Why We Love It: Craft cocktail bars, high-concept sandwich shops, and cutting-edge art galleries are bringing a shake-things-up attitude to the sometimes conservative city.
Our Perfect Day: Grab a cup of pour-over Intelligentsia java ($3.50) at Hope and Union Coffee (hopeandunioncoffee.com)*, then scope out stationery shop Mac & Murphy (macandmurphy.com), edgy contemporary-art space Rebekah Jacob Gallery (rebekahjacobgallery.com), and Two Boroughs Larder (twoboroughslarder.com), an industrial-chic new-American restaurant with its own market. When happy hour hits, proceed to The Belmont (thebelmontcharleston.com), a grown-up cocktail den with pressed-tin ceilings and exposed-brick walls. Dinner is a toss-up: Kevin Johnson’s elegant, locally sourced dishes (Whole Roasted Beeliner Snapper with fennel, lemon, and salsa verde; $36) at The Grocery (thegrocerycharleston.com) or inventive sandwiches from the late-night menu at Butcher & Bee (butcherandbee.com, served until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday).
Top Tastemakers: Heather and Josh Keeler of Two Boroughs Larder are two of the area’s savviest mad scientists. Their ambitious restaurantmarket hybrid serves a mash-up of the familiar and the foreign (house-made ramen with Keegan Filion pork) and stocks local treats, specialty imports, and a smattering of housewares.
The Ideal Souvenir: A chevron-patterned Proud Mary pencil case ($22) at Mac & Murphy—a nod to the area’s textiles-centric history.
Everyone’s Talking About: Chef Mike Lata’s 100-seat oyster bar opening this fall in a former bank on King and Cannon.
*Sadly, Hope and Union will be closing at the end of July. The owner and all the employees will be moving over to The Collective, a new coffee shop in Mount Pleasant.