The Lowcountry’s top finds between buns, plus mouth-watering brews to help wash them down
By JENNA-LEY JAMISON
For those craving one of America’s favorite finger-food staples, there’s no shortage of retreats across the Charleston area to find that perfect classic or gourmet burger—or chilled beer to pair with it. Regardless of what your diet demands, beef or no-beef, there’s a patty—even up to nine if you crave it—you can find layered between a bun. Devour it and wash it down with a classic craft brew, or a bottle or can of any number of domestic, imported or Indie options.
Open every day but Monday for a beautifully-plated meal, and even a little later Fridays and Saturdays for a fourth-meal dish, you’ll always find what you’re craving inside this historic 19th century structure, named for its King Street location. But if it’s classic American you want, the menu offers the eatery’s popular double cheeseburger topped with bacon or egg, paired with a white, cheese-flavored sauce. It’s even on the Sunday brunch menu. And wash every bite down with one of a number of beer options, from local brews stemming from Palmetto Brewing Company and Holy City Brewery—among other favorite area distilleries—to a chilled can of cider or bottle of sour, cream or wheat ale.
A former church on North Market Street, you’ll be sure to praise the food and holy vibes, from the Gothic-style window on one wall to the upscale leather seating. Choose an evening out with friends or a romantic partner in a private dining spot and consider feasting on the kitchen’s infamous lamb burger. Topped with gorgonzola cheese, a sweet red onion marmalade and a “secret” sauce, it’ll be a memorable experience for your taste buds. But if it’s simple and classic you lust for, there’s also a bacon-topped brioche bun burger with American cheese. The restaurant also provides beer enthusiasts the option of a $7 glass on tap—the flavors always rotating. Also try a cider, sour or Westbrook One Claw, among a variety of menu selections.
60 Bull Café
With a musical backdrop of horse and carriage tours and an historic setting to marvel at as you eat, this café is a neighborhood nook where residents or visitors to Harleston Village can unwind without the pretention or higher costs of some other nearby eateries. Known for its sweeping sandwich menu—complete with a house ground prime beef burger, topped with sriracha aioli for a spicy kick to the tongue—it offers the option of dining in or to go. Order a burger boxed-lunch and fries for the road. So whether it’s been a long week at work or lazy day on the beach, step foot inside and sip a brew that’s local ($4), craft ($5) or domestic ($3). Also sample something lighter like a cider or hard seltzer—apple, pineapple, pear, grapefruit flavors available.
Big Billy’s Burger Joint
It’s no surprise what the hit cuisine is here—a laid-back North Charleston establishment where finger foods are the popular staple. And it’s all about customizing that perfect burger or feasting on made-for-you dishes like the “Smash” burger piled high with chili and potato chips or the spicy “I Wanna Lei Ya” burger, reminiscent of the Hawaiian culture. Choose from among more than a dozen toppings, cheeses and condiments. Bite into a burger topped with jalapeño pimento cheese with sliced avocado and caramelized onions. Condiments include everything from house made ketchup and Dijon mustard to chow-chow and mayo flavored like bacon, smoked onion, chipotle or roasted garlic. For a healthier option order a turkey burger, or patty made of chicken or black beans. Feeling “wild”? There’s also bison, lamb, venison and wild boar burgers.
Big Gun Burger Shop & Bar
Started by a seasoned gourmet caterer, it’s all about a big thick, juicy beef patty inside this downtown Charleston retreat, where exposed brick walls and the hub-cap covered bar adds to the unique character. But don’t shy away from stopping in if you’re anti-beef. The menu also provides an array of non-beef burgers like duck, turkey, chorizo and veggie—for example, the “dirty gardener” with eggplant tomato jam and fried kale. Or maybe you have a large appetite and want to try the $12.50 “towering inferno” with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, queso fresco and habanero slaw. The vibe is as much about burgers as it is about that perfect beer to quench your thirst. From a simple $2 PBR to a $6.25 craft brew selection, there’s no shortage of booze at this bar.
Known “for the love of burgers, beers and bourbon,” what is there not to love about this Folly Road tavern-style dive and beer garden, where ingredients are sourced locally. Kitchen staff boasts hand-crafted patties “hand-spanked” and made from a brisket/chuck blend. From weekly beer features, a weekday happy hour, gluten-free menu, and $3 build-your-own burger special on Hump Day, it’s not hard to settle into a seat here. The “Big Texas” burger is one for spicy, Mexican food enthusiasts, since it’s topped with fresh guacamole, pico, Chipotle ranch and beer-battered jalapenos, while a lighter option is the “Caprese burger” with fresh basil, mozzarella, tomato and basil mayo. Or maybe you skipped breakfast and desire a burger stacked with sausage, egg, hash browns, ketchup and maple syrup!
It’s likely you won’t easily forget what Mt. Pleasant food haven you walked into while munching on a BurgerFi-labeled burger and side of crisp fries. Each bun gets a literal stamp of approval. So sink your teeth into a single or double patty, depending on your appetite’s current state of bravado. Taste the tantalizing natural Angus cheeseburger with a special BurgerFi sauce, or the satisfying wagyu-brisket blend burger with candied bacon tomato jam and aged Swiss cheese—better known as “The CEO.” Burgers also come “vegefi”—a quinoa-crusted veggie patty—or “green style” for the carb-conscious customer wishing instead for a lettuce-wrapped entrée. Regardless of whether you choose bun or go sans bun, don’t neglect the menu’s endless array of toppings: chili, fried egg, grilled mushrooms, garlic aioli, relish, jalapenos, onion rings and more. Craft beer is also available from area breweries. In a hurry? Use the app to order “Fi on the fly.”
Charleston Burger Company
Everything’s bigger in Texas—and on the plates served at this Ashley River Road eatery. Crafted from 100-percent Angus beef, the burgers are colossal creations meant to leave a lasting impression. It’s all about pleasing the customer, who can build it big or order from a divided menu of “traditional” eats, such as the “All-American” burger with bacon and cheese, and “signature” eats. Consider “The Big Hurt,” a burger topped with a chili and sauerkraut hot dog, or the “Killer Beehive,” known for its double-battered onion ring tower covered in honey barbecue sauce.
Regardless, the process is simple: choose a patty; then bun—pretzel, sesame Kaiser, brioche or gluten-free; and how you want it cooked: chargrilled over an open grill or “smashed” on a flat top grill. And be ready to devour your meal with two hands—and possibly a bib.
Sticky Fingers Ribhouse
With multiple locations across the Lowcountry—including Summerville, Charleston and Mt. Pleasant—this Southern chain hangout specializing in Memphis-style barbecue, ribs and wings also makes a legendary burger, because this kitchen is all about cooking up memorable meat. All three menu options ($8-$10 apiece) will melt in your mouth and perhaps leave you stickier than planned, especially if you order the “Seriously Sticky” burger, topped with pulled pork, Cole slaw cheddar cheese, and popular smoky-flavored Tennessee whiskey barbecue sauce. There’s also the lower-calorie turkey burger covered in melted mozzarella and the “Memphis bacon” cheeseburger, piled with cheddar, mozzarella, bacon and sweet, molasses and brown-sugar-based Memphis Original barbecue sauce.
Special to Sullivan’s Island, this beachside, live music-loving Irish joint is no stranger to hungry patrons and fans of quaint dining—the hideaway cabin-like in nature. Surrounded by the sights and sounds of nearby tropical life, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation every time you visit for a fresh burger and cold beer. Feast on a half-pound, Chuck patty with toppings—lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo—that won’t overwhelm you. Options include the classic cheeseburger, the Black and Blue burger drizzled with hot sauce and bleu cheese crumbles, and local favorite the “Carolina” burger topped with chili, cheese and Cole slaw. Stay a while and sample one or more of 14 beers on tap, ranging in price from $4.50 to $6 a glass, some from local craft breweries. Or maybe it’s a Motherland-brewed Guinness stout you desire.
Deemed one of the Holy City’s oldest bars, around since the ’50s, there’s no reason you shouldn’t discover for yourself what locals and tourists alike are raving about—perhaps the 4-7 p.m. happy hour or lunch, dinner and late night dining you can’t find anywhere else. The impressive list of bottled and beer on draft—more than dozen—is what makes this Savannah Highway watering hole a top choice. It also has a burger selection to fit any hankering. Do you crave bacon, pimento cheese and a classic, Southern fried green tomato? Then order the “Avondale” burger. Another unique menu staple is the “Ranchburger,” with crumbled bacon, ranch and scallions. There’s also “Mesquite BBQ” and “Motherload” burgers, depending on how hungry you are. And feel free to substitute any beef patty for chicken or turkey.
Dining has never been more equally upscale and relaxed than inside this downtown Charleston retreat, where the hospitality you’ll feel from staff, live piano music, grandiose selection of beer on tap, and flavorful dishes will instill complete confidence in you to return again and again. A premiere spot for a romantic date night or celebratory group gathering, don’t shy away from this top steakhouse just because you fancy a burger. In fact the eatery ensures all beef trimmings from the kitchen are used to create a 10-ounce signature ground patty—on the bar menu only. For $12 it’s sure to be a swanky eat and completely worth the random pick and parmesan truffle fry side.
Burgers, craft beer...and ping-pong? That’s right. Eat, sip and get competitive at this King Street hangout perfect for any meal, brunch included, happy hour ritual or friendly ping-pong matchup—and you’ll quickly become one of the regular “HoMies.” Drop by 6-10 p.m. Mondays for a $5 classic double burger and fancy tots. But daily happy hour isn’t just for drink specials. It’s also a time when discounted burger options reign. For $8 apiece, feast on a double patty cheeseburger with a “fancy sauce,” or treat yourself to a “Businessman,” also two patties topped a “special sauce” and loaded between one sesame seed bun. For just a buck, pair it with a Miller High Life Pony or $2 Coors Banquet, among other classic beer options.
Hwy 55 Burgers
Step back in time to a golden age when life was “swell” and the All-American diner was a central hub of activity. Here, all burgers come freshly handcrafted—never frozen, and the menu features everything from a classic cheeseburger to a gourmet pimento and bacon cheeseburger. For the little stomach, fill up on a “‘Lil’ burger,” and for the ravenous customer, try to tackle the towering “fifty-five” challenge. This 55-ounce, seven-patty burger won’t appear on your bill if you demolish it—along with fries and a 24-ounce drink—in 30 minutes or less. Another eatery favorite is the “John Boy & Billy BBQ Bacon” burger with an onion ring topping. But if it’s seafood you crave, pair a homemade chocolate shake with a shrimp burger—the patty covered with slaw.
Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ Restaurant
With locations in Charleston, North Charleston and now Mt. Pleasant, there’s no excuse not to drop in and evaluate why this popular barbecue chain restaurant is also a fan favorite for cold brew and Hickory-grilled burgers—just $11 each. Drizzle barbecue sauce on a beef patty to create the kitchen’s “Southern” burger, which also boasts cheddar cheese, grilled onions and smoked bacon; or double up the ground-chuck for the “Burger 1920.” For a classic taste, go for the “Hamburger Dave,” amping up the indelible flavor with a pimento cheese topping for just 50 cents more. For a tangier taste, munch on a “Smoked Mushroom & Swiss” burger, complete with caramelized onions and horseradish mayo. And be sure to add to your positive dining experience with an IPA or other beer made right here in the Holy City.
Flowertown’s niche nook for old-fashioned burgers and chili provides a refreshing distinction from other less obscure eateries throughout the Lowcountry. Its downtown Summerville setting provides a small-town vibe in stark contrast to the food’s big, bold flavors. Can’t decide if your appetite’s yearning to rate the burgers or chili? Have them both, between a bun—and, well, all over your plate. The chili cheeseburger is a messy concoction with 8-ounces of chili that’ll require extra napkins but leave you smiling for more. The prices will make you grin, too. Burgers come in 1/3- or 1/4-pound patties—some made from a combo of ground chuck and ground sausage. Top one with hot pepper cheese and fried onions, and you’ve got the popular sausage cheeseburger. And when you’re here, the friendly customer service makes you feel like part of Matt’s Southern family.
Parson Jack’s Café
This Charleston eatery invites the whole family—including the pooch, allowed to romp around leash-free on the porch. Named after a legendary local preacher who survived a shipwreck and befriended a canine, this café has more than a distinctive tale to share. Its bar and menu items cater to anyone looking for filling finger-food portions like the 3/4-inch thick gourmet burgers, served on a focaccia-style bun with crispy “Jack” straws. Pamper your taste buds with one of four types including the “Super bacon cheeseburger,” layered with a trio of peppered bacon and the “Holy Jalapeño Queso Burger,” smothered in a cheesy deluge. As you lean back and sip a cold one, catch a glimpse of the money-covered ceiling and its rich vibe. And at the bar you can always find four beers on draft—in addition to three rotating seasonal ones—and a number of imported, domestic and craft beers.
Named to honor one of America’s most-celebrated literary talents and former local, Edgar Allen Poe, this Sullivan’s Island destination is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the sand, making it easily accessible as a lunch or dinnertime stop after a long day at the beach or window-shopping day with the girls. Pull up a seat and snack on a $10 black bean veggie burger with red peppers and onions, or make it a signature burger. To wash down your meal or to quench your thirst on a hot, summer day or steamy date night, select from among more than a handful of rotating draughts stemming from nearby breweries. Or find that bottled beer favorite—Bud Light, Heineken, Woodchuck—you can’t live without. And there’s no need to chug it; the tavern stays open daily until midnight. So sit back, unwind and order another round.
Red’s Ice House
Nothing beats the picturesque dining experience Red’s offers at either of its two locations: Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant and Seabrook Island, overlooking Bohicket Creek. The waterway views are just a bonus to the seafood, burgers and brew. Sit back and let the breeze bring you the tantalizing cuisine scents while you survey a sunset and maybe even a dolphin. Stop in Monday nights and tap a foot to live music, with a burger in hand. The kitchen pumps out six different types including the shrimp and turkey burgers, the “piggy perfect” “Smokehouse” burger with pulled pork, and the “Mexicali” burger topped with tortilla strips. Come by 4-7 p.m. weekdays to get a happy hour discount on a single bottle beer or bucket. And be sure to sample local Revelry Brewing’s “Up Sh*m Creek” India Pale Lager, a beer crafted specifically for Red’s and a second area eatery.
Rutledge Cab Co.
Voted by readers as serving up Charleston’s best burger, this 1950s cab-inspired hangout—formerly a gas station and convenience store—will grab your attention with its creative retro-style décor, laid-back vibe, and other chargrilled comfort food. Ask for a seat under the covered outdoor patio and treat yourself to a shrimp burger, garden burger—comprised of lentil, mushroom and brown rice—blue cheese burger with balsamic onion relish, or two-patty turkey burger piled with cranberry chutney, garlic mayo, brie and raw spinach. To shock your taste buds, opt for the red-eye burger and its sriracha mayo. It also comes with a fried egg, Tillamook cheddar and candied bacon. The chilled beverages, by the bottle, can or draft, are also worth sampling. Sip a Guinness, Dale’s Pale Ale or Corona while you dine.
Sesame Burgers & Beer
Whatever diet you demand—vegan, vegetarian or straight-up carnivorous—there’s a burger and one of six craft, local or Indie brews on tap for you. Try a traditional beef patty or one made of elk, chicken, turkey or black beans, and then design what makes you happy. Choose among four bun types or load your meat and toppings onto a bowl of fresh greens. Next, pick a cheese and an array of toppings: house beer mustard, grilled pineapple, roasted beets, basil pesto, fig-bacon jam, among others. If you stop by 4 p.m. to close on Tuesdays checkout a burger special like “the Park Circle,” with coleslaw and chipotle barbecue, or “the Memphis,” with peanut butter, bacon and banana. Perhaps the secret to good eats here is that everything—the meat, the bun, the condiments, toppings—is made and ground in-house. Locations include Mt. Pleasant, West Ashley and North Charleston.
Tavern & Table
With a sight of Mt. Pleasant’s Shem Creek that’ll likely leave you breathless at sunset, this restaurant’s waterway view is only half its magic. The other comes from a menu of locally-sourced meat, fish and other ingredients, along with two bar locations—one inside and one on the outdoor deck—that serve up bottled classics and seasonal craft beer selections. Happy Hour is 4-7 p.m. weekdays—$1 off all domestics. So enjoy a bottle or two alongside a bison patty—covered with blue cheese and candied pancetta—or a healthier turkey burger layered with avocado salsa, cabot habanero cheese and roasted red peppers. All meat, a combo of brisket, short rib and natural angus chuck, is ground fresh daily. But perhaps most unique and worth every bit of its $16 price tag is the French dip burger, topped with aged white cheese, tomato jam, candied shallots and a parmesan crisp.
Hailed by Southern Living Magazine as one of the South’s best bars, this Irish pub is a Charleston dive where you can grab a burger and craft beer at a low price. It’s not hard to forget the bang you’ll get for your buck here, since the walls are literally littered with $1 bills. For just $8.99, chow down on a classic two-patty Griffon burger, adding cheese, bacon, jalapenos, sautéed onions or a fried egg for a small additional charge. Also try the black bean burger for a lighter option. And with 16 beers on draft and 23 bottled and can beer selections, it might take a minute deciphering what to chase with your entrée. That includes locally-brewed tastes from Westbrook Brewing, Freehouse Brewery, Coast Brewing, and Charles Towne Fermentory, to name a few.
Tommy Condon’s Restaurant
Whether or not you’re Irish, this pub will quickly become your home away from home—its live music an added bonus to help you unwind. Sip a glass from the tap or sit back and pop a top on your favorite chilled suds. It doesn’t matter if you grab a seat solo at the bar or dine with friends on the outdoor patio, you’ll be tempted to raise a toast to Lowcountry living—perhaps with a Murphy’s Irish stout or Magners cider in hand. And you can’t dine here without finding out what makes the burgers a hot commodity; the “Tommy” burger features a beef blend of chuck, brisket and short rib, while the “Irish breakfast” burger is the same patty topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, fried green tomato and fried egg.
Triangle Char & Bar
Both Mt. Pleasant and Charleston’s West Ashley community are home to this sizzling hangout famous for chargrilled eats and at least a dozen booze flavors including “Son of a Peach,” “Nitro Milk Stout” and “Palmetto Pale Ale.” Unique to this eatery is its commitment to locally-sourced, healthy fare—including grass-fed beef from South Carolina cows. The meat is also vegetarian-fed without hormones or antibiotics. Burgers come as simple as the “Plain Jane,” or as amped up as the “Boss Hog,” complete with bacon, caramelized onions and house pimento cheese. And “The Nap” will surely produce a slight snooze from satisfaction in devouring lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese toppings layered between two bacon-grilled cheese sandwiches. Don’t forget the “Hot Sh*t Part Deux”—an egg-topped blackened burger with jalapeño bacon jam, pepper jack cheese, and extra bacon!
Good food, good fellowship and good memories—that’s the promise Wayback Burgers both guarantees and delivers for every customer who dines at its Summerville and Goose Creek locations. The atmosphere is carefree and the burgers are an indulgent treat—made just the way you want. Either build one how you crave—up to three patties if you choose with honey barbecue, chipotle mayo, avocado and relish among the many available toppings. Or order one of nine different signature burgers, the most impressive a nine-patty “Triple Triple” for the bottomless stomach. Other tasty picks include the “Cheeeesy” double-patty stacked with four cheese slices inside a grilled buttered bun, and the “Rodeo” layered with onion rings and cheddar cheese, drizzled all over with a tangy barbecue sauce.