After exploring the beautiful streets of Charleston, or exploring the historic Plantations in Charleston, you will no doubt have worked up an appetite. Have no fears – Charleston has long been South Carolina’s culinary hot spot, with its own set of celebrity chefs, it restaurants, and unique cuisine.
Here are some of the best Charleston restaurants. There are more where these came from – so come hungry!
Old Fashioned Good Cookin’: Hominy Grill
While I’m still not exactly sure with hominy is, I know that ANYTHING you get at hominy girll will be memorable. Brunch is probably your best bet, but anyplace you can get cornbread, biscuits, homemade sausages, grits, homemade granola, french toast… the list goes on and on.
Best Desserts in Charleston: Kaminsky’s
Kaminsky’s is hard to miss, because they often have someone out on the sidewalk by the Charleston Market helping to draw in customers. They don’t need to help – one look at their cake case, which is overflowing with flour-and-sugary goodness, but they also have great coffee drinks (iced and hot), ice cream drinks, and other treats. If you’re feeling a bit low on blood sugar after traipsing around Charleston sights, then Kaminsky’s is your stop for the best Charleston dessert.
Quirk and Ambiance: Fuel
Fuel is, as the name subtly implies, an old gas station converted into a fabulous restaurant. Petrolhead paraphernalia is everywhere, but the food is also top notch, so it’s a great quirky place to hangout. Fuel also has perhaps the best cheese dip and the best sweet potato fries in South Carolina. Maybe.
Charleston’s Most Unique Dining Establishment: Tattooed Moose
The Tattooed Moose isn’t in downtown Charleston, but just a short drive out of town. I’d love to say that as a foodie sleuth I had found this destination on purpose, but it was only by chance and a fluke of my phone’s GPS that it suggested the Tattooed Moose. I’m glad it did, because this quirky and weird spot is totally awesome. Duck fat fries, cheap beer, big burgers, and desserts like chocolate cinnamon bread pudding are what you can expect. Yes, if the freakish decor doesn’t give you a heart attack, the food might, but at least you’ll go out with a smile on your face.
Michelin-Star Quality: Slightly North of Broad
Slightly North of Broad, S.N.O.B. for short, calls itself “eclectic lowcountry” cuisine. I call it amazing, and deserving of a Michelin Star or two. I love that they use locally sourced ingredients, and create their own unique take on such “regular dishes.” Example: SNOB’s shrimp and grits, which come with sausage, country ham, tomatoes, green onions, Cajun spice. Wowza.
Classy with Cocktails: 82 Queen
Serving up classy “lowcountry” dishes in a terrific venue (ask to sit in the outside garden if you can), with great cocktails, 82 Queen is great for date night or to try one of the most popular Charleston restaurants. Skip their desserts which aren’t worth writing home about – in fact, I suggest sharing a few starters as that seems to be their strength.
Worth All the Hype: Husk
Husk is the latest establishment from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock, and it’s certainly no secret – the place is packed and everyone recommends you go there. And you should – the cal their dishes “new lowcountry” and really push tastes to a new level. The best part? You could go more than once during your trip, because the menu changes every night. Here’s how Sean summarizes the menu choices, though: “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door.”
You had me at ‘Bottomless Mimosa’: Toast
Toast has been often rated as the best breakfast in Charleston, and it’s hard to say no to a pile of french toast with fresh berries and hot syrup. But what keeps folks coming in and never leaving are the bottomless mimosas. Just sayin’. Great place for a group or to nurse a bit of a hangover.
A Tourist’s Dream Come True: Fast and French
Wow. Fast and French might have been my personal fave of all the best Charleston restaurants, just because of it’s classy French demeanor without all the fuss. They have great iced coffees, a gazpacho to die for, and wonderful wonderful sandwiches (it’s the bread, I think). This really is like a typical French cafe, but with foods served up super quick so you can be in-and-out. Perfect if you’re needing a refill but you are short on time between tours and attractions.
One thing you may see a lot of during your visit are two charleston classic snacks, boiled peanuts and shave(d) ice. The idea of boiled peanuts makes me ill, but feel free to try it. As for the shave ice, all the cart vendors give free samples, so try it – if it’s a hot day in Charleston, this will cool you down quick.
Drink Up Only in Charleston: Firefly Vodka
If you get a chance, try a cocktail (of any kind) that’s made with locally distilled Firefly Vodka. It’s distilled with tea – they aren’t giving away any secrets on how – but it makes for a utterly superb long island iced tea (or I guess that would be a Charleston Ice Tea, no?). They have other flavours – you can try all of them at their distillery Wadmalaw Island outside of Charleston.
For those Special Occasions: Peninsula Grill
Peninsula Grill is pricey, but it’s worth it for those special occasions or when you want to treat yourself – because everybody deserves a treat now and then! Many of their dishes are famous (infamous?) themselves, in particular the Ultimate Coconut Cake, which may very well be the tallest cake served in the city. Another standout are the veal sweetbreads. Never a bad meal here – and oh, did I mention their well-rounded international wine list?
It’s hard to decide what FIG does best – dinner or cocktails/wine, because each has a super menu to peruse. Their menu is very fun and innovative, with dishes like Puree of Garlic Soup, Suckling Pig Confit, or the fun-to-say succotash.
Some say Jestine makes the best fried okra in Charleston, but in general this wonderful bistro-y spot has great, simple soul food cooking. Coca cola cake? Fried green tomatoes? Peach and Blueberry cobble? Oh yeah – all washed down with a cold glass of sweet tea.
Cook it Yourself: Charleston Cooks
If you fancy a Charleston cooking class, then Charleston Cooks is your number one best bet. They’re owned by the same folks that own Slightly North of Broad (mentioned above) and several other quality restaurants in Charleston. Their classes are very popular with locals, so you will want to book this one in advance. Their adjoining kitchen appliance store is pretty cool and you might find yourself bringing home some more practical souvenirs.