The Charleston Guide
Over the course of three centuries, Charleston—one of the oldest, most storied cities in America—has developed a rich culture shaped by a number of historic events (the Civil War commenced at Fort Sumter, for one) and distinct geographic elements (the city is flanked by two rivers and a beautiful harbor on the Southern tip). And due to its compact size, you’ll inevitably stumble on significant sites and the picturesque Charleston single houses, with their piazzas and lace-like facades, simply by taking a post-dinner walk. What’s more, many of the newer restaurants, bars, and shops are housed in old buildings that have been beautifully converted to accommodate modern-day needs—though they still retain the old-world charm that makes Charleston so unforgettable.
39 Rue de Jean39 John St., Mazyck-Wraggborough | 843.722.8881
Just off of King Street, Rue is a charming French restaurant housed in a former two-story brick warehouse, which was built in 1880 as a space for the Charleston Manufacturing Company to store their finished products. Seating here is a mix of tiny high-top tables, cozy booths, and stools lined up at Rue's generously sized bar. The (hearty) lunch menu is especially good, with plats du jour ranging from bouillabaisse, to duck confit, to Creole-style shrimp.
5Church32 N. Market St., Ansonborough | 843.937.8666
In 2015, Charlotte's 5Church opened a sister restaurant in Charleston, a much-welcome addition to the city's terrific food scene, and one that feels wholly original here. The restaurant is located inside a former church—the stained glass windows are magnificent, as is the soaring arched ceiling, which has the entire text of The Art of War painted across it. The menu is driven by a fresh spin on some regional classics, along with various cuts of steak and chops, although they do have veg-friendly options, too. The wasabi crusted salmon served with bok choy and seaweed salad is excellent.
Basic Kitchen82 Wentworth St, Downtown | 843.789.4568
While there's no lack of great restaurants in this city, we long anticipated the opening of Basic Kitchen since we first heard it was in-the-works. Entrepreneurs Kate and Ben Towill, the married duo behind creative design/development company Basic Projects and lauded restaurants The Fat Radish and The Ferry Boat Inn, have created a downtown neighborhood spot that serves local, clean, healthy food (think: wild-caught fish, whole grain bowls, and fresh juices) that still manages to satisfy in that Southern way. In tandem with a stellar menu, the vibe is inviting and relaxed, with custom streamlined furniture punctuating the bright, light-filled historic space. A perfect neighborhood spot for a cozy dinner or killer weekend brunch.
Little Jack’s Tavern70 King St., Westside | 843.531.6868
The owners of Leon's decided to relocate their King Street coffee shop, Saint Albans, in favor of opening a new restaurant, Little Jack's, in its place. Little Jack's officially debuted in Charleston in 2016 and it's already proven to be a true throwback neighborhood tavern with dim lights; green and white checkered tablecloths; old-time-y photos of Frank Sinatra, boxing matches, and racing horses; super cold drinks; and an on-point menu. Try the crudité with avocado mousse, the old school gin “Kennel Club” martini, and the Tavern Burger (American cheese, sunchoke relish, sesame bun).
Leon’s Oyster Shop698 King St., North-Central | 843.531.6500
Located in a converted auto body shop, Leon's was opened by Charleston restaurateur Brooks Reitz—who previously served as general manager at Fig and The Ordinary—and partner Tim Mink. The industrial interior is hip, but this really feels like a neighborhood joint—the outdoor patio, with its mismatched chairs and yellow umbrellas, could be straight out of a backyard BBQ. Leon's is known for their oysters and fried chicken—order some of each.
Peninsula Grill112 N. Market St., Ansonborough | 843.723.0700
There are so many great casual restaurants in Charleston, but if you're looking for something more elegant, head to the Peninsula Grill at Planter's Inn. It's a white tablecloth restaurant with a romantic, candle- and lantern-lit courtyard attached. The dinner menu is seasonal and largely Southern, with a world famous coconut cake for dessert.
Poogan’s Porch72 Queen St., French Quarter | 843.577.2337
Named for a dog who stayed at this Victorian home-turned-restaurant after his owners moved away, Poogan's Porch is a Charleston institution. They have a quality 1500-bottle wine cellar, as well as a good selection of wine by the glass, and their fried chicken is a crowd pleaser. Unlike a lot of restaurants in Charleston that just do Sunday brunch, Poogan's does brunch on Saturday, too, and it's really good. Afterward, walk a block south, and meander around the neighborhood, referred to as South of Broad, to see some of Charleston's most stunning antebellum mansions.
The Ordinary544 King St., Upper King Street | 843.414.7060
The chef behind downtown's Fig is also responsible for this Southern oyster bar and seafood hall concept on King Street. Like many popular Charleston restaurants, The Ordinary is housed in a historic building—this one used to be a bank. But The Ordinary stands out thanks to its spectacular Southern seafood line-up. Expect to see raw bar towers everywhere, along with plenty of hot dishes from BBQ white shrimp to crispy oyster sliders and steamed grouper.
167 Raw289 E. Bay St., Ansonborough | 843.579.4997
167 Raw’s original location is on Nantucket: Owner Jesse Sandole opened the place after years of running his father’s famous seafood and meat market there. The Charleston outpost is situated in a cozy space (with a cute little outdoor patio) that’s significantly brightened by the subway tiles lining the walls in all directions. The straightforward menu is all about New England dishes like clam chowder, lobster rolls, fish sandwiches, and a serious seafood plate, with a few geographic detours for dishes that emphasize fresh catches, like tacos, ceviche, and poke. It’s relatively new and still pretty hot, so expect to wait if you don’t arrive early—they don’t take reservations.
Butcher & Bee1085 Morrison Dr., Uptown | 843.619.0202
Butcher & Bee is a bit out of the way, in a barn-like building that’s covered with aluminum siding and open to the patio via several sliding glass doors. The menu is all about locally (and ethically) sourced ingredients, with a strong emphasis on thick sandwiches and a mezze plate featuring several of the chef’s most popular side dishes like kale slaw, kohlrabi with yogurt, field peas, and bacon wrapped dates. Check the website in advance of your visit, as their events, from cooking classes to pop-up dinners, are said to be excellent. Also good to know: The menu changes daily; check Facebook and Twitter for the most updated versions.
Cannon Green103 Spring St., Radcliffeborough | 843.817.7311
Cannon Green’s gorgeous interiors justify a stop regardless of their food (which, incidentally, is excellent); they’re so stunning that the space actually doubles as a wedding venue. The high-ceilinged central room opens up to a huge back patio lined with twinkle lights and palm trees—from the inside, you can take a curved staircase along the bar to a mezzanine and access to a side porch that looks out over the aforementioned patio. Their cocktails are excellent, so we love it for Sunday brunch, when they set up a DJ booth outside, or for happy hour on cool summer evenings.
FIG232 Meeting St., Ansonborough | 843.805.5900
Arguably one of the best restaurants downtown, Fig is run by self-taught chef, Mike Lata, who is also the mastermind behind The Ordinary. The restaurant is big on working with local farmers, growers, and purveyors, which is reflected in the seasonal dinner menu here: king mackerel tartare, summer vegetables with porcini, baked black bass with baby fennel, pan roasted ribeye with sherried onion. Come hungry.
Halls Chophouse434 King St., Radcliffeborough | 843.727.0090
One of the most recommended restaurants in Charleston, Halls Chophouse is the place to go in the city for steak. It's also a favorite Sunday brunch spot. Which means you should make a reservation early as Halls books up quickly. After eating here, walk a block down to The Cocktail Club for a handcrafted drink.
Hominy Grill207 Rutledge Ave., Cannonborough | 843.937.0930
A local favorite, Hominy Grill is slightly off the beaten path, but still walking distance from King Street. Not surprisingly, it's situated in a historic building (previously a single family home). A James Beard Award-winning chef opened Hominy in 1996, and it's since become known for its delicious Low Country-inspired cuisine—jalapeño hushpuppies, catfish po-boys, tomato pudding, stewed okra, cornmeal fried catfish, and the Charleston Nasty Biscuit (fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese, sausage gravy).
Xiao Bao Biscuit224 Rutledge Ave., Cannonborough
This adorable cafe-style restaurant serves the best Asian comfort food in Charleston. Xiao Bao is a perfect, casual lunch spot (although they also do dinner Monday through Saturday)—the menu is small and unfussy, but seriously satisfying.
Husk76 Queen St., French Quarter | 843.577.2500
Hardly a secret, Husk is still a buzzy restaurant even though it's been open since 2010. The kitchen is run by two Southern natives, which shows on the rotating menu that puts local ingredients center stage. (They also do in-house pickling.) The fact that Husk is situated in a thoughtfully restored 1893 Queen Anne house makes it all the more at home in Charleston. Husk's bar, which is next door the restaurant, is very good in its own right, and worth a trip even if you aren't coming here for a meal.