By Becca Naylor and Allyson Vaughan
We’re prone to spontaneous road trips here at Prosaic— really spontaneous road trips that we then meticulously plan. This spring, we decided that Charleston, South Carolina would be our destination of choice. Charleston has a lot to offer the literary minded. It’s a city full of rich history, architecture, and culture. Including, but not limited to a history of pirates and really good shrimp. Unfortunately, our stay was limited to a few days, but we managed to gather as much of the historic downtown as possible. Besides shrimp and pirates, Charleston has some unique local bookshops and eateries. We hit up a few bookstores, shopped along the famous King’s Street strip, and ate a lot of rich food singular to Charleston. Except for the one night where we cried because we were so hungry that upon finding a Little Caesar’s with a drive-thru we literally “just couldn’t” anymore. So if you’re ever in the Charleston area, check out these awesome-sauce spots.
Mr. K’s in North Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the chain’s four locations (the others are Greenville, SC; Asheville, NC; and Johnson City, TN), and is also conveniently located near the Charleston Tanger Outlet, a Starbucks, and TCBY. We like food with our books, all right? Mr. K’s advertizes as a used books and music store that buys and trades used books, music, movies, etc., but we like to think of Mr. K’s as cheaper, independently owned version of Barnes&Noble. Mr. K’s is just as large and sells as many products as B&N, but at a significantly cheaper price. They offer new books at a discounted price, used books, used CDs, used vinyl (!!!!), used DVDs, comic books, local interest, vintage copies, and sometimes even electronics. You might feel a bit overwhelmed when you first enter because of the sheer amount of awesomeness there is to take in. Giant wooden bookshelves line the walls and divide the square room into different sections, and each area is labeled clearly. From romance to classic literature, cookbooks to young adult fiction, Mr. K’s has it all. By the way, there are also big comfy chairs here, too. Check out the store’s website, or your nearest location’s Facebook page for more information on store hours and how to sell your used books and music for cash or store credit. http://mrksusedbooks.com
Blue Bicycle Books
Located on the south end of King Street, Charleston, South Carolina, Blue Bicycle Books is an independent, locally owned bookshop founded in 1995. From the street, BBB looks like a small shop, but it’s most definitely “bigger on the inside.” The storefront features information on upcoming events, like readings and signings from authors such as our beloved David Sedaris. Upon entering the store, you will find an open, welcoming room with places to sit, browse, and chat with friends or the store owner. Vintage books, new releases, works from regional authors, and photos with authors who have visited the store fill the shelves. Follow the hallway that leads to the rest of the store, and you will discover the walls lined with shelves of discounted fiction. There are treasure-filled rooms off to the right with even more tables and chairs, which is quite welcome if you’ve been shopping on King Street for several hours before visiting the bookstore. One of these magical book caves features classic literature, poetry, and drama to satisfy every thespian, and another room beckons with all your favorite children’s classics. If you ever find yourself in the Charleston area, we highly recommend planning a visit to Blue Bicycle Books to explore, find a new favorite, or to be inspired. Check out the store’s website if you’re still curious, or if you need some online retail therapy: http://bluebicyclebooks.com/
The Savannah Bee Company
Besides our book-buying excursions, we did a lot of shopping on King Street. Some of our favorite places include H&M, Earthbound, Lush and the Savannah Bee Company. The Savannah Bee Company is a magical place. Passionate about bees and committed to their environment, the employees are quick to give you the low down on their products, all of which are based from honey or the hive. They have moisturizer, shampoos, soaps, mead, and a plethora of honey and honey accessories. Many of the honeys in the store are available for taste testing, which we highly recommend. The flavor of the honeys vary based on additives like cinnamon, the location of the hive, such as Savannah versus Charleston honey, and even the type of blossoms the bees pollinated. We love to put honey in our tea and coffee, and the Savannah Bee Company produces the best raw honey we’ve ever tasted. #SaveTheBees
The Charleston Spice and Tea Exchange
Even though The Spice and Tea Exchange in Charleston isn’t on King Street (it’s actually on Church Street, near the City Market), we recommend it for all you tea lovers out there. There’s a wall dedicated to different loose-leaf teas including black teas, greens, whites, and herbal blends. In the same section of the store, there are tea strainers and mugs if you need to update your collection (because really, you can never have too many mugs). Beside the teas, there are honey sticks and several various types of sugar, including vanilla sugar and coconut sugar. The employees are quite friendly and helpful. The Spice and Tea Exchange is a must for tea lovers visiting the Charleston area.
Like we said, food is a top priority for us. And any time food can be combined with literature—you know where to find us. Poe’s Tavern is located two blocks from the beach on Sullivan’s Island, a short 20-30 minute drive from downtown Charleston. Named after Edgar Allan Poe, who was stationed at Sullivan’s Island for a time, Poe’s Tavern is decorated from the sidewalk to the bathrooms with Poe’s face or references to his work. The staff is friendly and doesn’t do that awful thing where they hover around you while you’re trying to get down with some French fries. The menu is totally Poe inspired with decently priced burgers, all named after short stories and poems by the author. There’s also some Mexican flare on the menu. We’re not sure if Poe was ever into Pico-de-Gallo, but they have it. It’s a great place to relax before or after an afternoon on the beach with its laid-back atmosphere and open outdoor seating available. There are even T-shirts and mugs available for purchase.
Gaulart & Maliclet Fast & French
Bonjour Croque Monsieur! Inside this small eatery tucked away on Broad street, just a short walk away from King Street, you will find locally baked croissants, French pressed coffee, and a variety of
French cuisine. The café is set up in the fashion of an authentic Parisian eatery; once inside you’ll be seated at community style tables next to strangers. Don’t freak, this is how the French eat—in good company. Though the seating arrangements might be unfamiliar it’s soon forgotten once you get your food. We stopped short of proposing to their PB&J and apple croissants. And the Croque Monseiur made us want to slap the table (very un-french like, we know). We felt chic drinking the pressed coffee and dining in the low light. It’s a wonderful place to relax after a day of shopping or sight-seeing.
These are just some of the places we went and highly recommend to those interested in seeing the highlights of downtown Charleston. And when you’re done with it all take a short drive down to The Battery like we did and enjoy the view of the lapping water against the stone walls of the barrier and quite literally look out at history.