Well-versed in the world of Indian cuisine, Bollywood Cafe's chefs prepare rich, creamy Punjabi-style curries and chaat—small, savory snacks sold on the streets of Bombay—with equal skill. They simmer nine vegetables with spices to make navratan korma and griddle succulent slices of lamb for biryani. Servers arrange these dishes on tables draped with white linens, pairing meals with cold drinks and desserts such as mango ice cream.
Dessert refuses to be an afterthought at Ye Ole Fashioned Ice Cream & Sandwich Cafe. More than 30 ice-cream flavors—repeatedly lauded by the Charleston City Paper and Moultrie News—pile atop cones or blend into milk shakes, and classic banana splits make mouths water with their pecans and cherries. The café’s scoops of amaretto cherry or java chunk are generous, living up to the vision of Rod Lapin, who opened the first Ye Ole Fashioned in 1972 with the idea of making customers’ jaws drop at the size of his portions.
Today, at more than half a dozen locations, including one helmed by his daughter Becki and her husband, that hasn’t changed. Ten strips of bacon layer the café’s signature BLTs; chili-laden, all-beef hot dogs weigh down their buns; and the plates are required to start lifting weights regularly before they’re allowed to carry double-decker sandwiches or burgers.
Locally owned and operated, The Bagel Shop specializes in authentic, New York–style kettle-boiled bagels, made fresh daily in 12 different varieties. Bread-ring biters can make a meal out of a single bagel ($1.10), available in flavors such as pumpernickel, garlic, and poppy seed. Slather plain housemade cream cheese on a multigrain bagel ($2.40), or experiment with exotic cream cheese flavors, freshly folded with such tasty accoutrements as jalapeño cheddar, scallions, and sun-dried tomatoes ($3.50 with bagel). Wash down a mouthful of bagel benevolence with a cup of Intelligentsia direct-trade coffee ($1.85–$2.05) or a loose-leaf organic oolong tea ($2.50 for regular / $3.75 for seasonal), served hot or iced.
Twenty Six Divine serves up a wide range of specialty homemade sweets and savories for daily meals and special events. An extensive à la carte lunch menu changes daily, like a kitschy wicked witch trying on different Dorothy heads. Past offerings have included wraps, paninis, and soups, as well as dishes such as seared beef tenderloin with bacon, caramelized onions, and roasted tomato over homemade olive bread ($6). Gourmet take-home dinners include turkey meatballs with egg noodles and creamy mushroom sauce ($6) and can also feed two people or sixteen self-sufficient automatons. Assorted fresh-baked rolls and crackers ($3–$5) are on hand daily for simple noshing, and sweet teeth can sink into specialty à la carte desserts, including marble-glazed pound cake ($3), peanut-butter chocolate cups ($3.75) and peaches 'n' cream charlotte with fresh raspberries ($4.25).
A warm, passionate band of locals staffs the comfy communal environs at both Muddy Waters Coffee Bar locations, each dedicated to serving tasty, Counter Culture Coffee-approved fair-trade coffees. A host of flavorful, creative bean-bound beverages adorns the menu like so many gilded ribbons on a break-dancer's pantaloons. Swathe a chilly tongue in a hot coverlet of hand-quilted espressos such as the latte ($2.80–$3.65) or muddy mocha ($3.35–$4.20), or impress an island hotelier with all-inclusive blended drinks such as the caramel frappe ($4.20¬–$4.60). The coffee bar's iced coffee ($2.25–$2.60) pairs well with its myriad pastries, which arrive from local vendors like Sticky Bakery, Nicole's Nutty Goodness, and Grawnola. A cozy, welcoming environment fills both locations, underscored by uncannily warm, helpful baristas and frequent, community-focused in-house events.
Charleston Tea Company is a house of leafy luxury that brings together more than 50 varieties of tea from around the globe to quench querulous thirsts. Sip a cup of mango-chai-flavored tea, a blend of Masala chai tea and mango ($5.70/oz.), or relax with other loose-leaf and medicinal teas and fresh-brewed iced tea. Turn a fire hose on stomach infernos with fresh, made-to-order food from either the breakfast or lunch menus. Diners can delight in breakfast sandwiches such as the egg, cheese, and tomato ($3.99), or lunch sandwiches including the turkey and brie melt ($6.95).