Your parents are in town. This can mean a lot of different things — you’re getting bailed out of jail, you’ve gotten knocked up, you need an intervention— but for college students, it’s finally time to go to all the restaurants and do fun activities around Charleston that your normal budget won’t allow.
People come to Charleston to eat. And like on any good vacation, this weekend is going to revolve around food. Here is our idealized culinary tour of the Holy City with the ‘rents. And we emphasize idealized. No family getaway could ever work out this smoothly.
Mom and Pop (and maybe the bro and sis) are arriving on the 5:15 p.m. flight and are probably going to be somewhat exhausted. Before you spend 20 minutes circling the Charleston airport, make dinner reservations at a modest but chic restaurant like Monza or G&M/Fast and French. Both restaurants serve light and classy food in fun and casual, community-oriented environments so you can catch up with each other. They may not be the most extravagant spots in town, but you’ll want to ease into the gluttonous next few days slowly.
For dessert, top off your meal with some gelato. Try the dark chocolate Cab Sav or pistachio gelato at Modica or go to Paolo’s on John Street and get a sweet and creamy ricotta filled cannoli with a side of sorbet. If the parental units are still up to party, take them next door to 39 Rue de Jean or Coast for some drinks. We love the atmosphere at both. They usually aren’t super packed on the weekend and draw in a mixed group of people that bridge the generation gap, so everyone can feel at ease.
Your night probably went on a little longer than Mom and Dad’s, so when they start harassing you at 9:45 a.m. with phone calls, at least you can drag yourself out of bed knowing you’re about to go to the Farmer’s Market at Marion Square. Buy your produce for the week and some delicious homemade pasta. Pick up some chow chow or green tomato chutney. Parents can buy a souvenir bags of grits, while you dine on strawberry and nutella crepes and crab omelettes smothered in peach salsa in the shade.
After the market, drop by Kudu Coffee for a drink. Look at mounted antelope heads as you sip on mugs of soy chai lattes or slurp down iced coffee. Hang out in their charming courtyard and nibble on some biscotti. Try taking them next door to Kudo Kito to window shop for authentic African art. They may be so smitten they’ll buy you something.
Spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach. College kids frequent Folly, but Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms is a better spot for the parents (all your friends won’t see Dad’s swim trunks fall down his ass as he splashes in the waves). If Dad gets bored and Mom wants to get out of the sun, they can head to the bar at Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s or bask by the volleyball court with a beer at the Windjammer on IOP.
Go home, clean up. For Saturday dinner, go somewhere unusual, out of the way perhaps, a place for special occasions such as this. Try the Fat Hen on Johns Island or Sienna on Daniel Island. If you prefer to stay downtown, maybe you can swindle them into taking you to McCrady’s for their tasting menu, FIG, or Circa 1886. If you’re out at the Fat Hen, go to the Terrace Theatre for beer and an indie flick after dinner. Catching a 10 p.m. comedy show at Theater 99 is another affordable and fun option for some fun family post-dinner entertainment.
Alas, it’s the last day of all-expenses-paid culinary bliss. It’s time for Sunday brunch and Charleston has a plethora of options. If you can push your way through the crowd of tourists, hit up Joseph’s for their sweet potato pancakes or Hominy Grill for some world-famous homemade biscuits and gravy. For something more upscale, go to Tristan for eggs benedict or French toast stuffed with white chocolate cream cheese at High Cotton. If you don’t mind leaving the peninsula, The Lost Dog Café on Folly Beach serves a big wet breakfast burrito loaded with black beans and gooey cheese that will have you crying, “Ay Caramba,” as you pile on more Sriracha.
After you’ve fueled up, it’s time to suck it up and do some sight seeing. Visit a plantation. All the plantations are pretty much in a row on Ashley River Road, so you can take your pick. They are all gorgeous, but we love Magnolia Plantation for its lush and wild beauty. Magnolia also has a petting zoo with crazy peacocks that will chase you around, and a nature train that make you feel like you’re riding Thomas the Tank Engine.
Mom and Dad’s luggage has been sitting in the hotel lobby since 11 a.m. check out, and they are ready to get to the airport a billion hours early. Go to Caviar & Bananas for dinner. They have everything from sushi to salads to entrées from the land, sea, and sky to baked goodies for dessert. It’s all gourmet and it’s all made to-go, but you can still enjoy your meal in C&B’s chromed-out dining area or on the patio. Be creative and build your own sandwich, or try their smoked salmon on focaccia or the duck confit sandwich.
The weekend is over. Send them off in a cab and kiss them goodbye. Sigh with relief or cry out of despair. Either way, you have been wined. You have been dined. Thank your lucky stars you have parents with a disposable income who love you so much. Let’s face it. Charleston was made for weekends with the parents.