Charleston travel: where to go in South Carolina city
Although Charleston is the size of a city, “it really is a small town,” says Erin Reitz, founder of EM Reitz, her label of custom, Charleston-designed women’s clothing. The whole town is easy to walk, with streets graced by ancient cobblestones and draping Spanish moss laying thick on southern charm. While Erin and her husband, Brooks Reitz, have lived here for more than 15 years, she says, “It still feels like our little secret sometimes.”
Despite Charleston’s intimacy, the couple firmly believes that its cultural and culinary scenes rival much larger cities. “There’s a strong community of creatives and entrepreneurs who fuel our drive and inspire us,” said Brooks, co-founder of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and co-owner of some of the city’s busiest bistros and restaurants, including Leon’s Oyster Shop, Little Jack’s Tavern, and Melfi’s.
So where does this cool couple spend date nights, weekends and other free moments? You’ll find them at excellent local boutiques, Parisian patios, and one of the city’s largest green spaces. Here are their must-visits for your next trip to Charleston.
For a relaxed lunch: Chez nous
This is the bunch’s best place in town for a “real grown-up meal,” says Erin. The restaurant is located in an old Charleston house, carefully renovated to provide a few small dining rooms and a small patio. The menu is short and sweet, with six items daily that are rarely repeated. Expect “European-inspired, simple plates that focus on excellent sourcing, seafood and vegetables prepared with a light touch,” she says. “It’s best for a long lunch on a sunny day, ideally with lots of Chablis.”
“The gallery is our favorite cultural excursion,” says Brooks. “Their shows are well thought out and always surprising, such as a recent exhibition of William Eggleston photographs by a local collector.” The couple like to make it one of their Saturday stops – they head out for a leisurely lunch and then cycle to the gallery. (Charleston has a Lime e-bike sharing program if you want to do the same.)
For all-day snacking: Babas
Whether you want to get picked up early in the morning or relax in the afternoon, Babas’ two locations are “community favorites,” says Brooks. “We love it for morning coffee, but they also make great cocktails — including one of the better martinis in town. All of their drinks are smart and fun. The food menu also includes pickled shrimp with toasted baguettes, caviar sandwiches, onion dips, and jamon Ibérico by the ounce, plus “great baked goods and fun snacks during happy hour.”
For independent designer labels: Worth the effort
Erin loves Worthwhile, a nearly 30-year-old multi-brand designer boutique that sells women’s clothing and small gift items. “They exist for a good reason: crisp editing, knowledgeable staff, and a strong point of view,” she says. Housed in a beautifully restored 19th century building close to King Street (the city’s main shopping street), it’s filled with pieces from your next favorite small brands.
“Charleston has no shortage of breweries — by my last count, there were more than 30 within the city limits,” says Brooks. But their favorite remains Munkle, especially for their clean, crisp, bitter Pilsner. “Their lineup leans toward lighter, brighter styles, making them well suited for the Charleston weather,” he continues. “The brewery also borders an active railway, so we like to go there in the afternoon to have a cold beer in the sun while our son enjoys the excitement of the passing trains.”
For weekend brunch: from Vern
“Vern’s is a great new entry into Charleston’s thriving dining scene, recently opened by a husband-and-wife duo with longtime roots in Charleston,” says Erin. They go there for Saturday brunch (“when the lovely, sun-filled room is a bit quieter and more tranquil,” she notes) for bean seed pancakes and an omelette. Brooks says, “While many of Charleston’s restaurants are scattered along King Street, Vern’s is tucked into a charming corner space in the Elliotborough neighborhood, just down the street from another local favorite of ours: Chubby Fish.”
For a breather in nature: Hampton Park
Consider this Charleston version of Central Park, with greenery stretching across 60 acres in the city center. “It’s become our second living room,” says Erin. “We like to take our son to the playground and lounge by the pond for a picnic on a nice day.” The other biggest draw for the duo is the mile-long loop on the rim. “In the spring it is lined with azaleas and forms one Nice background for a run,” says Brooks.
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