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Charleston's dining scene is sort of like Hollywood during its big-studio heyday: The culinary capital of the lowcountry is a small town that's riveting a nation of diners starved for glamour, gossip and artistic achievement. This is where line cooks' dreams lead: A visiting chef with an overscheduled eating itinerary and a restaurant-opening scheme is as much a mainstay of Charleston's cocktail bars as a bottle of Madeira. But the city's charms aren't spent entirely on industry insiders. Charleston has converted its legacy of monied entertaining into an accessible dining scene that celebrates the region's year-round bounty. Ideally situated on the southern edge of cold-climate crop zones and the northern boundary of tropical growing areas, Charleston is perpetually ready for dinner.

DINING

  • Alluette's Café

    $$

    A favorite of traditionalists and vegans alike, Alluette's serves an impeccable collard greens sandwich. The café's dedication to serving healthy soul food has resulted in the city's very best bowl of lima bean soup (made from organic beans, naturally). Details»

  • Barsa

    $$

    Taking advantage of its coastal location, Barsa enlivens its traditional tapas menu with local, sustainable seafood Details»

  • Bertha's Kitchen

    $

    The vast majority of Bertha's customers take their plate lunches to-go, but if work doesn't beckon, sit down to savor fried pork chops, golden mac-and-cheese and the city's definitive okra soup. Details»

  • Bowen's Island

    $$

    At Bowen's, meals are measured by the shovelful, as freshly-roasted oysters from the river winding through the property are deposited on your table until you beg the cooks to stop. Details»

  • Brasserie Gigi

    $$$

    Charleston's restaurant scene is sprinting northward, but local hospitality legend Hank Holliday is banking on folks coming back downtown to experience the effortless elegance and continental charm of Brasserie Gigi, a French-style bistro with a seafood emphasis. Details»

  • Butcher & Bee

    $$

    Proving daily that there's no shame in sandwiches, Butcher & Bee brings an Israeli sensibility to the lowcountry larder, turning out inspired renditions of noontime classics. Details»

  • Cypress

    $$$

    Cypress chef Craig Deihl is one of only six culinary artisans nationwide to have claimed a Good Food Award in all four years of the program's existence: His charcuterie is the highlight of this posh downtown restaurant. Details»

  • Edmund's Oast

    $$

    Housed in a timber-framed 6,000-square-foot warehouse, it's the kind of brewery-restaurant that has a lot of everything for everyone. There are 40-plus beers on tap, plus Southern-inspired snacks. Details»

  • EVO

    $$

    EVO is best known for its outstanding thin-crust pizza, but the quality produce here doesn't need a bread-and-cheese crutch: The restaurant's salads are rightly beloved by vegetarians and omnivores alike. Details»

  • Fast & French

    $$

    If Paris was keen on roadside diners, their restaurants would look much like Fast & French, where ridiculously cheap plates of French food and house wine are served at the cramped counter. Details»

  • FIG

    $$$

    FIG is an acronym for "food is good," a no-frills philosophy that continues to guide Mike Lata's award- winning kitchen. The restaurant functions as a clubhouse for food lovers, who appreciate a dining room in which conviviality's the rule. Details»

  • Fleet Landing

    $$

    The only downtown restaurant with a view of the water, Fleet Landing is a reliable source of local oysters and a Lowcountry-style gumbo. Details»

  • Hominy Grill

    $$

    Don't let the weekend crowds scare you off: Hominy Grill is home to Charleston's best vegetable plate. The changing roster of choices is a tribute to the region's ingredients and generations of folk cookery. Details»

  • Husk

    $$$

    Perhaps the epicenter of Charleston's current dining revolution, Husk's witty, Southern-bound dishes from chef Sean Brock have helped restore eaters' faith in odd pig parts and chicken skin. Details»

  • Indaco

    $$$

    It's easy to find food in Charleston which stands up to big city standards, but Indaco distinguishes itself by presenting a big-city vibe along with its graceful pastas and well-designed pizzas. Details»

  • Marvin's Seafood

    $

    Marvin's will fry up anything you chose from its fresh seafood case, but there's no reason to waste time with anything other than the garlic crabs, which sputter fresh shellfish juice. Details»

  • McCrady's

    $$$$

    George Washington didn't sleep here, but he drank Madeira in a tavern located on the site of present-day McCrady's, where guests now feast on intensely modern food drawn from the Southern landscape. Details»

  • Monza

    $$

    Beyond its jaw-dropping history and architecture, Charleston is still a college town, and has oodles of pizzerias to show for it. But no joint does better by the Neopolitan pie than the bustling Monza, local master of the floppy crust. Details»

  • Palace Hotel

    $

    Although Palace Hotel tried to bill itself as a dive bar, discriminating eaters saw right through the ploy to an extraordinary small plate line-up featuring cauliflower tacos, crispy rice cakes and a grilled watermelon salad. Details»

  • Peninsula Grill

    $$$

    The quintessential "fancy" restaurant, but with excellent food to boot, Peninsula Grill achieves an almost cinematic elegance. The coconut cake is legendary, but there are plenty of savory dishes here which deserve the same status. Details»

  • R. Kitchen

    $$

    A side project from Leaf Restaurant's chef, tiny R. Kitchen was conceived as a play space for local chefs who needed a break from she-crab soup and other touristy requisites. The result is a meandering menu, casual service and, quite often, very good food. Details»

  • Rutledge Cab Co.

    $$

    Late nights and great burgers are always a draw, but Rutledge Cab raises the ante for neighborhood hangouts with smart cooking and all-day breakfast. Details»

  • The Glass Onion

    $$

    The best choice for brunch in a city obsessed with extending Saturday night's parties well into Sunday morning, The Glass Onion applies homespun Southern cooking techniques to exactingly-sourced ingredients. Details»

  • The Grocery

    $$$

    In a city ruled by growing seasons, it's not uncommon to encounter the same ingredients at every restaurant over the course of a week. But The Grocery's thoughtful preparations of just-plucked vegetables are reliably exceptional. Details»

  • The Lot

    $$

    Well off the tourist path, The Lot is a fount of inventive, locally sourced dishes, including a housemade hot dog that servers insist you order. (They're right.) Details»

  • The Ordinary

    $$$

    Located in a grandly restored bank, The Ordinary is a repository of East Coast seafood traditions, polished for a contemporary audience and paired with precisely the right drinks. Details»

  • The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene

    $$

    Although Charleston is a few miles removed from the beach, The Wreck is a proper coastal seafood shack, with fried shrimp, fried fish, fried oysters and regionally renowned deviled crabs. Details»

  • Trattoria Lucca

    $$$

    Although the freshly made pastas at Lucca could wow wearing nothing but olive oil, the changing line-up of sophisticated sauces has cultivated countless fans for this intimate Italian bistro (which also assembles a mean antipasti plate.) Details»

  • Xiao Bao Biscuit

    $$

    Ably staunching the cravings of homesick former city dwellers, the ever-energetic Xiao Bao conjures the iconic flavors of Vietnam, China and Japan in its imaginative stir-fries, pancakes and noodle bowls. Details»

  • Zero Café + Bar

    $$

    Everything's stylish at new boutique hotel Zero George, including the small plates menu featuring green beans breaded with benne seeds and shrimp panzanella. Details»

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DRINKING

  • The Gin Joint

    Easily Charleston's most accomplished cocktail bar, The Gin Joint is forever tweaking its engaging list of updated classics and newfangled drinks. Don't miss the snacks. Details»

  • The Belmont

    Industry folks flock to The Belmont after their shifts for refined cocktails that don't hold back on the liquor. Details»

  • Warehouse

    Situated in Charleston's trendiest neighborhood, Warehouse specializes in large-format punches and beer cocktails that put a definitive and festive end to long workdays. Details»

  • The Bar at Husk

    Husk's freestanding bar was originally conceived as a haven for bourbon aficionados, but the list at this brick-walled haunt has effortlessly strayed beyond brown liquor. Even without the corn emphasis, the room still evokes the tavern culture of yesteryear. Details»

  • The Griffon

    A bottle of Bud only costs a few bucks at The Griffon, but save a dollar to sign and tack to the wall, in keeping with this downtown dive bar's longstanding tradition. Details»

  • Moe's Crosstown Tavern

    A friendly neighborhood pub, Moe's is locally renowned for its burgers and ample brunch plates. Details»

  • Cocktail Club

    A drinking counterpart to The Macintosh, Cocktail Club's liquor selection includes a good number of Southern craft spirits, including rums and whiskeys brewed locally. Details»

  • Bin 152

    With a cheese list as carefully curated as its wine roster, Bin 152 is the best Charleston wine bar at which to start or end an evening in elegant fashion. Details»

  • Elliottborough Mini Bar

    Elliottborough Mini Bar is so wonderfully simple that its breakfast menu consists entirely of toast. But it's best to visit in the evening hours, when the cozy corner hut pours smartly chosen beers and wines. Details»

  • The Rarebit

    Bartender Brent Sweatman, who's responsible for the city?s best house-made tonics and sodas, refuses to gussy up his cocktail list with fanciful drinks: The Rarebit specializes in the classics, including an outstanding Moscow Mule. Details»

  • Proof

    A resolutely basic drinking den, Proof distinguishes itself with exceptional renditions of classic cocktails and a boiled peanut hummus that pairs well with its impressive selection of craft beers. Details»

  • Big John's

    The city's favorite dive bar got a scratch too divey in recent years, so the owner called in a successful team of local restaurateurs to punch up the menu and install less sticky tabletops. Longtime patrons like the results. Details»

  • Home Team BBQ

    When temperatures skyrocket in the spring, Charlestonians' fancies turn to thoughts of frozen drinks, ideally sipped beachside. Home Team BBQ complies with the locally notorious Gamechanger, a slushy Painkiller riff. The drink's now also offered in Popsicle form. Details»

  • Tradesman Brewing

    There isn't much in the way of square footage at the first brewery on James Island, but there's sufficient space for a half-dozen taps, lounge chairs and a television, making Tradesman the neighborhood's favorite collective den. Details»

PROVISIONS

  • goat.sheep.cow

    Charleston's ongoing fascination with European finery informs this cozy artisan cheese-and-wine counter, where the savviest party hosts bring their shopping lists. Details»

  • Two Boroughs Larder

    Two Boroughs has received plenty of acclaim for its food, but its tightly edited grocery shelves give shoppers the chance to triumph in their home kitchens. Although Southern-made artisan goods predominate (attention souvenir seekers!), the Pacific Northwest is well represented in the charcuterie case. Details»

  • Brown's Court Bakery

    Although the bakers at Brown's Court are apt to indulge in flights of fancy, their locally seminal baguette is the bread of choice at Charleston's top restaurants. Details»

  • Black Tap Coffee

    The nexus of Charleston coffee geekery, Black Tap produces the city's finest pour-over. Details»

  • Abundant Seafood

    Fisherman Mark Marhefka launched Charleston's first Community Supported Fishery program, but even eaters who can't take advantage of the weekly delivery program can buy sustainably-harvested snapper, grouper, triggerfish and shrimp from him. Details»

  • The Charleston Beer Exchange

    Charleston's first craft beer store boasts 900 bottles, nine growler taps and knowledgeable staffers who can tell you anything you need to know about Southern brews. Details»

  • Ted's Butcherblock

    The inventory at Ted's includes specialty foods, beer, wine and sandwiches, but it's foremost a butcher counter, slicing all-natural beef, pork, lamb and poultry. Details»

  • Caviar & Bananas

    It's impossible to shop Caviar& Bananas without coming up with an excuse for a picnic: The store's prepared salads, meats, cheeses and wine are perfect fits for a wicker basket. Details»

  • Sweet Radish Bakeshop

    Charleston's only gluten-free bakery is equally beloved by sweets fan without dietary restrictions, a credit to Julia Ingram's carrot cake and rice pudding. Details»

  • Bottles

    Charlestonians visit Bottles for its expansive wine selection, but visitors most appreciate its collection of Southern-made spirits, including rums, gins and bourbons distilled in Charleston. Details»

  • Wildflour

    Charlestonians don't waste a Saturday night, yet there's inevitably a Sunday morning line outside this homey pastry shop. The crowds come for the sticky buns, but don?t miss the tomato-and-pimento cheese hand pies. Details»

  • Glazed

    Charleston only has one upscale doughnut shop, perhaps because other bakers are scared to compete with Glazed. Look past the expected maple bacon for the Southern-inflected sweet potato and the Charleston, filled with bourbon cream. Details»

  • Dellz Vibez

    A wave of squeaky-clean juice bars has lately swept through Charleston, but locals swear by the proudly funky Dell'z, which promotes "good vibes," along with natural ingredients nipped with ginger and cayenne pepper. Details»

  • BeardCat Sweet Shop

    Whether it's because the climate's not cow-friendly, or because of ice cream's propensity to melt, the South has never been big on ice cream shops. But the team behind Wild Olive and The Obstinate Daughter is trying to sway eaters with scrupulously sourced gelato in a range of thoughtful flavors. Details»

EXPLORE

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DINING
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