There are many reasons to visit the Carolina Coast — beaches, plantations, architecture, to name a few — yet many of us find ourselves gushing about the food above all. If you’re coming to town, you are going to want to familiarize yourself with where to eat to avoid the mediocre and indulge the very best restaurants in downtown Charleston SC.
What makes Charleston cuisine so special? Well, there are three primary factors for this:
A diversity of seafood found in the coastal estuaries.
The soulful influences of African culture.
An outsized cavalry of Chef-driven restaurants
In this article we will discuss the best restaurants in Charleston SC, those culinary haunts you will find yourself thinking about, and hankering for, long after you’ve left town.
We strongly recommend the following 20 restaurants listed below, and the half-dozen mentioned below that. We would encourage you to not waste a single meal eating out in Charleston. With that said, here are the 20 best restaurants in Charleston SC.
“The first thing you’ll notice when you pull up to Lewis Barbecue are the massive, custom-made smokers. Inside you’ll order at the counter, where John Lewis is slicing up Central Texas barbecue, cut-to-order.”
If you like BBQ — especially Texas BBQ — Lewis Barbeque is some of the best you’ll ever eat. Of all the Charleston restaurants, we ate here the most. On par with the best joints in Austin, Texas.
Reason to visit: World-class BBQ.
We recommend: Brisket, beef ribs (Saturday only), greens and slaw. Everything was delicious.
Meal for two hungry adults runs about $60 without drinks after tax and tip (and you will be full).
“An eclectic Lowcountry bistro that brings together an abundance of fresh, local ingredients and expert presentation with friendly, contagious energy.”
Our most enjoyable meal was at S.N.O.B.. Our server was passionate about the menu, the ambiance was classy and fun, and lunch was delicious and affordable. The menu is artful, upscale southern comfort. More than any restaurant, SNOB describes itself as we experienced it (see above blurb).
Reason to visit: A consummate dining experience at a reasonable cost.
We recommend: The Blue Crab (when in season).
Lunch for two adults runs about $50 without drinks after tax and tip.
“Select dishes from China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam prepared locally & inspired by *grandmothers everywhere. Menu changes seasonally, with rotating daily specials and family style dinner service.”
Our other most enjoyable meal was here, both times, at Xiao Bao Biscuit. We honestly could not get enough, and if we lived in Charleston we would be regulars. The Japanese cabbage pancake is divine.
Reason to visit: We cannot hype the food enough. Incredible.
We recommend: Okonomiyaki (must-eat), Pad Kra Pow, and Som Tum w/ chicken.
Meal for two adults runs about $40 without drinks after tax and tip (and you will be full).
“The Glass Onion is one of Charleston’s original home grown neighborhood-based, locally focused, all natural restaurants featuring influences from Alabama, New Orleans and the Lowcountry.”
A superlative menu from a renowned chef served with a personal touch. Simply served delicious comfort food with creative spins. One of the best restaurants in Charleston SC. A special place.
Reason to visit: Exceptional quality food at reasonable prices.
We recommend: Shrimp and grits and the buttermilk fried quail.
Meal for two adults runs about $40-60 without drinks after tax and tip.
“Page’s Okra Grill combines simple Southern cuisine with the casual elements of traditional coastal seafood. We look to use fresh, seasonal, local ingredients in our made-from-scratch dishes.”
This restaurant was recommend more by locals than any other. We ate here twice and it was amazing both times. The menu reads so seductive it is difficult to make a choice. We recommend everything.
Reason to visit: Vast selection of exquisite southern comfort food, large portions.
We recommend: All of it is amazing.
Meal for two adults runs about $40-50 without drinks after tax and tip (and you will be full).
“Meet Jackrabbit Filly. Named after Shuai and Corrie’s Chinese zodiac animals, Jackrabbit Filly proudly serves heritage driven New Chinese American cuisine in a fun, friendly neighborhood environment.”
Jackrabbit Filly started out as a food truck serving creative “bowls” which quickly garnered local acclaim. Now a funky dining room in N. Charleston where they whip up some of the best food we’ve ever tasted.
Reason to visit: Mouth-watering food unlike anything you’ve tasted.
We HIGHLY recommend: Sichuan hot karaage rice bowl.
Lunch for two adults runs about $35 without drinks.
“From conversation and laughter in our bar to our stylish dining rooms of heart pine floors and antique brick, you’ll come to understand true Charleston hospitality. That is, there’s always cause for celebration.”
A southern institution known for local music, savory dishes, and uptown ambiance, High Cotton rides toward the top of Charleston restaurant hierarchy. Perfect for a financially unrestrained date night.
Reason to visit: Fancy date night, The Notebook bucket list
We recommend: You can’t go wrong here.
Dinner for two adults runs about $200 w/ salads, sides, and an appetizer.
“Whether it’s a warm homemade buttermilk biscuit and sausage gravy, a bowl of she-crab soup, or our signature buttermilk fried chicken, your meal at Poogan’s Porch will be unforgettable.”
All of the classic Charleston dishes in a funky, old southern house-turned-restaurant. Endeared and centrally located. Poogan’s Porch draws a long line of low country connoisseurs any time of day because it is one of the best restaurants in Charleston SC.
Reason to visit: Classic southern comfort food.
We recommend: Anything fried.
Meal for two adults runs about $50 without drinks.
“The Hyman family has been at the same location for over 121 years and our commitment to guaranteed customer satisfaction is the reason that Hyman’s Seafood is now a Charleston landmark.”
Hyman’s is a good time — the energy, the food, the service, all good. They bring two rounds of free appetizers before the meal and there are jokes on the table that are legitimately funny.
Reason to visit: Great ambiance, fantastic seafood.
We recommend: The crispy flounder.
Meal for two adults runs about $80 without drinks.
“Husk reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in the South.”
Your ingredients will be described in suffering detail by a Husk server that likely thinks they are better than you. Farm-to-table douchery at its finest. P.S. The patio serves casual food for the rest of us.
Reason to visit: An appreciation for ingredients & arty conception. Snobbery and pretense is your thing.
We recommend: Eating at the patio — the fried chicken was very good.
Meal for two adults runs about $100 w/out drinks. Patio runs about $40.
“Charleston’s best waterfront dining seven days a week.”
It might be Charleston’s only waterfront dining, but it is an excellent, southern seafood restaurant with sleek ambiance and a view of the harbor. The food is delicious and reasonably priced at lunch.
Reason to visit: Food, ambiance, water views.
We recommend: The award winning shrimp and grits.
Lunch for two adults runs about $40 without drinks. Dinner runs about $80.
“Nigel’s restaurants, year after year, have been recognized as best and ranked as #1 restaurant by the Geechie One Awards, Trip Advisor and others.”
This is soul food exactly as it should be: Comfortable and exploding with flavor. The menu is ridiculous and everything must be tried once. Nigel’s Good Food is located in Ladsen, SC.
Reason to visit: Excellent soul food.
We recommend: Seafood pasta, Meat and Three, fried cabbage.
Meal for two hungry adults runs about $30-50 without drinks.
“We are open for breakfast and lunch every day and when you stop by or call for pick up be sure to ask about all of our daily specials and deserts.”
The Early Bird Diner has a menu of both classic and creative selections. More personal than a Denny’s but no cleaner, the Early Bird isn’t everyone’s style — it’s like the opposite of Husk.
Reason to visit: Chicken and waffles.
We recommend: Chicken and waffles. The best we’ve ever had.
Meal for two adults runs about $35-40.
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“Horrifying vegetarians since 2013. See what our authentic all-wood smoked BBQ is all about.”
When it comes to BBQ, the Swig & Swine comes in second, but it is still one of the best restaurants in Charleston SC. Everything is legit — the ribs, brisket, sausage, and the sides are out of this world. Also a nice selection of sauces.
Reason to visit: Good BBQ is hard to find.
We recommend: The side dishes and the sauces. Everything was good.
Meal for two hungry adults runs about $60.
“Since 1982, Gennaro’s Italian Ristorante has been serving delicious Italian cuisine in Charleston, South Carolina. We are an authentic Italian restaurant with a warm, cozy atmosphere.”
The atmosphere feels a little “1982”, and we were worried for a minute that the recommendations were way off. Then the food arrived. It turns out Gennaro’s is one of the best restaurants in Charleston SC.
Reason to visit: They treat you like family, large portions of delicious food.
We recommend: Chicken bolognese and the brussels sprouts with bacon.
Meal for two hungry adults runs about $50-60 without drinks.
“Big Bad Breakfast gives the proper respect to the most important meal of the day. We take special pride in serving all your Southern favorites with the creativity and technique of a world-renowned chef.”
This is what happens when an award-winning chef gets ahold of a Shari’s and pimps out every dish. Why get bacon when you can get spicy bacon? The menu is a long list of interesting choices.
Reason to visit: Fun atmosphere, friendly staff, fresh take on breakfast.
We recommend: The fried chicken sandwich.
Breakfast for two adults runs about: $30.
“Acme Lowcountry Kitchen combines upscale, yet casual elements of traditional coastal cuisine… served in a casual beach atmosphere with flavor profiles that exemplify fresh, local and sustainable ingredients.”
Isle of Palms has agreeable beaches and a posh community, but their restaurant scene is uninspired. Enter Acme Lowcountry Kitchen to save you from mundane beach chow with vibrant, creative dishes.
Reason to visit: Delicious seafood, only good place around.
We recommend: Anything with shrimp. The succotash (above photo) had me savoring every bite.
Meal for two adults runs about: $40-50.
“Tavern & Table on Shem Creek is designed to be that local gathering place where friends and family get together for spectacular handcrafted food in an atmosphere as comfortable as your living room.”
Shem Creek is a date night hot spot and Tavern and Table is arguably the best of the restaurants. The dining area is polished and the food was plenty good.
Reason to visit: Shem Creek is incredible.
We recommend: Burnt-end mac~n~cheese! Seriously, put that in an IV bag and puncture me.
Meal for two adults runs about $60 without drinks.
“Church and Union Charleston is located on historic Market Street in downtown Charleston, SC., offering a casual, yet refined dining experience with a sophisticated ambiance.”
This stunning establishment is easy to find beside the Charleston Market. The food is good. The vibe is Antifa poet meets wine bar. Not for everyone due to the dark, brooding ambiance.
Reason to visit: The church interior. Great location.
We recommend: The CU Burger.
Dinner for two hungry adults runs about $50-100, with a wide range of prices.
“Duck club sandwiches and local beer served in a funky tavern with live music and backyard seating.”
Our dinner at the Tattooed Moose was interesting. The good: the live music and the duck club sandwich. The bad: the live music was incredibly loud. I would get the duck sandwich to go anytime.
Reason to visit: Mike’s Famous duck club sandwich.
We recommend: Mike’s Famous duck club sandwich.
Meal for two hungry adults runs about: $40-50
Hannibal’s says they are “feeding the soul of the city”, which is not how we would describe our awful experience with them. The server/host didn’t acknowledge us for 20 minutes, despite an empty dining room. We had to seat ourselves, grab our own menus, and we were never served drinks. The hostess reluctantly took our order and lunch took 30 minutes to arrive. The unimpressive, overpriced food was served in Styrofoam carry-out boxes with plastic utensils. It was the most pathetic dining experience of our lives. Good grief, y’all.
Harold’s Cabin is a “reimagined store, cafe, and restaurant concept” in the middle of a neighborhood.
Owned by the same restaurant group as High Cotton and S.N.O.B. Fancy steak house on King Street.
The most discussed BBQ restaurant in Charleston is “driven by the dying art of whole hog BBQ.”
All day breakfast served near the intersection of Meeting and King Street. A beloved institution.
Fried chicken, oysters, kick ass salads, cheap beer, and soft serve — all in an old garage.
This is the one restaurant we wanted to visit but never did. Looks incredible. Great reputation.
Southern cuisine was the ultimate revelation of our six months spent in the Lowcountry region. We came for the history and beaches, but we will be back for the food.
And we still yearn for Xiao Bao Biscuit.
We hope you enjoy eating your way through the Best Restaurants in Charleston SC as much as we did. If you would like to learn more about our beloved Charleston, check out Charleston Beaches, Charleston Plantations, and Historic Charleston Streets and Parks.
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
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