You’ll Find Morning Sunshine at the Sunflower Cafe

By Mark A. Leon

Charleston has a rich culture of breakfast and competition is fierce among the well-known establishments as is evidenced by long waits and rising prices. Luckily, there are still a few hidden gems that have quality food and reasonable prices, like The Sunflower Cafe. This quaint diner in West Ashley is a step back into the family kitchen and offers a relaxing dining experience.? As you walk in, you are greeted by a busy but friendly staff and decor of sunflowers and patriotism.? The walls are covered with stories of local patrons. Overall, the ambiance is cozy.

We know you yearn for an omelet or waffles, but we highly recommend starting with the beignets.? At $3.95, they are a steal for three large puffs of golden brown dough, generously dusted with powered sugar, served with a side of maple syrup for dunking. That first hot bite is heaven and will make you understand why so many feel they are the best in Charleston

The breakfast and lunch menus are well categorized and concise.? For breakfast, the choices include benedicts, pancakes, eggs and omelets.? Make sure, if they are not included with your selection, to sample the potatoes – sautéed with just the right amount of spice and onions. They are mouth watering.? The grits are also an outstanding side – they are rich and creamy.

The spicy sausage, peppers and onions benedict is savory and explodes with flavor.? The portion is generous and will satisfy the most ample appetites. The fresh crab and fried green tomatoes benedict is a unique creation that will not disappoint.

Sweet pecan waffles are a great choice for the waffle lover with a sweet tooth.? They are the right mix of sticky and doughy and oh so yummy.

If your appetite favors an omelet, we suggest you lean your selection toward the sauteed spinach, over sun-dried tomatoes and feta or the crab, brie and artichokes omelet.? Both have a shower of mixed flavors and the portions are enough to cover you for two meals.

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The setting is very casual and the staff is friendly and unimposing.? If you bring a large group and want to relax, you will feel right at home.

Located about 20 minutes outside of downtown Charleston at 2366 Ashley River Road in West Ashley, the Sunflower Cafe is one breakfast and lunch experience you should add to your dining list. Come early as they are only open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM with a break from 11:00 to 11:30 to transition from breakfast to lunch and Sunday from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM.? They are closed on Monday.
?Sunflower Cafe Menu

Charlie’s Grocery Offers a Memorable Falafel

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Downtown Charleston is home to several corner stores but few have the rich history that Charlie’s Grocery? does. Opened in 1996 by Charlie Dabit, the Jasper Street grocery store has kept nearby residents and college students in stock with the essentials and more. Anyone who has ever experienced Charlie’s knows there is an impressive deli within. Beyond the Boar’s Head and large selection of homemade salads and jumbo pickles, there is one of Charleston’s most delicious treats, falafel. While falafel can be found at a few restaurants downtown and beyond, Charlie’s is arguably the best. The Charleston Daily (CD) sat down with Abe, Charlie’s eldest son who is now at the helm of day to day operations. We talked history, falafel and the future.

CD: Tell me about Charlie’s.

Abe: Charlie’s is our family’s store. We have been in business going on 18 years in April. The Jasper Street store was opened in April of 1996 and we recently opened a second store at the corner of Spring and Rutledge.

CD: Looks like you are running the Jasper Street store now. Where is Mr. Charlie?

Abe: My father is still around. Every morning he is at our Spring Street location. He’s very much a part of the business still. He has given a lot of the responsibility to me and my brother though.

CD: Enough small talk. Tell me about the falafel.

Abe:
(laughing) What do you want to know?

CD: What makes it so great? Whose recipe is it?

Abe: It’s just really fresh. The falafel is my mother’s family’s recipe and it hasn’t changed. It’s really simple. There is a basic ratio of chickpeas, onions, cilantro, and spices but there is no real measuring. It’s based on taste.

CD: So it’s a secret…. Would you ever considering opening a restaurant?

Abe: Yeah, especially with Middle Eastern food including falafel. Charleston kind of lacks in that area, but we have a few places around like Tabbuli and Manny’s. We have definitely considered opening a restaurant.

CD: What is the strangest thing a customer has requested?

Abe: That’s a toughie… Actually, pig’s feet! We used to carry them in jars. We had to talk my father into dropping them. People would request them, and there you are, reaching in, grabbing a pig’s foot, stuffing it in a bag and sending them on their merry way. Disgusting.

CD: What is the biggest challenge Charlie’s has experienced?

Abe: Finding trustworthy, good help. My father is very old fashioned. It’s very difficult to walk away and allow someone else to do this job.

CD:
What does Charlie’s mean to your family?

Abe: Charlie’s is ours and we take care of it like it is a child. It’s everything to us.

On that note, I dove into the falafel pita Abe had carefully prepared for me. The pita was generously stuffed with flattened orbs of fried falafel and refreshing cubes of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. The falafel were crispy on the outside and tender inside. Where so many falafel are dense, these were light and bouncy. The optional hot sauce was no joke, even for me. The creamy hummus was a welcome option and it gave the sandwich a layer of depth that made it a satisfying meal. This falafel, like the many others I have enjoyed from Charlie’s, was perfection.

Charlie’s original corner store and deli is located at 1 Jasper Street. Charlie’s second location is open at Spring and Rutledge. Their hours are Monday – Saturday 9am-8pm and Sunday 10am -6pm. Falafel and other sandwiches can be ordered ahead from the Jasper Street location by calling: (843) 853-0351

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Poetry is all around Charleston

By Mark A. Leon

As I walk the streets of Charleston turning down the cobblestone of the French Quarter, I can hear faint sounds of journeyman and poets through the walls of the historic buildings.? For centuries, Charleston has defined romanticism with passionate simplicity and elegance.? It is a city blessed with church steeples and architecture that dates back to the early colonists escaping religious persecution for a better life.? It is in their sweat and blood that we can now smell the fragrance of flowers, freedom and community.

Written word and song from lover to lover, performer to fans, dreamers to visionaries and leaders to supporters has been the capstone of our foundation in Charleston.? From Gershwin to Poe, Charleston has housed some of the most creative minds in American history.

As a poet and a writer, Charleston showers me with inspiration each and every day.

My love for this town inspired the following poem:

This is Charleston

It is a rainbow of infinite memories
From the early settlers to the pioneers of tomorrow

Sailboats raise a symbol to the sky as the wind guides them offshore creating a finely stitched canvas of white clouds and ocean blue

From the tips of the church steeples reaching to the heavens, to the remains of our forefathers resting in the sacred burials, Charleston is a blessing and gift

In its wonder, we are taken back in time to cobblestone roads, horse drawn carriages and southern hospitality as sweet as nectar on pecan pie

Once a shipping ground for slavery and inequality; now a harmonious settlement of integration, culture, dining and hospitality

Each morning, the sun rises over the harbor and welcomes a new day with open arms

Streets filled with life, the sound of music and aromas to warm the soul

This is Charleston

It is home to the world

Defining a global appeal, an artist sees a city with a marriage of nature and skyline beauty becoming one
Painting in his head a true masterpiece
Now this canvas, resting peacefully on the coast, is laden in strokes of reds and blues
Always in flux as patrons pay homage to the city we love

This is Charleston

From the laughter of the children in the fountain, to the love of an elderly couple embracing on the sand, this is heart of all that is good

This is Charleston; where the heart of the South reminds you of the beauty of life

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After performing at various events in Charleston including Jailbreak 2014, East Bay Meeting House and The 827 Center and hosting spoken word open mic events at How Art Thou Cafe, it is clear that there is incredible talent in this community.? Recently, I published my third collection of poetry and the last collection has been exclusively inspired by the people, places and experiences of this place I call home.? Poetry is often hidden in the shadows due to its intimacy and personal nature.? It is disguised as music, composition, storytelling, acting and written word.

Poetry is a personal emotion that is shared from one to another.

I have often said that poetry is one of the greatest risks you can take in your life.? It is ability to become emotionally naked to everyone around you and let them inside your deepest personal thoughts and feelings.? That is the true core of poetry.

Being honored as the number one city in the world and the nicest city in the United States is not just an honor we carry in a magazine article or a plaque, but a way of life.

Just months before his passing of terminal cancer, the legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”? That line has stayed with me for 21 years and in all my travels it has never rang more true than in Charleston.? There isn’t a day that goes by without a stranger saying hello or smiling at you.? In times of need, this community rallies like no other.

If you ever find yourself walking down the street alone, thinking and then sitting on a dock watching one of our magical sunsets, you will have experienced visual poetry.

I hope each one of you finds that internal strength to open up your emotional window and let people in.? Each day, you should laugh, cry and think and most importantly, write down how you feel.? Someday, those words will inspire another generation.

If you would like to read more of my personal thoughts, my door is always open at Recruiterpoet Blog and if you see me on the street, say hello.? I may read you a poem.

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Escape to Pitt Street Bridge

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Have you ever gone for a walk at night, under a full moon and experienced a moment of Gatsby and Hemingway? Is there a place to sit on the lush grass, watch the moon reflected off the harbor and drink wine with your lover? Maybe you could crab or fish in murky water off a quaint bridge. There is a certain romanticism of the idea of connecting with nature and escaping the daily routines of life.

Pitt Street Bridge also known as Pickett Park offers this great escape. Just a short drive off of Coleman Boulevard through an unsuspecting suburban neighborhood, this walkway, custom made for friends, lovers and fishermen is a pathway to uncover some of the incredible beauty of Charleston.

Cornered off between Old Village Mount Pleasant?and Sullivan’s?Island, Pitt Street Bridge is situated perfectly. From picnics to fireworks, to the distant sounds of Hootie and the Blowfish playing at the Family Circle Cup arena, you can be taken away without leaving Mount Pleasant.
How can such a beautiful and strategically placed path of tranquility be hidden for so long? This is one of the many charms of Charleston.
Just down the street from the Pitt Street Bridge in the Old Mount Pleasant is the Village Bakery. This is a tiny rustic bakery where you can get breakfast, lunch or coffee. If you do stop by, try the pimento grits and the chocolate banana nut muffin. Those are two of the many things that will keep you coming back.

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Get a nice basket of food and take the short drive to the Bridge. Lay a blanket out and watch the birds or boats in the harbor. If I didn’t mention it already, this is a haven for bird watchers. You will see several unique species in their natural habitat.
I know this quite a bit to take in.

We just introduced you to a spot in Mount Pleasant where you can:

? Kayak
? Picnic
? Go crabbing or fishing
? Jog
? Take a romantic walk
? Bird Watch
? Watch the sunrise and sunset

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It may sound like a dream come true, but it is all there free of charge. Plan your escape soon to Pitt Street Bridge and don’t forget your camera. You will want to create some lasting memories.

Pitt Street Bridge Video

Drum Circle – A Haven of Acceptance in Charleston

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It is 7:00 PM on a Tuesday evening and faintly off of Folly Road, you can hear a repetitive rhythm coming from behind the fence at The Brick House Kitchen. Entering through the corridor you are taken to another place full of wonder, joy and spiritual release.

As I leaned against the wall, enjoying a cold beverage on a non traditional cool summer evening, I closed my eyes for a moment to hear the growing pace of the drum circle continue their harmonies.

As I opened them, a smile filled my face as I saw two hula hoop girls circling around a fire stick specialist who was in front of a white truck showing racing antelope from the African countryside coming from a projection machine nearby.

Children were on the ground getting their faces painted while being mesmerized by the fire flying in the air. One child had his arms and face painted to look like a lion. As he transformed, he ran around the grounds growling at the patrons.

Just to the right of the stage, an 85 year old woman was beating a small drum and dancing around laughing. She finished, laughed and clapped feeling more alive than ever. The circle was filled with an eclectic mix of percussion performers ranging from age 9 to 59. Both woman and men graced the circle with their skills all performing together in a cohesive display of unity.

The grounds were prepared for the carefree observers like myself with a tree swing, seats, benches and open chairs. As I looked around at the children drinking lemonade with rainbows painted on their faces and generations all celebrating life together, I was reminded of the true sense of community Charleston offers. With very limited resources, a Cirque de Soleil extravaganza was staged.

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Just garbed in shorts and tee-shirts, this motley crew who came for one cause, happiness formed a circus of peace.

Where else can you drive a few miles, know your children are safe, watch fire twirlers, hula hoop artists, get your face painted, watch an African Animal documentary outside and hear beautiful percussion all in one place? Every Tuesday from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM at The Brick House on Folly Road, you can. If you feel ambitious, Graham Whorley does a life show afterward under the stars.