Wife and I just returned to Chicago from visit to NC, SC, VA with friends and daughter. Chowhound board researched in advance gave us good advice. Here's what we found:
ASHEVILLE: Stayed at Richmond Hill Inn and were very pleased with accommodations there and service. Had an excellent dinner at their Gabrielle's Restaurant: after very creative amuse-bouches, wife had an organic baby greens salad with Medjool dates, candied walnuts a Spinning Spider goat cheese (if you find this cheese in a store, buy it!), I had "salad" of grilled vegetables and shaved cheese. Main courses: lamb chop with local mushrooms ragout, grilled rib-eye. Desserts: Chocolate roulade with malted ice cream and bourbon fudge sauce/tarte Tatin with goat cheese and apricot compote instead of apples. Fixed Price meal was $58 per person and well worth it. Good wine selection there also. This was an exceptionally fine meal. Closed Tuesdays.
Next night, we followed Chowhound recs and ate at Tupelo Honey Cafe. Lively atmosphere and extremely good food: grilled salmon with grits, rare grilled tuna done just right. Downtown is interesting on weekday nights in summer.
CHARLESTON: Followed CH recs and found Gullah Cuisine on Route 17 in Mount Pleasant, about 2-3 miles from the new bridge (shortly after Hess gas station on your right - very small place but a sign outside). AYCE Buffet lunch had incredible she-crab soup (ate 3 bowls of it), okra, barbecue, fried chicken, cabbage with fatback, sweet potatoes, lots of other goodies (desserts were banana pudding, peach cobbler, bread pudding). Fried chicken was incredibly moist and sweet - they must brine it before cooking. Price about $6.50 pp, soft drinks extra, no liquor.
COLUMBIA: Mr. Friendly's was recommended on this board and we were not at all disappointed. Fried oysters were good. I had blackened shrimp and grits with 2 different sauces (tasso ham and a tomato-based one), both of which mixed deliciously with the grits. Wife and daughter had bistro steaks of good quality. Moderate prices, nice atmosphere, friendly staff.
BATESVILLE-LEESVILLE SC Daughter drove us from Columbia out to the area's favorite, Shealy's Bar-B-Que buffet AYCE for $8.50 pp. includes soft drinks. Very crowded on a Saturday night, but the line moved rapidly. Mustard Que, vinegar Que, "hash" Que, all your favorite vegetables southern style and lots of great desserts. We found out the differences between these various styles of barbeque and thought them good, but cannot understand the great rivalry - neither style is of gourmet quality, but we liked the experience.
MURRELLS INLET: CH post we read recmmended Lee's Inlet seafood, but they are open only for dinner. The same post said Captain Dick's was also good, but Captain Dick's is a place to rent a fishing boat, not a restaurant. However, there is a Captain Dave's close by and we had good broiled flounder for lunch there in outdoor porch overlooking the marches. Not worth a detour for this place, but maybe Lee's is a lot better.
WILLIAMSBURG: The Cheese Shop in Market Square has good sandwiches, but you have to order inside and eat outside (a few tables inside also). Best CH rec was Blue Talon Bistro also in Market Square shops, but front is on Prince George Street between Boundary and Henry Sts. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS PLACE! Daily dinner specials included my absolute favorite: grilled skate fish. It is served only Friday nights, as they get it fresh each Thursday from a purveyor. Although I have eaten skate (aile de raie) many times and places in France, this was the best I ever ate based on preparation and quality. Wife had rare lamb steak with flageolets/carrots. Returned for lunch next day to eat grilled portobello sandwich. Went back second night for dinner to eat another hard-to-find dish -- veal sweetbreads (ris de veau)! This is on the regular nightly menu (viewable on their website bluetalonbistro.com. We hope many support this restaurant because its location diminishes wal-ins and locals think the restaurant is not doing well. It is a gem and is much more moderately priced than restaurants in the Historic District and lower than Fat Canary nearby. Also very nice ambience inside.
Thanks to so many who offered their recommendations on this board, as they were most helpful to us.