Food & Drink

The Most Important Restaurants in Charleston

Published On 10/16/2015 Published On 10/16/2015
Courtesy of Belmond Charleston Place
Flickr/Wally Gobetz
Courtesy of EVO Pizza
Courtesy of Edmund's Oast
Courtesy of Hall Management Group
Courtesy of Gaulart and Maliclet
Courtesy of Hall Management Group
Courtesy of Red Orchid
Courtesy of Husk
Courtesy of McCrady's Restaurant
Courtesy of 82 Queen
Courtesy of Cypress
Courtesy of Indigo Road Restaurant Group
Flickr/Wally Gobetz
Courtesy of FIG
Courtesy of The Ordinary
Courtesy of Wild Olive
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1. Charleston Grill 224 King St, Charleston, SC 29401

Earn brownie points with your wealthy uncle at this opulent old school-old money restaurant. From French cuisine to Southern comfort, the wide assortment of dishes cater to an appreciation for fine dining and filling portions.

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2. Bowens Island Restaurant 1870 Bowens Island Rd, Charleston, SC 29412

Bowen's Island Restaurant takes advantage of its waterfront locale both by devoting its menu to ultra-fresh seafood. This graffiti-and-barnacle-covered seaside shack boasts picturesque views of King Flats Creek at the downstairs all-you-can-eat oyster bar, where you can slurp fresh oysters next to the guys who caught them. The menu emphasizes seafood platters of shrimp, fried fish, and crab cakes to be shared among you and your friends. These will pair excellently with entrees like Fragmore Stew, AKA the “Low Country Boil,” with sausage, shrimp, corn, and potatoes.

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3. EVO Pizzeria 1075 E Montague Ave, North Charleston, SC 29405

Heavenly things are happening at EVO (Extra Virgin Oven) Pizza: pistachios become homemade pesto, daily-made dough blisters beautifully in wood-fired ovens, and local beers flow endlessly. EVO also has a bakery that sells its artisan bread (focaccia, baguettes, semolina loaves) in-house and at farmers markets, so you can bet that the pizza dough is made with the utmost care and expertise. Though the crust tastes more than fine on its own, be sure to order the Pork Trifecta pie, a cult-favorite topped with red sauce, house-maude sausage, pepperoni, bacon, mozzarella, and parmigiano-reggiano.

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4. Edmund's Oast 1081 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403

This modern warehouse/barnhouse/beer hall hybrid tucked inconspicuously amongst North Charleston's office parks and empty lots serves New American fare, beer brewed on-site and craft cocktails. Cult-ish domestic crafts like Coast, Evil Twin, and Prairie Artisan Ales are posted next to hard-to-find imports (De Struise, Nøgne ø, J.W. Lees...), all available alongside house-made jerky, charcuterie, and other indulgent bar snacks. Snag a seat on the patio for a relaxed dinner and stay out late with a young-professional crowd.

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5. Slightly North of Broad 192 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401

S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad) remains a major player in Charleston's food scene thanks to Chef Frank Lee's fresh, modern Southern cuisine. The menu features fine-dining twists on Southern classics, such as shrimp and grits with house sausage and country ham, local scallops with okra and tomato ham hock broth, and duck breast with a sweet Johnny cake and a honey thyme reduction. Despite the name, the 18th-century warehouse space isn't snobbish: feel free to enjoy your upscale meal and classic cocktails in your favorite jeans and T-shirt.

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6. Gaulart & Maliclet French Café Fast and French Inc. 98 Broad St, Charleston, SC 29401

You could call this a simple place for it's lack of trendy interior architecture and New American decor, but you'd be missing the point. Forgoing the (fast and young) lifestyle of a tragically hip restaurant, Gaulart & Maliclet has been a place of coziness and familiarity, drawing customers back with well-priced wine, cheese specials, and actually good coffee.

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7. Hall's Chophouse 434 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

Hall's is an elegant steakhouse known for its high-quality service and steaks, which are shipped to the restaurant from Chicago's beloved Allen Brothers before they're wet or dry aged and seasoned to perfection. Whether you stop by for the petite filet or treat yourself to the pricey Tomahawk rib eye, you'll always leave this wood-laden eatery satisfied. You'll hear live music every night of the week, but what really attracts crowds is the Sunday Gospel Brunch, when you can enjoy steak & eggs, pancakes, or waffles with a side of uplifting local gospel music.

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8. Red Orchids China Bistro 1401 Sam Rittenberg Blvd, Charleston, SC 29407

It's your typical hole-in-the-wall Chinese food haven, except for their claim to ice cream fame. This Red Orchid desert is in such high demand that it has been licensed and sold outside of the restaurant. Not to say that's the only worthwhile dish -- before you indulge in dessert, explore one of the many (_many_) delectable savory dishes.

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9. Husk 76 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401

Headed by two-time James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock, Husk's menu is unique not only because of its interesting takes on Southern favorites, but also because the menu changes twice a day. Housed in an historic 1800s Charleston mansion, the environs themselves are enough to make you lick your lips: the interior reads more like a stately residential home than a restaurant serving honey-lacquered duck with pickled blueberries and rabbit-pimento loafs. Long waits can be avoided at the adjacent and more casual The Bar at Husk, standing apart in a brick warehouse. In addition to a stunning list of some 50 bourbons, including its own barrel of the coveted Pappy Van Winkle, a seat at the more casual bar increases your odds of scoring the must-order, iconic Husk burger: two 100% chuck patties infused with Benton’s bacon, and griddled with onions shaved onto the patty before being topped with American cheese, bread & butter pickles, and Brock's own special sauce.

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10. McCrady's Tavern 2 Unity Aly, Charleston, SC 29401

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.

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11. 82 Queen 82 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401

Enjoy your brunch buffet on this locale's covetable outdoor patio, mimosa in hand, and gently soothed by the salty breeze from the harbor. A centurylong history doesn't lie, this is one of the greats.

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12. Cypress 167 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401

James Beard-nominated Chef Craig Deihl deals in high-end low-country fare at Cypress, a swanky bi-level restaurant in an historic French Quarter building. There are fine-dining staples like Steak Diane and an Asian-inspired crisp wasabi tuna, but for a taste of Deihl’s signature Southern cooking, go for the BBQ Trio with smoked duck, grilled sausage, and pastrami-spiced pork belly. For more casual snacking, you can post up at the second-floor bar for a chili-cheese dog on an everything bun and some craft cocktails -- though, you might want to err on the side of wine during your visit, considering there's a three-story wine wall with nearly 5,000 bottles.

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13. Mercantile And Mash 701 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29403

Mercantile and Mash is a gourmet food bazaar and mixology-inspired cocktail bar in one. Occupying the former Cigar Factory space, it's home to a variety of local vendors who serve everything from artisanal cheese and charcuterie, sushi, sandwiches (featuring both croque monsieurs and banh-mi's alike), and other snacks. The sprawling, modern space is also home to Bar Mash, a whiskey-obsessed cocktail bar whose offerings range from fresh takes on classic cocktails (pro tip: try the Fairgrounds), jello-shots, and familiar draft beers. As an added bonus, there's indoor bocce and shuffleboard games to keep you entertained, although we have a feeling you'll be too enthralled talking to the super cool award-winning bartenders who happen to be making your drinks.

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14. Hominy Grill 207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

Hominy is a relaxed eatery in Canonborough dishing up some of Chucktown’s most delicious Lowcountry classics. James Beard Award-winning chef Robert Stehling has built a landmark— you can’t miss the bright red exterior—complete with a mural that (rightly) states, “Grits are Good For You.” Everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Anthony Hopkins has enjoyed a meal in this restored Charleston single house because the menu is filled with iconic dishes (think fried okra and sausage gravy) prepared fresh and well.

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15. FIG 232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401

FIG: Food Is Good. And, by our estimation, this restaurant does not tell a lie. Come here for high-brow dishes designed by Chef Jason Stanhope, enjoyed in a relaxed environment. Stanhope’s elegant approach to Lowcountry ingredients highlights his skills learned under mentor chef Mike Lata. The menu highlights ingredients from local farmers and purveyors that change seasonally, and FIG features a "100 under $100" wines list ranging from intriguing newcomers to Old World classics.

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16. The Ordinary 544 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

Situated inside an old bank, this seafood hall and oyster bar is full of creative and tasty Southern twists on classic ocean fare, offering both large and small plates. It is the sister restaurant to FIG and maintains equal focus on seasonal and local ingredients to create delicious and fresh dishes every day. Some menu items, however, are so lauded that they have become mainstays, like the oyster sliders.

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17. Wild Olive 2867 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island, SC 29455

If there's anything worth the trek to rural John's Island, it's Wild Olive. The staff are educated and friendly, and the interpretation of Italian classics with lowcountry ingredients makes for some of the most soul-satisfying plates in the city. There is an extensive list of food-friendly wines as well as house-made pasta and house-cured salumi. As the first Certified Green Restaurant in South Carolina, Wild Olive is committed to using locally ingredients and composting 85% of their waste, making it not only farm-to-table but table-to-farm as well.

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18. Xiao Bao Biscuit 224 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

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). This Pan-orient spot serves up classic and experimental dishes from across the continent. Thanks to their rotating menu, you'll have the chance to try something new every time you go.

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19. Bertha's Restaurant 2332 Meeting Street Rd, North Charleston, SC 29405

A kitchen with cult status if there ever was, so prepare to stand in line for a loooong time. Your hanger will subside when you get a taste of what is arguably the best friend chicken in the state.