Charleston shines again
Tourist-mecca Charleston has landed another accolade.
Alongside London, Paris and Budapest, the Holy City, currently Conde Nast Traveler's No. 1 tourist destination in North America, made travel guide Fodor's Top 21 places to go in the world this year.
Only one other U.S. tourist spot made the list: Oahu in tropical Hawaii.
Pushing Charleston to the forefront of the must-go destinations are great restaurants, plush hotels, beautiful scenery and numerous festivals, according to Fodor's.
The travel guide honed in on Charleston as a "buzzy destination" and a foodie-centric city that's leading a Southern food revival, especially among a couple of Charleston's newer restaurants.
At Neighborhood Dining Group's Husk, which opened just over a year ago, and McCrady's, the travel guide cited chef Sean Brock for delving "into the history of southern agriculture in an effort to reintroduce heirloom produce and incorporate long-forgotten local ingredients, providing a flavor of the South that's gone untasted for decades."
At Grocery, which opened last month on Cannon Street, Fodor's said chef-owner Kevin Johnson "pays homage to old-school groceries with a menu dictated by the catches and harvests of local anglers and farmers."
Fodor's nod to the city is not surprising, Brock said.
"Charleston has the perform storm," he added. "It has incredible hospitality, incredible weather, incredible food with an incredible history to back it up. Our buildings are beautiful, and we preserved our history with respect."
The travel guide's recognition of his efforts in the kitchen is also personally gratifying, Brock said.
"People are starting to taste the difference and become more interested in the story and the history of food when it wasn't processed or engineered or polluted," the chef said. "Food was simply better then, and we need to get back to that. Farmers are finally embracing the old-fashioned way of producing things. Chefs are becoming tighter with the producers, and guests are getting tighter with the chefs … and all of those things are adding up."
Fodor's also singled out the 62-room Planters Inn for its 18th-century charms as well as the award-winning Peninsula Grill.
Hotel and restaurant owner Hank Holliday said it was gratifying to see his staff rewarded for their efforts, but he said Charleston's newly discovered stature took many years of plugging away by Mayor Joe Riley and the hospitality industry.
"It just didn't happen overnight," Holliday said. "It's been long, long years of hard work."
He said the attention heaped on Charleston is because it offers "a wonderful experience and a wonderful product."
Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau could not have been happier. "We are thrilled," she said. "This is a great start to the new year."
She called Fodor's one of the authorities on travel and lauded them for recognizing what millions of visitors already know.
"There's lots to do here," Hill said. "It's a combination of an historic destination with a rich, urban feel and beautiful beaches. There's not many places in the world to go to get that in one destination."
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.