Column Editors: Nicole Ameduri (Licensing Manager, Springer Nature)
and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Nicole Ameduri, Springer Nature Licensing Manager, loves eating her way through conferences. Through some random twist of fate or luck, she ended up with a number of chefs, restaurant managers, famous sommeliers and food writers in her close circle of friends. They have steered her in the right direction for every destination on her calendar.
Nicole’s Picks — Restaurants
#1. 167 Raw: Dining at 167 Raw has become an end of conference tradition. My colleagues and I wait in line for one final foodie experience before heading to the airport. On a good day, the staff provide champagne to the folks waiting outside.
Well, get excited because we don’t have to wait in line anymore. 167 Raw has a new and spacious home on King Street. The new space includes two bars, a raw bar with an impressive oyster display and cozy patio seating. There is an open kitchen that features a custom Marra Forni pizza oven in bright blue tile. The dining room is beautiful. It’s a convivial space with a hip sound track, where the South of Broad crowd mingles with young professionals.
Oysters, daily salads, lobster rolls, po boy specials, fish tacos and fresh catches remain on the menu. There is always something new to try like arctic char dumplings, shrimp boudin balls and uni toast. At the new King Street venue there is now a caviar service served with a crispy potato waffle. I’m interested.
Not ready to dine indoors yet? At the time of writing this, I’m still only dining outdoors too. 167 Raw has set up a kiosk at the front door of the restaurant for to-go orders as well as beer and wine sales.
Address: 193 King Street, Charleston, SC 29401, 167raw.com/Charleston.
#2. NICO: NICO has the best oysters ever! During the 2019 Charleston Conference my husband and I dined here with two of my favorite librarians, one of whom had first introduced me to NICO. We had always enjoyed dining at Fish, so were eager to try NICO when chef Nico Romo left Fish to open his own restaurant. Did you know that he is the youngest chef ever to be inducted into the legion of Master French Chefs in America? I believe he is still the only recipient in South Carolina.
NICO is housed in a former Pizza Hut. Yes, those who have been coming to the Charleston Conference long enough will remember that it used to be a Pizza Hut but, please don’t judge it negatively because of the former tenant. The inside has been remodeled with whitewashed brick and there is an open patio where guests mingle for weekday happy hours with $1.50 oysters and $5 drinks. I really like the energy of this venue.
NICO is both an oyster restaurant and a French restaurant. This combination is common in Charleston and works well. Servers deliver sizzling, cast-iron dishes still piping hot from the wood-fired oven. For seafood lovers looking to enjoy fresh fish and even whole fish, NICO delivers delicious dishes sourced from the waters of the Low Country. Some of my favorite seafood dishes include large steamed mussels, whole lobster and for lunch: crab cake sandwiches. They also serve French meat dishes like beef bourguignon and coq au vin.
Many of the dishes are presented artfully. Our shrimp cocktail arrived as a miniature Eiffel Tower of shrimp, smoked in the wood oven and richly hued with espelette on ice, bookended by ornate shells. (Espelette is a naturally smoky, sweet Basque pepper.) We also shared my favorite side dishes: the wood-fired mushrooms, roasted beets and charred Brussels sprouts. My husband shared a whole fish with one of my librarians. For dessert, we shared the baked Alaska.
I love to support ethical businesses. NICO’s executive Chef Nico Romo was a Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Seafood Ambassador and a member of the Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force. He is committed to ocean-friendly seafood and Low Country fishermen. NICO uses locally sourced ingredients.
Address: 201 Coleman Blvd., Mount Pleasant, SC 29464, nicoshemcreek.com.
#3. Henrietta’s: This fancy all-day bistro serves a wide range of French and Low Country dishes. I appreciate their chefs so much because they graciously and creatively work around my food allergies, even going so far as to create custom desserts.
Henrietta’s is located next to the lobby in the Dewberry Hotel, which used to be a federal building. Checkered floors, globe lighting, potted ferns and gently revolving ceiling fans set the atmosphere. This is a popular spot not just for dinner but for business power lunches, social tête-â-têtes and civilized Sunday brunches. (Now that we’re all a lot more budget conscious due to the pandemic, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it is one of the pricier brunch options in town.) In good weather guests can choose marble tables outside on the patio, which is hedged with yews.
For brunch try their vegetable quiche with boudin bites, the glazed lobster omelet or my favorite: the buckwheat crepes with homemade ricotta. For dinner I recommend the roast duck for two and my favorite the flounder grenobloise with kumquats and brown butter. Henrietta’s has an extensive wine list and creative cocktails. This sophisticated French brasserie has a small menu with big flavors.
Address: 344 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403, henriettascharleston.com.
Wheat and dairy free dessert custom-made for one of my librarians by the pastry chef at Henrietta’s
#4. Fat Hen: This lively restaurant serves Low Country food with a French twist. (Are you sensing a theme here?) I was first introduced to Fat Hen by a local when South Carolina was in my sales territory. I love this cozy, peaceful, setting and think they have the best she-crab soup in South Carolina. I just feel southern when I swing on the porch swing completely surrounded by oak trees. Rumor has it the nearby Angel Oak is the oldest living tree east of the Mississippi. (I did not verify this claim.)
Fat Hen is located in the heart of John’s Island in an adorable cottage that is always packed. There are no bike trails or sidewalks to get you there, so you have to know about this hidden gem.
Fat Hen sources ingredients from local farms including their own. Sumptuous dinners include favorites like fried green tomatoes with pimiento goat cheese, steamed mussels, the shrimp and crab with spiced hoppin John, coq au vin, braised short ribs with red wine, mashed potatoes and spinach etc. The desserts at Fat Hen are wonderful. Their mud pie, passion fruit crème brulee, key lime pie and bread pudding are perfect. To accompany dinner Fat Hen offers a grand varietal of local, regional and national wines. They also have great chocolate frappes and lemonade iced tea if you’re looking for something non-alcoholic.
Fat Hen has been featured on the television shows Chopped and Brunchnado. They even have their own cookbook.
Address: 3140 Maybank Highway, Johns’ Island, SC 29455, thefathen.com.
#5. Five Loaves Café: BUDGET OPTION. My husband and I discovered Five Loaves Café walking back from church one Sunday. You get 10% off of your bill if you can show your church bulletin, paper or online. I think they have the best smoothies in Charleston.
This fun and colorful café is located on the corner of Cannon and Coming streets and there is always a line out the door. It is worth the wait. A kitchen in the center of the house divides a smaller room with a popular community table, from the main dining area. Pomegranate covered walls boast the special boards alongside paintings by local artist Paul Silva. The atmosphere is inviting.
There is a popular soup/salad/sandwich combination on the menu. Vegetarian and vegan options include bowlfuls of soup like tomato-tarragon and wild mushroom and potato with fresh herbs. Generous salads are served with house-made vinaigrettes and dressings such as walnut shallot and sweet basil honey. For the meat eaters, sandwiches feature meats from local Charleston area farms. Five Loaves serves free range chicken from Tanglewood Farms and they use hormone-free angus beef. Any choice from the Five Loaves lunch menu is a great value.
Address: 43 Cannon Street, Charleston, SC 29403, fiveloavescafe.com.
As a self-confessed “foodie,” Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe is always on the lookout for new gastronomic experiences during her travels. From food truck to fine china, Lisa takes every place on its own terms and enjoys the range of hospitality the world offers. Lisa’s research skills as a librarian serve her well in finding the best spots in every conference city. Joe Esposito says: “If you are meeting Lisa somewhere, always let her choose the venue.”
Lisa’s Picks — From Coffee to Cocktails in Charleston
Like many others, I’m disappointed that we won’t be gathering in Charleston for the Charleston Library Conference. And, like others, in addition to thinking of the colleagues I’ll miss seeing, I also started thinking about some of my favorite places that I won’t get to visit this year. Here are some of my top picks so you can start your go-to list for 2021!
#1. Second State Coffee: This local gem tucked into a neighborhood is just a few blocks off King, but it could be miles away for how different the vibe is. This is your classic college town coffeeshop. You could transport it directly to Champaign-Urbana where I live and it would fit right in. Maybe that is why I love it so much? I’ve been working on a graduate degree all the years I’ve been attending the Charleston Library Conference and each time I’d settled in at one of the communal tables here to read and write a paper, usually next to one or two other people doing the same. One year I wrote a paper about the coffeeshop (I was taking a class on qualitative research and we were assigned to do an observation in a public place). Ultimately though, the point is not just the atmosphere but the amazing coffee. Iced, brewed, or espresso — everything is done to perfection.
#2. The Daily: On King Street but about a mile north of the Francis Marion Hotel is another away-from-it-all café. An offshoot of Butcher & Bee (purveyor of amazing sandwiches and baked goods miles north that also has a second location in Nashville, TN), The Daily is billed as a “modern bodega.” I was, of course, there for the coffee. The cappuccino was perfectly balanced — milky but with a prominent coffee taste. You can also find delicious fresh squeezed juices and smoothies as well. What I also remember is that walking back I was drenched by a sudden rainstorm, which is a different kind of hydration but once I accepted I was going to be soaked, I enjoyed splashing in the puddles too! So, take an umbrella when your hotel offers you one is the lesson, I guess? Or, maybe it’s best to play in the rain!
#3. Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer: I cannot even begin to imagine the number of conversations (and deal making?) that Kudu has been host to over the years of the Charleston Library Conference. Just blocks away from the Francis Marion Hotel, it is the go-to place when there is limited time and/or one cannot face the line in the lobby Starbucks. And, if you can handle the weather, the outdoor patio is a lovely spot that features live music at times as well. I am a big fan of a cortado and Kudu not only has it on the coffee menu but the staff executes it perfectly every time. As day turns to afternoon, Kudu’s craft beer menu is sure to please.
#4. The Belmont: “A Bartender’s Bar” is how @EaterCarolinas put it and I think that is absolutely correct. A singular atmosphere that communicates clearly that this is a low-key lounge for relaxation and conversation that takes its cocktails very, very seriously. The menu offers classics and well as some inventive twists but, if there was ever a place to describe your tastes and let the bartender make something just for you, The Belmont is the place. The details of preparation — glass, ice, etc. — are as attended to as the interior design and liquor inventory overall. This is one of my favorite places for an after dinner drink to wind down the evening.
#5. La Farfalle: I fell in love with La Farfalle when I sat down for the first time and was handed not only food and wine menus but also a separate menu for their “Negroni Selections.” At this point, I can claim to have had them all. (No judgement please — this has been over multiple years and visits!) Each is a delicious and unique twist of what I now know to think of as the “classic Negroni” and demonstrates how versatile Campari truly is! The wine lists here — both by the bottle and the glass — are outstanding and offer excellent choices. The food is also not to be missed — each year I’ve taken a different person with me and each time my guest has been impressed and wondered how they never knew this place existed. Maybe because getting a reservation means planning months in advance?