Charleston may be famed for its soulful Southern eats, but it’s the sushi scene that’s making waves these days! In this historic city, sushi spots dazzle with their fresh, ocean-to-table offerings, capturing the essence of the sea with every delicate roll and sashimi slice. These culinary oases, nestled between antebellum architecture and breezy palm trees, are where tradition waltzes with innovation. Whether you’re craving the classic simplicity of a tuna roll or the daring flavors of a local fusion creation, Charleston’s sushi bars will not disappoint. So, let’s embark on a journey where East meets South, and where every bite is a testament to the artistry of sushi making in the Lowcountry. Prepare to have your taste buds enthralled!
Do you know who likes to eat? College students. O-Ku is a trendy Japanese restaurant located near the College of Charleston. It’s always busy, so you know it’s good. The surrounding area is quite lively, surrounded by other restaurants, bars, and right by the Charleston Museum. O-Ku has locations in several southern US cities for your to visit. Their popularity is well earned. The dishes are favored for their tastiness and Instagram-able presentations. All of their standard rolls are great, but their surf n’ turf roll is a bit unusual- and delicious- as a sushi roll. It’s stuffed with Wagyu beef, tempura shrimp, avocado, microgreens, potato crisps, and balsamic reduction. They’re also known for their excellent cocktails, so if you’re in the mood, I suggest the spiced up & nowhere to go- consisting of Ten to One Rum, allspice dram, apple, lemon, and maple.
Shiki is an unpretentious space located in historic Charleston. Shiki is right near the aquarium, so if a tour there puts you in the mood for seafood, you’re in luck. They have extremely fresh, traditional Japanese dishes that you won’t want to miss while you’re in Charleston. Open since 2001 (Charleston’s longest operating sushi bar), Chef Hae Gon “David” Park has decades of experience perfecting his craft. The highly recommended omakase experience ranges from $80-$120 per person. If this isn’t what you’re after, you should consider one of the classic sushi entrees. The Chirashi will let you sample all of the fresh fish over a bowl of rice. At $69, the love boat serves two, has amazing rolls, and is an excellent value.
You can get your fix of multiple cuisines at this Thai restaurant that also has Japanese sushi on the menu. Thai Elephant is fairly casual, but don’t let appearances fool you. The food is anything but ordinary. It’s located in James Island, a beautiful rural feeling place just outside Charleston central- so it’s worth a visit. This affordable gem has so many great dishes so go hungry. Start with a Thai dish of Tom Kha Kai, a coconut soup that’s bursting with flavor. If you’re with friends, share any of their duck dishes- they’re large, and you won’t want to miss them. For your sushi fix, you can’t go wrong with any classic rolls. Their dynamite roll is exceptionally well-flavored.
This is another restaurant where the appearance might fool you, but don’t let it. Locals is an excellent sushi place (the sushi is award-winning) with the vibe of a sports bar or pub. It’s laid back, open late at night, and often features live entertainment. If you’re looking for a fun night out that includes sushi, you won’t need to leave this place. Their signature sushi roll, Local Lovers, contains ingredients, such as tempura lobster, shredded crab, and cream cheese. It’s a lot, and it’s great. Pair it with their Mt. Pleasant roll. You’ll have an excellent and beautifully presented experience in a lively setting. If you’re with any non-sushi lovers, they can peruse their menu of Not-Sushi (including wings, cheesesteaks, and burgers). They have an extensive cocktail and beer list too.
Sushi-Wa is Japanese-style sushi omakase (meaning your chefs will create your sushi experience (it’s up to them) from chefs Kazu Murakami and Chris Schoedler. Located in the trendy Wagenar Terrace neighborhood, you can have your meal here before (or after) exploring the nearby breweries. This is a true omakase experience that doesn’t come cheap (the menu starts at $80 per person). If you’re a true sushi fan, it’s worth the visit. Also, like a true omakase experience, it’s very intimate. You’ll need to make a reservation. Since the experience will change every time I can’t recommend a specific dish, just know that you are in great hands with these chefs. Every piece will be fresh, flavorful, and perfect. You should also ask about their extensive sake menu if you’d like to treat yourself.
Aji Asian Bistro is a neighborhood favorite for good reason. They have high-quality, expertly-prepared dishes served at pretty low prices. This laid-back, no-frills bistro is the perfect place to soothe your Japanese cravings. If you’re hungry around midday, you should come in for lunch – their specials are great. For example, the hibachi dishes are under $15 at this time. Start with the harukami (Japanese spring roll) or fried oysters (though everything looks great). For sushi, I recommend the sushi deluxe. You get to sample 10 assorted pieces of their excellent sushi and comes with soup and a California roll.
Hachiya is traditional, family-friendly, and fun Japanese dining. Located in the largely residential West Ashley neighborhood, it’s a bit of a drive from downtown Charleston, but if you love Japanese food, you should make the trip. The hibachi dinners have a lot of food for a great value. You’ll almost certainly have leftovers if you order off this menu- the shrimp and scallop combo is under $35, and you probably won’t be able to finish. If you’re going just for sushi, all of their signature rolls are reasonably priced- the extremely flavorful Hachiya roll (Smoked salmon, crab, shrimp, asparagus with smelt eggs outside) is less than ten dollars.
Located smack in the middle of Charleston’s historic district Fuji Sushi is the perfect place to end your day after exploring the city. It’s easy to fuel up here after completing your historic walking tour or visiting several nearby museums. They have so many special sushi rolls to choose from. The list is extensive, so read it over before ordering- you’ll probably find a unique flavor combo to your liking. Personally, I enjoyed the pepperjack roll and resolution roll if you also enjoy the spicier items.
A colorful and modern interior makes for a memorable dining experience at MESU. Also located in historic Charleston, MESU is unique for offering both Mexican and Japanese dishes- they go pretty well together, so make sure you sample both sides of the menu. They’re also a lively cocktail bar and hangout spot, so make a reservation for your visit. This place is great because you can start with their amazing chips & guacamole and follow up with a Honolulu fishbowl (also known as a poke bowl). You should also consider the habanero glazed edamame as an appetizer. Finish with caramel-filled churros. If you love both Mexican and Japanese, this will be the best dinner you’ll ever have.
Sushi, hibachi, and Thai bites await you at Wasabi of Daniel Island. Located in the upscale Daniel Island community of North Charleston, head here for a swanky dinner followed by a night out at the nearby breweries and bars. This sushi is worth the trip to Daniel Island. Start with the Thai shrimp salad, then pick between their hibachi or sushi menus for some extremely well-prepared dishes. For sushi, the Daniel Island and Baked Crab rolls make an excellent combination. If you find you’re in the mood for meat, the hibachi filet mignon is delicious and filling. This is another restaurant with a great lunch special, so if you’re looking for a deal, plan your time accordingly.
A cozy interior and creative dishes can be found at Kanpai Japanese Restaurant. Kanpai is a local favorite for the unforgettable Omakase experience and overall delicious menu. Plan to spend time here- everything’s made to order. It’s neither cheap nor fast, but the quality is outstanding. Sushi Chef Sean “creates small works of art,” according to one local review, and that’s pretty accurate. If you go for the Omakase, he’ll take the time to find out your personal preferences (as well as allergies) and then create a personalized sushi dinner. The experience is worth the price. If you’re a sushi lover, you will be in heaven.
Located right off the Cooper River, 167 Sushi Bar has an unobtrusive nautical vibe. It’s cute, modern, inviting, and small- definitely make a reservation unless you’re going off-peak dining hours. 167 has an oyster bar in addition to their sushi bar- a raw fish lover’s dream. You have a lot of choices here. The buttermilk fried chicken bao is the best combination of southern and Japanese flavors that you can have in an appetizer. Anything you order will be great. It’s all incredibly fresh. You’ll have to ask what the daily market fish is and order accordingly when you go.
This fun and modern restaurant has excellent dishes of all kinds and a great lunch deal and happy hour menu. The lunch menu has select entrees for 13.95 and also comes with a side of rice and a choice of soup or salad. Come for the ambiance and beautifully prepared dishes and stay for the taste. The Spicy Girl roll and Sweetie roll have a range of flavors stuffed in. Definitely save room for dessert because Zen has Ice cream tempura on the menu (Vanilla Ice Cream wrapped in pound cake and lightly fried). The lively lighted bar has both food and drink happy hour specials, so pair your meal with their house sangria or large sake.
Kanji Sushi Hibachi is a reasonably priced Japanese eatery located off the Savannah Highway in Charleston’s West Ashley neighborhood. Come here for an easygoing and filling Japanese meal. Start with the crispy crab wontons for a very savory appetizer. If you’re starving, try one of Kanjo’s excellent rice bowls. The salmon poke bowl is like a salmon roll spread over rice. You could also get one of their excellent special rolls to share if you and your party are all going to order a rice bowl. I’d suggest the Sex on the Beach roll (it has almost all of the fishes and a nice crunch from the tempura in it).
Osaka Asian Bistro is a chill neighborhood eatery that offers both Chinese and Japanese dishes. Osaka is located in a residential area on Folly Road Blvd. They offer beautiful plates of reasonably pierced Asian fusion dishes. The portions here are tasty and sizable. You won’t be left hungry. To start, the curry soup was a nice surprise from a Japanese restaurant. The signature Charleston and Hulk rolls are flavorsome and drizzled with delicious sauces. For dessert, the Tempura cheesecake is worth breaking whatever diet you happen to be on. If you’re with kids, Osaka has a kids menu, and the Chinese kitchen entrees have plenty of cooked items (like general tso’s chicken) for children too young to appreciate raw fish.
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