Charleston Living 2018 Best of the Best DINING
Rutledge Cab Co.
When the craving hits for good, old-fashioned finger food and American grub—fries, Cole slaw, potato salad—stop by this cab-inspired, retro hangout reminiscent of the 1950s. The burgers are one of the best menu picks. Other delicious fare that won’t disappoint are the steak tacos, finger-licking fried chicken, the Rueben sandwich, classic BLT, charcoal-grilled ribs and hearty chicken and dumplings, among other items. You can also feast on breakfast day or night.
Cane Rhum Bar & Caribbean Kitchen
One step inside this Charleston restaurant and your mood will turn tropical—the colorful setting being part of the reason for that. Whether it’s a tropical salsa appetizer with some of your favorite island fruits, fresh guacamole, plantains, jerk chicken or a mojito you choose to order, your taste buds will transcend to paradise. Other fabulous menu finds, with some protein from the sea, are the jumbo coconut shrimp and salted cod fritters.
Phuong Vietnamese Restaurant
Famous among locals for its neighborhood atmosphere and authentic Vietnamese cuisine, this North Charleston dive is a mecca for pho—pack it with brisket, beef meatballs and tripe—as well as egg noodle soups, egg rolls, fried wontons and a variety of rice vermicelli dishes. Vegetarian dishes are also available. This menu is jam-packed with the international flavor you crave.
Al Di La
No need to board a plane in search of the Motherland; you can find authentic, Italian cuisine in your backyard. The chefs here know Italy because it’s in their blood. Every pizza, pasta, steak, seafood, dessert and adult beverage in this establishment is birthed from fresh, local ingredients and a whole lot of love. It’s time to buon appetito at Al Di La for your next romantic rendezvous or respite from the chain-food monotony.
Pleasing Charlestonians and visitors alike, this Mexican hotspot’s bragging rights include irresistible baja fish tacos and salsa like no other place in the Holy City. There’s even a late-night menu three days a week for those cruising the area in need of a fourth meal or pre-bedtime snack—everything from nachos and taquitos to tortilla soup and fresh guac. In addition to beer and wine selections, the margaritas and cocktails won’t disappoint.
Saffron Café & Bakery
Breads, cakes, desserts—Oh, my! With an array of baked goods and foreign fare, Saffron’s kitchen continuously pumps out the products patrons crave. Just one look at the display case will have you drooling for a breakfast bagel, cheesecake or creampuff. But the list of delicious options doesn’t stop there. Try a cranberry walnut crumb cake, pecan tart or even baklava. The bakery also delivers; just be sure to call 48 hours ahead of time.
The Lowcountry boasts three Sticky Finger locations for piggin’ out on some of the best barbecue. The options for pouring on one of the eatery’s four house made sauces are endless. Drizzle it over traditional pulled pork, a rack of hearty ribs, barbecue chicken or even nachos, if that’s what you want. Sauces include the sweet, tangy Memphis-style; rich, boozy Tennessee Whiskey; Carolina Sweet; spicy Sweet Southern Heat; and Carolina Classic for fans of mustard-base barbecue.
Looking for a breakfast nook with hearty comfort food? Toast’s homemade dishes are as charming as the staff. Best known for its bottomless mimosas, the eatery also prides itself on its New York Times-recommended French toast, stuffed with cinnamon apples or peaches and sure to make you weak in the knees. There’s also staple shrimp and grits and classic buttermilk biscuits, perfect for pairing with fried chicken or drowning in rich gravy.
Little Jack’s Tavern
Whether it’s lunch or dinner, the burgers cooked at this classic King Street eatery are the ones you won’t stop bragging about to your friends. Main menu options range from the basic tavern burger, served with American cheese and a special tavern sauce, to the double tavern burger with fresh French-fried potatoes and twice the meat and flavor. Or opt for the shrimp burger seasoned with Old Bay and layered with herbed mayo.
Christophe Artisan Chocolatier
Pamper your taste buds at a place dubbed in recent years one of the continent’s top sweet treat destinations, according to Dessert Professional Magazine. Edible, French-inspired creations are the focus of this kitchen’s sugar-loving chef—also a third-generation chocolatier. Whether in West Ashley or downtown Charleston, spoil yourself with all things chocolate—even sculptures shaped like the Eiffel Tower. But if chocolate’s not your preference, maybe the coffee bar and pastries will catch your eye.
Don’t look anywhere else when it’s time to book your next wedding or corporate event. The staff here prides themselves on being both food architects and event creators—tailored uniquely and specially for each and every customer, no matter if its locally-inspired or international cuisine you crave. Choose from an array of packages, from a grand family-style buffet, a fully-stocked bar, simple hors d’oeuvres or a seated plate meal. (You can’t go wrong with a biscuit bar option!)
Vintage Coffee Café
This former-home-turned-Mount Pleasant café has a large backyard available for the kiddos to let loose while you sip a caffeinated pick-me-up—a double shot espresso or macchiato. If it’s hot tea you prefer, try the peach blossom, earl grey lavender and other flavors. But coffee is just the main attraction; for hungry patrons there’s breakfast and lunch, served daily, and alcoholic beverages for those in need of a cold brew or vino.
This downtown Charleston eatery, operated by five generations of family, is a seafood frontrunner that’s particularly popular for its award-winning crab cakes. Most meal times the customer line can be seen stretching out the front door for a chance to feast on them and other fresh fare from the coast. Have your favorite crustacean cooked as an $8.50 appetizer paired with remoulade sauce, or bite into a lump crab cake sandwich for a more filling dish.
Carmella’s Café & Dessert Bar
This is the perfect nook to unwind for a post-dessert treat and drink. It’s not just a haven for confectionary creations but also an upscale wine bar. Tempted for a dessert cocktail? Open daily until 2 a.m., there’s no excuse not to drop in and see why Carmella’s sugar is seducing Charleston. Feast on a gourmet pastry like cannoli, tiramisu cake or white chocolate mousse; or savor some gelato to help you brave the summer heat.
Southern, soul food sure to please the whole family, this eatery, open every day but Monday, is rooted in local history and love of fellowship. Its namesake is a 19th-century Lowcountry woman who knew how to satisfy an appetite. That includes Jestine’s owner, who started the operation in memory of her talented cooking friend. Hungry for fried green tomatoes, cornbread, meatloaf and sausage gumbo? How about a classic Yoo-hoo? The menu options are endless.
Who doesn’t want a meal made with fresh, local ingredients served in an upscale environment? Try a healthy salad or eclectic lunch at this modern bistro. Or fill up on a plate of fried chicken livers with Geechie Boy grits, or blackened shrimp sandwich with pickled green tomatoes. For those low on funds but not wanting to miss out on this fine dining experience, pop in for a “lunch express,” which offers the day’s special entrée at a lower price.
The Gathering Café
You don’t have to forgo that comfort food craving to cater to your dietary needs—do turkey sausage, roasted Brussel sprouts and butternut squash pique your interest? You can still eat healthy and guilt-free when you dine at this organic West Ashley kitchen. Ingredients are local and fresh—mostly from North and South Carolina—and vegan and vegetarian meals dot the menu. Customers can additionally craft their own dish with the “you be the artist” feature.
Ye Ole Fashioned
Your sweet tooth can be indulged in any of seven tri-county locations. For the past 40+ years, this hub for finger foods and ice cream has become a staple for local families and tourists. Choose from over 30 flavors—pistachio, rocky road, blueberry cheesecake—to pack into a waffle cone or cup. If it’s a heavenly sundae or banana split you seek, there are more than a dozen options available. The handspun milkshakes are also a hit!
Parson Jack’s Cafe
This Charleston eatery invites the whole family—including dogs if you dine al fresco. That’s because the food destination was named after a local preacher who survived a shipwreck and befriended a canine. The bar and kitchen are ready to cook up a dish or serve a chilled drink that meets your taste needs. For lunch try a juicy, gourmet burger with crispy “Jack” straws, or a cheese-smothered “Holy Jalapeño Queso Burger,” among other plates.
Grace & Grit
Seasonal produce, house-cooked bacon and fresh seafood raved about by the Sustainable Seafood Initiative—do we have your attention yet? Stop in daily for dinner or brunch on the weekends. You’ll be hooked the moment you fork up Southern eats like grits, butterbeans, cornbread and fried chicken. With large, comfy booths, long, wooden tables and a high wood beamed ceiling, the dining space—capped by a bar at one end—is open, inviting and unique from other eateries in town.
Artificial and unhealthy food products aren’t welcome here, where the philosophy centers on fresh, organic and natural eats—whether it’s the produce, seafood or bakery section. Shop here without guilt, fear or label reading because you’ll only be feeding your family clean food. No added hormones, bleach or antibiotics, so you can live longer and healthier. Don’t just savor the thought of grass-fed beef and fruits and veggies “as nature intended.” Go buy them!
Sip on something refreshing as you marvel at a summer sunset over Shem Creek; or feast on fresh seafood while observing the local fishermen who catch it. With an upper and lower deck for you to dine on, you’ll be at ease in either place. The first floor features the famous Cabana bar, where an 80-foot dock connects you to the waterway. Try one of 450 wine labels available while you relax in your coastal oasis.
Get a taste of the Big Apple’s large-sliced pizza—up to 19-inches in diameter—at any one of three locations. Each day the kitchen pumps out fresh, handmade dough, sauce and cheese—and has been for 25 years at this staple pizza spot in Charleston and Mt. Pleasant. From standard pepperoni to pineapple and anchovies, cover your pie or single slice with any number of toppings, choosing to either dine in or carry out.
Once operating as a cigar factory during the 1800s, this eatery invites guests to relax outside or in, perhaps at its custom copper bar. Visit the indoor seafood market displaying the kitchens’ raw local fish or stop by weekdays during daily happy hour to receive 50 percent off orders. The kitchen features selections from oysters farmed in and out of state. Also, wash down an oyster shooter made with vodka, gin, tequila or mezcal. Did we mention there’s caviar?
Muse Restaurant & Wine Bar
Find authentic Mediterranean cuisine, good drinks and amorous vibes at this modern, eclectic spot, perfect for cozying up together—in the main eating area, a private room or outdoor courtyard. The décor and lighting cater to love, and you’re sure to fall in love with the fare as well. Entrées range from pasta plates like fettuccine carbonara to seafood dishes like lobster risotto. And what’s more romantic than sharing a sweet treat like dark chocolate torte or strawberry rhubarb for dessert?
Five Loaves Café
Stop in at one of three locations and be sure to fork up an extravagant leafy, green entrée. They go beyond the boring, basic bowls you’re tired of munching on for calorie counting. These salads are unique creations that mix together veggies, fruit, nuts and protein in innovative ways. Try one topped with eggplant fritters or chilled smoked salmon; opt for goat cheese, candied walnuts, beets and tri-colored quinoa. Pair it with soup or a sandwich.
Charleston Crab House
Whether shopping with the girls downtown or enjoying the sun and surf on James Island, find a Crab House location—in the Historic District or along Wappoo Creek—to curb your hunger pains and meet your need for “everything crab-a-licious”. Think blue crap dip, crab-stuffed mushrooms and fiddler crab cakes. Raw bar favorites—imagine chilled oysters and peel ‘n eat shrimp—“world-famous steam-pots” and Southern fried fish, like flounder fillet, also fill the menu.
The Swamp Fox
You don’t have to book an overnight stay at Francis Marion Hotel to enjoy an indulgent culinary experience. This fine dining spot includes unprecedented customer service and there’s no price tag on friendliness—which keeps the eatery a revolving door of patrons. If you do choose to relax and lodge, order room service—just because you can. The staff happily meets each customers’ needs. There’s even complimentary hors d’oeuvres 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays during a special social hour.
Burwell’s Stonefire Grill
In historic downtown, find this award-winning steakhouse with ever-revolving recipes and dishes and a kitchen that utilizes only ingredients from “humane” ranches and local farms. The eatery prides itself on its stone-fire grill, which burns at 1,400 degrees, and delectably seasoned prime steaks—always “a cut above.” Some are aged up to 45 days, and all are cooked over the grill, which uses three different woods for flavor, or seared on a 700-degree hot rock at your table.
Plan your next after-church gathering or early afternoon meal here, where the brunch will transcend your taste buds with its fresh-baked biscuits with honey or chicken & waffles. If it’s a sweet treat you need, try the apple cinnamon French toast casserole—made with sweet cream glaze, house made sausage and cheddar grits. Other tempting menu items include the $11 bottomless mimosa, bacon potato salad, and market jambalaya, among other meals crafted from farm-to-table ingredients.
The kitchen staff here knows how to “roll hard” to prepare nigiri or sashimi sushi when you request it. Choose to fill your sushi with any ocean critter you crave like salmon, yellowtail, mahi mahi and octopus. The “ninja roll”—a concoction of snow crab, tempura shrimp and avocado—is a customer favorite; the kitchen also proudly offers multiple award-winning rolls. Stop in for discounted fare at the start of the week with “Munday Funday.”
On Rutledge Avenue, find a haven that meets your particular dietary needs—vegetarian, vegan and organic. Pizza, wraps and sandwiches are made to fit your lifestyle, although meat is still on the menu. And regardless of the dish—nachos, Thai bowl, black bean hummus—the portions and flavors remain rich and satisfying, leaving no stomach growling and no wallet robbed. If your mouth is watering, feed it inside this uniquely blue-shaded Caribbean-themed nook.
Tavern & Table
With Mount Pleasant’s picturesque Shem Creek in the backdrop, this popular food spot ups the ante on eating out. Especially since the menu also boasts creations from a chef who once beat out Bobby Flay on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.” The waterway provides a tranquil setting sure to relax all who flock here for simple finger foods or fresh seafood plates. Unwind outside near the waterfront bar and sip on a cold beer from the comfort of a lounge chair.