This blog is almost always centered on New Orleans, but I left my beloved city for a week and we traveled with my niece to another city full of old manor homes, horse-drawn carriages and Civil War history – Charleston, South Carolina. Like NOLA, there was a large City Market. Our French Market may have more food but theirs went on forever and was often air conditioned. Charleston has its own French Quarter and even serves shrimp & grits at many of their local restaurants.
We chose to have lunch at 82 Queen, a local favorite as it turns out. It’s courtyard entrance is nearly a double for the entrance at Court of Two Sisters in our own French Quarter and the patio area featured a magnolia tree and tiny birds flitting on wrought iron. I almost never order chicken at restaurants (too boring) but I just had to try the Chicken & Crab – a thick bed of grits with cheddar cheese stacked with a fried green tomato, grilled chicken breast, Carolina Crab Cake and She Crab Gravy ($15). It was at least as tasty as it sounds and each element was fairly perfectly prepared.
Perhaps the best part of the meal was our table-side visit from General Manager, Johnny Williams. He was thoroughly knowledgeable and truly understood the value of a good meal and the memories it can help create. That made me feel right at home. I read that in 1997, Williams started working at 82 Queen as a 17 year old busboy. He’s never been to New Orleans but he’d be great company for a meal here sometime at Commander’s Palace – one of the many restaurants we discussed.
As we ended our trip with some shopping, we came across the old Kress building where the 1960 sit-in changed the course of the Civil Rights Movement. Until then, pastors, civic leaders and other adult establishment figures led the charge for equal rights for blacks. What made the Kress sit-in different was that the daylong event was comprised entirely of students and teenagers. The bravery of those 24 kids who peacefully withstood hours of degradation inspired the establishment folks and the movement found new momentum. In 2013, the city marked the spot with a memorial sign but the soda fountain has been replaced by an H&M. Seems Charleston also shares our city’s problem of having too many spots of historical significance to preserve them all and a penchant for choosing the more tourist-friendly sites.
It’s a great walking city but the locals have a low tolerance for heat and humidity (bring a sweater everywhere if you chill easily in air conditioning) and we only saw 3 street musicians. The silent streets are a lesson in the perils of over-legislating live music in open areas.
This trip was a family vacation with a baker’s dozen of us gathered in a “smart home” on Litchfield Beach. We had a great meal at Frank’s Outback, a homey restaurant with a creative menu. I had the special caprese salad and 2 “small plates” – Jumbo Sea Scallops, Seared, with English Pea Puree, White Truffle Oil and Crispy Beets (12.95) and the Crisp Risotto Cake topped with 4 ounce Beef Tenderloin, Crispy Onions and Red Wine Demi (17.95).
The city specialty seems to be fried pickles. They were offered at almost every lunch place we frequented. We found a closed sno-ball stand and I didn’t even bother to get disappointed. I just assumed they wouldn’t begin to compare to ours. Then we spotted it through the sea-salted glass – the Snowizard label on the side of the machine. Dang, maybe they do know what they’re doing.
Litchfield Beach sits just south of Myrtle Beach. Turns out, the area is known for an interesting music genre called, “Carolina beach music,” which includes such New Orleanians as Fats Domino and “King of the Universe” Ernie K-Doe. With roots dating back to 1946, the genre is comprised of pop, R&B and early rock & roll and locals danced “the shag” to Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke and other artists “white” radio stations found objectionable. It’s gratifying to find another way New Orleans has permeated American culture.
When I was a kid, I took for granted the beach would always be there for us. My autistic 7 year old nephew is as obsessed with the ocean as I am and wanted to be in it all the time. After years of refusing to put his head underwater, he finally took the plunge in the pool when we explained he’d have to learn to swim to really go in the ocean. He spent the rest of his vacation going underwater every chance and learning to kick. This is all to say that nearby Myrtle Beach had a “swim advisory” for dirty water every single day of our trip. As we played in the cleaner Litchfield water, I hoped there would still be ocean-swimming-dreams for generations to come.
It really is true that there’s no place like home. Even on the plane home, a friend had the seat right behind us. We met neighbors at the luggage carousel. We passed Jonny Ray in his New Orleans Movie Tour van while we searched for parking. And because it’s New Orleans, the streets were filled with thousands of people in red dresses helping raise money for charity while getting their drink on at the Red Dress Run. Taking in the women in sequins and the men in ruffles as we searched for parking, I thought – there really is no place like home.
Enjoy the photos of us romping in the ocean and touring Charleston as well as a few Red Dress Runners.