Make This Sushi Burrito at Home, Become a Snack Legend
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.
Maybe you need a coffee and a cinnamon biscuit in the morning, and a chicken biscuit loaded with pimento cheese late at night. Hey, we don’t judge. In fact, we are probably in line behind you at Callie's Hot Little Biscuit. These small but mighty biscuits are one of the best things about good Charleston parties, and man, are we happy they are now democratically available to all.
Those of us who remember this property before its recent transformation are still in awe, but try to close your mouth and not gawk too much, especially if you brunch in the see-and-be-scene Caribbean-inspired courtyard. You’ll fit right in, though, if you order a mimosa and ooh-and-aah a bit over the chorizo egg scramble. Don’t forget to tip the valet.
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.
Isle of Palms
In a city with so much water, there are sadly few restaurants with a water view worth a visit. Thankfully, chef Ken Vedrinski took his modern Italian fare to the beach in 2013. What better way is there to enjoy perfectly cooked scallops and tender pasta with a crisp white, if not in view of the dunes and the ocean beyond on Sullivan’s Island? Right, we didn’t think so.
There’s always room in Charleston for one more raw bar, and although this one has just opened, it’s filling 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. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sit in the gorgeously designed space for an all-evening affair. 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.
Thrillist has made no secret of its love for Edmund’s Oast, but when executive chef Andy Henderson vacated the position, we were nervously poised over our perfectly smoked lemon cocktail garnish at the bar, watching for what happened next. Enter a sigh of relief. Sous chef Reid Henninger took the exec reins, and we couldn’t be happier. Our beloved charcuterie is in good hands, and there is chicken & Carolina gold rice porridge on the fall menu. Go, Reid, go.
Park Circle/North Charleston
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.
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 wreckfish, served with butternut squash & Marcona almonds.
Chef Brannon Florie is spreading his wings at a new centralized Mount Pleasant location. A South Carolina native, Florie maintains strong ties with local farms to ensure all of his menu items are made with top-quality local ingredients, whether it's comfort food favorites like chicken and dumplings, or elevated creations like local fish with sweet shishito peppers and a butcher board with house-made charcuterie, pickles, and condiments.
Twice-cooked sunchokes. A tartine of braised greens. Blue crab pasta (that will break your heart). The menu at The Grocery always reads like a beautiful love letter to the Lowcountry’s bounty, and chef Kevin Johnson knows how to perfectly prepare heirloom vegetables. The menu is always seasonal, so there is always a reason to return.
Each of Home Team BBQ's three locations (West Ashley, Sullivan's Island, and Downtown) has its own distinct vibe, but no matter which one you choose, you'll find the smoked wings with Alabama white sauce and the frozen Gamechanger (Home Team's version of a Painkiller cocktail) on the menu. You'll want to get both, but don't overlook the truly monumental selection of whiskeys. Beyond wings, you'll find classic BBQ fare like chopped brisket, smoked chicken, and pulled pork, all of which you can get in platter, sandwich, or taco (yes, taco) form. This place also gets bonus points for its dog-friendly outdoor seating areas which, honestly, should be de rigueur for BBQ joints by now.
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.
Upper King Street
Simply put, this is the place to go. Creamy burrata appetizers leave the open kitchen at a steady pace, pastas are delectable, brunch has nutella pizza (what?!), and Negronis, Negronis, Negronis. But beyond that, this waitstaff is one of the most consistently excellent in a city that excels, so that alone is worth a visit. Especially if they are serving Negronis (did we mention Negronis?)!
Chef Sean Brock’s taqueria just moved into expanded digs, and that (hopefully) means less of a wait for a table to enjoy tacos, the salsa sampler, mezcal, and the burrito that is so good you won’t notice that it’s vegetarian. Oh, and get your own chips -- we don’t share.
Now that Charleston has gotten the hang of abbreviating the name to OD, they’ve visited again and again for fresh oysters, pasta, and a kale, egg, and Mepkin Abbey mushroom dish that is ordered by almost every other table. Thrillist might know that the cast of a soon-to-air HBO show were also regulars when they were filming on the island, but we’re not spilling any gossip. We’re above such name-dropping.
Upper King Street
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 anyone you tell jealous.
When this beloved Charleston resto was sold last year to another restaurant group, the town murmured a bit, but use of local ingredients and Chef Frank Lee’s talent for creating elegant comfort food is stronger than ever. This is the place for shrimp and grits, people. Get it. But also get any special, and the beet salad and the quail and...
It should be a requirement that every table order the milk & cookies at Spero. Really, it’s like a warm hug at the end of every meal. But if you're looking for some protein to go with that sweet tooth, you've picked the right place. Spero is a prime source for great food, wonderful service, and an always-enjoyable array of dishes coming out of the kitchen, whether we're talking the fried chicken sandwich or The Korean (a roast pork shoulder with kimchee, Swiss, and pickled mustard seeds). Is this place serious about the state of the parking lot, the decor, or staff uniforms? Not so much. But that doesn't matter. You’ll leave wanting to return.
True dat. We put this on the recent underrated list, but it’s not going to be for long because Chef Emily Hahn keeps cranking out some serious good eats in this urban kitchen. Saddle up to the bar, get yourself a seat and a drink, and then start ordering. We’d suggest beginning with the empanaditas; after all, Hahn started in a food truck, Empanada Mamma.
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).
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). A Borneo Sunrise -- which includes rum and orange water -- is a new sip to try with your pancake order.
Since leaving its former space, Butcher & Bee has blossomed into a gorgeous anchor for the city as it grows north of the historic district. Chef Chelsey Conrad's 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 always, always stay for dessert: Pastry chef Cynthia Wong's phatty cakes (ginger cookies with vanilla mascarpone) are a total necessity.
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 will 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 Elderflower 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 all summer here.
While Charleston watched the painfully slow transformation of the former St. Alban’s into the current Little Jack’s Tavern, people lamented the loss of the perfect coffee shop that was. Thankfully, with Little Jack’s opening, what we’ve gained is a delightful time machine back to the late '50s, menu included. In case that doesn’t intrigue you, the perfect “Lunch Martini” and Tavern Burger will. It just might be the most satisfying combo of flavors for its size in the city.
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.
Located on the South side of Broad Street, Oak Steakhouse has been around long enough for it to get forgotten, but Chef Jeremiah Bacon has been quietly giving this classic menu the attention it deserves, from his use of sweet, local shrimp for his Shrimp Cocktail to a show stopper of a Mixed Grill that includes prime rib, filet, a lamb chop, and one hell of a rosemary bordelaise. Dress up and make an evening of it all.
The word is already out, so you are going to have to overcome a crowded parking lot and a crazy wait to eat here, but since the reward for this is a basket of the flakiest fried flounder and a side of clam strips, well, get ready to get in line. It’s not the fanciest or the fastest service, but if you like your seafood fried, the menu items here are among some of the best.
Charleston was all abuzz when news hit that NYC Chef Michael Toscano was relocating to the Holy City. Now that his restaurant La Farfalle is up and running, the crowds are evidence that this new spot off Beaufain Street is more than just hype. There are plenty of pastas to choose from, of course, but we would never forget to order the Octopus Carpaccio and you shouldn’t either. Its tender rounds of octopus tentacles dressed in olive oil, pickled eggplant, and roasted tomatoes are hard to share and a menu must-have.
Ever since Chef Andy McLeod took the helm of The Lot this spring, he’s gained a crowd of regulars beyond those waiting for a show next door at the popular Charleston Pourhouse music venue. Those regulars are coming for his focus on local vegetables, fresh fish dishes, and a grilled-to-perfection grass-fed beef burger that’s gained a cult following. You can enjoy it all on the expansive patio underneath a pergola.
This is the hottest restaurant ticket in town right now. No literally, you have to purchase tickets. Chef Sean Brock closed the iconic Charleston restaurant this summer and then split it into two experiences (see the other below). For $125 per person, you have an immersive tasting menu experience from the mind of Brock of Mind of a Chef fame. The menu changes nightly, but one ticket buys you a multi-course dinner for the inventive diner, no decision making required.
Chef Sean Brock has reimagined and transformed the cuisine of America’s Gilded Age -- you know, those kinds of dishes you might see on a Carnegie, Roosevelt, or Rockefeller dinner table. Brock has updated that last-century fare for today’s dining guests with dishes such as Escargot Stuffed Marrow Bones, Calf’s Head Soup, and Deviled Crab Stuffed Clams. While this might not sound like a light dinner, (it definitely won’t be), it will be an unforgettable meal, prepared with a deft hand to delicious results.
If you spend any time in Charleston, you’ll hear locals lament the lack of many good sushi restaurants in town. They’re generally right, but O-Ku is an exception. Serious sushi seekers (and less-serious sushi lovers) will enjoy an inventive roll menu 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 11 pm.
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.
Once the sun sets on Broad St, Normandy Farm Bakery is transformed into Bar Normandy: one of the hottest little spots in the Holy City. The menu's short and sweet and changes at the whim of head chef Alex Lira who, depending on the night, could be your chef, bartender, and server. That said, the dinner menu typically includes a soup, some oysters, and a few specials, plus fantastic house-made bread. Relax and enjoy the ride.
No need to make a pilgrimage out to the country to enjoy Scott's famous whole-hog barbecue anymore: The pitmaster has posted up in the former Chick's Fry House spot and has his custom smokers working overtime, delivering 'cue classics like ribs and smoked chicken alongside extended offerings like fried catfish. The place is still ultra-casual in a "red trays and booths" sense, but it's also a stop for many a celebrity, chef and otherwise, so keep an eye out as you chow down.
If you think this is primarily a wine bar... well, you're right, but don't let that fool you into writing off the food. Between the cheese plates, high-quality tinned seafood, and Iberico ham shaved right at the bar, this Park Circle spot is the next best thing to dining in Barcelona. The brainchild of former Husk sommelier Matt Tunstall, his wife Angie, and Justin Croxall, Stems & Skins features an impressive rotating wine list with a focus on small, affordable producers, making the spot a low-key wine lover's dream.
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 strawberry spring rolls, mulligatawny soup, and a flavorful selection of red, green, and yellow curries. With this many vegetarian-friendly options, maybe the basic "beer bar" moniker is a bit outdated.