Sriracha Donuts on the Peninsula ~ 2 Days in Charleston, SC
“Beautiful cities have a treacherous nature.” ~ Pat Conroy
It had been 6 years since I walked the uneven streets of Charleston, SC. For a summer I had called this peninsula my home, and ever since I’ve looked for reasons to return – but the timing wasn’t right until now.
January has become a time of running away for me. After the holidays (which is a season I love, don’t get me wrong) I always feel a bit wired. So, instead of trudging through January and joining a gym, I try to get out and go somewhere. Since my sisters (Bekah - Lynchburg, VA, Bethany - Marietta, GA) live in the South, and they were keen on joining me for the weekend, we decided that Charleston would be the perfect spot.
I also invited my dear friend Val along on the trip because, well, she’s family.
We all met up in Marietta Thursday night to make plans and get a good night sleep before driving to Charleston on Friday. We also needed time to make an epic playlist for both the trip there and back.
We rolled down Rutledge Ave. around 5:30 on Friday night to our Airbnb reservation. Bethany had found this magical two story historical home that had been built in the early 1800s. The home is right across the street from lovely Hampton Park - the largest park on the peninsula.
Here is a video tour of its awesomeness.
The place was empty, as it was an hour to closing time. I eagerly asked if any of the “Vegan Friday” specials were left, and she laughed and said no, and that she had even made a double batch. But she did say that she could whip me up a vegan grilled cheese with tomatoes and vegan aioli and a cup of rosemary lentil soup.
Yes. yes. yes.
My companions all ordered their various meals, I added a sweet tea and vegan banana walnut bread to my order, and we all sat down to the delicious comfort food. The room was quiet except for the sound of eager nibbling.
After dinner, we headed over to Palmetto Brewing Company (www.palmettobrewery.com/) for their Friday night Loading Dock Concert Series featuring Jerry Gilchrist and Saluda Shoals.
I ordered a pint of the AM Morning Wood and Val ordered the Porter and we huddled together outside beneath the gas patio heater, listening to the music. Bekah and Bethany challenged each other to a game of corn hole, and Bethany won by a landslide.
Before anything else happened Saturday morning, the four of us beelined for Nana’s Donuts (http://nanasdonuts.com/) on Meeting Street. The independently owned company is affiliated with the food truck Diggity Doughnuts (https://www.facebook.com/diggity.doughnuts/) - and both serve up INCREDIBLE vegan and organic doughnuts/donuts to hungry peeps like me.
Perusing the menu, we realized that we had to try all seven varieties available that day. Flavors included: “The Vermont” (Maple),“Carmel [sic] by the Sea” (Caramel and Sea Salt), and “Nutty Rooster” (Peanut Butter and Sriracha).
They were all dense, flavorful, and perfectly textured – although my favorite was probably the Vermont.
While we were waiting, we spent some time doodling on the chalk wall - and Val drew this marvel.
Thoroughly stuffed, we grabbed our cooling coffees and headed off in the direction of John’s island.
John’s Island is home to one of the most famous South Carolina landmarks: the Angel Oak Tree. The tree is a Southern Live Oak estimated to be between 400 and 500 years old (http://www.lgcfinc.org/live-oak-society.html). It is undoubtedly one of the most stunning things I have ever seen.
Although the tree is protected, and enclosed in a fence adjacent to a small gift shop, there’s no fee to see the magnificent specimen. You’re not to climb, sit, carve in the tree, use a tripod, or breathe too heavily near it…but gentle hugging is encouraged. Trees like that.
From Angel Oak we returned to downtown Charleston to wander and shop. My companions, who are unaccustomed to chilly weather, were freezing not long after we parked, so we ducked into Gibbes Museum of Art not for culture, but for warmth and hot beverages and use of their bathroom. Gibbes will be a next time I’m there sort of stop.
With warmth returned to our fingers and toes, we strolled up King Street in search of trendy clothes shops, but everything was a touch out of our price range. One such discovery, however, was Be The Change Boutique (www.bethechangeboutique.com/) located upstairs in a weird all (it beckoned us inside).
The store specializes in fair trade and “made in USA” and their stuff is NEAT! They sell everything from funky jewelry to coffee to beautifully designed stationery to clothes.
After a quick peek into the Historic Charleston City Market (www.thecharlestoncitymarket.com) we decided that the wet, frigid air had beaten us and that we should head indoors for food or naps or anything but being out in the elements.
Bethany said she wanted Mexican food, and a quick glance at Yelp showed that Santi’s Restaurante Mexicano (santisrestaurantemexicano.com/) wasn’t too far away. For whatever reason, I didn’t actually look at the menu before we headed there, because if I had, we wouldn’t have gone.
We chose a booth along the exposed brick wall. The window was lined with Charleston “Best of” awards including “cheapest food” and “best Mexican,” which proved hopeful. The ceiling was covered with upside down Christmas trees, holiday lights, and other bizarre light fixtures. The place smelled subtly of pool water.
I ordered a Dos Equis and glanced at the menu. There were only two vegetarian options. The only vegan/dairy free option was rice. Just rice. They didn’t even have black beans.
I sat back in disbelief. Normally that’s my go-to at Mexican restaurants.
Electing not to eat anything there at all, I scrolled through Yelp yet again to discover a place that had vegan nachos not too far away. Bekah, who’s like me, just ordered the rice. Bethany and Val had more options, but their meal was hardly satisfactory.
I called Dellz Uptown (www.facebook.com/dellzuptown/)to place a takeout order for their vegan Nachos. The price was a bit high, but I was starving and I was not about to let bad Mexican food get me down.
The food from Dellz was perfect. I wish we had just gone there to begin with.
We returned to our castle on Rutledge so I could stuff my face and everyone else could get some rest before our outing that night at the Black Fedora Comedy Club (www.charlestonmysteries.com) on Church Street.
We had tickets to the show “Heist, Heist, Baby,” with the artful tagline of “A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Clown walk into a bank…”
We were seated somewhere in the middle of the open room. The walls were covered with pictures of famous detectives, and a piece of paper on our table encouraged us to match the names of the detectives to the pictures – a nearly impossible task. Although Scooby Doo, Inspector Gadget, and all the various Sherlocks were immediately apparent.
Bekah asked, “Where’s the stage?”
Because there wasn’t one.
After ordering our drinks, one of the actors goes up to the front of the room and announces “I bet many of you are wondering where the stage is!” Many people nod. “Well,” he continues, “you’re sitting in it!”
Heist, Heist, Baby is an interactive theatre experience where audience members can choose to act along the four professional actors in the production.
Val, Bekah, and myself all volunteered as tribute.
I had the privilege of playing the clown’s assistant, Bozo, and the two of us were undercover FBI agents. My role had much to do with shaking my tush. Lots and lots of shaking my tush.
We all had a blast.
After the show ended, we were a bit buzzed from laughing our faces off. Bekah saw some spinning lights inside one of the restaurants and all of us went running inside. Turns out, it was the NY Dance Lounge and the 4 of us spent half an hour grooving. At one point, this random guy instigated a dance off with Bekah, which was good fun for a moment, until he decided that dance offs were insufficient and tried to get closer. She promptly flashed her enormous diamond wedding ring at him and Bethany pushed him away.
We felt triumphant.
When the floor started to get a but full, we left to go grab pizza at Mellow Mushroom (mellowmushroom.com/), which is a national chain but vegan/gluten-free friendly and open late. It’s also quite tasty.
We packed up and said farewell to our adorable Hampton Park castle and headed to the Battery (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battery_). Bordered by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, the Battery hosts a park and garden surrounded by a peaceful promenade. The homes here are beautiful. It’s one of the best ways to start any day in Charleston.
Needing coffee, we stopped in at The Press on the corner of Vendue Range and East Bay. This coffee shop is located with the Vendue (www.thevendue.com/), the Charleston Arts Hotel. The current art theme at the Vendue is “Lions, Tigers, and Bears.”
The Press, however, despite being adorably furnished, disappointed because, as it turns out, serves Starbucks coffee.
We ventured out to find a upscale consignment store called The Trunk Show (https://www.facebook.com/The-Trunk-Show-107509435974364/) only to find it closed. BUT! Next door to The Trunk Show was Pounce Cat Café (http://www.pouncecatcafe.com/), the South’s first and only cat café and wine bar.
Unfortunately Pounce is reservation only, and so we could only peek out over the counter at the cutie pie kitties. This is one more thing on my list for next time.
From there we left downtown for North Charleston, in search of a trendy clothing store called The Exchange Factor (http://exchangefactor.com/). Located on Rivers Ave, the building is painted nineteen shades of neon, and the outside bench is lined with a number of vintage Pez dispensers.
The store itself is a clothing wonderland where the price is surprisingly affordable. I got two dresses for $9.50 and would have bought much more if I had more room in my backpack.
Charleston is a kind of place that adapts to fit your style. If you want high class southern hospitality, you’ll find it. If you want low key beach life, you’ll find it. If you want trendy-microbrew-vegan happiness, then you’ll find it. The city is layered. The old on the new, the trendy on the classic, the upscale on the low scale. Everything is juxtaposed and mixed together like the best mint julep of your life.
Salt and Sea by Joey Phoenix
All the homes on the avenue were haunted
And the ghosts they wanted
Us to know their names
So lonely, ghosts
They'll make us food to draw us in
They'll sing to make us look their way
When we walk along the avenue
Our ankles quaking with each step
The old man and the young girl
With a torrid history
The water still rising
The empty still filling with salt
Waiting for the anchor to drop
In the land where everything is crumbling
Into the sea