Best Of The Holy City Food and Drink

05 Jul 2024

Voted on by our readers, these award-winning attractions, top-notch shopping and services have helped make Charleston the #1 Best City in America. Use this guide to discover (or rediscover) what makes Charleston such a great place to live, work and play. We’ve got recommendations from locals for everything from the best antique store and best family-friendly attraction to the best spot to grab a martini. Cheers!

By Sophia Rodriguez, Daria Smith, Denise K. James, Maddie Cleland and Beverly Barfield

Best Authentic American

Fleet Landing Restaurant & Bar

Housed in a retired 1940s naval building at the foot of the City Market, Fleet Landing is one of historic downtown Charleston’s few waterfront dining destinations. In February, Fleet Landing unveiled its new raw bar, a traditional U-shaped bar with 16 seats overlooking the Charleston harbor. The menu boasts oysters on the half shell, fresh fish dishes, seafood towers, and shrimp cocktail. Their milestone 20th anniversary is this November.

Best Barbecue

Lewis Barbecue

Pitmaster John Lewis welds his own custom-designed smokers and wakes up at 4 a.m. to tend to the fire. John helped launch Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas before opening Lewis Barbecue downtown in the Holy City in June 2016. It’s a one-stop shop for legendary brisket, honky tonk music, and laid-back vibes.

Best Coffee Shop

WildFlour Pastry

Before opening WildFlour Pastry in West Ashley, Lauren Mitterer was Red Drum’s Executive Pastry Chef. In 2009, Lauren opened WildFlour to serve elegant versions of comfort desserts, satisfying that unique craving of sweet and salty. Order the famous double chocolate cookies, sweet and savory scones, or legendary sticky bun.

Best Farm to Table

Angel Oak Restaurant and Bar

Angel Oak Restaurant and Bar in Johns Island strives to obtain the freshest ingredients that the seasons allow and present them in a way that would best represent the area. The menu takes an innovative approach to Southern American cuisine. Perhaps the best kept secret is the Speakeasy located behind the restaurant.

Best French

39 Rue de Jean

Just off King Street in an 1880s former two-story brick warehouse, this French bistro and bar serves steamed mussels, bouillabaisse, duck confit, Creole-style shrimp and pommes frites. Think gleaming wood, cozy booths and white-papered tables accompanied by a well-rounded wine list. Opt for lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch.

Best Greek/Middle Eastern


Stella's is a love letter to owner Steven Niketas' Greek heritage and to founding chef Stella Dikos. Imbibe in classic Greek dishes like grilled halloumi, moussaka, and keftedes. An impressive wall of stacked Grecian wine graces the communal and embracing space nestled downtown on Saint Philip St.

Best Healthy/Organic

Five Loaves Cafe

Five Loaves Cafe in Mount Pleasant and Summerville sources high-quality ingredients to create healthy, simple dishes, including chef-owner Casey Glowacki’s trademark soups, salads and sandwiches. Since opening in 2002, a large crowd of regulars enjoy lunch specials, brunch, vegetarian-friendly plates and the best gourmet sandwich in Charleston.

Best Indian

Ma'am Saab - Pakistani Restaurant

On the Charleston peninsula, Ma'am Saab serves elevated Pakistani cuisine by Chef Maryam Ghaznavi. The menu transports your tastebuds to Pakistan, putting a modern spin on dishes originating back to the mughal era, including butter chicken, samosas, biryani, nalli nihari and aloo anday. Each cocktail can be made without alcohol or with the addition of Delta-9 THC.

Best Italian

Wild Olive Restaurant

Nestled in a low-lit country cottage surrounded by live oaks, Wild Olive in Johns Island is committed to environmental sustainability, purchasing most products locally and recycling and composting 85% of their waste. Chef Jacques Larson sources fresh, seasonal ingredients locally, serving up artisanal Italian dishes like tender agnolotti, charred octopus, veal scallopini with marsala and mushroom-parmesan bisque.

Best Japanese

Osaka Asian Bistro

Osaka Asian Bistro is one of the oldest Asian restaurants in Charleston, originating in 1999. This West Ashley family-run Japanese restaurant has a wide selection of dishes including Hibachi, traditional Chinese entrees and sushi. It’s augmented by familiar Chinese fare and a smidge of Vietnamese and Thai cuisine.

Best Latin/Spanish


Maya is an elevated Mexican eatery on Upper King Street, boasting a menu fueled by Mexico’s flavorful regional cuisines. Authentic dishes range from snacks and small plates, to tacos, shareable sides and large format entrees. Focused on fresh and of-the-moment ingredients, the beverage program features margaritas, mezcals, Mexican cervezas and flavorful cocktails.

Best Pub/Tavern

Hunley's Neighborhood Grill

Hunley's Neighborhood Grill is West Ashley’s best kept secret sports bar. Enjoy good food, good friends, and watching the game of your choice on one of multiple TVs at this hole-in-the-wall community tavern. Feel at home within minutes of sitting down.

Best Thai


Basil is the realization of the lifelong dream of Henry and Chai Eang, brothers who immigrated to the United States from turbulent 1970s Cambodia. The refined Thai eatery brings authentic Thai cuisine to two Lowcountry locations in Mount Pleasant and Park Circle in North Charleston.

Best Boat Access Restaurant

Water's Edge

Water’s Edge is situated on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. Dock space is available just off of Marker 130 on the Intracoastal Waterway. Dine waterfront with a view of the local fish and shrimp boats unloading their daily catches. The menu boasts a variety of Lowcountry cuisine including fresh local fish, steaks, and a wine list with over 200 selections.

Best Business Lunch

Coastal Skillet

Established in 2020, Coastal Skillet in Charleston’s Cainhoy neighborhood is a veteran-owned business. They believe brunch is not just a meal, but a lifestyle, combining the Holy City charm with the availability of your favorite foods at any time of the day. Whether you need a BEC before work, waffles at 2 p.m. or a curated cocktail on a Tuesday, this is the place.

Best Caterer

Southern Bear Catering

Southern Bear Catering caters weddings, birthday parties, large events and corporate gatherings throughout the Lowcountry. They serve delicious Southern food with locally-sourced ingredients and exceptional service, also providing rental items to complete your event setup, including tables and chairs, exquisite china and glassware. Skip multiple vendors for your next big event.

Best Date Night Restaurant

Circa 1886 Restaurant

Tucked within the original carriage house of Wentworth mansion, Circa 1886 boasts a seasonal, local menu of elevated Lowcountry cuisine and an extensive wine list. White tablecloths, soft lighting, and intimate space make Circa 1886 hands-down one of the most romantic restaurants in downtown Charleston. They also offer private mixology classes and wine tastings.

Best Family Friendly Restaurant

Coastal Skillet

Established in 2020, Coastal Skillet in Charleston’s Cainhoy neighborhood is a veteran-owned business. Experience Holy City charm with the availability of your favorite foods at any time of the day. Breakfast, lunch, local favorites, and the best combinations of brunch fare are served in a family-friendly environment from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Best Fine Dining Restaurant

Circa 1886 Restaurant

Tucked within the original carriage house of Wentworth mansion, Circa 1886 Restaurant evokes the romance and old-world charm of historic downtown Charleston. Large crepe myrtle trees shadow the entrance. A creative menu bursts with flavor at this fine dining establishment under the lead of executive chef Marc Collins, accented with unrivaled Southern hospitality.

Best Happy Hour

Hunley's Neighborhood Grill

Hunley's Neighborhood Grill is West Ashley’s best kept secret. Happy hour is seven days a week, Monday-Friday 4-7 p.m. Past dine-in specials include $1 wings, $5 burgers, and $15 domestic buckets. This community sports tavern is small, cozy, and convenient with good food and good pricing.

Best Kept Secret Restaurant

Hunley's Neighborhood Grill

Hunley's Neighborhood Grill is West Ashley’s best kept secret with a menu capitalizing on soul food, sandwiches and wings. The wings are hot, crisp, and can be ordered with a variety of flavor options, adjusted to your personal heat preference. Various food specials run throughout the week at $12 a plate, and happy hour is seven days a week.

Best Late-Night Dining

Madra Rua Irish Pub

Madra Rua Irish Pub touts itself as the best pub for rugby fans. They serve traditional Irish fare like Shepherd's pie, plus an array of brews. Two locations in North Charleston’s Park Circle neighborhood and Summerville have a killer weekday happy hour, including a $10 burger on Wednesday. Dine outdoors and perhaps you’ll catch a live performance.

Best Live Music

The Roost

The Roost in West Ashley’s Avondale neighborhood is a vision conceived by three owners who have worked in Charleston’s food industry for 20+ years. They wanted a neighborhood bar that offered sports, great live entertainment and felt like home. Old barn wood adorns the walls, along with TVs, a covered patio, rustic decor and brunch on Sundays.

Best Outdoor Dining

82 Queen

In 1982, a uniquely “Charleston” dining experience with a focus on fresh, local cuisine and gracious hospitality was born. 82 Queen spans three buildings and a garden courtyard nestled downtown in the historic French Quarter. The original menu featured dishes influenced by the African, French, Caribbean and Anglo-Saxon tastes which permeated the area, spiking a culinary genre now referred to as “Lowcountry Cuisine.”

Best Overall Excellence Restaurant

Peninsula Grill

Established in 1997, Peninsula Grill is located inside Planters Inn along the historic Charleston City Market and serves elevated Southern fare, hidden amidst a lush moonlit garden. Every evening at dusk, the garden’s carriage lanterns are lit by hand, one-by-one. Captivating 19th-Century oil paintings grace the dining room. Finish dinner with the 12-layer coconut cake.

Best Pet Friendly Restaurant

DIG In The Park

Once an old gas station, DIG In The Park resides in the heart of North Charleston’s eclectic Park Circle neighborhood. Enjoy beer and pub grub served in a sports bar setting with plenty of TVs and an expansive pet-friendly outdoor patio. They’re open daily for lunch, happy hour, dinner and Sunday brunch.

Best Place to Hang with Locals

DIG In The Park

Once an old gas station, DIG In The Park resides in the heart of North Charleston’s eclectic Park Circle neighborhood. DIG in the Park is a comfortable place to have a cold beer, chat with friends, or watch the game. Happy hour runs from 4-7 p.m. and includes $1 off appetizers and $1 off house liquor, domestic drafts, and house wine.

Best Rooftop Restaurant


During the day, Ritual is downtown’s largest rooftop restaurant and lounge, and a bar and nightclub by night. The menu boasts locally-sourced seafood with an international flair and craft cocktails. Happy hour runs from 4-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, featuring half off all cocktails and shareable plates.

Best Special Occasion Restaurant

Halls Chophouse

Established in 2009, Halls Chophouse in downtown Charleston has it all: fine steaks, sizable cuts of seafood, an extensive wine list, and hearty family-style sides. This family-owned establishment values hospitality in an elegant retro space. Dinner is served seven nights a week and enjoy a Gospel Brunch on Sundays to the tune of live music.

Best Sunset View Restaurant

The Boathouse at Breach Inlet

For nearly 30 years, this waterside restaurant on Isle of Palms has been serving up both amazing sunset views and fresh, local seafood. You can watch the day turn to night in their indoor dining area surrounded by windows, or enjoy the view from their open-air deck area.

Best Waterfront Dining

Tavern & Table

When you’re near Shem Creek to enjoy the water and dolphin sightings, there’s no better place to dine than Tavern & Table, where the menu features flavors of the Lowcountry. They’re open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, including a Sunday brunch with classics like shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy and buttermilk pancakes.

Best Wine List

Peninsula Grill

If you enjoy the finer things in life, you’ll love exploring Peninsula Grill’s extensive wine list, which spans from Old World classics to New World options, too. The selection of both vintage and non-vintage Champagnes paired with the romantic ambiance of the restaurant make for a perfect date night in the Historic District of downtown Charleston.

Best Bar

Red’s Ice House

Looking for a laid-back spot for ice cold beer and fresh air? Red’s has you covered. Their spacious outdoor patio area right on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant perfectly combines nature and nightlife. Bonus: their happy hour is five nights a week and focuses on supporting local breweries and brands.

Best Beer List

Stones Throw Tavern

Hoppy days are here again at this beer-focused bar and eatery in West Ashley! Stones Throw Tavern’s ever-changing menu features beers from their own brewery located in Goose Creek, as well as local producers like Rusty Bull Brewing Company and Commonhouse Aleworks, in addition to a wide range of domestic and international brewskies.

Best Bloody Mary

Hyman's Seafood

There are few things more Charlestonian than enjoying a Bloody Mary garnished with a big ole’ shrimp on a sunny day downtown. Hyman’s Bloody Mary is so well-loved that they even sell Bloody Mary kits for you to enjoy at home, which include their own hot sauce and Cajun spice mix, too.

Best Craft Brewery

Low Tide Brewing

This Johns Island brewery and taproom opened in 2016 and often collaborates with local restaurants and bars on custom brews. They’ve got a selection of wheat, hoppy and dark beers on tap, as well as sours and gluten-free seltzers, plus an assortment of Lowcountry-inspired tried and true core beers that are always flowing.

Best Craft Cocktails

The Gin Joint

Unexpected ingredients make for delicious libations at this bar in the heart of historic downtown Charleston. Their cocktail menu features ingredients like miso, harissa, wasabi, and even cocoa puffs. If you’re feeling bold, tell the bartender two adjectives that describe your ideal drink, and they’ll make you a custom drink to match your mood.

Best Dessert

Carmella's Cafe & Dessert Bar

The cherry on top of an evening downtown has to be a dessert from Carmella’s, where there’s an ever-changing menu of cakes, gelato, pastries, and dessert cups. Taking inspiration from Italy, the chefs at Carmella’s bake up goodies like cannoli cake and tiramisu, as well as Southern classics like hummingbird cake.

Best Establishment with the Best Bartenders

Peninsula Grill

Fine dining should always be accompanied by impeccable drinks service, and downtown Charleston’s Peninsula Grill is no exception. The bartenders at the Champagne Bar can find you the best bubbly, or make one of their signatures, including a classic Planters Punch and a martini based on the restaurant’s famous Ultimate Coconut Cake™.

Best Key Lime Pie

Hyman's Seafood

The Hyman family’s storefront in downtown Charleston has been making delicious Southern food for nearly 40 years, and it’s no surprise that Grandma’s key lime pie has been a mainstay on the menu. After you enjoy their seafood specials, don’t forget to enjoy a perfectly tangy and sweet slice of this specialty dessert!

Best Liquor Store

Finn and Meadow Wine & Spirits (formerly Pence's Liquor & Wine)

Conveniently located with a parking lot at, this helpful haven at 334 East Bay in downtown Charleston will help you find what you need for the perfect cocktail. With their emphasis on bourbon producers, you’ll be ready to craft a stellar mint julep or old fashioned in no time.

Best Martini

Frannie & The Fox

This hip restaurant and bar located in downtown Charleston’s Hotel Emeline has options for everyone: from a fruity appletini, to a salty and spicy tequila-based version. Feeling fancy? Order their classic gin or vodka martini service with a caviar supplement. If you’re not up for a whole martini, they’ve got a rotating menu of mini martinis, too!

Best Wine Shop


Bottles Beverage Superstore in Mount Pleasant is a wine buyer’s paradise. Their extensive selection of wines, spanning many countries, varietals, and budgets, means you’re bound to find something interesting! Their natural and organic section always features unique producers, and they often have a large selection of tried and true bottles discounted as well.

Best Appetizers

The Ordinary

With Chef Mike Lata, you know you’ll be getting delicious food cooked with a passion for using local ingredients. At his seafood-focused spot on King Street, there’s an ever-evolving appetizer menu including seafood towers, a raw bar featuring local oysters, and caviar service, served with jimmy red corn cakes rather than the traditional blinis.

Best Bagels


Ruby’s Bagels, named after the co-owners’ bagel-loving pup, Ruby, opened less than two years ago but has since built a delicious empire, with locations in North Charleston, West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, and Carolina Park. Their New York-style, kettle-boiled and fresh-baked bagels come in 26 different varieties, and you can beat the lines by ordering ahead online.

Best Bakery

WildFlour Pastry

This West Ashley bakery is truly special, with seasonal menus reflecting the best ingredients out there. Pastry chef Lauren is always baking up a wide range of cakes, cookies and pies, as well as savory favorites like pimento cheese tomato pie during peak tomato season. She also sells sticky buns each week for “Sticky Bun Sunday.”

Best Breakfast

Coastal Skillet

This veteran-owned restaurant off Clements Ferry Road serves up all of the breakfast classics you could want, starting from 7 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 8 a.m. on the weekends. Pop in for a quick breakfast sandwich or burrito on your way to the office, or relax in their sunny dining room and devour a plate of biscuits and gravy.

Best Brunch

Coastal Skillet

Coastal Skillet’s brunch is the epitome of Southern comfort and hospitality, with a focus on comfort food and unique mimosa flavors, such as strawberry lemon and refreshing pomegranate and pear. Their cinnamon rolls, fries with truffle aioli, cornbread, and mac n’ cheese are each plated in a skillet for maximum satisfaction and shareability.

Best Burger

Bohemian Bull

You’ll find plenty of burger options—classic, build-your-own and craft-style—at this tavern with locations on James Island and Mount Pleasant, where they grind a mix of Black Angus brisket and chuck in-house to craft their patties. They also offer a brunch burger with a fried egg on top. Go for the trendy smash burger or opt for their luxe truffle burger topped with onion rings and gouda cheese.

Best Chicken Wings

Home Team BBQ

Pro tip: if you’re in charge of snacks for game day, Home Team BBQ will turn you into the MVP. Their smoked chicken wings, dry rubbed and served with Home Team’s Alabama white sauce, are locally beloved. With four locations in Charleston, you’re hopefully never too far from a dozen…or two.

Best Crab Cakes

Charleston Grill

A mainstay on the menu of the fine dining restaurant in historic downtown’s Charleston Place hotel, this crab cake is treasured by locals and visitors alike. The Grill’s original crab cake recipe was reimagined in early 2023, and is now topped with a sauce vierge, a French sauce with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs.

Best Doughnuts

Joey Bag A Donuts

Your inner child called and is asking for these donuts! This Mount Pleasant bakery creates wacky donut flavors like “gummy bear bash” and “worms in dirt.” For those who are more old school, there are delectable options like crullers and Boston cream filled donuts, plus they serve coffee, too.

Best Ice Cream

Ye Ole Fashioned

There’s a reason why this gem has been open over 50 years and expanded to seven different locations across Charleston and the surrounding areas: they’re churning out some hits! These include over 30 flavors of ice cream, each of which can be made into a milkshake, malt, float or sundae.

Best Oysters

Wood & Grain

The oyster selections at this Mount Pleasant eatery change daily, making each visit unique. They often feature a roasted oyster preparation, applying the restaurant’s expertise in wood-fired cooking. If you like things spicy, be sure to try their homemade hot sauce!

Best Pizza

Wood & Grain

A wood-fired brick oven, globally-inspired flavors and a focus on local sourcing are what sets this Mount Pleasant restaurant’s pizzas apart. The funghi pizza features roasted local mushrooms with fontina and taleggio cheese, while their bacon gorgonzola combines those salty and creamy ingredients with melted leeks and truffle honey for a truly decadent pie.

Best Raw Bar

Rappahannock Oyster Bar

This oyster bar’s oysters are so famous, they’re trademarked! This should be just one sign that you’re in excellent hands when you dine at downtown’s Rappahannock Oyster Bar. Enjoy their raw oysters, sourced from their farms in Virginia, or go grilled with three flavor options: smoked jalapeño butter, BBQ paprika and garlic herb pecorino.

Best Salad

California Dreaming

It’s not often that salad gets to be the star of the show, but at this restaurant right at the edge of the Ashley River in West Ashley, salad gets its time to shine. Their California Dreaming salad is piled high with greens, ham, turkey, cheddar and Monterey Jack, egg, tomatoes, almonds and bacon.

Best Sandwich

Mozzo Deli (Coleman Boulevard)

Indecisive eaters would be wise to take a look at the menu in advance, because this spot in Mount Pleasant has everything, including five categories of sandwiches organized by protein (six if you count breakfast sandwiches)! Highlights include the Fat Boy with pastrami, corned beef, and Russian slaw and the New Orleans-inspired muffaletta.

Best Seafood

Hank's Seafood Restaurant

This downtown eatery recently celebrated a quarter century of serving Charleston’s residents and visitors, a testament to the quality of their seafood-focused menu. Seafood specialties are available in every course, including their iconic She-crab soup appetizer and their bouillabaisse featuring fish, oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops all together in brothy goodness.

Best Seafood Market

Mt. Pleasant Seafood

For four generations, the Fitch family has been catching the most local and fresh fish to feed Charlestonians. Stop into their market, open seven days a week on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant, to see what’s fresh, or grab take-and-bake options like crab cakes and bacon-wrapped scallops for a quick, easy meal.

Best Steak

Halls Chophouse

It’s rare to find a restaurant that treats steak so supremely, from rare cool to well done. Renowned Halls Chophouse does just that, and only sources USDA Prime or Choice Steaks from Allen Brothers of Chicago. Pro tip: Halls serves a wide variety of sauces to top your steak, from béarnaise to their famous house Worcestershire.

Best Sushi


With three locations in Charleston - Mount Pleasant, James Island, and West Ashley—you, too, can “roll hard” with the folks behind Locals, a unique combination of a sushi bar and sports pub. Catch the game while you enjoy the latest catch in the form of nigiri, sashimi, or a roll.

Best Tacos

Taco Bartina

Taco ‘bout the best fish taco in town! Taco Bartina is a beloved no-frills taqueria with an eclectic menu served lightning fast with an array of hot sauces and free salsa bar. The blackened fish taco on a crunchy shell is not to be missed. With so many options, Taco Bartina helps you decide by dividing their extensive taco menu into “gringo tacos,” “dealer’s choice” or classic Mexican street tacos.


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