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Charleston Living Best of the Best Reader's Choice 2017

By TERI ERRICO GRIFFIS and JENNA-LEY JAMISON

DINING

Authentic American

The Ordinary

 This fancy seafood and oyster hall serves up all your classic American upscale eats, with specials every day of the week but Monday. Come down to the King Street eatery for Friday’s baked stuffed lobster for only $35, Saturday’s $40 steak night—with pistachio pesto if you choose—or Sunday’s $30 fish fry. Additional menu items include flounder, clams, peel ‘n eat shrimp, oyster sliders and caviar. 843-414-7060, eattheordinary.com

Authentic Caribbean

Cane Rhum Bar & Caribbean Kitchen

 This colorful Charleston restaurant will put the entire family in a tropical mood just by walking through the doors. Start your island-like experience with tropical salsa—made with pineapple, mango and papaya—or fresh guacamole, with sea-salted plantain chips for dipping. For the next course, order up the “mighty jerk chicken” or coffee-rubbed hanger steak. To wash it all down, sip a classic Mai Tai, mojito or sangria.  843-277-2764, eatdrinkcane.com

Authentic Asian

O-Ku

This King Street sushi lounge will launch your taste buds halfway across the globe. You’ll forget your Southern situation and retreat to an Asian destination in your mind. So pick up a pair of chopsticks and try a crab or spicy tuna crunch roll, or sample a sashimi taco with tropical fruit salsa, chicken teriyaki or miso-marinated cod. All seafood in this kitchen stems from locations both local and abroad.  843-737-0122, o-kusushi.com

Authentic Italian

Trattoria Lucca

This authentic Italian restaurant placed in the Holy City’s Elliotsborough neighborhood is “all about the food,” featuring a top chef pasta crafter and sommelier who offers customers bountiful dishes and wine pairings that won’t disappoint. The menu features all your favorite Motherland eats and Mediterranean tastes. Fork up a bite of blue crab and anchovy tagliolini; the scallopini with naturally-raised veal; grilled octopus; or angus flat iron with mushrooms and peanut potatoes. 843-973-3323, luccacharleston.com

Authentic Mexican

Minero

Casual in atmosphere but rich in flavor, this dining location is a sizzling option along East Bay Street for anyone craving the cheesy, spicy, zesty culture of fresh Mexican cuisine. Fill a taco with shrimp, fried catfish, pork, chicken, steak or chorizo—each served with a side of hoppin’ john (a rice and bean mixture). And don’t forget dessert! Have the table share a bag of cinnamon churros with Mexican chocolate sauce. 843-789-2241, minerorestaurant.com

Bakery

Saffron Cafe & Bakery

There’s always a high demand for Saffron’s foreign eats and baked goods, keeping kitchen staff working around-the-clock to generate fresh treats and products for patrons. If you don’t have time to stop by and drool over the delicious-looking display case—constantly changing—call 48 hours in advance to order a delivery of any favorite bread or dessert: cranberry walnut crumb cake, pumpkin cheesecake, pecan tart, baklava, creampuffs, breakfast bagels and more. 843-722-5588, eatatsaffron.com

Barbecue

Sticky Fingers

No matter where you’re visiting in the Lowcountry—Mt. Pleasant, Charleston or Summerville—there’s a plate of barbecue with your name on it. Try the staple pulled pork with finger-licking ribs, chicken, nachos or atop a beef patty. The eatery is also known for its barbecue sauces: sweet and tangy Memphis-style; rich and boozy Tennessee Whiskey; Carolina Sweet with molasses and honey; the spicy Sweet Southern Heat; and the mustard-based Carolina Classic. stickyfingers.com

Breakfast Spot

Charleston’s Café

Wake up and consume your day’s most important meal where the breakfast options are endless. Whether it’s the sweet, syrup-covered waffle, pancake or French toast meal you desire or the healthier pre- or post-run egg and oatmeal dishes your body needs—all found under the special “Bridge Run” menu—this Mt. Pleasant café is a top morning destination. More novelty items, like corned beef hash and shrimp & grits, are also available. 843-856-7796, charlestonscafe.com

Burgers

Rutledge Cab Co.

A cab-inspired hangout reminiscent of the 1950s “Golden Age,” this spot is as all-American as it gets—the burger menu is one reason why. Patties are cooked to perfection on an indoor charcoal grill so choose from an eclectic list: the French onion burger or Red Eye topped with fried egg—each served on an English muffin—or a beef patty paired with blue cheese or shrimp. Need healthier fare? Order a garden or turkey burger. 843-720-1440, rutledgecabco.com

Candy/Chocolate

Kilwin’s Chocolates

Satisfy your sweet tooth with old-fashioned-style goodies, some hand-crafted in-house. But before devouring your decadent treat, remember to admire its decorated shell, each one adding to its uniqueness and appeal. And no matter your age, it’s likely you’ll feel like a “kid in a candy shop” when trying to choose a goody: a pound of maple walnut fudge? Toffee, truffles or turtles? Caramels, creams or clusters? You can be sure of one thing: no option is less than heavenly. 843-722-6887, kilwins.com/charleston

Caterer 

Hamby Catering and Events

One of the top full-service catering operations in the Lowcountry, Hamby is family owned and operated for nearly 40 years. It’s come a long way from its humble beginnings. From quaint home kitchen cooking to a storefront and now bustling business with at least a dozen members, the team is known for successful service and pumping out savory Southern cuisine like fontina mac & cheese bites, smoked pork belly, chicken bog and surf & turf. Hamby also boasts multiple accolades from Wedding Wire and The Knot. 843-571-3103, hambycatering.com

Coffeehouse

Muddy Waters Coffee Bar

This coffee mecca is a dream for patrons of the caffeinated drink. Changed daily and monthly, the coffee beans shipped here stem from the Counter Culture company, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and are brewed fresh each day from Italian-crafted machines. Also pair a sugary treat with any hot cappuccino or espresso, iced or frozen blend. The friendly staff and art-covered walls are an additional part of the make-it-muddy experience, found along Maybank Highway. 843-795-0848, muddywaterscoffee.com

Crab Cakes

Hyman’s Seafood

Run by fifth generation family members, the downtown Charleston destination is a local seafood frontrunner and scarcely sees a short line of hungry patrons piled outside its doors. Many come for the award-winning crab cakes, fairly priced at $8.50 as an appetizer—also served with a tasty remoulade sauce. For $17.50 try the lump crab cake inside a hoagie roll, paired with a side of slaw and hushpuppies. 843-723-6000, hymanseafood.com

Desserts

Carmella’s

This popular Italian-inspired dessert and wine bar will be sure to hit the sweet spot, whether you’re on an after-dinner stroll, need an afternoon pick-me-up or want a fourth-meal snack or dessert cocktail—the shop is open on East Bay Street until 2 a.m. daily. Feast on a gourmet pastry like cannoli, tiramisu cake or white chocolate mousse. Or scoop up some cool gelato or Italian ice for a hot summer fix. 843.722.5893, carmellasdessertbar.com

Family Restaurant

Charleston Crab House

Round up the family and flock to the downtown Charleston or James Island location for “Southern seafood and a darn good time.” Sit inside or outside to feast on steamed eats or raw bar favorites, everything from classic she-crab soup and Lowcountry shrimp boil to fried lobster tail and fresh snow crab. Not a seafood lover? No worries. The menu is filled with American fare like chicken tenders for the kiddos and burgers or fries for the comfort food fan. 843-795-1963, charlestoncrabhouse.com

Fine Dining

Peninsula Grill

Dine with style and class inside this oasis of elegance right in the heart of Charleston’s historic district. Either eat inside or out, within the beautifully-lit courtyard. Surrounded by greenery, you’ll surely relax while retreating from life’s busyness. Absorb the setting’s surreal feel and unprecedented tastes that hit your palate—like a center cut filet and espresso crème brulee. Host a celebratory gathering or romantic getaway here, where the memories you make will last a lifetime. 843-723-0700, peninsulagrill.com

Healthy Fare

Harold’s Cabin

Stop in for lunch or dinner and find the kitchen serves only the freshest of local ingredients—many grown right on site in the rooftop garden, cared for by a resident farmer. A former grocery and meal stop during early to mid-1900s, the facility features wood-lined walls, deer antlers and other unique fixtures, providing the perfect backdrop for dining on everything from healthy smoked salmon, porkloin and grilled chicken to clams and venison chili, among other plates. 843-793-4440, haroldscabin.com

Ice Cream

Marble Slab Creamery

This popular chain, located in West Ashley, is known for selling happiness one scoop at a time. But with some unconventional ice cream specialties, it also forces patrons to think outside the cone—consider the Oreo cookie “slabwhich” or ice cream pizza to go. Say what?! With over 60 flavors and 50 different “mix-in” toppings—chocolate-covered pretzels, marshmallows, sprinkles—the options might overwhelm you—not to mention five low-fat yogurt flavors and seven types of sorbet. 843-225-2663, marbleslab.com

Lunch Spot

Slightly North of Broad

 Local ingredients and a warm, classy environment keep customers returning to SNOB mid-day for a healthy salad or eclectic lunch. Dishes are filling and unique—consider consuming the fried chicken livers with Geechie Boy grits, steak noodle salad with chili lime dressing, or blackened shrimp sandwich with pickled green tomatoes. Hungry but low on cash? Try the $13.95 “lunch express,” the day’s special entrée served with a soup or house salad and coffee or tea. 843-723-3424, snobcharleston.com

New Restaurant

Henrietta’s Brasserie at The Dewberry

Modeled after the popular brasserie-style eateries that dot France, elegance is the theme of this dining facility, situated inside the downtown Charleston Dewberry hotel. Here, sophistication is more a hint of sincerity than pretentious food and service. Formally-dressed waiters, white-linen tablecloths and beautifully-plated meals create a magical experience for the customer, who can feast on everything from curried lamb and mussels to spotted skate wing or brunch. 843-872-9065, thedewberrycharleston.com

Organic Food

Whole Foods Market

Passionate about serving the public pesticide- and hormone-free food, this grocery market is committed to more than making sales; promoting nutrition and healthy eating habits is its top concern, and to meet that goal, officials seek out organically-grown products delivered fresh to stores daily—and many items from a facility’s local businesses. GrowFood Carolina is also a significant supplier. 843-971-7240, wholefoodsmarket.com

Outdoor Dining

Tavern & Table

Looking for a rustic venue that offers respite from the bustle of everyday life? Look no further than Shem Creek, where Tavern and Table—open daily at 11 a.m.—provides relaxing outdoor patio seating for family and friends to gather or the lone customer to sit back, sip a beer and survey passing boats, birds and sea life. Or watch the setting sun sink behind the water. But don’t wait; the coveted seating is first-come, first-serve. 843-352-9510, tavernandtable.com

Pizza

Andolini’s Pizza

With three area locations, Andolini’s makes it easy for locals and Lowcountry visitors alike to get a taste of the Big Apple’s large-sliced pizza—up to 19-inches in diameter. Dough, sauce and cheese are handmade daily at this family-owned operation, serving the Charleston area nearly 25 years. From standard pepperoni to pineapple and anchovies, cover your pie with any number of toppings, and dine in or carry out any day of the week. andolinis.com

Raw Bar

Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar

Tuna, shrimp, clams, oysters; this Charleston raw bar is packed with seafood favorites. Upon entering, you’ll know you’re in the right spot as your eyes spy the oyster-shell light fixture hanging overhead. Pick a seat and enjoy a half or full dozen order of clams, or satisfy your appetite with shrimp ceviche and corn chips. Feeling indecisive? Choose the $22.95 Amen sample with peel & eat shrimp, oysters, clams and mussels—topped with candied garlic vinaigrette. 843-853-8600, amenstreet.com

Romantic Atmosphere

Fulton Five

Whether it’s time to rekindle the spark or impress on a first date, romance is alive and contagious inside this Fulton Street nook. With an array of vintage wine labels, you might be inspired to give a special toast over your plate of grilled lamb chops, seared sea scallops or chocolate and espresso-rubbed filet, among other elaborate entrees. And after dinner take some time to share a tiramisu slice or other sinful dessert. 843-853-5555, fultonfive.com

Salads

Verde

There’s no excuse not to eat healthy. Verde offers four locations, making it easy for you to go green. From compostable serving ware to low-calorie fare, you’ll feel full but refreshed after visiting this farm-to-table eatery. Try a “Southern harvest” salad with roasted chicken, pecans and cornbread croutons; or dig in to the “Soy bien” salad with roasted shrimp and a touch of sriracha. However you like it—tossed, chopped or wrapped—pick your ingredients and protein for just $6.95. eatatverde.com

Seafood

Coast Bar & Grill

Tucked inside a former downtown Charleston warehouse, with exposed brick walls and an outdoor patio option for dining, Coast packs a punch when it comes to seafood and is hard to top if you’re yearning for fresh flounder, shrimp & grits, wood-grilled fish, steamed mussels, calamari or crab dip. You’ll transcend to paradise with a bite of oysters Rockefeller or tuna ceviche, both part of the shellfish and raw bar. So stop in spontaneously, call in a reservation or plan a private event to experience tastes, décor and service unlike any other in the Lowcountry. 843-722-8838, holycityhospitality.com

Service

The Swamp Fox Restaurant & Bar

Whether you have an overnight stay or not inside King Street’s Francis Marion Hotel, indulge in a bite to eat and excellent customer service. Have a meal delivered to your room, too. Staff will cater to all your dining needs and feel more like friends than employees. Enjoy live jazz piano music (three days a week) and an unforgettable view of Marion Square Park. On Tuesdays enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres during 5-7 p.m. social hour. 843-722-0600, francismarionhotel.com

Steak House

Halls Chophouse

Who wouldn’t want a thick, juicy cut of aged steak? At Halls you can choose from a variety of succulent steaks: New York strip, ribeye, prime rib, filet mignon and porterhouse. Each order comes seasoned to perfection—spices hand-rubbed into the meat. Fork up each bite in an elegant environment with live piano entertainment in the background. Pair your steak with any number of sides: asparagus, loaded mashed potatoes, collard greens, and more. 843-727-0090, hallschophouse.com

Sushi

Locals

Kitchen staff here claim to “roll hard,” ready to prepare nigiri or sashimi sushi upon request. Choose any ocean critter you crave—salmon, yellowtail, mahi mahi, octopus, to name a few. One local favorite is the “ninja roll”—snow crab, tempura shrimp and avocado. Locals also boasts multiple award-winning rolls. And if you’ve had a rough start to the week, salvage the day by stopping in for “Munday Funday” and find several discounted menu items. 843-388-5114, localssushi.com

Sunday Brunch

Fat Hen

Head to Johns Island for a cozy Sunday brunch that won’t break the bank. Served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the combo breakfast-lunch menu will leave a lasting impression. If the grilled shrimp over bacon cheese grits doesn’t excite you, perhaps the Crème brulee French toast, eggs benedict or country-fried steak will draw you in. More in the mood for lunch? Dig into a bowl of crab or French onion soup. The menu options are endless. 843-559-9090, thefathen.com

Vegetarian

Gnome Café

Not into carnivorous eating habits? You surely won’t be the minority in this vegan, plant-based eatery. Despite missing meat, the breakfast and lunch menus don’t skimp on flavor. Taste the cinnamon pancakes, chickpea tuna salad or mushroom BLT. Blame it on the addictive food or freshly-brewed coffee—another staple of the café—but after only one visit, you might find you enjoy the alternative palate, also gluten-free, and consider the spot your “second gnome.” 843-793-4931, gnomecafe.com

Water-View Dining

Charleston Harbor Fish House

Grab a seat at the eatery’s rooftop Bridge Bar and take a mental picture of the breathtaking panoramic views before you. This local fish house, not far from historic Patriots Point, provides a front seat to one of the best views in the area. Dine on seafood cuisine or sip a fresh margarita while surveying the Ravenel Bridge and Cooper River. Chances are if you snap a quick selfie, you’ll capture the USS Yorktown or a passing vessel in the background. 843-284-7070, charlestonharborfishhouse.com

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