Dining Out Al Fresco Style

08 May 2016

Here in Charleston we take alfresco dining seriously, happily feasting on elegantly manicured patios, along sun-dappled sidewalks and atop moonlit rooftops. Here’s our pick of 20 ideal dining spots to spend sultry summer days (or nights) in the hub.

By JENNA-LEY JAMISON

39 Rue de Jean

Both Charleston and Savannah are home to this popular French dining experience dubbed by Holy City locals as the “Rue.” Named after the street address on which it sits, the brick eatery is housed inside the former site of a Charleston manufacturing warehouse built in the late 19th century. Hungry patrons can flock to the restaurant for a cold, hand-brewed beer or cuisine filled with flavors from the European “City of Love.” Try Creole-seasoned shrimp, braised lamb, sushi and escargot if you’re looking for a more unique dish. But the “Rue” also offers plenty of other everyday favorites such as the chicken salad, classic grilled cheese and turkey sandwich. Whether you dine inside or choose to relax under an umbrella at an outdoor patio table — where pets are also welcome — Rue de Jean will please your palate, entertain your senses and convince you to return for another warm weather hangout. 843-722-8881, holycityhospitality.com

82 Queen

Owned by Queen Street Hospitality — also owner of Charleston’s popular Lowcountry Bistro and Swig & Swine — 82 Queen puts classic, Southern taste in every dish. But the facility also prides itself on two classic Southern dishes in particular, she-crab soup and shrimp & grits, including a spin on the original with “Southern comfort” barbecue mixed in. In addition to “wooing” customers with meals reminiscent of the hearty, homemade cuisine your inner Lowcountry child dined on at grandma’s house, this downtown eatery features outdoor eye candy in the form of a giant Magnolia tree. Both the beauty and fragrance of the property’s natural setting will instantly de-stress you and keep you looking up from your phone during mealtime. For dinner, satisfy your hunger with fried oyster and shrimp gumbo, Lowcountry boil, beef tenderloin or shrimp and crawfish jambalaya. But also try a number of lunch and brunch menu options. 843-723-7591, 82queen.com

Basico

It doesn’t get more fresh or authentic than Basico, where a majority of ingredients are grown or made on site. That includes homemade tortillas and a veggie garden not far from where you dine. And the Mexican-style menu you read at your first visit may not be the same one you get next time around, since the restaurant switches up dishes with each season. Dine inside or outside at two different locations — a section of umbrella tables just outside the eatery or farther away picnic-style tables nestled between soft ground lights and trees. Start your Basico experience with a queso, quacamole or chorizo empanada appetizer. Or try any one of four salsa varieties including pico de gallo and the more original pepian salsa, made with  pumpkin seeds. Next, dive into a main meal of baked brisket enchilada, black beans and coconut rice, or poached shrimp and tequila lime salsa. And for dessert? Savor the Dulce de Leche Creme Brulee. 843-471-1670, basicombrc.com

Bay Street Biergarten

If you’re a beer aficionado or a fan of laid-back camaraderie centered on food and drink, Biergarten is the place to stop. With a full-service bar, the restaurant resembles a German beer hall and offers 70 different beer taps, with nearly half located at arm’s length. For 24 of the taps, you don’t even have to hop off your chair to refill a mug; fill-up right at the table. Each day there’s a new tap and can special to take advantage of while you chow down on specialties like fried popcorn gator bites, soft pretzels and cheese, smoked bier wings and sweetgrass mussels. The Biergarten is also a place of historic significance after the building was destroyed in a Civil War explosion. Though the facility was later restored, it maintains parts of its original structure. 843-266-2437, baystreetbiergarten.com

Blu

Outdoor dining doesn’t get much more relaxing than sipping drinks by the ocean. Located inside the Tides Hotel on Folly Beach, this beachfront bar and grill rests just yards away from the pier and offers patrons the opportunity to dine inside a formal eating room or rest laid-back, feet-up on one of multiple colorful lounge chairs and sofas. The outdoor patio includes a bar with Happy Hour that runs 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Blu is a funky, upscale eatery with moderate prices for such a panoramic close-up of paradise.  Choose from among grain roasted mustard cauliflower, Geechie boy grits, smashed fingerling potatoes or butternut squash risotto. But don’t forget an after-dinner cocktail or fresh dessert: the traditional warm brownie, fruit cobbler, gelato, crème brulee or assorted cheese plate. 843-588-6658, blufollybeach.com

Café Framboise

If it tastes sugary and sinful, you can be sure this café makes it. The eatery offers everything from mouth-watering croissants and danishes to éclairs, macaroons and muffins — just a snapshot of the endless list of baked goods, cookies and pies that keep locals and tourists flocking to this French-inspired spot throughout the year. Born in France, owner and seasoned pastry chef Dominique Chantepie opened the business in 2014 after multiple business operations in the U.S. and abroad. He and his wife Florence even owned a European restaurant before transitioning Stateside. His cooking roots date back to age 7 when he and his six brothers often helped their mom in the kitchen. Dessert is a popular commodity here, but it’s just as much a café as a bakery and offers mealtime favorites like simple soups, salads and sandwiches. 843-414-7241, cafeframboise.com

Charleston Crab House

Whether you’re window-shopping the cobblestone streets of downtown Charleston or basking in the sun on James Island, you’re close to a Charleston Crab House location, known throughout the Lowcountry as being “crab-a-licious.” Both kitchens pump out raw bar favorites and steamed dishes, along with other Seafood favorites: she-crab soup, bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp, chilled blue crab dip, Lowcountry shrimp boil, mahi-mahi and more. But don’t forget about classic eats like burgers, fries and chicken tenders. And choose to dine inside or outside with family and friends. On James Island, customers dine waterfront along the Intracoastal Waterway, with window seats inside or on the outdoor patio, where the atmosphere is informal and customer-focused. Lunch and dinner is served daily at both locations, and if planning for a large group, consider booking a reservation. 843-795-1963 or 843-853-2900, charlestoncrabhouse.com

Community House Pizza

The Lowcountry’s Steel City Pizza owners recently branched out to heat up North Charleston’s Tanger Outlets with this newly-opened hangout hotspot. The trio’s main goal? Share their love of the way their hometown Philly makes pizza, with the South. Try flavorful wings, a calzone, sandwich, salad or classic “build-your-own” pie. And if you’re dining outside, you won’t be alone. There’s a huge fire pit on the patio, along with a rooftop bar to keep the atmosphere casual and carefree. With the giant white-lettered “pizza” sign standing atop the facility — drawing customers inside — it’s certainly hard to ignore its location and calling on your appetite. Looking for something other than pizza? Stay in your seat. The eatery offers a variety of share-worthy plates like roasted Brussels sprouts with Granny Smith apples and maple balsamic glaze; mozzarella dip with sweet and sour peppers and basil pesto; and sweet Italian sausage risotto fritters with smoked provolone, mozzarella and mustard aioli. 843-566-7777, communitypizzahouse.com

Edmond’s Oast

Named after an 18th century English beer brewer, Edmund Egan, who moved to Charleston and sided with America during the Revolutionary War — dubbing him “The Rebel Brewer” — this eatery offers a little history in addition to drinks and dining.  As for “Oast,” the term is European for a kiln that dries hops, as part of the beer-making process. And owner Scott Shor sure knows beer. After all he started two of the world’s top ranked beer stores, The Charleston Exchange and Greenville Exchange. If you choose to eat inside the restaurant, you’ll likely sneak a peek of the open kitchen through the window above the bar and spy a variety of cured meats hanging high from the ceiling. But don’t feel like you have to stay inside to get the best experience. Take a seat outside on a wooden picnic-style bench, or if you can’t decide between indoor or outdoor, ask to be seated in the newly covered, temperature-controlled room — and get the best of both worlds. 843-727-1145, edmundsoast.com

Fleet Landing

Another Lowcountry waterfront dining spot, this 6,000-square-foot facility features maritime heritage — once serving as a U.S. Naval building in World War II. After the war, the site was retired and the S.C. Port Authority obtained it for storage until Tradd Newton resurrected it in 2004 as a location for food, family and fun—giving customers a 360-degree view of the Charleston port and the U.S. Customs House across the street. But 16 years earlier, Newton said he spotted the building and told his mom he’d one day transform it. Over the years, the operation has gained national attention, including a spot in Food & Wine Magazine. The eatery includes seafood-lover favorites at fair prices — most meals cost under $10. Try peel n’ eat shrimp, she-crab soup, fried calamari and oysters, along with an assortment of sandwich and burger entrees. 843-722-8100, fleetlanding.net

Husk

Whether in Nashville or Charleston, Husk is happy to serve you in true Southern style, using only ingredients indigenous to the region. Chefs Sean Brock and Travis Grimes, chef de cuisine, look to locals to guide their kitchen, cooking dishes with ingredients customers both crave and can’t find anywhere else. Brock learned from a young age the importance of eating fresh, as he watched his family grow their own food. He’s kept that tradition alive and now serves authentic cuisine including “chicken fried” soft shell crab with hot sauce and honey, cornmeal dusted catfish, and Southern fried chicken skins with pimento cheese and scallions. Reminiscent of decades-old Charleston nightlife, the bar atmosphere at Husk is built on master bartenders who doll out a variety of beer, wine and cocktail mixtures. And driving up the location’s class and swank another notch are the decorative “sphere” ice cubes. But don’t just stick to the bar’s first level. Travel up the stairs to a second-floor lounge — a spot with a view of the town’s surrounding storefronts. 843-577-2500, huskrestaurant.com

Laura Alberts

It’s all about family at this Daniel Island establishment named after owner Laura Leppert and her late husband Albert. Laura and her daughter Karen Elsey opened the restaurant more than a decade ago to combine shopping, dining and relaxation all in one spot. Laura Alberts provides customers with a bar to order a drink, a gift shop to purchase wine or a souvenir, and an outdoor courtyard and dining rooms for satisfying one’s hunger. The wine stays cool and ready to pour inside a private cellar on site. And the menu items are all Laura’s creations. Stop in for brunch, lunch, dinner or dessert — especially since the menu includes homemade spreads and pies, including chocolate bourbon pecan pie and lemon vanilla crème brulee. There’s also a special gluten-free menu for those on a strict diet. 843-881-4711, lauraalberts.com

Middleton Place Restaurant

This Charleston area favorite, also a National Historic Landmark, is planted amid acres and acres of lush greenery and foliage — the gardens are nationally recognized and celebrated. Built in 1704, the property was later handed over to Henry Middleton, the second president of the First Continental Congress. His son Arthur signed the Declaration of Independence. It’s safe to say Middleton is rich in history and is a view into early American life. The restaurant serves lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily and dinner 6-9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Feast on cornmeal fried Carolina catfish, pecan smoked pork shoulder, spicy collard greens and chicken n’ dumplings. But the options don’t end there. The comfort food list continues. And when you’re done dining, step outside and take a walk through the property, saying “hello” to the sheep or horses that live on site in the stable yards. 843-266-7477, middletonplace.org

Morgan Creek Grill

Tropical dining sets this eatery apart from its Lowcountry competitors. Morgan Creek Grill prides itself on the skills and experience of chefs who spent time cooking in Caribbean kitchens. By training in restaurants on the island of St. Croix, they immersed themselves in a culture that still inspires their cooking craft today. Depending on the customer’s preference, they can prepare fresh fish dishes in three different ways: “island,” which is blackened with grits, collards and mango salsa; “pumpkin seed crusted,” which includes mashed potatoes and asparagus in a tomato cream sauce; or “simply grilled,” which incorporates rice and mixed vegetables in a lemon caper compound butter. But no matter the plate you choose, all customers can share the same view, taking in the sights and sounds of the nearby Intracoastal Waterway. Take a seat on the lower or top decks and count the boats that pass by. For those with food allergies or diet preferences, the menu includes gluten-free and light-fare options. 843-886-8980, morgancreekgrill.com

Oyster House

Oyster is the key ingredient in most dishes served here. Charleston’s Oyster House restaurant features an array of menu options, for lunch and dinner, centered around the classic Seafood favorite. Try it raw, fried, steamed or even in a Vodka-infused oyster shooter dubbed the “Southern Belle.” There’s even an oyster twist on shrimp n’ grits, with barbecued fried oysters added to the mix. Other menu items include the oyster slider or wrap, baked Oyster Rockefeller and fire-roasted plank oysters — topped with garlic butter, bread crumbs and parmesan. But not every dish contains oysters. If you’re not an oyster fan there are still meals for you. Try garlic mussels and scallions cooked in a white wine sauce, or feast on bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp, pimento cheese fritters, fried calamari or wasabi crusted tuna topped with a ginger soy glaze. Non-seafood plates, including chicken and ribeye steak, are also available. 843-723-1151, oysterhouse.menu

Pavilion Bar

Dubbed “Charleston’s Rooftop Oasis,” this high-class dining location includes a view of almost all of downtown, and towers above the historic United States Custom House building across the street. Perhaps most relaxing, other than the view and the weather on a dry, summer evening, is the presence of a nearby pool, surrounded by lights and fountains that change colors at night — and set the mood. And the drink names sound as special as the occasion that may have brought you through the door. Some include the “Pavilion Punch,” rum mixed with a variety of fruit juices and grenadine, and the “Cooper River Margarita,” the traditional drink with Jose Cuervo Especial tequila added. If you get hungry, order a colossal crab cocktail, tuna tower or flatbread pizza to your table. The eatery also offers sandwiches, salads and an upscale dessert menu. 843-723-0500, marketpavilion.com

Saffron Café & Bakery

Looking for something a little different than the mainstream? Go beyond traditional Southern cuisine and explore a taste of other cultures. Saffron offers a number of foreign eats. And the best part? No passport is needed to indulge your appetite. Some of the more popular eclectic menu items include treats from Australia, Africa and the Middle East, since the owners boast Persian heritage. Try a pickle imported from Jerusalem or grapes straight from Lebanon. Be sure to check out the patio, where you can eat, drink and smoke from a hookah. The weekends also include live outdoor music. But if you’re not ready to expand your palate, you can still dive into Lowcountry favorites, shrimp n’ grits and she-crab soup. Because this operation’s employment team is devoted to keeping customers satisfied and ingredients fresh, there’s a 10,000-square-foot production facility to meet both goals. Local businesses also delight in ordering bakery treats, that are daily hand-delivered. 843-722-5588, eatatsaffron.com

Tavern & Table

Famed Food Network competitor Katie Lorenzen-Smith is chef at this Mt. Pleasant hotspot. She not only appeared on the popular television hit “Iron Chef America,” but also beat legendary chef Bobby Flay. She brings the same skills to the “table” at Shem Creek’s Tavern & Table. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a meal with a view — the waterway right beside you. Outdoor dining at this spot includes a waterfront bar stocked annually with the season’s favorite tastes in wine, craft beer and barrel-aged cocktails, all made in house. There are also couches and lounge chairs lining the patio for a laid-back experience. Since the end of 2014, the rustic eatery has provided simple, classic dishes for the Lowcountry, and it’s hard to miss the giant striped lighthouse at the front entrance. On the menu, choose from a number of finger foods — tacos, burgers, wings — or if you’re in the mood for more upscale taste, order the filet of beef or duck breast. 843-352-9510, tavernandtable.com

The Rusty Rudder

A staple eatery on the Mt. Pleasant dining scene, the Rusty Rudder boasts a classy but casual feel between its indoor eating area and its outdoor patio. From tables and inviting lounge furniture — think comfy couches, chairs and loveseats — to decorative strings of lights hanging from the trees overhead, the patio is the place to be most warm weather days and nights. The food is just as comforting, with menu options low-key and simple — everything from finger-food favorites like peel-n-eat shrimp, crab cakes and oysters on the half-shell, to more filling meals — shrimp n’ grits, pan seared salmon, lobster ravioli and sautéed clams. But don’t forget to try a starter round of homemade hushpuppies, buffalo chicken dip, deviled eggs or slow-smoked wings — available wet or dry. Classic Sunday brunch is also offered 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with palate-pleasing dishes such as biscuits n’ gravy, omelets, French toast and smoked salmon Benedict. 843-388-3177, mtpleasant.therustyrudder.net

The Shelter Kitchen and Bar

The Shelter houses everything you need for outdoor fun. In addition to classic bar grub and drinks, the Mt. Pleasant site includes cornhole competition and pool, with live bands most nights of the week. Depending on your mood or occasion, the menu won’t fail you or your wallet. If you’re not looking for a dinner feast like salmon or pork tenderloin, try a simple $5 bowl of bog — a seasoned rice bowl mixed with pulled pork and smoked sausage. It won’t leave you hungry or break the bank. Neither will one of 9 varieties of burgers, $10-$12 with a side included. One of the most unique is the “Bartender,” which combines a bacon and ale cheese spread with tequila lime tomatoes, bourbon-glazed onions and fried jalapeno straws. The “Hoecake,” another eye-catcher on the menu is a mouth-watering mix of fried chicken, collards and pimento sandwiched between two cornbread cakes.  843-388-3625, theshelterkitchenandbar.com

 
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