These Charleston Restaurants Prove That Dining in Hotels Doesn't Have to Suck
Gone are the days when eating at a hotel restaurant meant overpriced and underwhelming dishes that made you wish you’d eaten at an Applebee’s instead. In Charleston, eating at a hotel has fully drifted into the realm of fine dining, thanks to a number of creative chefs who decided to challenge the stereotype and ask the question: “What if hotel restaurants didn’t suck?” And these ones definitely don’t. In fact, they may make you rethink what it means to staycation.
Both locals and tourists look to Peninsula Grill, located inside the Planters Inn on Market St, to either celebrate a special occasion or just enjoy an upscale evening out. The menu is full of great steaks and seafood dishes such as the grilled swordfish, sea scallops, or the classic rib-eye (and an array of sauces to accompany each one). It's an unforgettable experience heightened only by the outdoor dining area.
Chef Robert Carter’s latest venture, Barony Tavern, can be found inside the Renaissance Charleston Hotel and is meant to feel like a hip Scottish hunting lodge (complete with mounted deer heads sporting sunglasses on the walls). Décor aside, the food at Barony Tavern is best described as upscale Southern comfort food that's familiar with a surprising twist. Favorites include the crawfish-stuffed shrimp with Charleston "red rice" orzo and creole butter, and seared beef carpaccio with okra aioli, fried okra, and arugula salad. And do NOT overlook the oh-so-delicious coconut cake.
Whether you’re staying at Zero George or you live locally, there’s no denying that Zero Café is cozy, comfortable, and one of the most underrated restaurants in Charleston. From the moment you walk in and see the exposed kitchen, with chef Vinson Petrillo and his talented staff hard at work, you’ll be transported into a world where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Chef Petrillo takes familiar and comfortable dishes and elevates them to a new level of intricate culinary artistry, with an emphasis on art. The best example: oysters served with heirloom radish and gold flake -- served on a tree trunk.
Located inside the swanky Belmond Charleston Place hotel, this oft-overlooked (mistakenly so) casual dining spot is worth a visit for the Instagram-worthy interior alone. There's lots of greenery and natural light, so you can #nofilter your seat in the lush courtyard as you dine on inventive dishes like the Seafood Club (lobster, shrimp, Applewood smoked bacon, smoked salmon, and crispy bread) or other Lowcountry-inspired favorites.
In addition to having some spectacular views of Charleston, the food at The Watch (inside The Restoration on King) is pretty fantastic as well. Watch the sun go down out on the patio as you snack on grilled oysters, lobster mac & cheese, or ratatouille, all of which pairs perfectly with any choice from the extensive beer and wine menus.
Inside the fancy Market Pavilion Hotel (the one where the doormen wear top hats and jackets with tails), you’ll find Grill 225. This place is a classic steakhouse that feels like that old pair of Rainbows you store in your closet and put on at the first sign of summer: it may not be the most exciting selection, but it fits well, is comfortable, and will get the job done. You can’t go wrong with a classic steak and nitrotini for a celebratory dinner or night out on the town. Just beware: you'll probably end up spending some serious money.
The Drawing Room at Vendue has undergone a lot of changes in recent years. Now marketing itself as a "boutique art hotel," this place focuses much more on presentation and creativity. Executive chef Jon Cropf turns out artfully plated cuisine that takes full advantage of the fresh produce, proteins, and seafood, as well as Ambrose Farm pork. Try the red snapper with scallop mousse, black truffle, pancetta, and spring peas if you're really looking for a memorable experience.
The Inn at Old Village Post House has only six distinct rooms, but the restaurant is chock-full of mouthwatering Southern options like cornmeal fried oysters, braised short ribs, and pimento cheeseburgers. It’s well worth the drive to Mount Pleasant’s Old Village neighborhood, especially because the place makes you feel like you were transported back to the quaint days of Mayberry and The Andy Griffith Show.
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