are alreay creating mutations and adaptations of it before it even has a chance to stand on its own. I think there should be a clear definition of Filipino food versus Filipino-American food versus Filipino-inspired.  Since it’s a “young” emerging cuisine here in the U.S., it’s best to educate people first of what it is, versus trying so hard to “Americanize” or “Frenchify” it. We don’t need western cuisines to “elevate” ours or western culinary leaders to “approve” and say, “oh, it’s great” when they have never even had “real Filipino food”. I love that Filipino cuisine is spreading all over the nation, not just the bay area. I’m really big on history and why food was made the way it was and I would love to implore other Filipino/ Filipino-American food leaders to not only serve the food, but also educate people about it.”

When I asked her what Filipino cuisine specifically meant to her, she replied simply, “family”.

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.