Charleston has a long and storied drinking culture, but along the way some bars have just had a little more punch than others (pun verrrry much intended). These are the bars that have influenced the scene here more than anywhere else, whether through innovation, longevity, or just sheer greatness. These are the most important bars in Charleston.
The Most Important Bars in Charleston
King St Historic District
Recently named “best beer selection on tap” by the readers of Charleston City Paper, CFB boasts 42 constantly rotating taps so you can get your drink on. The atmosphere is modern eclectic and features big leather couches, a working fireplace, and lots of animal heads mounted on the wall.
You might have heard of Rec Room because it's known for selling the most PBR cans of any bar in the US (seriously). It also has pinball, foosball, and trivia nights, as well as the amazingness that is “tater totchos,” tater tots topped with melted cheese and bacon, aka the bar snack to end all bar snacks.
The quintessential dive bar located in the heart of the tourist-friendliest part of the city, The Griffon has been a staple of Charleston for more than 20 years. This no-frills watering hole is covered in autographed dollar bills and offers Southern food alongside a great selection of beer both on tap and in cans.
King St Historic District
Known for cheap beer and sticky floors, ACs is the tentpole hangout of choice for hipsters, college students, and young professionals in Charleston. This is the kind of place where the bathrooms walls are made of chalkboard and you’re encouraged to draw on them. Definitely come by for Sunday’s themed brunch and be sure to try the hashbrown casserole and a pitcher of cheap mimosas.
A relative newcomer on the scene, Warehouse has stunned with its beautiful design and incredible food and drinks. Snack on unique offerings like confit wings or lump crab & creamed corn tamales while sipping on a beer cocktail or glass of wine and you’ve got the recipe for one of the best bars in town.
A beer geek’s paradise featuring more than 40 rotating taps highlighting rare and impressive beer, Edmund’s Oast’s true calling is its selection of brews made on site by brewer Cameron Read. We suggest getting a glass of the PB&J beer whenever it’s featured on tap while you share a plate of the house-made charcuterie.
If you like cold beer, craft cocktails, and futbol, Local 616 is definitely the place for you. Boasting a healthy selection of crafts, drafts, and old-faithful beers, as well as a fresh mix of cocktails and mules, you’ll want to make the 616 your new haunt and owner/bartender Dwayne Mitchell your new best friend. Be sure to check out the new party barge out back and get a unique view of the Ravenel Bridge as the sun goes down.
The best Irish pub this side of Dublin, Seanachai on Johns Island is definitely worth the drive off of the peninsula. Its cozy atmosphere, paired with its killer selection of whiskey and beer, will make you feel right at home. Stop by on Tuesday nights for a burger & a beer for $5, and stay for the live local music inside or on the back patio.
Downtown -- French Quarter
Gin Joint has perfected the art of a good cocktail. Choose one of the 40 different cocktails on the menu, or go with the “bartender’s choice” option, where you can pick two adjectives and let your bartender make something just for you. Enjoy your libations with not-so-typical bar snacks like pad Thai popcorn or pickled shrimp.
King St Historic District
The hottest cocktail in Charleston right now is definitely the Moscow mule (hot as in popular, not hot as in hot), and there’s no better place to get one than at The Rarebit. This modern take on an old-fashioned diner serves them up with house-made ginger beer. The drink pairs wonderfully with the cheeseburger or anything on the breakfast menu, which is served until 1am.
Described as the “Disney World of dive bars,” Royal American was built to look like the ultimate hipster dive bar, and people love it. Come for the live music and order a bourbon punch or one of those rare cheap beers like Old Milwaukee or Genesee; stay for the house-ground cheeseburger or fried bologna sandwich.
Located in the heart of Market St, Henry’s is a bar that both tourists and locals love to visit, and because of that it’s survived since the 1930s. It’s no surprise either, because it's got a great rooftop, reasonable prices, and delicious drinks.
King Street Historic District
Specializing in (you guessed it) cocktails, CC’s mixed drinks are bleeding-edge innovative. The Double Standard is made with serrano-infused gin and cucumber-infused vodka and is unlike any other cocktail you’ve ever had. Be prepared to get turned away if you’re in cargo shorts, however. This place takes its dress code very seriously.
Bay Street Biergarten lets everyone experience what it’s like to be a bartender. You can order beer from your waiter or preload money on a card and pour your own beer, which you pay for by ounce. The menu is stacked with Bavarian favorites like soft pretzels, spaetzle with smoked cheese, and loaded tater tots, so be prepared to snack happy.
1. Closed For Business453 King St, Charleston
2. Recovery Room685 King St, Charleston
3. The Griffon18 Vendue Range, Charleston
4. AC's467 King St, Charleston
5. Warehouse45 1/2 Spring St, Charleston
6. Edmund's Oast1081 Morrison Dr, Charleston
7. Local 616616 Meeting St, Charleston
8. Seanachai3157 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island
9. The Gin Joint182 E Bay St, Charleston
10. The Rarebit474 King St, Charleston
11. The Royal American970 Morrison Dr, Charleston
12. Henry's House54 N Market St, Charleston
13. The Cocktail Club479 King St, Charleston
14. Bay Street Biergarten549 E Bay St, Charleston
CFB in the King Street Historic District is a classy bar with a serious beer selection (over 42 on tap alone). Large leather couches, mounted animal heads and a roaring fire set a warm, almost-too-cool ambiance. Closed for Business is famous for its huge cowboy boot-shaped glasses offered exclusively during Oktoberfest— each drink holds 2.5 liters of your choice (provided the ABV isn’t dangerously high) and costs $25. Serious beer drinkers, your challenge has been set.
Known for selling the most cans of PBR out of any bar in the US, this casual bar has foosball, pinball, darts, bocce and trivia nights. Order tater tachos, the bar food hybrid to conquer all eats in its category.
This dive bar is located in one of the most tourist-friendly areas of the city and has been a Charleston staple for over 20 years. Southern food and plenty of beer make for a filling, delicious visit. Don't leave before taping a signed dollar bill to the wall. Like the decor, the food is worth a million bucks.
Hipsters, college students and young professionals flock to this sticky-floored joint with plenty of cheap beer. Be sure to stop by for the themed brunch and get a pitcher (or two) of mimosas for the table.
This industrial-chic bar garners lines with artisanal cocktails and New American cuisine served in a dark-hued space made edgy with exposed brick. The bar serves plenty of wine and cocktails (as represented by a sleekly designed menu), but PBR and a pool table also caters adequately to the casual post-work crowd.
This modern warehouse/barnhouse/beer hall hybrid tucked inconspicuously amongst North Charleston's office parks and empty lots serves New American fare, beer brewed on-site and craft cocktails. Cult-ish domestic crafts like Coast, Evil Twin, and Prairie Artisan Ales are posted next to hard-to-find imports (De Struise, Nøgne ø, J.W. Lees...), all available alongside house-made jerky, charcuterie, and other indulgent bar snacks. Snag a seat on the patio for a relaxed dinner and stay out late with a young-professional crowd.
Televised soccer, live music, craft beer and cocktails are what this bar is all about. The party barge out back offers a beautiful and unique view of the Charleston sunset.
Originally from Ireland, Seanachi’s owner moved to the US after completing his hospitalities studies in Dublin, so if there are two things he knows, it’s how to offer good Irish food and a fun atmosphere. Seanachai is an artisan whiskey and cocktail bar, so it’s a step up from typical dive bars and definitely worth the drive to Johns Island. Local cocktail enthusiasts rave about this place— handcrafted concoctions are drawn from Charleston farmers and beekeepers. Likewise, fresh fruit and vegetables are picked from the Farmers Market, ensuring the highest-quality bar food.
The cocktails at The Gin Joint are truly outstanding, emphasizing a "from scratch" mixology approach (market-driven ingredients like local herbs, house-made syrup infusions, and nods to local flavor and Southern palates), but what sets this French Quarter hotspot apart from the fray is its equally solid bar bites. And it's no surprise -- the lively bistro-meets-speakeasy space is helmed by a husband and wife duo who cut their culinary chops in New York City. Guests can expect elevated bar fare like crab dip with potato mousse, beef jerky, and an array of artisanal local cheeses.
This old-fashioned diner serves elevated, modern versions of your favorite comfort food classics, like chicken and waffles with Sorghum syrup and large plates of fish and chips. The '50s themed bar is aptly washed in a retro seafoam green, creating a nostalgia-inducing space in which to imbibe on their popular moscow mules crafted with house-made ginger beer.
This is the ultimate hipster Disneyland in dive bar form, with rare cheap canned beers and fried bologna sandwiches. The space also doubles as a concert venue, bringing acts from all over.
Around since the 1930s, this bar is loved by both tourists and locals alike. Rooftop access and reasonable prices surely contribute to its popularity, and the drinks are delicious.
Blending speakeasy ambience with contemporary trendy aesthetic (think wooden rafters, exposed brick walls, sleek black leather furnishings and industrial chandeliers overhead), The Cocktail Club is a upscale hotspot for those looking to imbibe on craft cocktails. There's an emphasis on making things from scratch here, with several drinks on the mixology-inspired menu featuring house-made infusions with market-driven ingredients (pro tip: you can't go wrong with the house Old Fashioned or the signature Double Standard). Combined with the rooftop terrace and menu of New American light fare, it's an ideal locale for intimate dates and group outings alike (as an added bonus, the bar also serves craft cocktails by the punch bowl).
This biergarten lets you call the shots with your suds, allowing you to order from a bartender or load a money card and pour pints for yourself. Bavarian favorites like pretzels and loaded tater tots are aplenty, so come hungry.