As you read yesterday, we recently set out on a pretty epic road trip throughout South Carolina, eating and drinking our way through a handful of the state’s must-see cities. And as we were driving from Greenville to Hilton Head and then onto Sea Island for The Southern C Summit, Columbia was a no-brainer for a pitstop. It was my first time in town, though Kat had been during college for a game or two to visit friends. It didn’t take me long to see that this was one FUN town on a college game day. The plethora of local breweries, great spots to catch some good grub, and the overall setup of the town really built the scene for a perfect weekend in the south. And as someone who didn’t have college football at their school, I can appreciate that more than you know!
We really lucked out with our itinerary on this part of the trip and our time in Columbia; the AFWF team powwow’ed with the state of South Carolina for must-eat, must-drink stops for us to get a feel for the place, setting us off in the fanciest Lexus SUV to roll us around in style. And after we were done in Columbia, we had our eyes set on a quick stop in Beaufort and finally settling in Hilton Head for the night.
The first on our list for the day was Rise Bakeshop, which was named Columbia’s Best New Restaurant last year by the readers of Free Times. Owned by Chef Sarah Simmons (who also owns CITY GRIT and Birds & Bubbles in Manhattan), the place boasts a big menu of southern staples at a fast-casual frequency. It’s the perfect place for a great biscuit, drool-worthy breakfast or lunch sandwiches and top quality salad bowls… basically everything they serve (minus the cheese) is prepared in-house using only the best ingredients. It was totally right up our alley; the team piled up on sweet and savory treats for later, only after talking to the lovely Chef Sarah and hearing her story. This talented lady really knows her stuff; she’s been recognized as one of the most creative people in business, a new and notable chef, and one of America’s best new cooks, and many more accolades by Food & Wine, Zagat and Fast Company magazine just to name a few. Her drive and passion for the industry was contagious, too; she told us about her big plans to continue paving the way in Columbia for top-scale dining. We definitely plan to keep an ear out for her next endeavor…with Columbia only three hours away from Atlanta, it would be a great excuse to come check out a new restaurant of hers and have a little weekend getaway.
After our stop at Rise, we piled back in the car to make our way to 2Fat2Fly where friends/owners Ramone Dickerson and Cory Simmons have in all seriousness, changed the game with their absolutely, ridiculously awesome stuffed chicken wings. That’s right; you read that correctly…stuffed chicken wings. The name may be my favorite part about the biz too with a play on the stuffed chicken that are too fat to fly! We arrived hungry, because we didn’t want to waste this chance at this when-in-Rome experience here in Columbia. And a side note, the guys were sweet to let us come in; they were actually closed for dining because it was Super Bowl Sunday and the team was busy in the back preparing catering orders all day long. But the boys showed us the utmost southern hospitality as they brought out some of their finest stuffed wings for us to enjoy (with the place to ourselves!). And man, the lineup was creative, innovative and irresistible: mac & cheese, chicken & waffles dunked in maple syrup, jambalaya rice & sausage, collard greens & rice and lastly, jalapeno, bacon & cheese. Insane, right?! They were some of the best wings we’ve ever ate…I mean just mind blowing how they actually stuff them. We definitely put a dent in the platter in front of us, but alas we did go home with some wings that we knew would be just as good heated up later that night!
We knew we wanted to pop around Columbia for a little bit longer, and since the city has a great brewery scene, we stopped by River Rat Brewing next for a flight of craft beers. The brewery was super laid-back and welcoming; one of those places where you’d want to hang out with a few of your friends for a few hours. It had a great, large outdoor area that would be so perfect for sunny weather and a good #SundayFunday. The space was awesome, and one we’d definitely recommend visiting for yourself.
Before we knew it, it was time to hit the road again, and we wanted to swing through super charming Beaufort on the way to Hilton Head. Whenever you’re passing through South Carolina, it’s really worth your while to stop through here; the quiet streets of antebellum homes nestled on the water make it the most idyllic little town. If you have time, be sure to rent bikes and meander the streets covered in Spanish moss; they’ll take your breath away! And if you have time to catch a quick bite, you must go to Q on the Bay for some of the best BBQ around (with Alabama white sauce of course), and homemade strawberry cake (recipe stays in the family…don’t worry I’ve already tried to get it).
Our final stop on deck for this epic South Carolina road trip: Hilton Head. It was such a treat to get a little taste of springtime weather here, and the cool ocean breeze and sand between our toes put a smile on all of us. We had a ton of recommendations to go check out Hilton Head Brewing Co., the island’s first brewery located on the north end. We were so glad we did; after getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the brewery, we enjoyed tasting several of their finest IPA’s at the bar. The new-to-town brewer, Nick Farstad, impressed us with his drive to get the brewery back to booming post-Hurricane Matthew, and he was great to teach us about the diverse flavor profiles of some of the brewery’s most beloved beers. We left there wishing Nick and team the best in his efforts to “put HHI on the [beer] map.” We know we’ll be back for another round soon!
Our last (and maybe my favorite) reservation found us at One Hot Mama’s, the culinary brain child and family-friendly BBQ joint by the talented Chef Orchid Paulmeier. You may remember Chef Orchid from season 7 of The Next Food Network Star! Chef Orchid sure knows what she’s doing; the spread set us back a few lbs. probably (because we just couldn’t leave any bites left behind), and we all settled into a comfortable and happy food coma after we devoured what was on the table. I think my favorite dish was the juicy-wet ribs, but I know that Kat couldn’t stop talking about those wings and Kathryn loved the macaroni & cheese. The one thing we could all agree on though; the chocolate, bacon pecan pie. Bold statement here, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a better dessert! Definitely worth a visit when you’re on HHI.
Whew! To say we had a great time meeting these talented chefs, eating this fantastic food and enjoying these drinks throughout South Carolina is a major understatement. Big thanks to AFWF, Discover South Carolina and Lexus for making it all happen. I know I can speak for the team in saying how fortunate we felt to have had the chance to see some of these hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems around the state. It’ll make it even more fun to meet up with the chefs at this year’s Atlanta Food & Wine Festival during the first weekend in June! Early Bird tickets go on sale 3.24, so be sure to set a reminder in your calendars…it’s one of my favorite events all year! Check out a few peeks from last year’s festival below (but most importantly, read about the tasting tents you’ll want to visit first!) to see what all of the buzz is about. Truly, MKR
P.S. Here’s an elegant southern themed private dinner I styled for the festival last year, along with a stunning Asian inspired rooftop dinner and the jaw-dropping farm table set up in the vineyard! xo