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Apr 29, 2024

New Book Documents Charleston Food Scene

Jesse Blanco

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I spent four long weekends in Charleston a couple of winters ago. Some by myself, others not. All we did was eat and drink for hours upon hours upon hours on end.

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It was a day I will never forget. It started the same as any other. I sat in my home office banging away at a keyboard, prepared to write about whatever eats I had enjoyed that previous week. I wish I could say something poetically dramatic like “the sound of the ringing phone snapped me clear out of a razor-sharp focus,” but that wouldn’t be true. These days, most good news comes in silence, via email. In this case, it was in the form of a question.

I’m paraphrasing, but the question essentially asked if I’d be interested in writing a book documenting Charleston’s food scene.

My reaction was the equivalent of the proverbial long pause on the other end of a phone call, because time froze. I stared. I smiled. My eyes became the size of silver dollars.

Then I got scared. 

Jesse Blanco

If I’m being completely honest, my initial reaction was “no way.” I mean, I had just written a book on Savannah’s food scene, sure, but I know Savannah like the back of my hand. This summer will be my 20th in Savannah. When I tell people I wrote that book in nine days, they are shocked. In the big picture, my biggest challenge in writing Savannah Food Crawls came in sorting out 20 years’ worth of knowledge and information. Easy peasy, lemon squeezie.

Charleston though? One of the greatest food towns in America? A place that, yes, I had visited more than a dozen times, but didn’t know nearly as well as Savannah? 

My initial gut reaction? No way. Too intimidating. Too much to learn about. Too much to try to document without leaving out something important, accidentally or otherwise. I called my wife.

“Well, you have to do it, whether you want to or not,” she said. “If you truly want to grow your brand and your following beyond Savannah, as you have always talked about, then this is something you simply have to do.”

She was right. 

Most people don’t know this, but it has always been our vision to make Eat It and Like It a regional brand. There were two initial reasons for that. No. 1: When we started, Savannah didn’t have nearly the food scene it does today. No. 2: I love to travel. Wanderlust and the good food that comes with it was always going to be fair game to discuss.

I enthusiastically accepted the assignment and began making plans to dive right in.

I spent four long weekends in Charleston a couple of winters ago. Some by myself, others not. All we did was eat and drink for hours upon hours upon hours on end. Tough gig, right? I shared that story with a group last year and there was an audible groan in the room. Amusing, for sure. But don’t get it twisted. That was work.

How else do you describe needing to have two lunches in a day, then trying some ice cream you’ve never had, followed by a donut you’ve been told is the best in the city? In Savannah, I could easily come back tomorrow. The commute to Charleston didn’t afford me that luxury.

I walked the streets of Charleston alone more than once, canvassing every neighborhood. I almost literally went door to door, kicking tires and kissing babies. Also, more than once, I sat across 3 feet of wood chatting with half a dozen bartenders, asking them a series of questions about their eating habits and the spots that don’t get the headlines. Once the answers begin to resemble each other, then you know you are zeroing in on those hidden gems.

The result of all that research is my second book, Charleston Food Crawls. Much like Savannah Food Crawls, it is a collection of a dozen or so “walkabouts” through the Holy City. It features some of Charleston’s best lunch spots and casual eats. Some of the places mentioned are open at night, but this would best be described as a daytime book. 

Why? If you know the food scene in Charleston, you know there’s an amazing “finer dining” restaurant at nearly every turn. The majority of those spots are not open for lunch. Their service begins at 5 p.m. Charleston’s best food is dinner only and a topic for another discussion. Charleston Food Crawls – like the Savannah book – isn’t about fine dining. The publisher prohibited it. These books are collections of the best casual eats to be found as you make your way through one of the most historic cities in America – which I did.

Ultimately, writing this book was a huge treat. As a journalist, I’ve always been naturally curious. So, making my way through a town as deliciously picturesque as Charleston (and being compensated to do so) is the kind of thing we dreamt about once upon a moon when we created Eat It and Like It. If you enjoy making the short trip to Charleston a few times a year, then Charleston Food Crawls is something you should most certainly have in your collection.

I can assure you, you will Eat It and Like It.

You can find them at Signed copies are available at

Happy eating. 

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