What’s a Lightbox Locale? ...It’s anywhere you can have one of “those” perfect Saturdays, exploring places that inspire you, nourish you, and light up you and your besties. We could all do with more of those days, so our Lightbox locals are here to illuminate you on their personal neighborhood “must visit” lists. This time around, Leigh Patterson shares her South Congress go-tos for eating, drinking, shopping and staying.
Charleston is probably best known for its soul food, antebellum homes, and pristine beaches. Tourists flock to the small Southern city every year and usually spend most of their time perambulating around the Historic City Market in search of sweetgrass baskets and praline candies or strolling along the Battery admiring the harbor and beautiful mansions. And while Charleston’s downtown is certainly spectacular, just a few blocks north of the carriage tours and historical sites, the Cannonborough Elliotborough neighborhood has emerged as one of the most vibrant and eclectic areas of the city.
86 Cannon is a beautiful luxury boutique hotel that has an old-world feel. Designed to blend its architectural charm with modern finishes, the hotel is the perfect place for travelers who want a glimpse of the good life in a historic home. Enjoy lounging on the porches, taking a complimentary bicycle out to explore the city, and the nightly cheese and wine service. There is even a library with an honor bar.
Bluegreen Vacations Resort King Street is an ideal choice for larger groups of travelers. Situated in the vibrant Upper King Street shopping district, the hotel is steps away from restaurants, bars, and eclectic stores. The rooms are bright, airy, and spacious with both kitchens and outdoor balconies. The hotel also offers parking, which is a coveted amenity in the port city that was built centuries before cars.
EAT + DRINK
Charleston is known for its seafood and rich cuisine, so Xiao Bao Biscuit is a welcome alternative to the city’s world-renowned Southern fare. Self-touted as “Asian soul food,” the restaurant is famous for its pan-Asian dishes that sources local ingredients. The menu constantly changes and there is a no-reservation policy, but it’s worth the wait for the curry with locally caught fish washed down with a Sichuan-peppercorn gin cocktail.
Chef Kevin Johnson worked at some of the most iconic Southern restaurants (The Inn at Little Washington and Frank Lee and S.N.O.B) before opening The Grocery in 2011. Everything from the charcuterie to the pickles is house-made and the menu is seasonal, local, and meant to be shared. Nestled in a converted furniture warehouse, the restaurant’s upscale-meets-corner store feel is a natural extension of its family-style menu.
If you’re craving a great cocktail after a long day of sightseeing, then look no further than The Belmont. This cocktail lounge is elegant, yet understated, with a classic long bar surrounded by high tops. Only forty patrons can be seated at a time, and this exclusivity gives off Prohibition-era vibes. Enjoy a classic “Bootsy Collins” or one of the staff’s creations, such as the tequila and suze “Nature Boy.”
TO GO + SHOP + DO
Lower King Street is famous for its high-end shopping, but Upper King Street is the place to go and discover local artisans and purveyors. Cannonborough Collective is the perfect place to shop many of these merchants. Founded by best friends Liz and Mimi, the store is a space for local brands to set up shop as well as a workshop for makers. Some merchants include Park & Madison hand-poured candles and Motherland Essentials all-natural skincare.
Held every Saturday morning from April to November, the Charleston Farmer’s Market is one of the best places to experience the day-to-day life of the city’s residents. Located in Marion Square, the market is only a few minutes’ walk from the Cannonborough Elliotborough neighborhood and certainly worth the trip. Vendors are Lowcountry farmers and artisans who sell fresh seafood, produce, and crafts while local musicians perform.