They don’t call Charleston the culinary promised land for nothing. While there simply isn’t enough time in a lifespan to cover every drool-worthy stop, here’s a snapshot of some of our dearest dinner institutions below.
A few more classics that aren’t mentioned:
Malagon *Brand New* (Downtown – new favorite!); The Ordinary (Downtown); McGrady’s (Downtown); SNOB (Downtown); Little Jack’s (Downtown – Upper King); Rarebit (Downtown); Macintosh (Downtown); Minero (Downtown); Tu (Downtown); Purlieu (Downtown – Hampton Park area); Chez Nous (Downtown); Fat Hen (Johns Island); Renzo (Downtown – Hampton Park area); Chubby Fish (Downtown); Indaco (Downtown); Fulton Five (Downtown); La Farfalle (Downtown); Trattoria Lucca (Downtown)
DOWNTOWN (Great option for groups!)
Innovative, beer-centric American fare with fresh seafood added daily. The focal point of Edmund’s menu are the boards: hands-down the most brilliant charcuterie combinations you’ll find in the Southeast.
The burger is sensational (oddly reminiscent of the famous West Coast In ‘n Out patty) & only $13. Reservations are critical for groups. Also, a sip of the PB&J brew is essential.
Known for its sweeping rooftop views of the peninsula and beyond, The Watch is a favorite for folks visiting Charleston for the first time. With decently priced drinks and drool-inducing truffle fries, this spot makes for a fantastic rest stop during a King Street shopping spree.
DOWNTOWN // SULLIVAN'S ISLAND // WEST ASHLEY
And then there’s Fiery Ron's" Home Team BBQ: the quintessential outdoor watering hole for Charleston locals, HT is the place to go for a frozen painkiller and smokin’ dry rubbed BBQ. With three locations (downtown, Sullivan’s Island, West Ashley), this casual joint is guaranteed to be packed but worth the claustrophobia.
Yummy French plates in an exquisite interior space. Go here for a Parisian cocktail, burger and fries after a long day strolling up and down King Street.
A mix between Nickelodeon’s Secrets of the Hidden Temple and Gilligan’s Island, this three-Story tiki hut is in its own category. Go here after a day on the sand for fresh poke and a piña colada (you can even bring home the cup as a souvenir).
Spicy tuna poke bowl, no questions asked.
Coconut fried shrimp and a chopped salad topped with tuna as rare as they can make it.
A quirky eatery tucked away on Coming Street away from the bustle of King Street. Each night brings an exciting new lineup of seasonal concoctions, from spicy marinated SC cauliflower to ricotta gnocchi and lamb neck ragu. CD tip: the soy-cured steelhead trout made me (Caro) cry… Also be sure to leave room for dessert, AKA oreo “crack.”
Another lowcountry-inspired knockout coined by Mike Lata, the same culinary mastermind behind The Ordinary. Offerings on the rotating menu are all sourced directly from local farms and fisheries. CD tip: Don't bother trying to make dinner reservations less than three weeks out; instead, snag two seats at the bar around 4:45-6 p.m. and order whatever fish is fresh on the menu.
P.s. I still have the 10/22/17 menu nailed to my wall (if that tells you anything).
If you’re familiar with Charleston’s food scene, chances are you’ve heard of Butcher & Bee, the hyper-local foodie haven with all the whipped feta you can eat. Want a quick bite? Visit B&B’s micro cafe, The Daily for some insta-worthy Avo toast.
Bacon-wrapped dates are a must.
Anything faintly Greek on the menu—or whatever the waiter recommends (menu changes weekly).
A chic seaside restaurant housed in 100% wooden digs combining Italian, French and Spanish flavors with classic Southern cuisine. Go for brunch, dinner or both.
Always order at least one item from the raw bar menu before ordering. Also, the Old Danger pizza = mandatory.
DOWNTOWN (Meat-packing // Upper King area)
On the other hand, Lewis Barbecue is essential for drool-worthy Texas smoked BBQ served up cafeteria style in a sprawling open air setting. Take your pick of anywhere from 1/4 to 1 lb (or more!) of meat paired with classic sides and post up on the patio for the afternoon.
DOWNTOWN (Hampton Park)
Another Bill Murray brain child, Rutledge Cab Co. offers a refreshing respite from the uber-sophisticated Charleston restaurant scene. Enjoy all-American classics, including an award-winning burger and cognac milkshake.
Side note: the blood orange margarita is frighteningly good.
DOWNTOWN (Upper King)
Famous for its fried chicken and auto-shop exterior, Leon’s is the heart and soul of the peninsula’s food scene. Aside from the chef’s table, reservations aren’t allowed—so make plans to pop over to Little Jack’s for a cocktail while you wait.
Start with peel ‘n eat shrimp, then quarter white (or dark) chicken with a side of potatoes to share.
Family-style all day! Choose between fried Brussels sprouts, hush puppies, chargrilled oysters (or all three if you’re like us) followed by a Siam salad or fried chicken sandwich
DOWNTOWN (Great for groups!)
Another long-standing Charleston staple, Magnolia’s is a solid pick for traditional Southern favorites in an upscale, yet unpretentious venue. The menu offers fun classics like the Down South Egg Roll and Boiled Peanut Hummus, as well as fresh ahi tuna and homemade pimento cheese.
DOWNTOWN (extremely difficult to snag a reservation)
Sean Brock's original institution for "New Southern" cuisine housed in a gorgeous 19th century home. Arguably the catalyst of Charleston's contemporary culinary renaissance, Husk is usually booked a month out (for good reason). CD tip: Try to reserve a table for lunch instead or wander to the secret "Bar" at Husk for bourbon and a burger.
A tiny, nondescript seafood counter with the longest line in the Holy City. Be prepared to sip rose while you wait at least one hour for a table. For oyster enthusiasts out there: we promise, it’s well worth the suspense. CD tip: for the ultimate appetizer, order the ceviche + guacamole hybrid (you can thank us later).
Asian soul food in a hip, LA-esque atmosphere on upper spring street. Truly considered our second home, XB dishes out some of the most innovative small plates on the peninsula–all within the peeling walls of a refurbished gas station. Delicate taste buds, beware: the chili-infused menu may make you sweat.
CD tip: Unleash your culinary inhibitions and dive face-first into the Okonomiyaki (Japanese Vegetable Pancake) + add pork candy.
You can thank us later.
Tucked away on John St. a couple blocks from the main thoroughfare, this bustling brasserie is perfect for larger parties and diverse palates. The menu covers all the based, from braised short rib to burgers, sushi and six preparations of steamed mussels. CD tip: Split a bowl of mussels for $11.99 and request bread service for sopping. You’re welcome.