Finding the perfect spot for a pre-performance meal or a post-show drink can be a challenge during Spoleto, when crowds are thick and parking spaces are rare. As the second weekend of the festival rolls in, and locals start thinking about taking in dinner and a show, we figured we'd put together a handful of pairing suggestions because there are plenty of cool things to eat, drink, and see this time of year.
Show: Old Time Camp Meeting (Piccolo Spoleto. Fri. June 3 & 10)
Dinner: Huger's Place (587 King St.)
Get an authentic Gullah experience by stopping by the historic Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church on Glebe Street for the Old Time Camp Meeting, where you're guaranteed to stomp your feet, clap your hands, and raise your eyes to the good Lord in heaven. At the camp meeting, you'll hear spirituals sung in Gullah, a distinctive dialect with its own pronunciations and vocabulary. Some believe the Gullah-Geechee tradition is simply a language-based phenomenon, but it's much deeper than that. The Gullah-Geechee side of Charleston involves many more cultural elements — from sweetgrass basket-weaving to spiritual beliefs and social manners. When it comes to food, the influence of traditional Gullah-Geechee recipes and ingredients is what makes basic Southern cookin' different from Lowcountry cookin'.
After you get your soul stirred, Gullah style, at the camp meeting, head over to Huger's Place, a downtown eatery infused with the flavor and spirit of authentic Gullah-Geechee culture. The handsome restaurant and lounge is located in the bustling Upper King Street corridor and serves a variety of popular Southern fare, including chicken, ribs, meatloaf, seafood, and local vegetables. Some of their Lowcountry specialties include red rice, okra soup, candied yams, and chicken pilau (a.k.a. perloo) — a Gullah rice dish prepared with bell peppers, celery, and onions. Huger's serves dinner until 10 p.m. and has an amazing lunch buffet that's worth checking out. —T. Ballard Lesemann
Show: The Red Shoes(Spoleto Festival USA. June 1, 2, 4, & 5)
Dinner: Halls Chophouse (434 King St.)
Kneehigh Theatre wowed Spoleto audiences in 2005 with Tristan & Yseult. In 2009 they returned with Don John. And this year they're back with The Red Shoes, a dark and devilish reworking of the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the same name. Seeing as how a butcher — and his oh-so-handy cleaver — have a significant role to play in The Red Shoes, we thought that the ideal restaurant to pair with this play would be someplace that really knows how to serve up a slab of red meat. Immediately, Halls Chophouse came to mind, and not just because they serve up some of the tastiest steaks in town — they're also dishing out one bloody good special throughout the entire run of Spoleto. From 4-6 p.m. (daily), 10-11 p.m. (Mon.-Thurs.), and 11 p.m.-midnight (Fri. & Sat.) Halls is offering a $35 prix fixe menu, featuring a choice of she-crab soup or Caeser salad for an app, petite filet mignon or salmon for an entrée (with broccolini and mashed potatoes on the side), and strawberry shortcake or chocolate pâté for dessert. —Chris Haire
Show: Hedwig and the Angry Inch(Piccolo Spoleto. June 3, 6-8)
Drinks: Club Pantheon (28 Ann St.)Dudley's (42 Ann St. )
The glam rock era gets a unique voice in Hedwig, a German transgendered rocker who tells her unfortunate life story as she plays coffee shops and restaurants across the country. The gender-bending entertainment doesn't have to stop when Hedwig ends. After the show, head around the corner to Ann Street to Club Pantheon, Charleston's top gay dance club. On Friday, the drag show starts at midnight with the region's best eclectic performances. After the show, the dance floor opens up, where you're sure to find a shirtless Tommy Gnosis or two (or 10). If it's not the weekend, stop by gay pub Dudley's and toast Hedwig with some German Jägermeister. But, honey, leave the Red Bull on the shelf. A straight shot is so rock 'n' roll. —Greg Hambrick
Show: 13 Most Beautiful...Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests(Spoleto Festival USA. June 1-4)
Drinks: Belmont (511 King St.)
For a pre-13 Most Beautiful... Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests drink, the Belmont is the obvious choice for multiple reasons. For one, this immaculate cocktail bar would impress any '60s New York hipster. But another cool thing about the place: They project classic films onto the bar's back wall. When we went last week, owner Mickey Moran showed us his Criterion Collection copy of Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows. The late-'50s French film played silently while jazz and other lounge-y music was heard over patrons' voices. The experience is quite similar to 13 Most Beautiful, where indie pop power couple Dean and Britta play original and cover songs set to a backdrop of Warhol's short films. Moran racked his brain for a cocktail that would be emblematic of the artist and his Factory cohorts but didn't have much luck. Besides, Andy's friends were more into hard drugs than hard liquor. While something banana flavored may have recalled Warhol's cover for the The Velvet Underground & Nico record, we'd recommend an Old Fashioned. Moran doesn't make the overly sweet, maraschinoed and sugared kind of Old Fashioned. He makes the real thing with muddled lemon and orange rinds, some simple syrup, and rye whiskey. It's basically straight liquor. Warhol would approve. —Susan Cohen
Show: Émilie(Spoleto Festival USA. June 3 & 11)
Dinner: G&M, Fast and French (98 Broad St.)
In the early days of the Enlightenment, Émilie du Chatelet lived with her lover Voltaire in a secluded country house that they turned into a veritable research institute. They studied the latest scholars of the day, wrote volumes of letters and papers, slept all day, worked all night, made love as often as they could, and challenged societal mores of the time. The opera Émilie dramatizes du Chatelet's thoughts as she frantically tried to finish her life's work, translating Newton's Principia. As a pregnant 42-year-old, she feared she would die in childbirth (indeed, she died seven days after giving birth).
If Voltaire and Émilie came to town to see an opera, they would most definitely head over to Gaulart & Maliclet/Fast & French for a glass of wine, a bite to eat, and a scintillating discussion. The G&M of Fast and French are Gwyllene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet, an artist couple who, like Voltaire and Émilie, enjoy thinking big thoughts and shaking things up. Their restaurant itself is an experiment, putting people together at community tables and seeing what happens. During Spoleto, most often what happens is people talk and talk and talk — about the festival, art, Charleston, and more. It's the kind of place that encourages discussion, interaction, and intellectualism — the kinds of things Émilie and Voltaire would love, and we can't think of a better place for a post-show glass of wine with some stinky cheese and crusty bread. —Stephanie Barna
Show: Separation Anxiety (Piccolo Spoleto. June 1, 2, & 5)
Dinner: Jestine's Kitchen (251 Meeting St.)
Separation Anxiety is a one-women comedy show that takes audiences on a ride through a post-breakup trauma. Mandy Schmieder plays nine different characters, including Southern food maven Paula Deen (who's drunk as a skunk and horny as the dickens). If we know anything about appetite triggers (and, boy, do we), just witnessing Schmieder's impression will have you thinking about things like fried chicken, creamy mac and cheese, and gooey butter cake. For something fried and Southern, take a left out of the Theatre 99 parking lot, cross the street at Wentworth, and go ahead and stand in line at Jestine's. In no time, you'll be channeling the Food Network star, guzzling sweet tea, licking your chicken bones clean, and digging into the sweetest Coca-Cola Cake you ever did have. You'll have to go somewhere else to get drunk as a skunk, so head to King Street where you'll find plenty of places to fuel up. —Stephanie Barna