Where to Eat in Charleston Right Now
With the world still not yet back to normal, many of us are seeking comfort in delicious food. From greasy cheeseburgers to Korean fried chicken, we’ve compiled a list of noteworthy restaurants from the past five years that will hopefully bring a taste of normalcy to your life during the pandemic. Keep in mind, while Governor McMaster has allowed restaurants to open dining rooms again, many areas within the county have instituted mask requirements, dining outdoors is highly encouraged, and almost all restaurants are not yet back to normal operations. Call and confirm that the restaurants are open and serving before ordering takeout or trying to dine in. If you go, wear your mask, wash your hands, and don’t forget to tip generously.
The gist: One of the few brave restaurants to open in 2020, Gale is a chef-owned, Italian-forward restaurant from Chef Brett Chizinski. Self-described as “pizza, pasta, and everything weird in between,” the restaurant balances a casual approach with a serious dedication to quality.
The food: Gale’s menu is divided into four sections: small plates, pizza, pasta, and large plates. Although it’s selections have changed a few times since opening, these should be your go-tos if they’re available: fried patty pan squash with golden raisins, the sausage pizza with goat cheese and mustard cream, the summer pesto orecchiette with white acre peas and fried capers, and the chicken puttanesca with polenta and chimichurri.
The cost: Small plates are $8-13, pizzas and pasta are $15-16, and the large plates are $16-24.
How to order: Call 843-818-4977 or DM @galerestaurant to order takeout lunch or dinner
The gist: 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.
The food: As an experienced pizza chef, Chorvat certainly makes tasty pies and the stracciatella and prosciutto variety with a bubbly crust, thinly sliced meat, and mozzarella curds is a must-try. Other popular menu items include the KFC (korean fried chicken) sandwich, fried deviled eggs, and the daily ground cheeseburger that will definitely leave you licking your fingers.
The cost: Appetizers are about $6 a piece, sandwiches are all $13 and include a side, and pies are around $14.
How to order: Open for outdoor seating or order takeout through Upserve
Little Miss Ha
The gist: Frequent diners at Workshop have long loved the fresh, homestyle Vietnamese cuisine inspired by owner-chef Janice Nguyên Hudgins mother’s cooking. Its new standalone location opened earlier this year and has already become a go-to of Mount Pleasant diners.
The food: Classic Vietnamese foods you’ve come to expect, and dammit, each one is better than the last. The beef pho’s broth is flavorful and unctuous, while the sesame noodle stir fry is a super comforting and nostalgic dish. The cauliflower fried rice is another popular dish offering something a bit lighter, and the steamed bao buns are like little warm pillows of joy.
The cost: The appetizers are $7-10, second course options (curries, pho, fried rice, and noodles) are $12-15, and the banh mi is only $8. The kids’ menu has four different options at $6 a piece.
How to order: Call 843-388-7251 or order takeout or delivery online
The gist: Dashi is another exciting food truck-turned-restaurant. The Asian-Latin fusion fare offers you the best of both worlds under one roof and harmoniously combines all the flavors. The food is great for a quick bite at lunch or an easily portable meal to grab-and-go.
The food: All the food truck favorites, like the tomato bread and steamed buns, can be found here. But now there are some heartier options like the curry shrimp and grits and the gaucho steak plate with fresh chimichurri. Don’t miss Dashi’s surprisingly impressive wine list.
The cost: Bottles of wine are upwards of $12, Sides are $3-5, small plates are $4-11, entrees are $11-15, and the kids’ menu is $7-12.
How to order: Make reservations for patio seating and limited indoor dining or order takeout through ToastTab
The gist: French food has made a resurgence in Charleston, but Maison (not to be confused with the Maison Cafe inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel) sets the bar even higher with its artful and innovative 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 food: The salmon rillette with lemon, everything spice, and pumpernickel is a must-try. If you’re not a fish person, you won’t want to pass up the roasted chicken with macaroni farci, morels, english peas, chicken jus. Pair it with a nice glass of wine and a chocolate mousse for dessert for an evening that’s truly magnifique.
The cost: Appetizers average in the $16 range, main courses are around the $33 mark.
How to order: Make reservations on OpenTable
The gist: The latest exploratory entry to join the Workshop family is Ma’am Saab, a Pakistani kitchen from teacher-turned-chef Maryam Ghaznavi. The restaurant combines new and familiar flavors and provides ideal comfort food during challenging times. The name incorporates Ghaznavi’s Pakistani heritage with her love of Charleston, loosely translating to “Boss Lady.”
The food: Start with some beef samosas, which are flaky and delicate pastries filled with spiced beef. The chaat papri snack plate is a delightful take on a popular street food snack, featuring chickpeas, potato cubes, and crisps and drizzled with tamarind and yogurt chutneys. A great introductory dish is the chicken pakora wrap with masala fries, while more experienced diners will love the complexity of the lahori cholay (chickpea curry).
The cost: Starters are $10 and entrees are $13-16.
How to order: Order pickup or delivery through DoorDash
The gist: 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 last year, Charlestonians rejoiced. Think a good old-fashioned barbecue joint with slow-roasted meats and impeccable sides.
The food: From the Dirty Harry Sloppy Joe to the melt-in-your-mouth brisket, to the Golden Geechie Wings, Drayton really knows his meat. Pair your protein of choice with one of his signature sides, like fried smashed potatoes or green apple coleslaw, and you’ll be licking your plate clean.
The cost: The three-meat combo served with two sides can easily be split between two people is $22. A whole rack of ribs is the priciest menu item at $27 and veggie sides are just $3 a piece.
How to order: Order takeout or delivery through ChowNow
The gist: From the team that created the much loved Chez Nous, comes this intimate, Spanish-style market and tapas bar helmed by chef Juan Cassalett. Malagón provides a truly unique experience, choosing to forego a website and frowning upon social media use inside the restaurant -- in favor of a more personal meal in which you’re connected to the food and the people around you (basically how we used to eat before smartphones).
The food: As with a lot of Spanish cuisine, pork plays a huge part, 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.
The cost: Tapas range from $7-17 each.
How to order: Make your reservation with Resy
The gist: Chubby Fish might have a silly name, but it takes seafood very seriously. Partnering with local fisherman, the restaurant is seasonal and uncomplicated, with just a few options to choose from, but each bite is bursting with a flavor and depth.
The food: Some favorites on the rotating menu include the shark tempura sandwich, smoked swordfish curry, and chili garlic shrimp. Finish off the meal with something sweet off the dessert menu, like the blueberry ice cream sandwich or not-fried-chicken from Life Raft Treats.
The cost: Most entrees average in the $20+ range, with some lighter options around $10. Desserts are $6 apiece.
How to order: Order delivery through Grubhub or Postmates
The gist: Johns Island has been on a roll with high-quality restaurant openings this past year and Simply Seafood is no exception. On the surface, it looks like just another seafood shack, fresh and flavorful ingredients set it apart.
The food: Much like a typical seafood joint, Simply Seafood offers fried seafood baskets, garlic seafood platters, seafood boils, sandwiches, and salads. A wise choice is the seafood platter with three different selections (we recommend the shrimp, oysters, and fish filets), plus two sides (you gotta try the mac and cheese and the fried okra). If you’re looking for something a little lighter, the garlic snow crabs or a shrimp seafood boil are also great options.
The cost: The three seafood platter with two sides is $15.99, garlic snow crab platter is $26.99, baskets range from $8-12, and sandwiches all clock in under $10.
How to order: Order takeout through ChowNow
The gist: 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.
The food: If you’re looking for something comforting, start with pork crescent dumplings and then go for the Xi’an Style Beef Noodles or Dan Dan Mian, which are hot and loud and bursting with flavor. The cocktails are also fantastic, and one of our favorites is the Mother’s Helper, which is made with your choice of booze and local One Love Kombucha.
The cost: Most of the apps are $8, entrees are $14-17. Cocktails run from $10-12. Tips are split between the kitchen staff, so act generously.
How to order: Make reservations for limited indoor dining or order takeout through ToastTab
Bourbon N’ Bubbles
The gist: Bourbon and Bubbles is a dark and romantic “barstaurant” with a focus on luxury beverages. The cavernous spot features a number of small plates, select entrees, and -- like the name suggests -- a generous selection of champagne and whiskey. Ideal date night spot.
The food: The herb arancini with lemon-basil aioli and the duck confit spring rolls with housemade sweet and spicy sauce are a great way to start. You can’t pass on the local ricotta gnocchi or the bourbon steak skillet. But make sure you save room for dessert because the funnel cake fries (served with nutella, coconut caramel, and chocolate) are revolutionary. Sip on a Charleston 75, a Lowcountry spin on a classic French 75.
The cost: Appetizers range from $7-24, while entrees are upwards of $15. A glass of wine or bubbles will set you back $11-27, and cocktails are all $15 a piece.
How to order: Make reservations for limited indoor seating through OpenTable
The gist: 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. The rotating cast of tenants bring some much needed ethnic food into Charleston’s culinary scene, and it changes every few months. Currently, you’ll find Merrows Garden Bar, Sushi Wa Izakaya, Chuck & Patty’s, Mansueta’s, and Ma'am Saab.
The food: Make a full round and try to get the best from each station. Our favorites include a burger from Chuck & Patty’s, cocktail from Merrow’s, Lumpia (spring rolls) from Mansueta’s, a sushi set from Sushi Wa Izakaya, and saag paneer from Ma’am Saab for some savory veggies.
The cost: The cost varies by station, but you can expect $10-20 per entree.
How to order: Open for limited patio seating or you can order takeout through Upserve
The gist: When James Beard-nominated chef Shuai Wang announced he was transforming his popular food truck Short Grain into a brick and mortar, Charlestonians rejoiced. Deviating from the rice bowls that made it famous, Jackrabbit Filly’s menu features new American Chinese cuisine that warms you up from the inside.
The food: Seriously, the entire menu is worth trying. If you don’t have the time or room in your stomach for the whole menu, definitely don’t miss out on the karaage (or the Sichuan karaage if you like heat), the fish curry, and the biang biang noodles. Keep in mind the menu changes regularly, so you’ll want to double check before you order.
The cost: Cocktails are $10-12, lunch bowls are $13-15, and dinner options are $8-19.
How to order: Make reservations for patio seating and limited indoor dining or order takeout through ToastTab
The gist: The Shellmore is a cozy, intimate wine and oyster bar that is undeniably one of the best restaurants in Mount Pleasant. Although its menu is limited (5-6 entrees and a few selections of oysters and cheese), the bar prioritizes quality over quantity.
The food: The menu changes daily and is always posted on Instagram. In general, it’s hard to go wrong with any seafood or oyster option and, during summer months, we gravitate toward Shellmore’s fresh ceviche and salad options. Be sure to ask for a recommendation for a great glass of wine to accompany your meal, because the bartenders really know their stuff.
The cost: Appetizers start around $8-12, while entrees are $15-20 a person.
How to order: Call 843-654-9278 for takeout
The gist: Stella’s wasn’t the first Greek restaurant in Charleston, but it’s arguably the best. With a mix of classic small plates and entrees, the spot offers diners a much more broad taste of Greek flavors than your typical gyro or spanakopita. The cocktail program is also very strong here, making it great for date night or girls’ night out.
The food: The menu is robust and full of lots of different options -- including both small and large plates. Favorites include the grilled octopus, keftedes, souvlaki, and pan-seared halloumi. We recommend ordering a big mix of different meze to share, family style, in order to experience all the different flavors.
The cost: Small plates are $6-16 while bigger entress are upwards of $21.
How to order: Order takeout through ToastTab
Gillie’s Soul Food
The gist: Chef Sean Mendes opened Gillie’s Soul Food in 2017 as an ode to his grandmother and the food he grew up eating. The restaurant certainly exudes the feeling of your grandmother’s kitchen, with lots of family photos on the “grandma wall,” and lacy tablecloths throughout.
The food: Gillie’s menu is full of comfort food favorites, like fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, macaroni and cheese, and some of the tastiest meatloaf in town. Be sure to save room for dessert, because the pineapple upside down cake is the perfect ending to any meal.
The cost: Appetizers average around $10, sandwiches and tacos are $5-10, a meat and three plate, and seafood baskets start at $15.
How to order: The patio is open for limited seating or call 843-297-8615 for takeout orders or order delivery through Uber Eats.
The gist: Since the highly anticipated barbecue joint opened in 2016, locals and visitors alike have flocked here for its Texas-style meats, like buttery smoked beef brisket and the Hot Guts sausage. Lewis is perfectly suited to takeout because meat is served by the pound and perfect for sharing. This spot exceeds the hype.
The food: The number one thing you absolutely must get at Lewis is the brisket. It’s offered both sliced and chopped and, while you are welcome to get it either way, we opt for sliced and with lots of sauce (although ordering the brisket nachos is an approved alternative). Other favorites, of course, are the housemade Hot Guts sausage (served by the link), the El Sancho sandwich, and the green chile corn pudding.
The cost: A pound of brisket costs $22, and Lewis recommends ¼-pound per person, sandwiches start at $8, a single side is $3 and a family-size quart is $12
How to order: Order takeout through ToastTab
Little Jack's Tavern
The gist: Little Jack’s is a delightful time machine back to the diners and steakhouses of the late ’50s, menu included. Since its Tavern Burger was recently named one of the best burgers in the U.S., people have been flocking to this quaint and cozy little shop for a burger that’s so good, you can order it from the appetizer, entree, and dessert menus.
The food: You’d be remiss to not order the burger with a smashed patty, gooey American cheese, and griddled onions. Other popular dishes include the warm garlic knots served with cheese fondue, chopped salad topped with avocado ranch dressing, and the crispy chicken cutlet. Pair your meal with an updated classic cocktail, like the Rum Old Fashioned.
The cost: Appetizers start at $9, the burger with fries is $15, entrees start at $21
How to order: Open for patio seating and limited indoor dining or order takeout through Upserve
The gist: Since opening in 2015, the lines for The Codfather’s famous fish and chips have been out the door. After moving to North Charleston three years later, adding a lot more seating, and expanding its menu, the restaurant still feels like a proper English-style fish and chippery.
The food: People just can’t get enough of The Codfather’s British fried cod, thick-cut chips, mushy peas, and rich gravy. Plus, you can order entrees like “fish butty” (sandwich), housemade pies, and sausage rolls. Add a healthy dose of vinegar and HP Sauce to round out your meal.
The cost: An order of fish and chips is $12 and sides along range from $2-4.
How to order: Open for patio seating and limited indoor dining or call 843-789 4649 for takeout.
The gist: From chef Jill Mathias and sous chef Juan Cassalett, Chez Nous is an intimate restaurant featuring artfully crafted cuisine with French, Northern Italian, and Spanish influences. Great for celebrations with a loved one, as the food evokes feelings of traveling in the French countryside.
The food: The menu changes daily and consists of two apps, two entrees, and two desserts. Recent offerings have included a melon and Buffalo mozzarella salad, risotto with saffron and bone marrow, a fennel-crusted pork chop, and watermelon budino. Don’t let the limited selections dissuade you -- everything is thoughtful and beautiful.
The cost: The daily menu usually clocks in around $50 a person before tip and bottles of wine to-go start at $24
How to order: Order takeout through Upserve