It seems that not a week goes by in Charleston without a new restaurant popping up that promises to be all the rage. Some live up to the hype and others shutter as quickly and quietly as they opened. In the name of research, we tried all the newest restaurants that have opened in 2016 to find which ones you should actually add to your must-try list.
All of the restaurants on this list are part of our ongoing quest to find this year's best new restaurants in America, and we're combing through every opening in every Thrillist city. Get involved on Instagram -- #BestRest2016 -- to let us know your picks and your favorite dishes at each of these new spots.
Charlestonians have been enjoying John Lewis’s barbecue in pop-up events all over the city for the past year or so, and the opening of a brick-and-mortar shop was eagerly anticipated. His classic Texas-style BBQ is just damn good -- we’re getting hungry just thinking about the super-moist and perfectly baked brisket. Beware if you come at prime dining hours, as the line often flows right out the door (but we think it’s worth it)!
Located inside the brand new Dewberry Hotel, Henrietta’s is a self-described “restaurant for the people” that celebrates the classic techniques of traditional brasserie cuisine with a contemporary execution (like a custom wood-burning grill). The regularly changing menu relies heavily on seafood -- the triggerfish is a must-try if it’s available -- but more traditional options like the burger is also a solid choice. Pair your meal with one of their classic cocktails, and you’ve got the perfect date night.
King Street Historic District
Chef Michael Toscano had experience working at NYC Italian gems like Perla and Montmartre, so when he announced that he was opening an Italian restaurant in Downtown Charleston, the entire city started salivating. Le Farfalle is his modern Italian Osteria and showcases cuisine from a variety of regions of Italy, particularly those in the South. More traditional tastes will love the expertly crafted pastas, while more adventurous eaters will rejoice over the octopus carpaccio, which is light and delightful and very unique.
The most casual of Chef Damon Wise’s trio of new restaurants, Wise-Buck focuses on (you guessed it) smoked meats, hearty sandwiches, and new twists on traditional side dishes. We’re talking curried cauliflower, smoked corn on the cob, and potato salad. The meat itself is sure to please traditional BBQ enthusiasts, who might have a hard time swallowing the fact that Chef Wise is a NYC transplant, but you can’t deny Wise’s skills around a cut of meat.
When we saw that yet another pizza place was trying to succeed in the tiny little building on Ashley Ave, we were skeptical. What would they be able to do differently than all the concepts that had tried (and failed) to make it work in this seemingly cursed spot? But then we tried Luke’s Craft Pizza and suddenly it all made sense: the space is small, but the flavors are big and are ready to win you over. They really put the “craft” in “craft pizza,” with unusual and fresh toppings like speck, Casalingo salami, and house fennel sausage over your choice of crushed tomato, creamy ricotta, or olive & garlic as a base.
Chef Damon Wise recently opened three restaurants side-by-side on Ann St in order to accomplish the task of cooking with every part of the animal without losing the integrity of an individual restaurant concept. The “middle child” of the three new concepts is helmed by Damon Wise, features lighter fare that’s heavy on vegetables and local seafood. Feathertop has a minimalist atmosphere that somehow makes you feel like you’re inside a cosy skiing lodge -- it’s the perfect place for a morning cup of coffee or afternoon glass of merlot. We recommend the heirloom tomatoes served over house-made ricotta cheese, which is out of this world.
Bill Murray has his hand in a lot of different concepts around the city, but Harold’s Cabin is arguably his best work. The interior is cozy and a little quirky (and really lived up to the “cabin” part of the name), and the food is definitely a reflection of that. Serving breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner with a heavy emphasis on fresh local vegetables, including the ever popular forage board (think “charcuterie board” with veggies instead of meat).
Butter Tapas brought a little fine dining flair to North Charleston when they opened earlier this year and have been a popular neighborhood gem ever since. Owner April Robinson started the location as a cupcake shop in 2012, but was inspired to expand her menu into more savory pursuits that reflect Lowcountry and global flavors. Favorites include the lobster corn dog, truffle fries, and pan roasted scallops. Don’t worry, the cupcakes are still on display.
Before 2016, Charleston was seriously lacking in quality Venezuelan food (among other worldly cuisines), but Avila’s Venezuelan food truck has upped the city’s game. Avila’s platos are huge and overflowing with rice and beans and your choice of meat, but the arepas are the true shining star. These grilled corn cakes are topped with your choice of meat or vegetarian toppings (we recommend mushroom or chicken and avocado). There are also a number of other authentic and traditional dishes available, like pernil, patacones, tostones, and more. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram to see where the truck will be next!
Part coffee shop, part restaurant, (which seems to be a theme with new restaurants in Charleston), and part record store, Eclectic Cafe & Vinyl’s menu is full of promise and potential. The kitchen lives up to its name, serving simple dishes like the Nuevo Cubano sandwich with house-made chorizo, as well as more complicated and unexpected creations such as chicken fried quail.
So technically McCrady’s is not a new restaurant, but Chef Sean Brock’s new vision takes it from molecular gastronomical wonderland to the more approachable (although still relatively upscale) tavern concept. The new McCrady’s features more old school-inspired cuisine, like deviled crab clams and a macaroni pie recipe that came straight from Thomas Jefferson. The burger at McCrady’s (in Brock’s own words) will “rival the Husk burger,” which is a feat we didn’t think possible. The Founding Fathers would be proud.
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1. Lewis Barbecue464 N Nassau St, Charleston
2. Le Farfalle15 Beaufain Street, Charleston
3. Luke's Craft Pizza271 Ashley Avenue, Charleston
4. Harold's Cabin247 Congress St, Charleston
5. Butter Tapas5070 International Blvd, North Charleston
6. Henrietta's Brasserie at the Dewberry Hotel344 Meeting St, Charleston
7. Feathertop23 Ann St, Charleston
8. Wise Buck Smoked Meats23 Ann St, Charleston
9. The Eclectic Cafe & Vinyl132 Spring St, Charleston
10. McCrady's Tavern2 Unity Aly, Charleston
John Lewis of Austin’s La Barbecue fame has finally finished welding his own smokers, outfitting his new space, and teasing us at all of his pop-ups over the past year. Lewis Barbecue is officially open. That means anytime you want the buttery smoked beef brisket, the creamy corn pudding, and that Texas Hot Guts sausage, you can have it. And you can pair your smoky meats with a cocktail from RH Weaver, newly vacated from his post at The Bar at Husk in order to create refreshing accompaniments to barbecue that lives up -- actually, it exceeds -- all the hype.
Housed in an airy, industrial-chic space with tasteful blue accents peppered throughout, Le Farfalle offers a relaxed yet refined dining experience. Helmed by chef Michael Toscano (whose tenure at Manhattan mainstays like Perla and Montmartre attests to his culinary talent), the kitchen serves authentic Italian with a modern twist: elegantly plated house-made pastas, octopus carpaccio, crispy chicken saltimbocca. Beverage options range from a curated list of specialty cocktails that reinvent time-honored staples (the Old Fashioned, for example, incorporates madeira in addition to bourbon), and the wine list proves both accessible and varied, with affordable bottles from Italy, Greece, France, and California.
Using handmade dough and eclectic ingredients like figs, speck, fennel, and house-pickled vegetables, Luke's Craft Pizza creates some of the best pies in Charleston. Don't be alarmed if the shop sells out of pizzas: everything on this market-driven menu is made to order and uses seasonally-dependent ingredients to ensure freshness, which means popular pies tend to run out somewhat quickly. For all that it may be one of the younger ventures on Ashley Avenue, the cozy, minimalist spot has already garnered quite a voracious following.
What began as a neighborhood grocery outpost in the 1920s has today turned into one of the best breakfast spots in the Westside. The menu is health-conscious and vegetable-forward (not surprising, considering that the kitchen sources most of their ingredients from the rooftop garden), serving up regional fare like the garden biscuit -- a vibrant mélange of Shishito peppers, mushrooms, beets, and gruyere melted over perfectly scrambled eggs, all served on a fresh, flaky biscuit. The cottage-like space is peppered with kitschy décor, but it’s pretty cozy; for those determined to get a highly coveted table at this walk-ins only spot, we suggest you arrive on the early side of brunch.
A cupcake shop turned savory small plates eatery, Butter Tapas blends Southern comfort staples with nondenominational tastes. Helmed by chef April Robinson, the bustling spot boasts bold flavor by way of highlights like truffle fries with Parmesan cheese, New Zealand jerk lamb pops, and scallops with corn purée. The cozy space is refined but the ambience is casual, and a curated list of regional microbrews keeps the convivial conversation flowing.
Located in a former federal building-turned-hotel, Henrietta's opened its doors in the summer of 2016. Serving a locally-sourced, Southern-influenced French menu, Henrietta's also offers a contemporary version of traditional Southern style with caned ceilings and black-and-white floor patterns.
This serene, light-filled space is minimally furnished with sleek, dark wood seating, allowing a calm atmosphere to settle on your light meal. The menu here serves up fare heavier on the seafood and vegetable ingredients, like heirloom tomatoes served over housemade ricotta cheese and Mepkin Abbey mushrooms.
A casual BBQ concept by Chef Damon Wise, Wise Buck Smoked Meats serves packed sandwiches, smoked meats, and cuts of meat by the pound. It's decorated in a black, white, and exposed brick color scheme, setting a trendy and idustrial context for the savory, fragrant BBQ on offer. Patrons can enjoy their meals on metal trays either at the well-stocked bar, or a table with something from the even more extensive beer fridge.
This restaurant camouflages as a coffee shop with a plush sofa situation and decor that includes a bookshelf, greenery, and low coffee tables. The menu impresses with elevated lunch fare like chicken fried quail, a cubano made with sour orange pulled pork and chorizo, and a PB&J made with blackberry spice sage jam and housemade peanut butter. When you're ready for a walk, stroll through the cafe's vinyl collection located along the walls of the room, stocked with new and hard-to-find selections.
Inspired by the Gilded Age, McCrady’s Tavern’s lunch, and dinner menus are filled with old-fashioned dishes, like escargot-stuffed marrow bone and calf’s head soup, derived from an 1885 cookbook. For brunch, choose from appetizers, like blue crab bisque with vermouth and tarragon, and entrees, like a patty melt with fries or eggs benedict with pea meal bacon. With exposed brick walls, oil paintings, and lilac walls that match upholstered armchairs, McCrady’s Tavern’s décor simultaneously harks back to an earlier century and embraces modern aesthetic trends.