One of the things I love about Augusta is our proximity to so many interesting cities, like Columbia, Savannah, Atlanta, Greenville, Charlotte, and Charleston (just to name a few). We’re attempting to make the most of our time in the south and explore as much of the surrounding area as we can. A few weekends ago we drove up to Charleston for a spontaneous day trip. We did a lot of walking in the crazy South Carolina heat, ate some sandwiches at a local Laundromat/café and then headed back home.
Last week we finally had the chance to do a little more than a quick and rushed trip. My husband was sent to Charleston for a weeklong class, so naturally I decided to tag along for a few days (thank you, Navy, for the complimentary hotel room). I polled my Facebook friends and spent far too much time on Yelp to make the most of our meals and outings downtown.
Charleston is known for it’s amazing culinary scene – we finally had an excuse to eat our way around the city and we were not disappointed. So I thought I’d put together my own little blog post about my favorite coffee shops, eateries, restaurants, and general fun things to do and see when in Charleston!
Coffee: Tricera & The Rise
Coffee – the most important start to any day. When we visited New York a few years ago, I failed to plan ahead and research local Manhattan coffee shops. We found ourselves in the city on Memorial Day, and surprisingly nearly every coffee shop we passed was closed for the holiday! Good for them for taking a break, but I desperately needed a coffee fix in the city that is presumably overflowing with coffee and bagels. I’ve learned my lesson and now do plenty of research before visiting any place new. Spontaneity is great, but it can sometimes mean settling for Starbucks instead of a delicious, local and quirky coffee shop.
My friend Thea recommended Tricera Coffee on George Street (right off of King Street). I had just parked my car about a mile away right in the midst of a thunderstorm (accompanied by a torrential downpour). Tourists and locals were crowding under overhangs, ducking into Starbucks and Chipotle. I was tempted, but continued speed walking through the rain (praying my phone would stay dry enough because I’ve lost enough phones to water damage), and finally made it to Tricera to wait out the rest of the storm.
Tricera is quirky in that the theme is triceratops and dinosaurs, but not in a weird, I-just-stepped-into-a-five-year-old-boy’s-bedroom kind of way. It’s hipster and reminiscent of the kind of coffee shop you’d expect at Jurassic Park. Their coffee is great, but reviewers raved about the saffron latte, which is amazing. It’s expensive but creamy and delicious and worth trying at least once.
The second coffee shop I visited was The Rise Coffee Bar at The Restoration Hotel. It’s a small space with modern/industrial design and delicious iced coffee. Be sure to order the Rosemary Rise Latte (I’m all about obscure herbs and spices right now).
Breakfast: Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Brunch is my absolute favorite thing. When husband asks me what I want for my birthday, I always say I want him to take me out for brunch. Because of his schedule last week, however, we did not get a chance to experience a Poogan’s Porch or Hominy Grill classic Charleston brunch or breakfast. But I did grab a quick and easy breakfast on the go during some of my mornings of solo exploration.
My first breakfast (and newly discovered favorite biscuit joint in the entire world) was at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit on King’s Street (there’s now a second location at the Charleston City Market, which is open until 6 P.M.) I ordered the three mini biscuits (buttermilk, cheese and chive, and country ham). Words cannot adequately describe the perfection of these biscuits, so I’m not even going to try.
Donuts: Glazed Gourmet Donuts
Glazed Gourmet is arguably the best donut joint in Charleston (though it’s the only one I’ve ever eaten at, so I personally have nothing to compare it to). I love donuts, and I especially love unique donut flavors with a little more creativity than sprinkles or Bavarian cream. Glazed has the best flavors (I only wish I had time to sample each one): raspberry, blueberry cheesecake, honey bacon, lemon meringue. They do specialty donuts for things like the Eclipse and National S’mores Day. Glazed is located on King Street and is just a quick walk for the visitor center parking garage. Pair your donut with a cup of coffee and your day is bound to be pretty amazing!
BBQ: Swig & Swine
Husband and I ate our first dinner in Charleston at Swig & Swine – a delicious BBQ joint with THE BEST mac and cheese. We split the three meat plate and tried the pulled pork, turkey, and brisket. Everything was tender and flavorful. He ordered banana pudding to go and said it was the perfect way to end such a delicious southern meal.
When we started planning our Charleston trip, a visit to Husk was definitely at the top of our list of restaurants we wanted to try (confirmed by several Facebook friends who recommended this fine establishment).
I actually first heard about Husk while watching the show, “Mind of a Chef,” and was fascinated by the way Chef Sean Brock talked about the history of growing food. There is one particular episode where he actually makes his famous cornbread using pure, whole, and local cornmeal and ingredients. I remember thinking, “gosh, I want to sink my teeth into that!” After watching the show and learning more about the chef’s vision and love of food and pure ingredients, we were so excited to enjoy dinner at Husk and thankfully got reservations in the nick of time. The restaurant itself is like stepping back into time from the old house, to the two-story front porch (with the blue painted ceiling), the gorgeous wood floors, and giant windows. You’re seated and handed a beautiful menu, which changes daily. Servers bring rolls in classic Charleston sweet grass baskets. It’s magical.
We ordered the smoked country ham and biscuits (with house made pickles and dijonnaise) appetizer, served on a gorgeous wooden plank. Husband and I shared a sirloin steak with a side of the famous cornbread, and enjoyed a locally brewed IPA. Everything was thoughtfully executed and prepared. The whole point of Husk is to create food inspired by southern ingredients and dishes, and to show people that southern cuisine is so much more than fried chicken. We left with full bellies and happy hearts.
We didn’t visit museums or plantations or take carriage rides or buy souvenirs. We just walked with no agenda except exploration. I wandered in local bookstores and boutiques, sat in coffee shops, browsed the Charleston City Market for as long as I could stand the heat, walked along the Battery, waded in Pineapple Fountain, strolled through the French Quarter and along Rainbow Row, and made it out to Angel Oak five minutes before closing (just enough time to stand in awe, snap a few pictures, and get eaten alive by mosquitoes). There’s so much to do in Charleston and I’m looking forward to returning and possibly touring the USS Yorktown and maybe enjoying a food tour. At any rate, I can now say I love Charleston –the atmosphere, the architecture, the coffee, and the food.
Friendship is a funny thing. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes friendships completely die out, never to be rekindled. Others may fade but remain significant. I especially appreciate the friendships that last – even without phone calls or Christmas cards or frequent visits. I’m learning to appreciate and give thanks for the friendships in my life that have truly endured through decades. Though they look different now (years later), though some are more “Facebook friendships” than real life friendships, they still mean the world to me.
This weekend, husband and I traveled to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to witness my middle school best friend get married. I haven’t seen her in at least eight years, and it’s been even longer since I’ve seen her family (seven siblings who are all grown now). It was a sweet time of catching up, rehashing old memories, talking about mutual friends and our awkward home school years.
I feel incredibly blessed that some of the best friendships I’ve ever had still remain in my life, even if it’s only through the occasional Facebook message or wedding ceremony.
When we moved from Boiling Springs to Burlington, NC, I thought my life was over. I was 12 and incredibly emotional, insecure, and terrified of starting over. As we said goodbye to our dear friends (who drove with us to help us move in), we said hello to a new family (the very same day) – who would later become my own family. The strange boy standing in the driveway with the oversized shirt and glasses would become my husband. Sixteen years later and that boy would accompany me to Fredericksburg to witness my dear friend (who helped us move in and said a tearful goodbye 16 years ago) marry the love of her life. Isn’t life funny? Everything comes full circle. And though friendships change, I never want to forget the gift that friendship is.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Fredericksburg, please go. Please. The area is beautiful and we welcomed the break from hot and humid Augusta (the evenings are already cool up in Virginia!).
We spent Saturday and Sunday morning walking around, meandering through historic streets, taking in the beautiful architecture, and scenery. According to the official website, there are more than 100 boutiques, antique shops, book stores (my favorite thing), art galleries and studios just in the downtown area! Downtown Fredericksburg is on the Rappahannock River, which is a short walk from the city center.
Another perk – parking was a breeze (and it’s free). We’ve visited enough cities in the last year where parking has been incredibly stressful and expensive (New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, etc.), so I pay attention whenever we visit downtowns with free and easy parking!
Brunch: There are so many amazing restaurants in Fredericksburg, but unfortunately we did not have the time (or money) to try all of them. My belief is that you can’t really experience a new place without experiencing the local cuisine. Thanks to the recommendation of some friends (and Yelp), we decided to eat brunch at FoodE, a rustic farm-to-table eatery located on Princess Anne St. in downtown Fredericksburg. The restaurant is housed in a historic building with gorgeous hardwood floors, high ceilings, and giant windows. And if you’re lucky (like us) you may be seated in the vault.
Menu recommendation: Chicken & Waffles (moist and tender, perfectly seasoned and crispy – absolute perfection)
Donuts: Donuts are my love language. I love donuts – I rarely eat donuts but I love them. And when I visit a new city and learn that there’s a local donutery (donutery?) creating their own versions of delicious and creative donuts, naturally I want to visit and sample them myself! We enjoyed a late breakfast at The Sugar Shack (on the outskirts of downtown Fredericksburg) Sunday morning. Fun fact: there’s a coupon on their Yelp page for a FREE house donut (you’re welcome). The donuts are fluffy (not flat and sad like Krispy Kreme donuts- sorry Krispy Kreme fans) and delicious paired with coffee or a Yoohoo.
Coffee: My sweet friend, Lindsey, introduced us to Agora Downtown Coffee Shop & Used Books. Coffee and books are two of my favorite things, so this was instantly a favorite little discovery. The shop is quirky but cute and artistic, with local art displayed on the walls, and shelves of books and pottery for sale. It’s a great place to sit and talk, sip an iced latte, and relax.
An amazing weekend with friends and delicious food. A new city, and new adventures.
“It’s easy to impress me. I don’t need a fancy party to be happy. Just good friends, good food, and good laughs. I’m happy. I’m satisfied. I’m content.” [Maria Sharapova]
There’s a coffee shop in town that serves the best grits I’ve ever eaten – and they’re only $5.99 a bowl.
Now I know shrimp and grits is a staple southern coastal dish, but this particular bowl is even better. Its simple, cheap, surprisingly creamy. Hot grits, topped with melting pimento cheese, crumbles of real bacon (note: not bacon bits), avocado and Cholula hot sauce. The combination is absolute perfection.
Something happens when unappetizingly cold, mayonnaise-y pimento cheese melts into hot grits. The bacon adds a whole level that only bacon can add. And the avocado makes it healthy. Just kidding – it’s not healthy. But the calories are worth it. It’s the definition of comfort food.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve found that this is no ordinary menu item. And certainly it’s no ordinary grits bowl. It’s a bowl that brings people together in mutual murmurs of awe and admiration. It’s a meal that leads to full stomachs, copious cups of coffee, and good, deep conversation.
As spoons scrape the sides of our grits bowls (getting every last bite), and locally made bread dips into the stringy pimento cheese and bright green avocado slices, as we slightly crunch freshly fried bacon, we also find ourselves listening to one another. Sharing our hearts. Talking about our new town (since so many people in Augusta are transplants themselves). Asking questions. Swapping stories. Sometimes shedding a tear or two.
It’s only been a few months since I made this delicious discovery, but now I recommend it to everyone. When meeting up with acquaintances for coffee, I suggest the grits bowl.
Grits and conversation – two of my favorite things.
Several months ago I wrote this post about our experience “church shopping” here in Augusta, which was written from a heart of love and concern. But also (if I’m being honest) genuine longing and loneliness. I craved community and fellowship. I desired friends. I desperately wanted to be known and know others.
Last summer was long, hot, and lonely. And I remember thinking, just three more years and we can get the heck out of this place and hopefully land in Colorado or Washington – some place with no bugs or humidity.
But slowly, things started to change. And little by little, community began to happen. I guess it started in small ways. Like in the first month when my husband’s sponsor, a young and single sailor, came over for dinner (our first guest in our new base house). And in June when we sheepishly went to our first FRG meeting – fighting my own insecurity as a brand new, unknowledgeable Navy wife. In October we went to our first military ball, and in November, we found our church (which we officially joined in December).
Relationships here took time to cultivate, community took time to discover, the loneliness took some time to dissipate.
When you move a lot, there is a temptation (even as an extrovert) to keep people at a distance and avoid deep connections and meaningful relationships. That’s something husband and I talked a lot about in those initial weeks and months here. There was the question: what’s the point of investing when we’re just going to move and start all over again in a few years? But really what a mistake that would have been. We would have missed out on countless blessings, beautiful friendships, and significant opportunities. I absolutely love this reminder from Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be ALL there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
We are not even guaranteed tomorrow, let alone three years from now. But we are here. Today. Right now. So we should be ALL here, investing, giving, serving, loving the people and community we find ourselves in. How easy it is to give up on the search for community when it’s sometimes hard to find. But then again, community isn’t always what we expect it to be. Sometimes it’s the homeless man downtown who engages you in conversation, or the barista who remembers your order, or the mailman, or the waitress, or the grocer, or your neighbor. Community happens wherever there are people, and sometimes we can be completely shocked and happily surprised to discover community in the most unlikely of places.
Over the past couple of months, we’ve been blessed to be in fellowship with some amazing people. The Lord led us to a church where we’ve seen Acts 2 played out everyday. Community is not only happening within the walls of the church, but outside. Down the street. In the neighborhood. Person by person.
My heart is full of gratitude as I’ve been reflecting on the Lord’s kindness. My perspective has changed dramatically. Though I still long for travel and adventure, we’ve found a home here. The place I was so discontented with nearly a year ago, is now precious to me. I’ve been reminded to never give up on community.
God desires His people to be in community, to have fellowship and work towards common goals, breaking bread together and opening our homes to one another. It might not happen right away. You may have to fight for it, extend invitations and even be rejected. But don’t give up on it, because through community comes ministry. Through hospitality comes a genuine display of love for others (though they be strangers or old friends).
Last Thursday we did something kind of crazy, a little surprising, and incredibly exciting.
We bought a house!
After living in base housing for eight months, we decided to break our lease and move across town (same city, different state). It’s been a chaotic few days (our fourth move in less than two years). We’ve discovered junk that has somehow, despite my best efforts, continued to accumulate. Boxes are strewn around the house in jenga-like towers, clothes remain in piles waiting to be hung. The house is a mess but we’re home, and so incredibly thankful for God’s provision.
Over the past year and a half, we’ve felt a little like gypsies moving from space to temporary space. But we’ve learned a lot about appreciating the space we occupy – even if it’s not our “dream home.” We’ve also learned we don’t need much to be welcoming, loving, and giving to whomever may walk through our front door.
Eventually everything will be unpacked and organized, but for now here’s a little peak of our new home!
I don’t really know how it’s possible that yet another year has passed and a new one is literally a day away. It feels like just yesterday that everyone was panicking and hoarding in preparation for Y2K…and here we are nearly 17 years later and our lights are still working, our computers still humming, our iPhones chiming…
It’s that time of year when our jeans are tight, our wallets slim, our emotions a little frayed and even raw as we reflect on the past year – the failed resolutions, the mistakes, the disappointments. And at the same time, there is renewed hope at the prospect of turning a new leaf – no matter how many new years we may have ushered in – 15 or 95 – it doesn’t matter. Every January 1 is a fresh start. A new beginning. An opportunity to try again. Make plans. Dream. Resolve.
A lot was packed into 2016. It’s been a very busy year with a lot of traveling and one really long – but amazing – road trip. We left Pensacola at the end of April and embarked on a week-long trip through 11 states. We ate beignets and drank rich cafe au laits at Cafe Du Monde, and wandered through the French Quarter in New Orleans. We stayed the night in Houston and ate bison burgers washed down with ice cold Lone Stars at a tiny dive underneath an overpass. We drove through the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma, and camped in the middle of the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. We made a quick stop in Memphis at the tiniest and somewhat sketchy hole-in-the-wall (which really was just somebody’s kitchen) for award-winning Memphis barbecue, and camped outside of Nashville where we enjoyed giant, flaky and delicious biscuits for breakfast the following morning. We then spent a week and a half with family and friends in North Carolina before heading down to Augusta, Georgia (our new duty station).
We had a lot of fun in 2016. Made new memories. Laughed. Decorated our home. Explored our new city. Visited new places. Joined a new church. Connected with new friends. But there’s been hardship too. Occasional loneliness. Bouts of discouragement. Feelings of isolation during the long and brutally hot summer months. We grieved this year as we said goodbye to Pappaw. We gathered together to celebrate his life – reuniting with some family members we hadn’t seen in a while. We shared countless stories, loved on Granny. A bittersweet week honoring a life well lived that we all miss terribly …
There are a lot of resolutions I could make for 2017. (Drink more water, lose 10 pounds, run a half marathon, make more money on Etsy, etc.) But what I really want as we head into 2017 are more opportunities to love, serve, and listen. Three simple things really, but they’re so hard. We’re moving in a few weeks. Which is exciting and kind of insane, considering we just moved seven months ago. We’re buying a house and it really is perfect timing. A new home is exciting for a lot of reasons, but my main desire is that this home will be a haven. A welcoming, and hospitable place where we sit around the table with friends and strangers. Where people can feel free to come and go and know that if nothing else, there will always be coffee.
A few months ago, my mother-in-law gave me a book called First We Have Coffee – a memoir about the author’s mother during the early part of the 20th century. I’ve read a lot of wonderful books this year about hospitality and creating welcoming homes but I think this one was my favorite. Not because it was full of tips or wonderful recipes. But because it was a genuine glimpse of real love. A roaring fire. A welcoming table. Homemade bread. Generous cups of coffee. I think this book is a beautiful reminder that there is indeed a lot of pain, grief, and loneliness in the world. But we should never underestimate the power of listening ears, compassionate hearts, and a hearty meal. That’s what I want for our new home.
That’s what I hope 2017 will bring.