Our recent weekend in Charleston for the Fall Tours of Homes went so quickly! We arrived on Friday afternoon, and before we knew it, we had eaten at several good restaurants, done a tour of historic houses, and it was already Sunday, our last day! But nothing to get too upset about, because we had some fun things set up for that last day: a tour of Charleston’s wrought iron gates and fences and such, and one more awesome meal at a Charleston restaurant yet to be determined.
Unlike the previous day’s tour, where there were only guides within the homes and we were otherwise on our own, this one was guided the whole way, by Lee Ann Bain, a local guide who is quite knowledgeable of Charleston’s history. Ms. Bain met us at the Preservation Society offices, and then our group (of about 10 people) headed out.
While the previous two days had been quite warm, this Sunday, while sunny, was a bit chilly. So whenever Ms. Bain stopped in a shady spot where the wind would put a chill into us, I looked for a spot where the sun might be peeking through. That was a small blemish on an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable and informative tour.
Ms. Bain began by explaining to us the difference between cast iron and wrought iron. And then we headed to Broad Street, where we saw a good example of the former: the John Rutledge House Inn, formerly the home of one of the writers of the United States Constitution, which is now a luxurious place to stay in Charleston.
Then we crossed the street to see the Governor’s House, which is decorated with a combination of cast iron and wrought iron.
After seeing these two majestic Broad Street buildings, we meandered through the streets below Broad Street, stopping frequently to hear Ms. Bain’s description of the ironwork we were seeing. She told us about the three German iron manufacturers who were responsible for the vast majority of the gates created during the nineteenth century: Christopher Werner, J.A.W. Iusti and Frederick Ortmann. She told us many fascinating stories about them and the work they created, but the most interesting stories she told us were about Philip Simmons, the most celebrated iron manufacturer of the 2oth century and one of the most revered legendary figures in Charleston.
As we passed by all the buildings and ironwork about which Ms. Bain wanted to tell us, we looped back around, and ended the tour at the City Hall Park on Broad Street.
At this point, Therese and I realized how tired (and hungry) we were. After not having any water to drink during a hot afternoon of house touring, we had made sure to bring bottles of water with us, so we had that covered. But two hours of walking and standing (especially standing) had tired us out. With the tour done, we stumbled northward on Meeting Street. I was sure there were a couple restaurants we would pass on that street from which we could pick.
Well, we passed a couple small restaurants that we didn’t think too much of, before we reached Hyman’s Seafood. Actually, before we even made it to the restaurant, we encountered a man near Market and Meeting Streets who was handing out hush puppies, little round balls of fried dough. Therese sampled one and pronounced it wonderful. And I recalled that Hyman’s was on our list of Charleston restaurants we’ve heard good things about from Charleston residents (I believe a couple taxi drivers had recommended it to us). So Hyman’s it was.
We were lucky to get there when we did (about 12:15p) – Hyman’s is a popular spot, and not long after we sat down at our table, a couple of huge groups came in. And by the time we left, there was a line of maybe 15 people waiting for tables.
Speaking of our table, there were a bunch of metal tags nailed to the table, proclaiming that Kevin Costner, the Beach Boys, Senator John McCain, Dr. Ruth and former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton had all eaten at our table. Quite an eclectic mix, if you ask me. Can you imagine what the conversation would’ve been like if all those people had been there at once? Oh, to have been a fly on the wall…
Another piece of shtick they have at Hyman’s is that there is a little pencil can filled with different colored cards that are filled with cliches and words of wisdom. We were invited to read some while we waited for our food to come, which we did. Honestly, I didn’t find any that really captured my attention, but it’s a fun idea. The food was what really caught my eye.
How about an appetizer of gator sausage?
Ever since Therese got to try alligator chowder when we were in Orlando, I have been wanting to try alligator meat. And while these sausage were not all alligator – they are a mix of alligator and pork – I could definitely taste the alligator in them, and I loved them. They may have been the highlight of the meal for me.
Which is not to say that my main course, a salmon croquette sandwich, was not also very tasty.
Everything comes with hush puppies, but I could not be sure that they were dairy free (the dough probably was made with milk, I would guess). But I was assured that the croquettes were safe, and I am glad they were. Okay, they were fried, which is not the best thing, but they were salmon through and through. Between the gator sausage and half this croquette sandwich, I was stuffed. I took the other half of my sandwich with us, and ate it on the airplane as an early dinner.
And yes, once lunch was done, it was pretty much time to head back to the hotel, pick up our luggage and head to the airport, and then back to NYC. A fun-filled, eye-opening weekend, but it went by all too quick, and we can’t wait to get back to Charleston again. If you’re wondering when that will be, we are coming back for the Wine & Food Festival in March. Can’t wait!