charleston eats

Charleston, SC is a major Foodie Town. I truly believe it’s impossible to have a bad dining experience there.  We lived there for three years, 2007-2010, and tried as many restaurants as we could. I’m pretty sure that in 3 years, we ate at chain restaurants 10 times or less. There’s just no reason to eat at a chain in Charleston.  Though we’ve now moved to Little Rock, I’m keeping this list of my thoughts on the places we ate and the places I’ve yet to try. I fell in love with Charleston, and we WILL be going back as visitors in the future.

  1. Al di La: Tasty but quite pricey. I’d rather go to Wild Olive.
  2. Alluette’s “Wholistic” soul food of the pork-free variety, with herbal teas for sale in the dining room and a high likelihood that your meal will be prepared by Aluette herself. I wouldn’t go without a restaurant.com certificate.
  3. Amen St.
  4. Andolini’s: Our local pizza joint. Wouldn’t dream of calling a chain when I can have a ginormous New York Style pizza from a local pizzeria. I like the Greek and the Andolini’s Special.
  5. Atlanticville: Pricey, but dining certificates are available at restaurant.com.  Every bit of seafood is perfectly prepared, and the mussels are excellent.
  6. The Bagel Shop If you’re down town and in need of a quick breakfast or lunch, this place is great. Don’t go to Bruegger’s, go here and support a local business. The bagels are fabulous, and my favorite is a sesame seed with jalapeno cheddar spread. You can also score some awesome sandwiches around lunchtime.
  7. Baked One of the most original bakeshops you’ll find.  Definitely try the salted brownies, they’ll change your world.
  8. Bambu
  9. Basil
  10. Bessinger’s BBQ
  11. Blossom
  12. Boulevard Diner
  13. Bowen’s Island: This place looks like a shack at the end of a dirt road.  The atmosphere is rustic, the owner, who will likely take your order, is a curmudgeon, and the man who cooks the oysters should be played by Morgan Freeman in a movie.  You might get hassled if they think you’re wasting the condiments by taking too much at the self-serve station.  Get a tray or two of oysters, or a seafood plate.  Eat them around a table with a hole in the middle while drinking a beer from a can or sweet tea from the big Gatorade cooler.  Enjoy a truly local seafood experience. It’s one of my favorites.  They say the oysters are in season any month with an “r” in it.
  14. Bushido
  15. Caviar and Bananas A sort of hybrid restaurant and gourmet grocery. Good sandwiches and prepared foods. AMAZING chocolate chip cookies. A great place to grab a downtown lunch. I spent a lot of time there while working on the College of Charleston campus.
  16. Chai’s: A fun place to go for tapas and drinks with a group of girlfriends. Great patio.
  17. Charleston Grill
  18. Closed for Business Known for their Pork Slap sandwich, which is amazing. Fried green beans are also amazing. Great beer list if that’s your thing. Total hipster vibe inside if that’s also your thing.
  19. Coast
  20. Crave Forgettable.
  21. Early Bird Diner
  22. Fast and French (Gaulart & Maliclet)– Tiny, super popular with the locals, and for good reason. Legitimate French fare, like lentil soup and croissant and brie sandwiches.
  23. Fat Hen: Basically the John’s Island doppelganger of Rue de Jean. Smaller, quieter, cozier. Get the mussels and extra bread.
  24. Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ: Some of the best BBQ in town, also a great live music venue. Get the collards to go with your ribs.
  25. Fish: Overpriced and unimpressive.
  26. FIG: One of my absolute favorites, and for good reason.  Chef Mike Lata is one of the most talked-about in the region, and he’s committed to local, seasonal food, prepared simply and perfectly.  Things like a frisee salad with a Sea Island egg on top are amazing. I never liked lima beans until we ate here.  Chicken cooked so expertly it falls off the bone, beef so tender you can cut it with a spoon. If you come here, you must eat here.
  27. Five Loaves
  28. Fleet Landing: We eat here rather a lot, mostly for events with my husband’s work. Fun place with some of the only waterfront dining on the peninsula. Also has a great brunch.
  29. Fuel: Sitting on the porch of this Caribbean cantina, you’ll think you’re in another country.  Good food and drinks. Just don’t leave your camera there– my friend never saw hers again.
  30. Fulton Five
  31. Gene’s Haufbrau: One of the largest beer selections in town, and one of the most fun bars.  Looks like the 1950s inside, complete with dark paneling.  You can play board games at your table, or go for pool or darts or shuffleboard. The food is surprisingly good.
  32. Glass Onion: Another absolute favorite.  Local, southern, seasonal, expertly prepared.  There’s nothing I don’t like at the GO. Even things I don’t usually like, I like here. Best french fries in town. Delicious po-boys, particularly the fried catfish. There’s some things I’ll only eat there, like meatloaf.  They have frequent special tasting dinners that never fail to impress.  Saturday brunch is also amazing.
  33. High Cotton
  34. Hominy Grill: A must-visit.  If you’re there for brunch, try the Big Nasty. If you’re there for dinner, make sure you get a few of the sides.  If you’re there anytime, try the buttermilk pie and the chocolate pudding.  Both are can’t miss.
  35. Husk: Sean Brock of McCrady’s started this amazing Southern Centric restaurant after we moved away, but we got to check it out on a return visit. Even though the only reservation we could get was 10pm, it was totally worth it. I even ate fried chicken skins. They were amazing. My one regret is I was pregnant at the time and didn’t get to check out the bourbon-centric bar and extensive bourbon list.
  36. Jack’s Cosmic Dogs Hot dogs are OK but the fries are great.
  37. Jestine’s Kitchen: A Charleston institution.  There will be a line out the door and around the building.  Go for fried chicken or catfish.  Collards. Coca-cola cake.
  38. Kickin’ Chicken Sports bar with surprisingly good chicken.
  39. King St. Grill
  40. La Fourchette (I want to go here just to have some Moules Frites)
  41. Lana
  42. Magnolia’s
  43. McCrady’s: One of the most talked about restaurants in town.  Great, unique food, and a fun pre-prohibition cocktail selection.
  44. Med Bistro
  45. Moe’s Crosstown: Great when you have a beer and burger craving.
  46. Monza
  47. Mustard Seed: Perhaps the most eclectic menu I’ve ever seen, with everything from nachos to gnocchi to pad thai.  It’s not at the top of my list, but it’s not bad. My boss loves it because they have a large selection of gluten free items. This might be the place to go if you have a group who can’t pick a food genre but wants to go out.
  48. Nirlep: If you’re going to have Indian, I’d recommend Taste of India instead– it’s right across the street– the food’s basically the same, but the service and atmosphere are better.
  49. Oak Steakhouse: Amazing. This place is pricey, but you can get dining certificates from restaurant.com.  They don’t bat an eye if you want to share a steak– the smallest is 16 oz.– and you should definitely try several of the a la carte sides.
  50. O-Ku
  51. Olympik: One of the first places we ate in Charleston. Located in West Ashley, the owner and staff couldn’t be nicer, and the gyros are delicious.  Definitely have one of the little almond cookies up by the cash register.
  52. O’Malley’s
  53. Pane e Vino
  54. Peninsula Grill
  55. Poe’s Tavern: Poe’s is a must. Named for Edgar Allen Poe, who was briefly stationed with the army on Sullivan’s Island, where he wrote his short story, “The Gold Bug.” All the burgers and sandwiches are named for his stories, but the classic is the Tell Tale Heart which comes with a fried egg on top.  While the burgers are the standard, the fish tacos and nachos are also awesome. A great place to hang out on a porch, eating burgers and drinking beer.
  56. Poogan’s Porch: Classic Charleston fare. Especially good for brunch.
  57. Quyen/Party Kingdom: The City Paper called it the “mullet of Charleston Restaurants.” Delicious Vietnamese and Asian Fusion in the front, playplace for kids in the back.  The food is seriously good, and I’d imagine it’s way preferable to taking the kids to Chuck E Cheese to get their skee-ball fix.
  58. Red’s Ice House: One of my favorite places to get a drink on a summer evening.  Tons of porch space, great views of Shem Creek, and the food’s not bad!
  59. Red Drum
  60. Red Orchid: Despite being located in a strip mall, this is not a Chinese buffet. Bistro style, and pretty darn good in a town without many strong Asian cuisine options.
  61. Rue de Jean: French. Fun. Yummy.  I’m particularly partial to their mussels.
  62. Samos Taverna: Drinks, Greek tapas, Mediterranean food, all in a super chic atmosphere.  The little plates were all really tasty, particularly the meatballs.
  63. Santi’s: Best, and strongest margaritas in town. Get a wet burrito and a pitcher. Have a designated driver or take a cab– the ‘ritas will knock you out.
  64. Scott’s Bar-B-Q in Hemingway
  65. Señor Tequila’s
  66. Sesame
  67. Shem Creek Bar and Grill
  68. Shine
  69. Slightly North of Broad When it comes to SNOB, this review kind of says it all.
  70. Sweatman’s BBQ
    Absolutely worth a drive to Holly Hill. Whole Hog BBQ featured on Anthony Bourdain. It’s a buffet. It’s a porkfest. It’s amazing. The banana pudding is also surprisingly good.
  71. Taco Boy: My favorite way to end a day at Folly Beach. Spend the day getting sunburned, then head to Taco Boy for a yummy pineapple infused margarita and some fish tacos with a side of black beans and a salsa trio.
  72. Taste of India
  73. Tasty Thai It’s Thai and it’s tasty.
  74. The Wreck
  75. Tristan
  76. Trattoria Lucca
  77. Triangle Bar and Grill: Was not impressed, but their brunch features bottomless mimosas and bloody marys and that is a selling point.
  78. Tsunami
  79. Virginia’s on King: Go here for brunch and have a bottomless mimosa. Hang out downtown until the buzz wears off. Enjoy.
  80. Wasabi
  81. Wild Flour Pastry
  82. Wild Olive: Italian food worth driving out to John’s Island for. The $25 carafes of house wine are a good deal, and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
  83. WOK: I described WOK to Jon as “the Chipotle of stir fry.” You basically get to choose noodles or rice, a protein (tofu, shrimp, beef, or chicken), a few veggies, and a sauce, and they fry it up in a wok and bring it to your table. The service was a little slower than I expected, but the food was tasty. The entire place is very eco-friendly, with reclaimed wood tables and other “green” touches, and all local, organic ingredients, all of which I LOVE. My only suggestion would be to ditch the paper straws. They turn soggy and useless halfway through a drink. Why have straws at all if they’re useless?
  84. 17 North
  85. 82 Queen: VERY Charleston. Their she-crab soup is something of a standard.
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3 thoughts on “charleston eats

  1. You haven’t been to Basil yet? Please try it before you leave! It’s one of the best Thai restaurants. Red Orchid is actually in my neighborhood; I really like it too. And Hominy Grill is fabulous; I love their honey dippers and honeypots! I recommend Mercato for Italian food, it’s best on a jazz night. And sadly, Mistral is closed now, but I loved their coq au vin and chocolate gateau.

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  2. we went to 82 queen on our honeymoon in charleston. i had the best steak of my life. i’m not usually a steak eater, but it was out of control. jed wouldn’t even let me try his food because he liked it so much. it was so totally charleston. that is the perfect description. i wore seersucker, as one should.

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  3. You haven’t been to Basil yet? Please try it before you leave! It’s one of the best Thai restaurants. Red Orchid is actually in my neighborhood; I really like it too. And Hominy Grill is fabulous; I love their honey dippers and honeypots! I recommend Mercato for Italian food, it’s best on a jazz night. And sadly, Mistral is closed now, but I loved their coq au vin and chocolate gateau.
    +1

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