Charles Towne 101: The Charleston Bucket List

By | January 27, 2011

Louise Keim, CofC Parent Advisory Council member and her son, Morgan Keim, ’10 (pictured here with Tom Keim) are the dynamic duo behind Charles Town 101.  In this issue, they share five things you MUST do in Charleston before May.

It seemed to us Keims that a Charleston Bucket List might be in order. No need to panic! Unlike the Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman version, our Bucket List doesn’t involve terminal disease. But like the movie’s list, ours does remind one that there’s a time’s-a-ticking quality to your student’s sojourn in Charleston – unless they’re on the 5- or 6-year plan or are going on to the new business school, MUSC or the like. (Post-graduation, our son has remained in Charleston.)

In full disclosure: We haven’t actually been to all five of the places and/or events on our Charleston Bucket List. But we’ve been to most and have heard such phenomenal things about the others that we feel comfortable suggesting that you put them on your list too. The hard part was winnowing down to a mere five. It pained us to leave off brunch at Three Little Birds or the Hominy Grill; dinner at the Peninsula or Charleston Grill, SNOB or Husk or lunch at Muse. Or finally manning up and doing the Cooper River Bridge Run (April 2, 2011). They’ll just have to be on our Charleston Bucket List, redux.

The Charleston Bucket List (in no particular order)

1.Brunch at Red Drum (and going all the way with the Dulce du Leche donuts)

Chef/owner Ben Berryhill is a Texan, who cut his culinary teeth at the legendary Café Annie in Houston, so it’s no surprise that Red Drum is the place in Charleston (actually Mt. Pleasant) “where South meets Southwest.” Dinners here are over-the-top good; the wine list extensive; and the flight of beers heady but it’s the Sunday brunch that makes our Bucket List many times over! Tom (who, as they say in the Lone Star State is a Texan “by the grace of God”) is nuts for the Take Me Back to Texas Huevos Rancheros while Louise always enjoys the Breakfast Tacos with Monterey Jack, avocado and red and green chili sauces (dee-lish!). Other family members opt for to-die-for dishes like Wood-Grilled Quail with Texas Venison Sausage and Chile Cheese Grits. But what remains for the Bucket List are the aforementioned Dulce la Leche donuts, softly redolent of caramelized sugar, the scent wafting tantalizingly over to our table as they are served to other diners. Alas, to date, we’ve never left room to try them. But there’s always another Sunday! Red Drum, 803 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant, SC . Telephone: 843. 849.0313.

2. Get cultured at Spoleto & Piccolo Spoleto

How could we have spent almost five years traveling regularly to Charleston and not once been to Spoleto or even Piccolo Spoleto? Spoleto is a world-class festival with 17 days and nights of theater, opera, ballet, visual arts, musical theater, contemporary circus and, of course, music  This year’s Spoleto takes place May 27 – June 12.  The line-up announced earlier this month features 150 performances by 48 artistic ensembles. Among the highlights are Ireland’s Druid Theatre performing Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan (this dark comedy is part of what was meant to be McDonagh’s Aran Islands trilogy and a favorite of the Keim family). Also scheduled are the American premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s opera Émilie; Ángel Corella’s Spain-based Corella Ballet; jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves; banjo icon Béla Fleck and the Original Flecktones, and New Orleans sensation Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. The  heart of Spoleto, the Bank of America Chamber Music concerts will feature a changing roster of artists and 11 programs performed twice daily in the historic Dock Street Theatre. A number of performances take place at the College of Charleston, such as Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, which will be performed at Sottile Theatre. Singer/songwriter Sarah Jarosz, whose debut album netted a 2009 Grammy nomination, will be in the Cistern Yard on June 2. Tickets for any of the events can be purchased online at or by phone at 843.579.3100. Focusing primarily on artists of the Southeast region, Piccolo Spoleto bills itself as “the perfect complement to the international scope of its parent festival” It’s very possible to see some CofC professors or students performing in this “little Spoleto” organized by the City of Charleston. With 700 events running concurrently during Spoleto (half of which are admission-free and the remainder at very modest ticket prices), Piccolo Spoleto offers the everyone the opportunity to enjoy the Spoleto experience.  For more information, visit: or phone: (843) 724-7305.

3. Explore rare beers at the Charleston Beer Exchange

This, according to Morgan is, “part old cavern, part beer heaven.” Okay, truth be told, would the Charleston Beer Exchange make our Bucket List if it were not for our 22-year-old craft beer aficionado? The jury’s out. But….CBX is pretty cool, like a super well-stocked wine shop, only for beer. Open every day of the week, the Charleston Beer Exchange has Rare Beer Tuesdays when they sample some of their brewskies. AND, they Twitter so you can find out the moment a new beer has arrived or an out-of-stock one is back. If you’ve been searching in vain for Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel , Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 Yr or Ridgeway Insanely Bad Elf, CBX is your place.  And they ship (state laws permitting). Charleston Beer Exchange, 14 Exchange Street. Telephone: 843.577.5446. Check out their incredible inventory list at

4. Stay at the Charlotte Street Cottage and pretend we are Charlestonians

One of the great treats of visiting Charleston, of course, is the fantastic assortment of lodging. We’ve stayed in lots of them – Planters Inn, King’s Courtyard Inn, Meeting Street Inn, Indigo Inn, Hampton Inn, and the Vendue Inn (which is pet-friendly, for a fee). But just once we’d like to stay in an 1820s carriage house tucked behind a main house on a tree-lined street in the heart of the historic district and pretend we are Charlestonians.

The owners rent Charlotte Street Cottage by the night, week or month. Not only does it have two bedrooms (and can accommodate four) but also a fully-equipped kitchen with original fireplace, living room, dining room and all the absolute necessities of modern life, ie, cable, high-speed Internet access and two-zone A/C and heating. But the best part is the private garden. According to guest comments on the website, we want to book a stay when fragrant jasmine is in season. 32 Charlotte Street. Website: Telephone: 843.577.3944.

5. Pig Out at Melvin’s

Melvin’s has been a South Carolina landmark since 1939, and for eight years in a row, readers of Charleston’s City Paper have voted Melvin’s the best barbeque joint in town. It is a joint: food comes served on Styrofoam plates. Our son Morgan thinks the pork and ribs combo are the Best!….but then, he was raised in barbeque-less Connecticut. Meantime, Morgan’s parents grew up in the que capitals of Memphis and Dallas. So, Morgan’s parents’ suggestion: get Melvin’s cheeseburger, which Chef Emeril Lagasse voted the Best Cheeseburger in America. It’s also one of the only places we know where they have Nehi Orange and Nehi Grape (as well as Oreo milkshakes). But if you do try the ‘que and find you can’t live without their Special Golden Recipe sauce, Piggly Wiggly in South Carolina and Georgia as well as the local Whole Foods stock it. Melvin’s is open every day except for Sundays from 10:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and has two locations. 538 Folly Road  (James Island), telephone: 843.762.0511. Also, 925 Houston Northcutt Blvd. in Mount Pleasant, telephone: 843.881.0549.

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