Charleston's Best Restaurants, Bars and Foodie Travel Ideas | Tasting Table City Guide
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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

  • Acme Lowcountry Kitchen

    $$

    South Carolina's shrimp season is short, but the urge to eat local is strong. Acme Lowcountry Kitchen, a loveable roadhouse with a rowdy past, solved the conundrum by buying two tons of shrimp and freezing it for the winter (they go through a total of five tons a year). The plump, sweet shellfish show up in multiple versions of shrimp and grits and other iconic dishes. Details»

  • Alluette's Café

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    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»

  • 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»

  • Edmund's Oast

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    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

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    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»

  • 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»

  • Hominy Grill

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    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»

  • Marvin's Seafood

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    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

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    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

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    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»

  • Platia

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    Until Platia rolled into town, chefs were stuck with Waffle House after work. Now they gravitate toward this food truck for smart renditions of Greek street snacks, prepared by a pair of young South Carolinians of Greek descent who went back to the old country to snag a starter for their house-made yogurt. Don't miss the feta pimento cheese. Details»

  • R. Kitchen

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    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»

  • Short Grain

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    Charlestonians like to gripe about how the paucity of Asian immigrants makes it hard to satisfy specific rice-and-noodle cravings, but new arrivals from New York City have undercut their complaints. Short Grain is responsible for stunning chirashi, made with locally caught seafood and hot dogs attired with distinctively Japanese 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 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»

  • 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»

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 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»

  • 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»

  • 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»

  • 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»

  • The Rooftop

    The Rooftop offers Downtown's best view of Charleston Harbor (unless you count the parking decks, where it's illegal to sip on Gin Fizzes and rosemary-infused rum). And because there's no better time to train eyes on the skyscape than sunset, The Rooftop serves a range of aperitifs for patrons on their way to dinner. Details»

  • The Seanachai Social Club

    After 21 years in the U.S., Gerard Kieran hasn't shed an ounce of his Irishness, which he's parlayed into a neighborhood pub that has unexpectedly emerged as a top craft cocktail destination. Staying closer to the script, Seanachai also serves lots of Irish whiskeys, potato cakes, beef pies and perfectly pulled pints. Details»

  • The Faculty Lounge

    There are very few Downtown Charleston bars that can boast an interracial crowd, so it's to The Faculty Lounge's credit that it draws drinkers of all cultural backgrounds. Tiki drinks add to the appeal, as well as a dance floor that's always comfortably crowded with folks having fun. Don't let the scrapbook photos of Janet Jackson dancing at the decades-old club intimidate you. Details»

  • The Recovery Room Tavern

    Renowned as the nation's second top seller of canned PBR, The Recovery Room is a classic dive bar, equipped with pinball machines and a heavy metal jukebox. The beer is domestic, cold and cheap, and the food menu runs from chicken wings to "tater tachos," or nachos made with tater tots instead of tortilla chips. Details»

PROVISIONS

  • Black Tap Coffee

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

  • 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»

  • Veggie Bin

    Setting off a brief produce shopping crisis, the Veggie Bin, which specializes in seconds from local farmers, lost its lease in 2014. But it reemerged as an even cuter shop, stocked with locally made cookies, condiments and beverages, as well as the namesake vegetables, meat, cheese and eggs. Details»

  • The Wine Shop of Charleston

    Longtime Charlestonians are smitten with the modest Wine Shop, curated by Debbie Marlowe, who reportedly remembers every wine she's ever sampled. Situated alongside the Charleston marina, the store offers a wide selection of bottles priced for sailors likely to quickly drink through their on-board stashes. Details»

  • Tropical Kitchen Express

    Centuries after its fortunes were linked to the West Indies, Charleston remains a Caribbean-leaning city, so the presence of an exceptional Puerto Rican restaurant shouldn't surprise. But Tropical Kitchen Express reliably thrills with its magnificent mofongo, tostones and roast pork. It's worth visiting on Wednesdays, when Tropical's signature four-meat sandwich is available. Details»

  • Dragon Palace

    Dragon Palace is the sole source of dim sum in the Lowcountry. Yet even on nights when there's nothing more imperial on the menu than seafood soup and ginger chicken, Dragon Palace lives up to its regal name with a dining room bedecked in latticed woodwork, stained glass and lots of red lacquer. Details»

  • Bon Banh Mi

    Why should cucumbers, pickled carrots, daikon and cilantro be confined to a crusty baguette? Bon Banh Mi, a tiny counter-service sandwich shop situated on a residential street, offers banh mi tacos and salads, along with traditional Vietnamese sandwiches. Customers have their pick of six fillings, including a bright lemongrass chicken and satisfying five-spice tofu. Details»

  • Mt. Pleasant Seafood

    Situated on the edge of Shem Creek for more than 60 years, Mt. Pleasant Seafood sells cluster oysters, shad roe, crab roe and other seasonal maritime delicacies. Beachgoers can pick up a Frogmore stew kit, complete with potatoes and corn, or assemble their own meal from the shop's selection of seafood, seasonings and local cookbooks. Details»

  • Pitt Street Pharmacy

    Pitt Street hasn't functioned as a main thoroughfare for decades, but the 70-year-old Pitt Street Pharmacy is still compounding prescriptions and operating its original soda fountain, home to one of the county's better egg salads. Ice cream treats include malted milk shakes and root beer floats; ice-cold Cokes are flavored with hand-pumped vanilla and cherry syrups. Details»

EXPLORE

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DINING
DRINKING
PROVISIONS