With restaurants opening and closing left and right in Charleston, it can be hard to keep track of which dining spots are worth the hype. But no matter what you’re craving -- from shrimp and grits to a steaming bowl of ramen -- we’ve compiled a quality list of restaurants that are sure to delight any appetite. From the brand new to the tried-and-true, these are the places you’ll want to add to your “must try” list next time your stomach starts a-rumbling.
King Street Historic District A Mexican and sushi-fusion restaurant with a modern vibe Mexican food and sushi have long been crowd favorites, so it’s actually kind of shocking that it took so long for a fusion restaurant like Mesu to open in Charleston. But now that it’s open, you should definitely give them a try, because they’re really doing justice to both sides of the aisle. Their clothespin tacos are packed full of fresh ingredients and flavor, and their sushi rivals that of other places around town. It’s the perfect place to go with picky eaters who are still too afraid of raw fish to understand that sushi is one of the world’s most perfect foods. Plus, anywhere with chips and queso is a winner in our book.
North Central A butcher shop and meat-focused farm-to-table restaurant HERD Provisions is about as close as you can get to fresh beef without following owner Alec Bradford to his Virginia farm and helping to process the meat yourself. HERD Provisions features his heritage Ancient White Park cattle, hogs, and poultry that are all grass-fed, which really makes a difference when it comes to flavor. Stop by for brunch, lunch, or dinner for some of the best poutine you’ve ever had (made with hand-cut fries, cheese curds, and short rib gravy) or for a slice of their meatloaf which is nothing short of life changing. And vegetarians, don’t be afraid because their veggie burger is also one of the best around.
James Island An eclectic neighborhood cafe When the bright pink sign went up on Folly Road, collective bellies began to rumble at the thought of Dusty Chorvat’s new restaurant. The former Crust chef has created an eclectic and simple cafe specializing in local ingredients, big flavor, and small plates. As a pizza chef, you can rest assured that the pies are tasty, but other popular menu items include the KFC (Korean fried chicken) sandwich, fried deviled eggs, and the daily ground cheeseburger that will definitely have you licking your fingers afterward.
North Charleston Asian-Latin food truck-turned brick-and-mortar Dashi has long been one of Charleston’s most popular food trucks, so when it was announced that they were opening a brick and mortar location in North Charleston, people (this writer included) were understandably thrilled. All the food truck favorites, like the tomato bread and steamed buns are in attendance, along with some heartier options like the curry shrimp and grits and the gaucho steak plate with fresh chimichurri.
Est. 2019 | Westside 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 if 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.
Est. 2019 | Mount Pleasant 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.
Est. 2019 | Cannonborough Intimate Spanish-style market and tapas bar From the team that created the much loved 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, 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 smartphones). As with a lot of Spanish cuisine, pork plays a huge part on the menu at Malagón, like in the bechamel croquettes or almond-stuffed dates wrapped in serrano ham. But even if you don’t eat pork, the menu has something for everyone, like the tortilla española, or the fresh grilled whole flounder with garlic.
Est. 2019 | Ladson A good old-fashioned barbecue joint Nigel’s Good Food has been a Lowcountry staple in North Charleston and Ladson for years, and when owner Nigel Drayton decided to expand into the BBQ biz earlier this year, Charlestonians everywhere rejoiced. All that good flavor you’ve come to expect from Drayton’s other locations is in full effect at the Slaughterhouse. From the Dirty Harry Sloppy Joe to the melt-in-your-mouth brisket, to the Golden Geechie Wings, he really knows what he’s doing when it comes to slow-roasted meats. Pair your protein of choice with one of his signature sides, like fried smashed potatoes or green apple coleslaw, and you’ll practically be licking your plate clean. After all, any place that claims that they “ain't bull chicken or porkin’ around” is definitely up to snuff.
Est. 2018 | Cannonborough A warm and casual neighborhood seafood restaurant Chubby Fish might have a silly name, but they take seafood very seriously. The menu is seasonal and uncomplicated, with just a few options to choose from in each category, but each bite is bursting with a flavor and depth that’s nothing short of mindblowing. Some favorites on the rotating menu include the grilled oysters, the blue crab tagliatelle, and the braised grouper cheeks. Pair it with a glass of wine and some oysters from the raw bar, and you’ve got the makings of an unforgettable meal.
Est. 2018 | James Island High quality, traditional Chinese cooking meets Lowcountry ingredients Named after the 8th century consort of the last Tang emperor, Kwei Fei can be found in the same space as the Pour House and specializes in Sichuan cuisine from Western China. High quality Chinese food is hard to come by in Charleston, so Kwei Fei is a beacon of shining hope for those who crave a warm bowl of dan dan noodles or hand-folded dumplings. Save room for dessert when you visit, because the Sichuan Sundae is one spicy-sweet-nutty-salty-creamy dish you won’t soon forget.
Est. 2018 | Cannonborough Dark and romantic barstaurant with a focus on luxury beverages 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.
Est. 2017 | Wagener Terrace An adult food court with lots of diverse dining options Technically Workshop isn’t any one thing -- it’s a happy harmonious upscale food court featuring a wide array of Charleston’s best up-and-coming offerings. Their rotating cast of tenants bring some much needed ethnic food into Charleston’s culinary scene, and they change every few months, so there’s always something new to discover. With the recent departures of starting players Pink Bellies and Juan Luis, it opens to door to even more delicious food to takeover. Currently, you’ll find Merrows Garden Bar, Sushi Wa Izakaya, Chuck & Patty’s, Julius’s Delicatessen, Mansueta’s, and Rebel Taqueria ready to serve you something tasty.
Est. 2017 | Mount Pleasant Intimate wine and oyster bar with a simple, elegant menu The Shellmore is undeniably one of the best restaurants in Mount Pleasant. Although their menu is limited (we’re talking 5-6 entrees and a few selections of oysters and cheeses), what they lack in quantity, they more than make up for in quality. The menu changes daily, so be sure to follow them on Instagram for updates, but in general, it’s hard to go wrong with any of their seafood or oyster options. And be sure to ask for a recommendation for a great glass of wine to accompany your meal, because the bartenders really know their stuff.
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. 2017 | James Island A comfort food cafe serving home-cooked southern staples Chef Sean Mendes opened Gillie’s Soul Food in 2017 as an ode to his grandmother and the food he grew up eating from her kitchen. The restaurant definitely has the feeling of eating at someone’s grandmother’s house, with lots of family photos on the “grandma wall,” and lacy tablecloths on every table. The menu is full of comfort food favorites, like fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, and some of the tastiest meatloaf you’re likely to ever taste. And be sure to save room for dessert, because the pineapple upside down cake is the perfect ending to any meal.
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 | North Charleston A proper English-style fish and chippery with all the fixings Since opening in 2015, the lines for The Codfather’s famous fish and chips has been out the door relatively consistently. People just can’t get enough of their British-style fried cod, thick chips (aka fries, for those who might be confused), mashed peas, and gravy. They expanded to a much larger space in 2018, adding things like “fish butty” (fish sandwich), housemade pies, and sausage rolls to their offerings. Just don’t forget the vinegar and HP sauce!
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 that 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 the back and front of the house. But don't come for the staff alone; check it out for its biodynamic wines, pappardelle, charred octopus, profiteroles, and, if you’re really lucky, 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.
Est. 1981 | Windsor Place A Lowcountry counter-serve restaurant with plenty of soul Bertha’s Kitchen was founded by Albertha Grant in 1981 and has been passed down from mothers to daughters ever since. Bertha’s came to prominence after winning the James Beard Award for “America’s Classic” in 2017 for their delectable Lowcountry soul food. Bertha’s cooks up all your Lowcountry favorites -- fried chicken, seafood rice, garlic crabs, collard greens, lima bean soup -- and some dishes you might never have tried if you didn’t grow up in the Lowcountry. Plan to stop by early, or risk waiting in line and having them sell out.
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