The ultimate food courts aren't found in shopping malls anymore, but often on roadsides, in parks, parking lots and under sheds. That's where local farmers, artisans and inventive food purveyors hawk their wares through quaint pop-up-style operations called farmers markets. When the tents align and the banners wave, it's your invitation to stroll through lanes of vendors and enjoy some local goodness.
If you're smart, you'll bring your appetite, too. Follow the aromas for a smorgasbord of taste sensations that represent the diversity and creativity of South Carolinians.
8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays in Marion Square April through November
Roti Rolls: There's a reason this Charleston vendor has repeatedly been voted Best Food Truck and found national fame on food and travel channels. Despite the masses at Marion Square on Saturday mornings, you'll readily spy the Roti Roll Buddha banner that invites you to "Eat your way to enlightenment."
Each roll features a tantalizing mash-up of ingredients sandwiched on a hot, pillowy round of roti, a South Asian flatbread. Smoked beef, sunny egg, kimchi, verde - this union, called the Eye Opener, is guaranteed to awaken the taste buds and just one example of the scrumptiousness that awaits you. Smoked chicken and pork, pickled shrimp, candied onion, candy bacon, pickled cauliflower and more are available in various combinations for your noshing pleasure.
Mary's Arepas: Bursting with exotic Latin American flavors, arepas are a two-fisted bundle of pure foodie bliss. A quick query of the crowd waiting in line is an indicator that people agree nobody makes them better than Mary's. A cross between a taco and a gyro, arepas are a sandwich-like staple in households across Colombia. The most popular version, in which seasoned, shredded chicken is topped with cheese and tucked inside the griddled dough, is set off nicely by any of the add-your-own sauces. (The avocado sauce is highly recommended.)
Fire & Rice Lowcountry Paella: Valencia meets the Lowcountry at this aromatic vendor set-up. Thrill to the sight of steaming, giant pans of meats, vegetables, and saffron rice being cooked before your eyes. Chicken, local sausage, clams, shrimp, fish, mussels and herbs - take your pick from the day's variations.
Papi's Tacos: A trio of freshly constructed tacos makes a fine market day brunch. Just ask the regulars who frequent Main Street on Saturdays for their weekly taco fix.
Steamed corn tortillas give these Mexican "pocketbook" sandwiches authentic flair, but it's the seasoned, shredded beef and chicken inside that will tickle your taste buds. Homemade salsas made with fresh ingredients set off the flavors to full advantage.
For fun eating on the move, try Papi's Travelin' Taco, a yummy mix of shredded chicken, lettuce, cheese, pico de gallo and sour cream scooped into a bag of Fritos.
Chocolates & Sweets: Chocolatier Linda Douglas personally handcrafts each piece of chocolate, including every shoppers' favorite, Buckeye peanut butter balls. The caramel sea turtles studded with tender pecans is another popular treat as is the chocolate-covered popcorn.