Charleston’s cobblestone streets and ocean breezes whisper history, but the real story of the city is told by its food scene. The greatest restaurants in Charleston offer a symphony of flavors as complex and enthralling as the city itself, a melting pot of innovative cuisine and historic charm. Here, the catch of the day is always just a few hours from the harbor, and farm-to-table dining is a tradition rather than a fad. Charleston’s dining scene is a feast for the senses, with everything from modern kitchens pushing the boundaries of Southern gastronomy to charming restaurants hidden away in antebellum buildings. So get ready for a culinary adventure through the Lowcountry, where each meal is an ode to creativity and legacy.
East Central Charleston is home to several excellent barbecue joints, but if you only have time for one, let it be Lewis Barbecue on North Nassau. Here, acclaimed pitmaster John Lewis serves up his Texas take on Carolina-style BBQ, and it’s a must-try. The menu is short and to the point, and while it rotates, brisket and ribs are staples. The meats are the star, but it’s just as easy to get wrapped up in all the sides, which include collards, mac and cheese, and a killer green chile corn pudding.
In Charleston’s cozy and historic Eliotborough neighborhood, you’ll find Chef James London’s seafood-fueled gift to the city, Chubby Fish. This dock-to-table concept offers the freshest seafood the Lowcountry has to offer in a bright and airy coastal setting. The menu changes regularly depending on availability. If the buffalo amberjack collar is on the menu when you arrive, consider yourself lucky, and order two.
Next to the trendy Indigo Inn in the heart of Charleston is FIG, a neo-American staple for nearly 20 years. FIG serves up a rotating menu that takes influence from French, Southern American, German, and other cuisines. The staff also curates one of the finest cocktail programs in the Southeast, so it’s a perfect spot for enjoying a few drinks with your meal. If you’re looking for a suggestion, be sure to try the prosciutto and Jimmy Red cornbread or grilled triggerfish.
With a direct translation from French to English, Chez Nous means “Our Place.” However, you won’t find only French food here. The restaurant offers up a mix of French, Spanish, and Italian food, and the unique thing is that they change their menu daily. Chez Nous will offer two different appetizers, entrees, and desserts for lunch and dinner every day. They make all items with local ingredients. You can check out the day’s offerings on the restaurant’s social media accounts. Located on Payne Court, you will have to secure parking on the street or a nearby garage to visit Chez Nous.
A third-generation Soul Food staple a ¼ mile east of the Cooper River, you’ll find the Huber family, who have been serving up the finest Low Country cuisine from this sherbert-colored building since 1985. These days, Hannibal’s grandaughters preside over the kitchen and the recipes with the same level of care as when they first opened almost 40 years ago. You must visit if you want a true Southern food experience. The crab and shrimp rice is Hannibal’s signature dish, and it’s a must-try, along with the oxtail and rice.
Leon’s Oyster Shop
Leon’s has come a long way since it served as local mechanic Leon Ravenel’s garage. Today, much of the scenery is unchanged, but the purveyors serve up oysters, chicken, and seafood instead of new alternators and brake pads. Leon’s is a classic blue-collar joint perfect for a stiff drink or an ice-cold beer. The oysters ain’t bad, either. But the true star of the show is the bird. Grab a few of your closest friends, order a whole fried chicken with a mess of sides, and thank us later.
In a clear-as-day royal blue building on Charleston’s historic King Street sits Maison, a neo-French bistro that serves up inventive takes on French classics through the lens of the Lowcountry. The menu rotates regularly, so it’s tough to pin down a favorite dish since you’ll rarely be able to have it twice. Some of the standouts from my trip include the monkfish chop amandine and the rabbit en croute with black truffle. Whatever’s on the menu when you arrive, rest assured that Chef Vandy Vanderwalker has something perfect for you.
Circa 1886 Restaurant
As a high-end restaurant in the downtown Charleston area, Circa 1886 is well known for its longevity in the city and its presence in the community. Not only do they offer a fantastic menu, but they contribute to many local events and youth programming to help bolster the efforts of Charleston. The menu includes Lowcountry favorites wrapped up in a fine dining package. You will find shrimp and grits on one part and an extensive tasting menu on the other. No matter your tastes, you won’t be disappointed by anything they have to offer! Save room for dessert; the chèvre grilled strawberries are worth every bite.
What I love most about Bar George is the diversity of its menu. You can order oysters, donuts, deviled eggs, hot dogs, Caesar salads, and Peruvian chicken. Most will be hard-pressed to find a menu that resembles this one. Located on Maybank Highway and across the street from Terrace Theater and the Charleston Flower Market, Bar George is easy to locate. With the shops and activities in the area, you can easily spend a day exploring and catch a bite or drink at the restaurant while out. I can’t resist getting a Boston Creme every time I visit, be sure to grab one when you are there!
Shuai and Corrie Wang left the big city of Brooklyn for the southern charm of Charleston in 2014 to start new jobs. Once they arrived, their shiny new jobs fell through, and they were left to their own devices. They say pressure makes diamonds, and that’s true of their incredible restaurant Jackrabbit Filly. The menu takes influence from the American South and Shuai and Corrie’s homeland of China. The dishes are inventive, unique, and beyond delicious. You should try as many things as possible for the best experience, provided one of them is the Sichuan dry pot.
While the restaurant is called Wild Common, they’re quick to point out that they are anything but that when it comes to their outstanding menu and food offerings. With an award-winning chef, you can choose to take part in the chef’s table or their extensive tasting menu. You truly can’t go wrong with either experience. When it comes to the tasting menu, it’s important to remember that the restaurant is unable to accommodate special requests and dietary restrictions to uphold the chef’s vision. You will enjoy multiple courses throughout your meal, all made with an intentional focus and quality ingredients.
2332 Meeting Street Rd, Charleston, SC 29405
A Charleston staple for 40 years, Bertha’s Kitchen serves up what could very well be the best Soul Food in America. While the matriarch of the operation, Albertha Grant, passed away in 2007, her three daughters preside over the kitchen with the same care their mother did, and it shows in their James Beard-award-winning food. You can’t go wrong with the meat-and-three here, where you choose a protein and three sides to enjoy in their fuss-free dining room or to-go. Make sure to grab a side of collard greens; you won’t find them anywhere better in the country.
The Obstinate Daughter
Venture to Sullivan’s Island at the southernmost point of Charleston, and you’ll reach The Obstinate Daughter, which sits across the street from Town Hall. The O/D is the destination for Southern Hospitality when you’re here in Charleston, and their welcoming staff is just as memorable as the food here. This restaurant in Charleston is decidedly Southern, with French, Italian, and Spanish cooking influences. Whether you’re here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the results are always delicious. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, especially The Old Danger pizza and the clams fra Diavolo. Whatever you do, don’t leave without trying the apple frangipane tart.
From the team of geniuses that bring us FIG, The Ordinary is a coastal seafood eatery that’s nothing like its name suggests. You’ll find this noteworthy spot next to Felix Cocktails et Cuisine on King Street, in a historic building with a bright and airy dining room that serves as the perfect backdrop for their food. It’s tough to narrow down favorites on this menu. Everything is delicious, inventive, and as fresh as it gets. The bigeye tuna au Poivre and okra gumbo come to mind as favorites, but don’t make up your mind until you hear the specials.
If you are on the hunt for some amazing Southern food, you will be delighted by the menu at 82 Queen. Nestled in the French Quarter of Charleston, it’s vital to make a reservation before visiting to ensure that you have a table. However, once you arrive, you will feel like you are sitting in someone’s Southern farmhouse. With beautiful decor, spacious dining areas, and a quaint courtyard, it won’t feel like you are at a restaurant. With starters and entrees like tomato pie, buttermilk biscuits with butter and preserves, and fried green tomatoes, you won’t know where to begin!
In historic downtown Charleston across the street from The Mills House, Travis Grimes serves up his love letter to the south at Husk. To distill their vision into a single idea, if it’s coming out of their kitchen, it’s coming from the South. Their menu constantly rotates and emphasizes local ingredients. You can take a look at past menus on their website, but there’s no telling what they’ll be serving when you arrive, which is part of the beauty of Husk. Trust us; whatever they’re serving, you’ll be talking about for months.
Rodney Scott’s BBQ
There is something about a barbecue establishment that makes you feel like you’re hanging out with friends and family. Rodney Scott’s BBQ is no exception. Once you walk in, the friendliness and kindness of the staff, combined with the outstanding food choices, will set you up for a fantastic dining experience. My favorite starter at Rodney Scott’s is the “Bag of Skins.” While it sounds funny, they fry the remaining pork skins with the restaurant’s fantastic rub. You also can’t go wrong with Rod’s Original Whole Hog Pork Plate. With generous portions and a comfortable atmosphere, Rodney Scott’s BBQ will quickly be your go-to dining destination.
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Walk into Xiao Bao Biscuit on the corner of Rutledge and Spring, and you’re immediately transported to a world of fine Asian fare that you won’t find anywhere else in Charleston. Inspired by a months-long honeymoon throughout Asia, co-owner Duolan Li curates a diverse and ever-changing menu of staples inspired by the countries he visited. From Japanese okonomiyaki with local vegetables to Chinese bao buns made with Marvin’s Red pork belly, Xiao Bao Biscuit effortlessly blends its Asian influences with local ingredients from Charleston’s finest purveyors. If they’re on the menu when you arrive, try the hand-pulled Taiwanese pork noodles.
Dining at Sushi-Wa is a bit of a mystery, as they don’t offer their menu online for you to view beforehand. However, can you ever go wrong with sushi? This establishment is in such high demand that making a reservation is imperative. But you must keep it or cancel with enough notice when you make it. A no-show will cost you $60 per guest! Located between I-26 and King Street, the eatery is easy to reach. Ample parking is available, and you can quickly reach the freeway for a convenient exit and quick drive home.
On posh King Street between Louis Vuitton and Tommy Bahama, chef Michelle Weaver presides over the city’s finest establishment, Charleston Grill. Here, Chef Weaver serves up a menu that feels entirely southern despite using global ingredients and inspiration. The seafood dishes are the star here, with standouts like scallops in a smoked bacon vinaigrette and fish grenobloise, so you don’t want to miss out. The crispy sweetbreads and pancetta and peas appetizers are also worth obsessing over.
Halls isn’t your ordinary steakhouse. While you will find high-quality meats and side dishes, the presentation is more high-end than what you typically expect. Any meal you order at this restaurant will be Instagram-worthy, and you can even rent special rooms for a private dining experience. Located near Sushi-Wa, on King Street, Halls Chophouse is a small chain with several spots in the South. You can choose from all varieties of steaks, including seafood, quail, rack of lamb, veal, salads, and more. For sides, be sure to order the pepper jack creamed corn skillet. It’s the perfect addition to your meal and a homestyle favorite.
This authentic Italian restaurant is a must-visit establishment when you find yourself in the Charleston area. Looking at the menu will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Italy, and the intense flavors and quality ingredients give an incredible experience. You can opt for more traditional dishes like the pappardelle or branch out and select more unique combinations like the bavette, which includes spicy nduja sausage, currants, shrimp, and lemon with a tomato base. Make sure to save space for the lemon olive oil cheesecake. You may be hesitant to try it, but it’s a choice you won’t regret!
167 Raw Oyster Bar
What began as a wholesale seafood operation in the late 70s has blossomed into a trifecta of restaurants on the East Coast, with two in Charleston. The sushi bar on Bay Street is excellent, but 167 Raw is the family jewel. 167 Raw offers a classic raw bar, some small plates, sandwiches and more, and it’s also a great spot to grab a drink. The diver scallops and pastrami-seasoned swordfish are to die for, but don’t sleep on their Butcher’s Cut, which changes daily depending on availability.
As one of the most underrated eateries in Charleston, Dave’s Carry-Out is considered a local gem. If you are visiting for the first time, don’t forget to check it out. You will find a variety of seafood and soul food menu items that will make your mouth water. You can’t miss this top-rated restaurant located on the corner of Morris and Coming in a light blue building. In between Radcliffeborough and Wraggborough, Dave’s Carry-Out is just a short walk from MUSC Health and The Charleston Museum. You can make a day out of exploring the sights in the historic neighborhood and eating from this local delight.
Malagón Mercado y Tapería
If you want some fantastic Spanish cuisine, hop over to the Cannonborough—Elliotborough and check out the restaurant Malagón Mercado y Tapería. Not only can you find authentic Spanish food, but you can also stop into their little market to take home some of their treasures. One of the most incredible things about Malagón Mercado y Tapería is the diversity you find on their menu. You can get vegan, seafood, charcuterie, tapas, dessert, and traditional meat dishes. You won’t leave hungry, that’s for sure! Don’t forget to select one of the imported wines that come directly from Spain for your enjoyment.
Slightly North of Broad
A short walk from the Port of Charleston and next to New York City pizza, you’ll find an awesome neo-American haunt that’s snobby in name only. S.N.O.B has been a staple of Charleston’s changing landscape for over 20 years, and chef Russ Moore serves up a small, ever-changing menu of some of the best food you’ll find in the area. Since the menu changes frequently, you never know what you’ll get. If you’re lucky, they’ll have offerings like their pan-roasted duck breast, BBQ tuna, or grilled Heritage pork chop.
Swig & Swine
Swig & Swine is a top restaurant in South Carolina, with three locations throughout the state. You can find the Charleston location on Savannah Highway near Farmfield Avenue and the Charleston Tennis Center. In the center of many shopping areas and eateries, Swig & Swine is easy to find and accessible from many different directions. With authentic barbecue, you will be hard-pressed to find a bad item on the menu. One of the most remarkable things is that you can purchase a family platter with various types of meat and three pint-sized sides. This option is great for a dinner party or a last-minute meal at home.
Daps Breakfast & Imbibe
As a top Charleston restaurant for breakfast and brunch, you will often find a significantly sized crowd at Daps Breakfast & Imbibe. You can’t blame people, as their mimosa and breakfast hash are the perfect start to any day. You may be confused as you walk up to the restaurant, which is within a converted house. Between Westside and Cannonborough—Elliotborough neighborhoods, it’s conveniently in an area that you can access by public transit or car. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, so you can meet up for a cup of coffee at the patio tables or sit down for a full meal.
Within the East Central neighborhood is the restaurant and brewpub Edmund’s Oast. Close to the Brigade bus stop, the building is an easy walk for those taking the public transit option. Inside you will be greeted with the wonderful smells of the most incredible homestyle foods. Once you visit Edmund’s Oast, it will be on your list to go to frequently. Whenever I find myself in the area, I devise an excuse to stop and eat. I love that they have the option to sit down for a snack of cheese, escargot, shrimp, and other quick-serve items.
Near Chez Nous and Malagón Mercado y Tapería is another must-visit restaurant by the name of Pink Bellies. With an array of Vietnamese dishes, you will have trouble narrowing down the menu items to just one. Don’t let that deter you, though, as the meal will be absolutely worth it no matter what you order. Another option you can take is to order small portions, leaving you the ability to select more than one menu item. If you are set on what you want, you can also order a larger portion or one to share. There’s no shortage of options when you are visiting Pink Bellies.
The Glass Onion
In the Ashley Forest neighborhood of Charleston, next to Swig & Swine BBQ, you’ll find an unfussy walk-in joint called the Glass Onion. Here, Chef Chris Stewart serves up southern staples from locally sourced ingredients that are sure to have you coming back for more. The menu rotates daily depending on availability, but there are some staples you must try. The fried green tomatoes are as good as it gets, and the shrimp & grits are absolutely textbook. Look no further if you’re in the mood for top-notch southern cooking.
I promise this is not a store where you can pick up supplies to make yourself dinner. While the name says otherwise, this is a famous restaurant among locals in Charleston between Wraggborough and Cannonborough—Elliotborough neighborhoods. With the establishment only open for dinner, be sure to call ahead to make a reservation. The Grocery arranges its menu by aisle as a play on the restaurant name. Therefore, you can find options in “Produce,” “Seafood,” and “Meat.” With selections ranging from American caviar to roasted beets and steak tartare, you can find something that matches up with your cravings and any dietary restrictions you abide by.
Down the street from the Charleston Market in Harleston Village is an excellent Italian restaurant named Le Farfalle. With ample seating indoors and out, you can easily find a seat to enjoy a cocktail, dinner, or dessert. However, it is worth noting that some evenings get exceptionally busy due to their central location. Therefore, reservations are recommended. Start your meal with an Aperol Spritz, followed by the East Coast oysters for a starter. My favorite pick for an entree is Bucatini alla Norma, and you must finish your meal with the 24-karat cake for dessert.
Within the French Quarter of Charleston is another barbecue joint you won’t want to miss out on. Whether it’s your first time in the city or you live there, add Queology to your list of repeat restaurants. The laid-back atmosphere is the first thing you’ll notice. From the outside, Queology looks like a standard bar. However, it is so much more than that. You will find nachos, wings, burgers, loaded fries, and the most giant pulled pork and chicken sandwiches you’ve ever seen. Come ready to eat with an empty stomach and a big appetite!
Hank’s Seafood Restaurant
Just blocks from the Cooper River at the corner of Church and Hayne is arguably Charleston’s finest destination if you’re looking for a fresh catch. Chef Tim Richardson presides over a diverse menu of classics and seafood specialties in a stylish environment reminiscent of a classic American steakhouse. You won’t find a better broiled seafood platter anywhere on the East Coast, but the must-try dish here is the Seafood A La Wando: a mess of fresh seafood in a shellfish cream sauce with a fried grit cake.
Millers All Day
A few steps north of Broad between Berlins Women and the Charleston Concert Association is a fuss-free slice of southern hospitality that’s perfect for a breakfast bite any time of day. Co-owner Greg Johnsman, formerly of the famed Marsh Hen Mill, grinds up fresh grits daily on the 175-year old mill you see in the window. I’d love to tell you about how excellent the entire menu is, but I’m so one-track-minded here that I’ve yet to stray from the shrimp and grits, which is arguably the best you’ll ever have. If you’re in a drinkin’ mood, be sure to try the Cousin Eddie.
Zero Restaurant + Bar
The 0 George Hotel is a renowned destination for foodie travelers, and the Zero Restaurant is its crown jewel. This hip enclave was established in 2012, and in less than a decade, it’s left an indelible mark on the culture of Charleston. Executive Chef Vinson Petrillo curates an ever-changing menu that rotates with the seasons and often multiple times within a season. In our experience, it’s best to order the tasting and let the chef work his magic for you.
Why Trust Us?
When it comes to local restaurant recommendations, we pride ourselves on being a reliable and trustworthy resource. Our suggestions are not just based on our personal experiences, ensuring a more authentic and well-rounded perspective, but also on extensive online research. We diligently searched the internet and reviewed 5 credible sites and blogs, including Cntraveler.com and Tripadvisor.com.
We compiled all the findings in one location and sorted them by the frequency of mentions to ensure you receive top-notch recommendations. We strive to present you with a curated list of establishments that truly stand out, allowing you to enjoy the best dining experiences possible.
Interested in the sources we consulted? Check out the list of all 5 sites we referenced below this paragraph, offering transparency and an opportunity for our readers to explore further. Our commitment is to deliver trustworthy and unparalleled recommendations, helping you make informed decisions on your culinary journeys.