DJ Chase B Discovers Chicago's Unique Food Scene
Brewpub with a focus on craft beer and craft pizza
When Desano closed down, many downtown-dwelling pizza lovers were disappointed. Luckily, the good folks over at the beloved EVO Pizzeria partnered with one of Charleston’s favorite breweries, Holy City Brewing, to bring all your favorite things under one roof. You can get favorite pies like the Pork Trifecta, fresh salads, tasty starters, and a rotating selection of small plates, along with fresh baked bread, Springbok coffee, and a list of Baker and Brewer drafts brewed just for the restaurant (plus HCB classics available in cans). It’s basically a carb-lover’s paradise on the peninsula.
Dark and romantic barstaurant with a focus on luxury beverages
Ok so technically Bourbon and Bubbles opened in December of 2018, but we’re rounding up since that’s practically 2019 anyway. Billed as a luxury restaurant and bar, the romantic and cozy space features small plates (the orzo tots with gouda mornay and basil aioli are not to be missed), select entrees, and a “premier selection of champagne, bourbon, and hand-crafted cocktails.” A glass of wine or bubbles will set you back $11-27, and cocktails are all $15 a piece. This is the perfect place to bring a date if you were looking to make a good impression.
A quaint southern-Indian food cafe
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it 1,000 times: Charleston is in dire need of quality Indian food. That’s why we were so excited when Coorg opened earlier this year, bringing the number of Indian restaurants in Mount Pleasant up to a whopping... one. The cuisine at Coorg is Southern Indian and features mostly meat-centric dishes, although there are plenty of vegetarian options as well. Coorg differs from the typical Indian restaurant by offering a limited menu of family recipes -- like Coorg pork, spicy goat, and curry paneer -- meaning that if you stop by looking for a vindaloo, you’re going to be disappointed. Another way Coorg sets itself apart is with its coffee: the owners import coffee beans from their farm in India, then slow roast them in small batches for a one-of-a-kind brew.
French-style bistro with a bright and lively atmosphere
French food has really made a resurgence in Charleston over the past few years, but Maison (not to be confused with the Maison Cafe inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel) sets the bar even higher with their artful and innovative French plates. The one-page food menu features a number of familiar French favorites that are as beautiful to look at as they are satisfying to eat. The foie gras topped with pickled cherries and served with toasted brioche is a must-try, but fif you’re a little less adventurous, you won’t want to pass up the roasted chicken with broccolini, macaroni, and black truffle jus. Pair it with a nice glass of wine and a creme caramel for dessert for an evening that’s truly magnifique.
A casual BBQ joint where everything is made from scratch
Downtown Charleston might be the unofficial BBQ capital of South Carolina, but James Island’s ‘cue spots just got a smoky and tasty new neighbor in Martin’s Bar-B-Cue Joint. The popular Tennessee-based joint -- helmed by acclaimed pitmaster Pat Martin -- will take over the old Sermet’s location, and prides itself on a menu of purely scratch-made dishes, with everything from mac and cheese to beef brisket being made fresh daily (starting at 5am). While everything from the pit is delicious, the kitchen sandwiches are what truly sets them apart. The Southern Paddy Melt is brushed with Sweet Dixie Sauce and topped with pimento cheese, while the Brisket Burger is topped with melted American cheese, grilled onions, smoked brisket, and sweet Dixie sauce.
Intimate Spanish-style market and tapas bar
From the team that created the much loved (and one of our all-time best) Chez Nous, comes Malagón, helmed by chef Juan Cassalett and focusing on authentic Spanish tapas. The team has worked hard to create a truly unique experience, choosing to forego a website, a true social media presence (they have a Facebook page, but rarely update it), and famously refusing service to a local food critic in favor of a more intimate, personal meal in which you’re connected to the food and the people around you (basically, how we used to eat before the advent of smartphones). As with a lot of Spanish cuisine, pork plays a huge part on the menu at Malagón, like in the not-to-be-missed ham and bechamel croquettes, or the so-good-why-didn’t-I-think-of-this almond-stuffed dates wrapped in serrano ham. But even if you don’t eat pork, the menu has something for everyone, like the who-knew-potatoes-could-taste-this-good tortilla española, or the fresh-from-the-ocean grilled whole flounder with garlic.
Est. 2017 | Mount Pleasant
A typical Southern joint with a hearty menu of grits options
When a place has “grit” in the name, you’d hope that they’re able to live up to the high expectations of southern diners (where grits are practically a sacred food group). Fortunately, that’s not a problem here: in addition to the classic version, Grace and Grit offers 16 different grits options, both sweet and savory, that are all expertly crafted and balanced in flavor. Even those who are grits-averse will leave feeling like they’ve been reborn among the corn. Can’t decide which flavor to try? Start with their grits flight, which features 4 of their most popular flavors.
Est. 2017 | Wagener Terrace
An adult food court with lots of diverse dining options
Technically Workshop isn’t any one thing; it’s a happily harmonious upscale food court featuring a wide array of Charleston’s best up-and-coming offerings. The rotating cast of tenants brings some much needed ethnic food into Charleston’s culinary scene, and they change every few months, so there’s always something new to discover. Currently, you’ll find Little Miss Ha, Merrows Garden Bar, Sushi Wa Izakaya, Chuck & Patty’s, and Rebel Taqueria ready to serve you something tasty.
Est. 2017 | Radcliffborough
Upscale Greek cuisine like Yia Yia used to make
Stella’s wasn’t the first Greek restaurant in Charleston, but it’s arguably the best. With a mix of classic Greek small plates and entrees, Stella’s gives Charleston diners a much more broader taste of Greek flavors than your typical gyro or spanakopita. The grilled octopus is life-changing, and anything with lamb in it is a sure winner, but they also offer a number of vegetarian-friendly options as well. The cocktail program is also very strong here, making it a great spot for date night or girls’ night out.
Est. 2016 | NOMO
Hip BBQ joint with heavy Texas influences
Since opening his anticipated BBQ joint in 2016, locals and visitors alike have flocked to Lewis Barbecue for buttery smoked beef brisket, the creamy corn pudding, and that Texas Hot Guts sausage. Pair your smoky meats with one of their artisan cocktails (or a $3 shot of Jameson or Fernet), or an ice cold local draft for an experience that borders on religious. This barbecue totally lives up to -- and actually, maybe even exceeds -- all the hype.
Est. 2016 | Westside
Vintage-inspired tavern with a killer burger
Little Jack’s Tavern is a delightful time machine back to the diners and steakhouses of the late '50s, menu included. Since their Tavern Burger was recently named one of the best burgers in the US, people have been flocking to the quaint and cozy little shop for a burger that’s so good, you can order it from their appetizer, entree, and dessert menus.
Est. 2016 | Radcliffeborough
Modern and casual seafood with a seriously Instagrammable raw bar
There’s always room in Charleston for one more raw bar, and The Darling fills a nice niche for the progressive dinner set. Care to have some oysters and wine while you walk to the next course? This is your spot. That doesn’t mean you can’t sit in the gorgeously designed space for an all-evening affair, though. The creole shrimp is a go-to add-on with the requisite oysters, but here's a tip: always go for a variety, since this place has a solid rotating selection.
Est. 2015 | Elliotborough
Simple and romantic French cuisine served in an old Charleston single
The menu -- two apps, two entrees, and two desserts -- is written by hand daily. There are only a few offerings, but don’t let that dissuade you. The food is thoughtful and beautiful and damn delicious, and the setting, in a Charleston single house, is charming in the least stuffy way. Chez Nous is French, and has that je ne sais quoi in a Charleston culinary scene full of it.
Est. 2014 | Ansonborough
The OG seafood and raw bar beloved by locals and visitors alike
In a city that has plenty of seafood, 167 Raw still makes a splash on the Charleston scene. Why? Because its ultra-fresh approach never seems blasé. The raw bar is where it's at in this place -- get the sampler if you're into trying everything -- but you'd be crazy not to order one of the best lobster rolls in the city... if you're willing to pay the high price for it, that is. Take some time and cruise the well-curated list of beers and wines, and choose a local draft, or something from the "everything else" menu.
Est. 2014 | Westside
Hip neighborhood spot known for oysters (duh) and fried chicken
Those sunny yellow umbrellas beckon you in for summer, but once you're at Leon's, it's the fried chicken, oysters, and great playlist that beg you to stay. That’s easy, though, since you’ll probably want an order of Char-Grilled Oysters, you need to try that Siam Salad with Napa cabbage and shrimp you keep hearing about, and you’re down to the last sip of your frozen G&T. And then there’s soft serve for dessert, so of course, you’ll have to save room for that. Actually, just plan to spend everyday here.
Est. 2014 | Folly Beach
Heavily Asian-influenced beachside pub
We've been visiting Jack of Cups for tasty beers and bites for years, but lately the kitchen team has stepped up its game to include more seasonal, vegetable-focused dishes, making it a dinner destination for the James Island and Folly Beach crowds. The beachside beer bar's food menu steps outside the box with holy smoke ricotta toast, BBQ boiled peanut hummus, and a flavorful selection of Asian-inspired cuisine. With this many vegetarian-friendly options, maybe the basic "beer bar" moniker is a bit outdated.
Est. 2014 | NoMo
Sophisticated brewpub with 48 taps, new American cuisine, and a popular patio
Edmund’s Oast has slowly been taking over the Charleston food and bev scene, with the openings of the Exchange and Brewery over the past year, but the NoMo restaurant remains the perennial favorite, with a consistently packed dining room and bar. Their beloved charcuterie plates are always a good bet, though executive chef Bob Cook really shines in the heartier entrees, like the pork shank, grilled octopus, and roasted crispy half chicken. Don’t forget to pair your meal with one of their homebrewed beers to get the full EO experience.
Est. 2013 | Ansonborough
Modern American steakhouse with a stellar happy hour
Chefs Nathan Davenport and Matt LeBoeuf developed the menu at Burwell’s to take the old school steakhouse concept into the 21st century. On the menu, you’ll find modern takes on classic dishes, like deviled eggs topped with candied bacon and pickled veggies, and a prime burger topped with guacamole and chipotle ranch. The beef is always of the highest quality -- Angus, Prime, and Wagyu all feature heavily on the menu -- and the burgers are prepared on a wood fire grill to really bring out the best flavor in the meat. Be sure to stop by at Happy Hour for great food and craft cocktail discounts, too.
Est. 2012 | Cannonborough
Asian fusion cafe with a seasonally changing food and cocktails
Asian soul food in a converted gas station has to just be a trend right? Wrong. XBB has been keeping it fresh for years by continually updating their cocktail and beverage menus while keeping the raving fans of the okonomiyaki happy (“Don’t take away our cabbage pancake!” protest signs might read if it ever left the menu).
Est. 2012 | Cannonborough
Refined seafood dishes and craft cocktails in a chic space
This is the gold standard for seafood in Charleston. With the menu returning to its classic “Hot” and “Cold” organization and the addition of desserts along with the presence of all those rums, there is always a time to visit for Caribbean fish stew or oysters sliders or smoked oysters with saltines. Bonus: Any recollection of said visit makes whoever you tell instantly jealous.
Est. 2011 | NOMO
Perennially popular spot with an ever-changing menu of Middle Eastern-inspired fare
Since leaving its former space, Butcher & Bee has blossomed into a gorgeous anchor for the city as it grows north of the historic district. The open kitchen serves Israeli-inspired dishes made with Lowcountry ingredients like lamb ribs or whole grilled snapper. Come for the whipped ricotta, order wine on the patio (no more BYOB, sadly), and grab some dessert from the bakery, and maybe take home a fresh-baked loaf of bread (or two!) as you head out.
Est. 2010 | French Quarter
Award-winning Southern cuisine with a daily-changing menu
If you think there's too much hype surrounding Husk, just spend some quality time with the fried chicken & pig ear lettuce wraps (yes, actual pig ears in lettuce, and they are absolutely delicious) and we're guessing your tune will change. Headed by James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock, Husk's menu is unique not only because of its interesting takes on Southern favorites -- seriously, we've never had fried chicken skins with pimento cheese dressing before venturing to this place -- but also because the menu changes twice a day. So if you're looking for something you had a while back, you might want to check the archives online.
Est. 2010 | Radcliffeborough
Seriously good sushi, cocktails, and nightlife
Serious sushi seekers (and less-serious sushi lovers) will enjoy an inventive roll menu at O-Kui that includes ingredients like shoestring potatoes alongside traditional offerings. However, dishes such as Yellowtail Carpaccio, Local White Fish Crudo, and Spicy Sesame Pork Belly place this firmly in the fine dining experience category. For extra points, O-Ku converts to a dance club after 11pm.
Est. 2009 | Johns Island
Romantic spot for traditional Italian cuisine
Try this: ask someone, “Have you been to Wild Olive?” If they have, get ready for the eye roll of bliss. This place is that good -- so much so that no one cares it’s on Johns Island. In fact, that’s actually a plus: it's easy to get to, it has parking, and there's an expansive dining room. Also, the staff is actually invested in its work, both in back and in the front of the house. But don't come for the staff alone; check it out for the biodynamic wines, the pappardelle, the charred octopus, the profiteroles, and, if you’re really lucky, the mushroom Parmesan bisque (check the special board).
Est. 2009 | Radcliffeborough
A classic steakhouse with a serious emphasis on service.
Thousands (literal thousands) of reviewers agree that Halls Chophouse is a 5-star dining experience. Considering the price tag definitely makes this more of a special occasion destination versus and everyday haunt, Halls delivers on portions, flavor, and service in a way that’s hard to beat in the Holy City. Their OG filet practically melts on your tongue, and when paired with one of their family style sides -- we recommend the creamed corn or pepperjack grits -- you might have trouble enjoying a steak from anywhere else again.
Est. 2008 | Elliotborough
Classic Italian fare with a strong emphasis on seafood
Many of Charleston’s most discerning palates make reservations at this beautiful, tucked-in spot when they’re craving a serious comfort meal. It’s been a fixture on the Charleston scene for years and has managed to maintain its excellence with handmade pastas and good wine under the helm of chef/owner/ sommelier (and James Beard nominee) Ken Vedrinski. One bite of Ricotta Gnudi with housemade Italian duck sausage, and the day’s troubles might just fade away.
Est. 2007 | Park Circle
A classic pizza joint with a cult following
Heavenly things happen at EVO (Extra Virgin Oven) Pizzeria: pistachios become homemade pesto, daily made dough blisters beautifully in the wood ovens, and local beers flow constantly. Then there's the Pork Trifecta pizza: an incredible trio of house-made sausage, pepperoni, and bacon atop red sauce, cheese, and a chewy crust. Honestly, one bite of that crust and you'll understand why people drive from Johns Island to get a table. It's just that good.
Est. 2003 | Elliotborough
15-year old award-winning Charleston mainstay
This restaurant is beyond the hype; it is consistently one of the best in Charleston. And with Jason Stanhope, winner of the 2015 James Beard Southeast Best Chef award, as its executive chef, it hasn’t missed a beat. Stanhope’s elegant approach to Lowcountry ingredients highlights his excellent learning skills under mentor chef Mike Lata. Right now, don’t miss the Capers Inlet clams and sweet corn, served with ramp, suckling merguez, and pickled pepper.
Est. 1983 | Westside
Unassuming soul food joint with Southern comfort classics
From the outside, you might not expect much from the pink shack on Morrison Drive, but inside you’ll find one of the best places for fried chicken in the city (and maybe even the entire state). Opened back in the early ‘80s by Martha Lou Gadsden, the restaurant is now run by her daughters and granddaughters, and girl power’s never tasted this good. Come for the fried chicken, but stay for the creamy mac and cheese, the sinfully sweet tea, and other comfort food favorites that’ll fill you up like a hug from the inside.