Where To Eat In Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a refined Southern city (nicknamed “Chuckstown”) surrounded by salt marshes and beaches on the Atlantic coastal plain called “low country” Its access to local seafood is unparalleled. Chefs are literally steps from area producers who are tapped into for creating menus.
Of course, you MUST have shrimp and grits, but there’s also Asian soul food and baller BBQ. I was recently in town with several legendary chefs from France, and these were our stand out favourites. More than you could hope to tackle on a weekend trip but it is a good reason to get back!
Three of the places below just won Bon Appetit’s 50 Best Restaurants in America.
The Ordinary is Chef-Owner Mike Lata’s gorgeous community-driven restaurant in a former bank with a stunning “raw bar” and eye-popping shellfish towers sourced from local purveyors. Dinner reservations are tough, but if you go early for happy hour bar seats, you’ve got a good shot. We are still dreaming of the crudo. Oh, that crudo!
167 Raw is a tiny Nantucket raw bar outpost with two-hour waits. Please go early afternoon, and groups? Forget about it.
Hominy Grill is where you get your shrimp & grits, cornbread and biscuit fix made by James Beard Award winner Chef-Owner Robert Stehling. I love the green boiled peanuts as a snack while you wait.
Bar Normandy is Chef Alex Lira’s hot spot hidden inside Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery that is a local industry go-to. He’s edgy, straight-forward and yet unpretentious – telling it like it is in person and on menus. Convivial, fun, buzzing wine bar ambiance with creative seasonal farmer’s market menus.
Little Jacks is the classiest old-school neighbourhood tavern that every neighbourhood needs. Crab claws & martinis? Beef or shrimp burgers & Bourbon? Oui chef. I dream about the caviar & potato chips.
Xiao Bao Biscuit Take a group of friends (no more than 10 please) and order everything at this former gas station feeding customers OFF THE CHARTS ASIAN SOUL FOOD. Yes I am screaming at you in CAPS. Fresh, seasonal takes on China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam…spicy cocktails too.
Martha Lou “Gadsden” Kitchen – Martha Lou has been serving up home cooking for 30 years now, it is an institution. Think fried chicken, lima beans, cornbread, mac ‘n cheese… it is on the edge of town in a pink building with her face painted large as life on the side with cars packed in the lot. No way you’ll miss it.
FIG started out as a corner bistrot but has evolved into a white linen sit down slow down and enjoy your food, wine, service and conversation in a nice restaurant kind of place. Mike Lata (The Ordinary) is a Chef Owner, and Jason Stanhope is the Exec Chef in the kitchen making magic happen with fresh seasonal local sourced product.
Bowens Island takes destination dining to the next level – take the car or best reached by a friend’s boat. Located at the tip of a 13-acre island, 5 minutes from Folly Beach, order locally harvested oysters, fried shrimp and cold beer etc. at the counter, wait for your name to be called, then belly up to the balcony on the outdoor deck for killer sunset views over the river and marshes.
Rodney Scott BBQ You no longer have to go all the way to Hemingway SC to get Rodney’s world renowned BBQ – he’s just opened on King Street where the motto is, “If it ain’t whole hog, it ain’t BBQ” He’s darned near a local legend.
The Waffle House – Don’t laugh. This place reached stardom level after Chef Sean Brock (Husk) took Anthony Bourdain for his first ever visit. The results were hilarious. If you haven’t had it “scattered, covered and smothered” you haven’t been livin’ right.
Goat. Sheep. Cow. A fun wine and cheese bar
Leon’s Oyster Shop is part oyster bar, chicken shack and fine dining.
Harold’s Cabin is in a former grocery store serving up creative cocktails and stellar home cooking.
Minero is a delicious Mexican taqueria & cocktail bar restaurant – oh, those fish tacos.
The Bar At Husk Pretty much everyone has been to Husk Restaurant, but the bar deserves a special mention for its artisan microbrews, classic cocktails and wine list in the historic setting. A little spooky too.
Where To Stay:
Zero George – One of my favourite boutique hotels in the world. Think Southern plantation front porch living, gourmet dining, and bikes for exploring.