Spend Your Summer at These Waterfront Restaurants in Charleston
One of Charleston's defining factors -- outside of the killer dining and cocktail scenes -- is its proximity to the water. So with the weather warming up, it's no surprise that locals and tourists alike are looking for any excuse to spend time outside near the water with a drink in one hand and maybe some sort of freshly caught seafood in the other. Luckily there are plenty of places to do just that. These places.
Located on the first floor of the Tides Hotel, BLU has the best view of the water on Folly Beach. The upscale menu is heavily seafood-influenced, which should come as no surprise since it’s right on the ocean. Highlights from the dinner menu include curried mussels and seared grouper, as well as a great mix of seasonally-inspired American fare. Pro tip: Order a couple of appetizers and beach cocktails out on the patio and scan the horizon for dolphins for a true beachfront experience.
If you want to feel like you’re dining al fresco in Italy but don’t want to spring for the airfare, consider driving out to Isle of Palms and visiting Coda Del Pesce (Italian for “tail of the fish”). Coda’s James Beard Award-nominated Chef Ken Vedrinski has crafted a menu that focuses on fresh and local seafood, cooked in classic Italian style. The restaurant’s bright, wide windows overlooking the Atlantic Ocean offer beautiful views of the beach below and give the perfect amount of light for taking a gorgeous food photo.
Located off the main drag of James Island on Harbor View Road, Ellis Creek Fish Camp is a rustic, no frills, camp-style eatery that specializes in fresh seafood (of course). Even better, the patio overlooking Ellis Creek (hence the name) is dog-friendly, so you can enjoy some hushpuppies or catfish bites with your best bud.
The newest addition to Charleston’s line-up of waterfront dining is Pier 101. Featuring a super casual atmosphere with daily live music, frozen concoctions that are perfect for a hot, sunny beach day, and classic Southern-style fare, it’s a great spot to spend a summer afternoon. We recommend grabbing a table with friends and sharing a plate of fried deviled eggs or grouper bites while enjoying the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean along the Folly Beach Pier.
Red’s Ice House is the epitome of a waterfront joint: nearly the entire restaurant is open-air and overlooking Shem Creek. If the weather is nice, you’ll likely enjoy watching people walk along the pier, kayakers & SUPers paddling out to the ocean, and even the occasional pack of dolphins playing in the wake of a boat. The food admittedly gets mixed reviews (standard fried seafood fare), but the atmosphere and happy hour are pretty much universal winners, and can be enjoyed from the patio or bird’s nest bar.
This local favorite offers an intimate and warm ambience with magnificent views of the USS Yorktown and Charleston Harbor that some have described as "magical." The menu is creative and diverse enough to please diners of many different tastes, and the portions are generous, to say the least. If you really love seafood (like really, really love it) and have $125 to spend, consider trying the Chilled Seafood Tower: full of oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, crab legs and claws, and lobster tails. It's offered both in the dining room and at the rooftop Bridge Bar.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every day (it's closed on Sunday after 3pm), Marina Variety Store and Restaurant offers scratch-made Southern favorites like shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, and East Coast crab cakes, with exceptional views of the Ashley River. If you're coming in for Sunday brunch, know there's going to be a wait, but it'll certainly be worth it.
Fleet Landing’s views of the Charleston Harbor are absolutely stunning, and easily the best reason for visiting. But don't write off the food: the shrimp and lobster-stuffed hushpuppies is the biggest crowd pleaser on the menu, and you can feel good about any of the choices because the restaurant is a platinum member of the Sustainable Seafood Initiative. Just make sure to call ahead for reservations if the weather is nice, or you’re not likely to find a table (regardless of the time of day).
The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene is exactly what it claims to be: a wreck. This is the very definition of “no frills.” All the food is served on paper plates, most of which is a variety of freshly caught seafood (shrimp, scallops, oysters, and a few different kinds of fish). Each is offered fried in peanut oil, grilled, or boiled, and served with red rice, slaw, hushpuppies, and a fried hominy square. Bottom line: if you come here wanting anything fancy, you’re going to be disappointed. The food might be simple, but it’s fresh, cooked perfectly, and exactly what you want when you’re craving fried seafood.
This place offers what was missing from the many restaurants along the creek for so long: food that isn’t fried. Don’t get us wrong, there’s still plenty of it at T&T (the duck fat fries), but if your palate is craving something more than popcorn shrimp, Chef Katie Lorenzen-Smith serves up a diverse selection of elevated cuisine that’s sure to please. We’re talking burnt-end mac & cheese, chimichurri steak salad, and house-ground burgers made from a combination of Angus chuck, brisket, and short rib. Enjoy the sunset over the water as you sip on one of 18 craft beers on tap or one of the fresh cocktails (we recommend the Grapefruit Rosemary Collins).
Located at the beautiful Bohicket Marina, LOKAL Seabar has been a favorite of locals, tourists, and boaters for the past couple of years. The menu is chock-full of seafood, with both traditional (shrimp & grits, whole fried flounder) and modern (shrimp empanadas, tom gai soup) offered in full. It's an especially convenient stop when hunger strikes while cruising along the Bohicket Creek, seeing that there’s plenty of boat parking available.
Located right across the bridge from Sullivan’s Island, Boathouse at Breach Inlet is a cozy and warm seafood joint that's survived almost 20 years worth of hurricanes and tourist frenzies. This place mixes simple Southern cooking with a little upscale flair, such as the fried green tomatoes with goat cheese, arugula, and pepperjam. It's that kind of fare that keeps people coming back year after year. Plus, the rooftop deck gives you uninterrupted views of Sullivan’s Island, Downtown Charleston to the left, and Isle of Palms to the right.
When it comes to great seafood in Charleston, it’s hard to beat Bowens Island. From all-you-can-eat fresh oysters served by the shovelful, to perfectly seasoned bowls of Frogmore Stew (aka Lowcountry Boil), there’s a reason people line up in droves every night just to get inside. Of course, the view of the sun setting over the marsh of Sol Legare Creek also has something to do with it.
Morgan Creek Grill is kind of an enigma, as it's almost two restaurants in one. First, you have the semi-fancy restaurant inside -- perfect for a formal dinner -- where you can get a porterhouse pork chop or locally grown clams. But then there’s the super-casual rooftop deck -- where you’ll want to spend every sunny afternoon -- serving up bar-favorites like fried oysters. For those who prefer a liquid dinner, the Creekside bar features ice-cold beers and a fully stocked liquor menu as well as live music on most afternoons. All three options offer equally great views of the intracoastal waterway on IOP.
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