There have been places that John and I have discovered too late in Charleston. Dell’s Uptown, a corner of funky Jamaican-inspired health food on an impossible-to-get-to-street downtown, was my best example of our food scene failings until last weekend. Both of us like trying new restaurants, and our first stop before choosing anywhere to eat is Yelp, so finding out about Dell’s two years after moving to the Low Country was unacceptable.
Even worse is Huriyali Gardens. The minute we set foot inside Huriyali Gardens I was brought back to my childhood, running around the courtyard of a small Pacific Beach home in San Diego that had been converted into a Zen center, where my parents meditated in impossibly long stretches and I went for potlucks filled with fresh, organic, homemade dishes. Huriyali’s Garden is also a small house, with a brick walkway leading back to a patio with large picnic benches, outlined in tiny bird fountains, solar lights and organic greens. And the food is 99% organic, mostly local and 100% delicious.
We went there after lunch at Taco Boy on Saturday, purely because it was on the same street in the upper King section of downtown.
Upper King is on the brink of a major transition. You can feel it driving through. The neighborhood is run down, paint is peeling on the tiny houses and front porches and the streets are starkly quiet compared to the bustling, tourist and college student filled downtown just minutes away.
But in the corners, in the run down houses, aging gas stations and old buildings, gentrification is creeping in. Niche restaurants for a hipster, younger crowd, bored with the sea and comfort food staples are migrating up King Street, and some of Charleston’s best and most creative restaurants are bringing new life to the neighborhood.
Huriyali Gardens is tucked into the residential section, but it’s hard to miss. A small but bright sea foam green front contrasts the stale brick and tans of the neighborhood. Created in 2013, Huriyali sources most of their ingredients locally and prides themselves on offering healthy, nutrient-rich alternatives to southern cuisine. Their small menu reads like a typical health food restaurant, cold pressed juices, organic chicken and turkey panini’s, smoothies and colorful salads, but their atmosphere and mission to spread healthy lifestyles sets them apart.
Neither of us, having just stuffed ourselves at Taco Boy, were particularly hungry when we stopped by. We almost just drove past, not wanting to deal with street parking, but the outside was so intriguing I wanted to at least take a look.
The restaurant really has no inside, it’s an open kitchen, a counter and a case of fresh juices. The real experience is outside, past where you pick up your food, a wall of potted plants, and into the garden.
On Saturday I got the Green Hydration–celery, lime, bell pepper, spirulina–an attempt to counteract the heavy tacos, and John got the Choco Brew–coffee, dates, nut milk, raw cacao and protein powder. The juice was incredibly light and refreshing. The smoothie was decadent and delicious.
Sunday I woke up hungry. All I could think about was their turkey panini. Huriyali Gardens is not close to us, and I was surprised by how little convincing it took John to agree to go back.
When we got there around 1:30, after the baby’s random lunchtime nap, I had a change of heart. The burrito looked delicious, so I ordered that and the avocado toast and John ordered the panini.
The tables in the garden were full, and we declined an offer to share, so we walked around the with the baby until a spot opened up. Our food took a while to come out, but we explores every nook and cranny with an excited baby.
We ate in our usual parent-shifts. I had the avocado toast first, it was crispy, creamy and I appreciated the extra kick from the crushed red pepper. The burrito was very different from what I was expecting. The eggs seemed hard boiled, not scrambled, and the beans, eggs and avocado were all together too bland. It was still good, but I immediately wished I’d ordered something else.
Of course, the turkey panini was delicious. I snuck a bite when John was distracting the baby.
Huriyali Gardens is a great spot for a light breakfast or lunch on a cool, sunny day. Their outdoor seating is limiting given the Low Country’s tendency towards daily downpours, but it doubles as a great grab’n go spot for a quick smoothie, juice or acai bowl. It’s also a great model for what Charleston needs more of, healthy options to detox the shrimp ‘n grits, crab cakes and award-winning macaroni and cheese. Make sure you get the panini.