Frankly, it’s hard to find an underrated restaurant in Charleston. If it’s good, locals are talking, and members of the press are listening. If it’s bad, then by the time you hear about it, it’s already closed. But there are a few spots that fall in the cracks in between -- that’re truly great, yet never get the love they deserve. These are those places:
A Mediterranean neighborhood bistro that just celebrated a decade, you might miss it while you’re standing in line at Hominy Grill across the street. Don’t. You’ll be missing crispy fried calamari, a Bolognese that will make you feel better after a bad day, a rotating selection of house-made gelato, and staff that never rushes you through a meal.
King St Business District
Sandwiched in one of the parts of town with the heaviest shopping foot traffic, you can walk by before you realize it. Its cool, dark bar is where locals belly up for steaming bowls of pho, crispy edamame spring rolls, and a papaya salad that is even good to-go later on in the afternoon at your office. Go with friends and order a selection to sample.
Drive by Warehouse any weekend night after 11, and there is a line to get into this popular bar, which might give the impression that this is a place for drinking, not dining. It’s actually both, and Chef Emily Hahn is one of the most promising up-and-coming chefs in the city. Brunch is best here, with specials including smoked mussel salad and plenty of eggs, eggs, eggs.
West Ashley, Sullivan's Island
We locals are so used to seeing the team of Home Team BBQ at special events that it is easy to get used to how good the food is, from ‘cue to sausage to a loosen-yo-belt mac n’cheese. Then there are the frozen Gamechangers and those chicken wings. Oh, those chicken wings.
It made our recent list for best Charleston food trucks, but it has a brick-and-mortar spot too, worth a visit even if you are used to flagging down the truck. Crispy, light fried shrimp and fish, red rice like your auntie makes, and plenty of down-home desserts keep locals coming back.
Yes, it’s one of the best steakhouses in the city, but many locals are so used to its presence on Broad St, we kind of take it for granted. But since Chef Jeremiah Bacon, James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast for the last three years, has taken the helm, the offerings have become even better, steakhouse classics done to perfection and surprisingly good fish offerings. It’s time to try it again for the first time.
Historic Ashley River Corridor
Tucked away on a plantation, many might assume that the restaurant is just for those staying at the inn. But the restaurant offers an elegant old-school evening, beautiful Lowcountry classics such as shrimp & grits and Hoppin’ John, and sources ingredients (whenever possible) from its on-site garden. And it’s open to the public for lunch and dinner.
Affectionately known as “D-Al’s” around town, it plays cool music and is frequented by college kids, so you might think it’s just a hangout. It is, but with seriously good pizza like the Luau, which has pineapple and a drizzle of BBQ sauce and can be ordered with a pitcher of PBR. This place delivers too!
Odd hours, a rotating menu, and that ever-present Folly vibe might suggest skipping this spot, but don’t make that mistake. This is the kitchen of an experimental chef who plays with pizza and sandwiches, but also offers ramen bowls and Japanese-style crab croquettes when the spirit moves him. Buy a beer from the case, sit on the patio with your pooch, and relax. You are about to go on a culinary adventure.
1. Lana Restaurant & Bar210 Rutledge Ave, Charleston
2. CO340 King St, Charleston
3. Warehouse45 1/2 Spring St, Charleston
4. Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ2209 Middle St, Sullivans Island
5. Roadside Seafood807 Folly Rd, Charleston
6. Oak Steakhouse17 Broad St, Charleston
7. Middleton Place4300 Ashley River Rd, Charleston
8. D'Allesandro's Pizza229 Saint Philip St, Charleston
9. The 'Wich Doctor106 W Hudson Avenue, Folly Beach
This Mediterranean bistro has been around for just over a decade and, although it has to contend with Hominy Grill across the street, it is not to be missed. The Bolognese Pasta and Crispy Calamari are delicious, and make room for dessert as well. The restaurant serves rotating flavors of house-made gelato.
This cool, dimly lit locals spot serves up hot bowls of pho alongside extras like papaya salad and crispy edamame spring rolls.
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 BBQ spot has to be one of the most underrated restaurants in Charleston. Fiery Ron's rotating weekly specials of smoked and cured meats are a steal—for lunch, you can get a sandwich or burrito with a side and a drink for under $10. Be sure to check out their happy hour deals for at least a dollar off all in-house beverages.
This brick-and-mortar spot also has a food truck and served perfectly fried fish and shrimp alongside red rice and down-home desserts.
Located inside an old bank, Oak Steakhouse has a contemporary atmosphere featuring specially designed chandeliers and local artwork. The old vault was turned into a gorgeous wine cellar with bottles from all over the world, not to mention over 25 kinds of pinot noir. This steakhouse prides itself on sourcing ingredients from local purveyors and has a great selection of seafood on the menu as well, lobsters and oysters.
Middleton Place is one of the most underrated restaurants in Charleston, but this destination is worth the drive to West Ashley. This spot is located on a rice plantation that dates back to the 1730's, and the restaurant, which sits in the middle of a national historic landmark housing some of the oldest gardens around, serves iconic Southern dishes in a charming setting. We suggest ordering the Tasso ham, served atop excellently prepared grits that are smoothed into perfection by copious amounts of butter.
D’als (as it is lovingly referred to) is a neighborhood favorite, located just south of the crosstown in the heart of Elliotborough Downtown. The menu is filled with unique and creative options for hand-tossed pizzas, calzones, salads, and caljoes (panini sandwiches). You can also find its frozen pizzas around town at places like Bull Street Gourmet & Market for a take & bake option.
This eclectic restaurant is run by an experimental chef who's not afraid to throw some Creole shrimp on a pizza. Beer, ramen, sandwiches, and outdoor space are also supplied at this Folly Beach favorite.