July 29, 2010

Charleston, SC


This month, I ventured to Charleston, South Carolina for the first time.  And although it was sweltering hot, I was completely mesmerized by its charm.  Incredible architecture, quaint neighborhoods, and warm ocean water...what could be better?  
My first stop was The Southend Brewery and Smokehouse.  I know what you're thinking...a smokehouse?  When traveling, it's not all rainbows and vegan cupcakes.  Sometimes you have to eat at some not so veg-friendly establishments, especially when you have a husband and family who eat meat.  This requires you to speak up.  Make sure you tell your server that you're vegan, don't assume that because an item looks vegan that it is (restaurants love to smother veggies in butter - kindly ask for olive oil).  That said, I ordered the Vegetable Sandwich with some alterations - no mozzarella, fried green tomatoes or spinach and basil spread.  The vegan version is filled with a lovely smoked ratatouille, fresh tomatoes, portabello mushroom, onions, and lots of fresh lettuce on grilled Ciabatta.  Smoked ratatouille on a sandwich...who knew?

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A rooftop breakfast at The Harbourview Inn is a great way to start an exceptionally hot day.  If you ever have the pleasure of staying in this charming hotel, make sure to special request soy milk the night before.  They're happy to provide it with advanced notice. 

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After a long day at the beach, Papa Zuzu's in Mount Pleasant is a splendid choice.  They have some amazing, incredibly fresh veggie options.  The Cucumber Salad is a refreshing way to start...cucumbers, red onion and lots of Greek dressing.
The Veggie Pita is absolutely delicious.  Its stuffed with all your favorite Greek flavors - cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, olives, peppers and oregano.  I ordered mine with a side of hummus - perfectly mouthwatering and oh so filling.

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My family rented a house in Mount Pleasant, very close to the local Farmers Market. Its held every Tuesday afternoon from April to October.  We found so many delectable fruits...nectarines, raspberries, blackberries and heirloom tomatoes. (There's a Whole Foods nearby where you can find soy whipped cream and vegan cake to eat with your just picked fruit!)
You can even find local veg treats for your dogs from The Good Dog Bakery.  (Make sure to check the ingredients - not all products are vegan).
And raw fruit snacks from Nicole's Nutty Goodness.  (Again, read the labels, some products contain whey protein).
And Peach Cider - perfect to sip on while you stroll through the market.

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Water's Edge restaurant was recommended to us by a local couple.  It's in a great location (hence the name) and you can often see dolphins swimming in the nearby bay. 


The menu is mostly seafood based, but the Bruschetta can easily be ordered sans crab.  Count me in for anything with a balsamic reduction.
And they do feature a Vegetable Pasta on their menu, but we asked their chef for his recommendation for the three vegans at our table (my parents are also vegan).  He was more than happy to customize our main course, full of grilled potatoes, okra, asparagus, tomatoes, peppers and a side of white truffle cous cous.  This was amazing....chock full of flavor and texture.

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The following evening we headed to Virginia's, a traditional southern restaurant in downtown Charleston.  The Grilled Pear and Frisee Salad is not to be missed.   The pear is so perfectly sweet and balanced with the frisee and sherry vinaigrette.  Just ask them to hold the blue cheese.
Again, we asked the chef for a customized vegan entree.   He created a lovely dish with bowtie pasta, grilled vegetables, and a spicy vinegar based sauce that almost tasted pickled...a brilliant way to infuse flavor.  Though this dish looks simple, it was full of spicy goodness. 

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On our last day, while wondering through downtown, I stopped in Seeking Indigo, a wellness center that features raw food from The Sprout.  Although I went solely for the food, they also offer infared saunas, nutritional counseling, yoga, and massages.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to enjoy all that they offer, but I did get to taste The Sprout's Raw Pad Thai and The Skinsaver with peach, pineapple, carrot and apple juices.  Crunchy and crisp - perfect on a hot day.
I was so pleasantly surprised with the vegan options in Charleston.  They may not be obvious at first, but the chefs I encountered were incredibly friendly and helpful with lots of Southern hospitality to spare.  Eating vegan in the South?  Completely doable.

2 comments:

Poltor Paradise said...

Sarah,
I adore living here! It is difficult to find healthy alternatives to the greasy "soul food" that plagues most establishments. We live at Whole Foods...practically. I'm raising Sophie with a clean eating mentality as well.
Send me a message next time you're here, I'd love to see you.

sarah-mai said...

Hi Audrey! I didn't realize you live in Charleston or I definitely would have looked you up! Next time for sure.

Lots of typical southern food...I'm sure it's easy to fall into some not so healthy eating patterns :)

I was so amazed at how warm and pleasant the ocean was. I thought for sure it would be the typical Atlantic, super cold. We were at the beach everyday...so nice!