2019 BEST RESTAURANTS and DINING in CHARLESTON SC
Have a hunger for an upscale dining space with memorable eats? Make a reservation at this Mt. Pleasant spot, where you can get romantic in a private dining area, breathe in fresh air on the outdoor patio or feast on yummy appetizers inside the main dining room. Share the occasion with some menu starters like buffalo chicken dip, Philly spring rolls, General Tso’s cauliflower, sautéed shrimp or stuffed grilled zucchini. Or snack on some signature wings coated in either a Memphis dry rub or maple sriracha sauce.
Page’s Okra Grill
Whether dressed up or dressed down, there’s no need to worry at this Mt. Pleasant-based, family-owned eatery—the spot for laid-back comfort food and filling portions for a night out feeding the kids or a hearty weekend brunch with the ladies. The crowd flocks daily here for good eats like housemade shrimp ‘n grits, mac ‘n cheese skillet and country-fried steak. Whatever you crave, the menu is sure to have it. Don’t forget dessert: coconut cake, banana pudding and pecan pie to name a few. On the way out, be sure to grab a family pic in the giant chair out front!
Bushido Japanese Restaurant
In the mood for fresh sushi and artful presentations? Make your own delectable rolls or order a combination of nigiri, sashimi and sushi rolls. Grab some chop sticks and bite into spicy tuna rolls, California or salmon rolls. But no need to fret if you dislike sushi; there’s plenty of hibachi and tempura items to fill you up. Also feast on tofu, calamari and soft shell crab. Order an entrée and enjoy the kitchen’s tasty miso soup, fried or white rice and a side salad.
Stop spending time at chain restaurants when your craving for Mediterranean cuisine strikes. You’ll find the area’s most authentic Italian cuisine is cooked inside this downtown Charleston kitchen. Dine on all the staple meat and pasta entrees that remind you of the boot-shaped country and wash each bite down with a handcrafted cocktail or glass of vino; also peruse the raw bar menu offering chilled lump crab and citrus-cured salmon and yellowfin tuna, among other fresh seafood eats. For cheaper snacks and discounted drinks, stop by weekdays 5-7 p.m.
Saffron Café & Bakery
In the mood for luxurious baked goods—among the Lowcountry’s most popular—or foreign fare inspired by Middle Eastern culture? Treat yourself to this busy locale where the kitchen hands work around-the-clock to pump out fresh eats to satisfy that sweet tooth. But be forewarned—it might be difficult deciding your order while drooling over the display case. So come on down to East Bay Street and bite into a plump bagel, a warm loaf of bread or take a cheesecake to go.
Texas-style barbecue is the focus at this Nassau Street site, known for overwhelming all the customer’s senses during a mealtime stay. The luring smell of pork, chicken and other yummy eats slow-cooking inside custom-made smokers will lure you to the front door and keep you dining for a while. That’s because in this kitchen, the smokers and pit master/owner, John Lewis, pump out barbecue cut to order, serving apps and entrees to hypnotize your tastes buds and fill your belly. If the sun’s out, be sure to pull up a seat at the outdoor bar or patio.
Here you can find all the hearty, Southern eats you need to comfort your appetite and prepare you for an afternoon nap. Start the day right with bottomless mimosas for the squad and a plate of apple- or peach-stuffed French toast—one of the most beloved menu items. Also sure to hit the spot are the gravy-smothered buttermilk biscuits and omelet meals. Can’t arrive early? Don’t stress; sleep in on the weekend because breakfast is available until closing.
Desiring a thick, juicy burger? While this famous operation might be the Palmetto State’s oldest, family-owned barbecue eatery, barbecue isn’t the only menu item that customers adore. Find two laid-back locations—Mt. Pleasant and James Island area—to get that quick Melvin’s burger fix. Stuck at the office for lunch or need to amp up your at-home cookout cuisine? Opt for Melvin’s catering. And be sure to step lunch or dinner up a notch by pairing that hearty patty with a side of hand-dipped golden onion rings and a sweet tea.
Characterized as “boutique catering” for the Lowcountry, use Harvest to treat your guests to a unique and memorable event. Food, drinks, service and décor will surely have them talking long after the occasion’s over—everything from finger food apps to beautifully-plated entrees, from colorful salads to fancy, fun desserts like cake pops. Stop by headquarters on Folly Road in Charleston and see how catering staff can assist your next wedding, anniversary, retirement, birthday or other celebratory day. There’s no request staff won’t work hard to meet.
Vintage Coffee Café
You’re sure to feel the cozy vibes the moment you step foot inside this Mt. Pleasant café. A former house with a large backyard for kids’ play, this hangout provides the perfect respite for sipping a cup of hot tea or your favorite coffee drink—whether you like it straight black or blended into a sugary frapp with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle. Not a coffee fan? Still stop by for a refreshing glass of wine or bite to eat during breakfast and lunch hours.
It’s all about family here—five generations, to be exact, that have kept the downtown Charleston eatery a Lowcountry staple for decades. Not far from the U.S. Custom House, this famous dining site is always cooking up fresh seafood and welcoming a crowd of hungry patrons. Feast on the crab cake appetizer without breaking the bank—under $10; and be sure to dip each bite into the kitchen’s tasty remoulade sauce. For a heartier meal, dine on the crab cake sandwich, paired with two sides.
Inspired by the boot-shaped Motherland, this popular dessert and wine bar on East Bay Street is one of the best Lowcountry nooks to ignite your taste buds and satisfy any sugary food fantasy. Swing by for a post-dinner cannoli with your date, or pop in for a dessert cocktail with the ladies. But don’t fret if your craving hits late. This Italian eatery is open daily until 2 a.m.; and you might need a refreshing gelato or Italian ice to cool down on a hot night.
Wood & Grain
Do the kids demand pizza, but the adults insist on seafood? Don’t stress. Wood and Grain offers a menu with both options. For the last two years, this Mt. Pleasant restaurant has provided a hospitable environment for family gatherings—a place where all ages can dine and unwind. The kitchen boasts an open hearth fire for cooking delectable dishes, from handmade pizza pies to locally-sourced coastal critters to satisfy a fancy seafood fix—roasted octopus or a warm lobster roll sound good? Or have the siblings share slices of bacon-gorgonzola pizza while Mom and Dad share a bottle of prosecco or pinot.
Pull out the bowtie and black stilettos and treat yourselves to a night on the town. With a reputation since 2003 for being one of Charleston’s finest dining spots, you’ll feel like royalty from the moment you walk in. Indulge in hospitable service, fresh ingredients and beautifully-plated meals—all dubbed a “labor of love” by staff. Start with a cast iron cornbread appetizer then dig into the mustard-crusted spotted sea trout or sautéed snowy grouper for a main course and feed each other bites of golden rum cake or another sweet treat to close out the fancy occasion.
The Gathering Café
The Holy City’s food haven isn’t just a place for Southern comfort meals; unique dietary restrictions can be indulged on this menu. Vegan or vegetarian? This organic West Ashley kitchen can help, offering fresh ingredients primarily stemming from across the Carolinas. So breathe in a sigh of relief and dine on healthy eats like a black bean burrito, breakfast smoothie, glazed beets and roasted butternut squash. Come on down for breakfast, lunch or dinner or order a new family-sized meal to go.
Ye Ole Fashioned
For nearly 50 years, customers from near and far have flocked to this notable food nook for a coned treat, heavenly sundae, milkshake or banana split to brighten their day. With more than 30 flavors to choose from—think pistachio, cherry, cookies ‘n cream, staple vanilla—it might take several trips to try them all. Choose up to four scoops to pack into a waffle cone, cup or plastic baseball cap! Or pair a coke float with a burger and fries. Stop by one of seven locations dotting the tri-county and get hooked!
Vickery’s Bar & Grill
Boasting top accolades from the annual Charleston Oyster Festival, this seafood hotspot is the perfect locale for coastal refreshment at lunchtime—the Shem Creek location offers a waterfront view. Salivate over spoonfuls of award-winning oyster bisque or try a grilled salmon BLT, peel ‘n eat shrimp, or a simple burger for afternoon rejuvenation. Be sure to start the meal experience with the crab hushpuppies or fried green tomato tower appetizer. Come see why Trip Advisor awarded Vickery’s a 2019 Certificate of Excellence.
The Royal Tern
Johns Island is home to this neighborhood eatery, with a menu specializing in seafood, steak, sandwiches, salads and a raw bar. Whether its grilled salmon, barbecue shrimp, a ribeye or oyster po boy you desire, this kitchen will grant your request. Be sure to secure a side of tasty garlic French fries seasoned with sea salt and parsley or start the table out with an order of warm hushpuppies and biscuits—slice and slather with honey butter for a decadent treat.
Inside this health-friendly establishment, it’s all about fresh, organic and natural products. Shop without the guilt of feeding your family artificial ingredients. Be confident that all seafood, meat, fruits, veggie and baked goods will contain no added hormones, bleach or antibiotics—but also won’t skimp on flavor! Change your diet and lifestyle with Earth Fare as the start. You can also pause for a meal inside the dining area, where deli hands are always ready to serve you a sandwich, wrap, salad or pizza slice. Or box up a to-go meal from the hot and cold bars.
Blu Beach Bar & Grill
Who doesn’t crave a fancy meal with a view? This beachfront bar and grill, located inside the Tides Hotel on Folly Beach, is just yards away from the famous beach pier. Choose a seat inside the main dining room or crash on a colorful lounge chair or sofa near the bar, so you can keep the drinks coming. No matter where you sit, the coastal vibes will relax you and have you yearning for a stroll on the sand while you digest. Indulge in a housemade cocktail, gelato, cheese plate or crème brulee as you watch the sunset.
Steel City Pizza
South Carolina-born, this Lowcountry-based pizzeria is a fun spot to gather the family or kids’ team after the game to enjoy quality pepperoni, cheese and veggie slices—among other toppings. Owners have drawn on their Pittsburg roots to create the popular finger-food hangout, with locations in North Charleston and Mt. Pleasant. It’s also a preferred space to chug some beers on tap or watch a favorite sports team on the big screen. But no matter how many breadsticks or calzone bites you devour, there’s always room for zeppoli—a fried dough roll covered in sugar.
Boasting some of the best raw oysters on the East Coast and the largest oyster selection in the state, Nico is unique from its surrounding Shem Creek eateries. The kitchen focuses on preparing French fare, using a wood-fired oven to carefully cook seafood native to the Lowcountry. It offers a popular raw bar with oysters, like Mookie blue and little neck clams, sourced from all over the Atlantic. Order by the dozen or half-dozen with crab and caviar, octopus or shrimp cocktail a la carte—among other options.
Muse Restaurant & Wine Bar
Plan your next date night at a place with international eats, white linen tablecloths, elegant lighting and endless wine options—all sure to set the mood for an unforgettable experience of love. Choose to be secluded in a private dining room, if you’re desiring to get footsy while you feast. Salivate over veal scaloppini, lobster risotto or crispy sea bass, and end the evening sharing spoonfuls of strawberry rhubarb or apple tart for dessert.
Five Loaves Café
If your staple meal consists of fresh meat and/or veggies piled atop leafy greens, then Five Loaves is the perfect destination for your diet. Stop in at one of three locations around the tri-county and consume one of a number of different salad options on the menu. The kitchen goes above and beyond to create mixtures both innovative-looking and tasty. Think outside the typical grilled chicken protein and fork up bites of arugula and spinach with chilled smoked salmon or eggplant fritters. Also, try a smaller salad portion paired with a half sandwich or cup of soup.
Red’s Ice House
Come down to Shem Creek where you’ll find an intoxicating interlude from life’s stresses—so much that you might choose to camp out all day on the outdoor patio, sipping a cold beer and gazing at the waterway. Here, family and friends can find a space to feast on fresh seafood without pretention or breaking the bank. Recipient of local, state and national accolades for its bar beverages—because they say it’s “always happy hour”—Red’s pumps out any seafood type you’re hankering for—Lowcountry chowder, lobster mac ‘n cheese, oysters and more.
The Swamp Fox Restaurant & Bar
It’s time you dine in a place where the servers feel more like longtime friends and family than strangers. Witness Southern hospitality at its finest when you step inside King Street’s Francis Marion Hotel to eat. Don’t worry about lodging overnight—either way you’ll be treated like royalty. Have a meal delivered to your room if you’re considering indulging. Three days a week you can also enjoy live jazz piano. Tuesdays offer patrons complimentary hors d’oeuvres during 5-7 p.m. social hour.
Ready to fork up the most delectable, succulent steak cut you’ve ever tasted? Your palate won’t know what hit it. Don’t forget the perfect pairing of side dishes—veggies and a jumbo loaded baked potato perhaps? Date night isn’t complete without a trip to Hall’s for a memorable steakhouse experience—an upscale vibe and live piano entertainment serenading you in the background. Choose from a variety of steaks—New York strip, ribeye, prime rib, filet mignon and porterhouse. Each selection is perfectly seasoned—kitchen staff hand-rubs spices into each cut.
Swig & Swine (formerly Lowcountry Bistro)
Make the weekend extra special with a feast that’ll satisfy your appetite and have you planning your next visit soon. Whether it’s post-church mealtime or an afternoon hangout with your bachelorette crew needing bottomless mimosas to celebrate, grab a table and unwind. Slice open a fresh-baked biscuit and coat it with honey to start. Then consider the staple salty-sweet chicken & waffles dish drizzled with syrup. But if that’s not sweet enough, the French toast casserole with sweet cream glaze— also sausage and cheddar grits—might hit the spot.
You’ve haven’t done sushi night right until you’ve feasted on this favorite, award-wining Lowcountry menu. For each order, kitchen staff “roll hard” to hand-craft the perfect nigiri or sashimi sushi upon customer request. Whichever seafood you crave can be created into a fresh roll. Choose salmon, yellowtail, mahi mahi and octopus, among other numerous fish options. Another top menu item is the ninja roll, packed with snow crab, tempura shrimp and avocado. And if you’re low on funds, don’t stress; the eatery’s “Munday Funday” offers cheaper eats.
Have a meatless diet? Dellz has the proper fare for you to feast on—even pizza! How about starting the meal with a shareable plate of “snobby nachos,” complete with mango salsa, banana sauce, brown rice and black beans, among other toppings. Or maybe it’s an acorn squash bowl or gluten-free wrap calling your name. There’s even the delectable spicy garden tacos and “steamin’ beemin’” plate featuring vegan-style shrimp. But carnivores ought not to shy away from this Rutledge Avenue destination; the menu also includes meat-friendly options.
Situated among the Shem Creek dining operations that pull in daily crowds, Saltwater Cowboys is one of the newest eateries to anchor along the waterway and is unique for its smoked barbecue, unhindered sunset view and upper deck hangout. Whether it’s the evening cloud colors, boats, dolphin sightings or Charleston skyline you hope to capture live, you won’t be disappointed sipping a happy hour longneck or margarita here.
Make a date-night reservation inside this East Bay Street eatery, housed inside the fancy Market Pavilion Hotel. Treat your romantic partner to a succulent steak cut or seafood entrée—toasting to love or some other celebratory occasion as you wash down each bite with a favorite sweet or bold-flavored glass of wine. Whether you desire white, red or champagne, the labels are seemingly limitless—more than 350 available—some stemming from around the world. Also sample one of the bar’s famous chilled cocktails—16 total concoctions.