My Charleston Eats is arbitrary and based solely on my experiences with one very limited exception. A few of my listings may have no comments and that is because it has been a while since I have visited but the past experiences were all excellent. I will update as I find new favorites or revisit old faves and have new comments about my experience. Some might say there are notable omissions and that is true. That is because the list is based on my experiences and my experiences at some establishments do not warrant being on my list.
Current Absolute Favorites
Le Farfalle – This is a modern Italian, New York influenced restaurant. The chef-owner runs the back of the house and his wife-partner runs the front of the house. I have yet to have any dish there that I did not LOVE. Portions are generous but not over the top. All pasta is made in-house. The wine list pairs with the food very well with some surprising bottles that I would not expect at an Italian Restaurant. Service is on point. I love it that my wine glass never gets close to empty until the end of the meal.
Felix – This is a French Bistro style bar and restaurant with small plates. I mention the bar because it is half the restaurant and is ALWAYS full of patrons. Maria is my favorite server in all of Charleston. She makes the experience fun. The French Onion Soup, the Lobster Deviled Eggs, the Petit Steak-Frites… need I go on? Everything is exceptional. If you are hungry and want a burger, get the Raclette Burger. Do not add any condiments, eat it as served. Be prepared to have a food orgasm.
Charleston Drinks: Wine Bar
Bin 152 – Tucked away on Lower King Street, Bin 152 is an oasis surrounded by antique shops and galleries. Forty wines by the glass and over 200 wines by the bottle. Forty different kinds of cheese and charcuterie all served a la carte with their freshly baked bread. Downtown Lower King
Wine & Co. – Nestled into a ground floor retail space in Upper Meeting St. apartment building, Elan Midtown is this welcoming, friendly wine bar. The menu is full of wine flights that will expose you to wine styles, varietals and more that will broaden as well as please your palate.
Upper Meeting St Area
goat.sheep.cow.north Part fromagerie, part charcuterie, part gourmet grocery store, oh yeah, it is also a great wine bar. Serving cheese and charcuterie boards, soup, salads, sandwiches, coffee, pastry and 30 wines by the glass. Downtown in the neck of the peninsula.
Charleston Eats: Fine Dining
Charleston Grill Being that Charleston is a tourist/beach town most restaurants have a casual, ”come as you are” atmosphere. Their food may be spectacular, but it is by no means a “fine dining” experience. Charleston Grill is the exception, and it is top shelf in every way the food, the service, and the wine list. This restaurant is in the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel but if you are not staying there do not let that deter you. Many an occasion is celebrated in this restaurant by locals and tourists alike. Downtown
Charleston Eats: Southern/Lowcountry
Slightly North of Broad Eclectic Lowcountry Bistro – This is a Charleston institution that has never disappointed. Come here for dinner, lunch or brunch. Great food, pleasant, attentive staff, solid service. Downtown French Quarter
FIG Elevated Southern fare with an homage to the Lowcountry – It has been a while for me, but this spot has been a consistent a top choice in Charleston.
Fat Hen French Lowcountry. If you can get a reservation, go. I love the Beef Rib and the Hanger Steak.
Charleston Eats: Barbeque
Swig & Swine I Love this place, and every meat I have consumed here has been great. This is BBQ with table service, so no standing in lines, no cafeteria-style, just wait on me and let me eat. You may have to wait for a table, but the bar has lots of interesting beer to keep you busy. West Ashley and Summerville.
Lewis Barbeque This is Texas barbecue, and everything about it IS Texas. By far, the best brisket I have ever had. Service is cafeteria-style. The downside is “it’s cafeteria-style,” the upside is you get to approve your portion. The downside is you will spend a lot more money than you thought. While the food is great, I do not like that you stand in line for food and then stand and wait at the bar to get a drink or visa versa. Heaven forbid, you want another beer. Great food! Not my style of service. But if you like Texas-style you will love this. NoMo District
Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ The Scott family is renowned across the South as amazing pitmasters. After years of pleading Charlestonians pleaded, Rodney finally broke away and moved here. It just opened, and there is nearly always a line. I have not waited in the line yet, but I will. But I had to include just because if you stand in line in 90+ degree heat and humidity, it must be fantastic. Besides a low, and slow-cooked pig slathered in sauce. It is impossible to suck.
Charleston Eats: Fried Chicken
Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oyster Shop This is some excellent fried chicken. Period. Oysters Casino is amazing. Kale Salad is great. Never disappointed here. For dessert have some soft serve ice cream because you will not find that anywhere else downtown. Downtown Upper-Upper King
Charleston Eats: Steak
Hall’s Chop House If you want to cry while you eat a steak, order any of the dry-aged steaks. While I have only eaten there once for dinner, I dream of the next opportunity to go back. They also do a great Gospel Sunday Brunch with live local gospel singers on the first floor. Reservations far in advance is a must anytime you want to eat here. Downtown – North of Calhoun
Charleston Eats: Italian and Greek
Wild Olive – This is my favorite Italian restaurant in Charleston. You will have to drive off the peninsula, and they are always busy, so a reservation way ahead of time is a must. (Like weeks before you even leave for your vacation). I have yet to have pasta I did not love. If you are going to order an entree, be sure to get the Smashed Potatoes as a side – KILLER!. Johns Island
Indaco Rustic Italian fare and wood-fired pizza. Lively bar, always busy, can be loud. But the food is great and the service spectacular. Always a treat. Upper King
Trattoria Lucca It has been a while since I have been to this small 50-seat neighborhood eatery, so I will have to get back there soon. The menu changes daily, but there is always fresh handmade pasta and a superb Italian wine list.
Charleston Eats: Pizza
EVO Wood-Fired Pizzeria Probably the first wood-fired pizza place in the area. They do it really well, but competition abounds. I still love it; I am just not in that part of town much anymore. Park Circle, North Charleston
Baker & Brewer This is EVO in a joint venture with Holy City Brewing in downtown CHS. Great EVO pizza without the drive.
Crust Wood-Fired Pizza One of the new kids on the block that is kicking butt and taking names. James Island
D’Allesandro’s Pizza Honest, old-school, mouth-watering pizza. This is a neighborhood pizza joint, but it is one that folks from all over flock to. Downtown
Charleston Eats: Experience
R Kitchen This is a dining experience and reservations are absolute. It’s a kitchen, not a restaurant. There are only 16 diners (20 if the weather allows for the patio). Custom menu based on guests likes and allergies, etc. There are just two seatings per night at 6:00 pm and at 8:00 pm. I like the 8:00 pm cause you can linger at the end of the night. On Mondays, they bring in a guest chef. You watch them cook; you drink wine, you meet the folks that are enjoying this dinner with you in this small quaint space (if you are the outgoing type.) We have been two or three times and have always had a very fantastic time. The food is great, but the experience makes it something that fun and unique. The original is one downtown on Rutledge Ave, but there is a new location also in West Ashley.
Charleston Eats: Brew Pub
Edmund’s Oast A brewpub with lots and lots of brew that also serves great food. Mostly small plates to share but entrees also available.
Charleston Eats: Farm2Table / American Fare
It has been a while since I have been to these three restaurants. However, every experience I had at each of them was very positive. I will add information as soon as I have more up to date information.
The MacIntosh – Farm to Table American Fare
The Grocery – Farm to Table
Charleston Eats: Seafood
167 Raw They call it an Oyster Bar but it is so much more than that. Yes, there is always oysters but also ceviche, poke, a New England Lobster Roll, Po’Boys and more. There are only 18 seats, and they do not take reservations but buckle up and wait for an opening. 167 is a must stop if you love well made, yet straightforward and delicious seafood.
Charleston Eats: Brunch
Hall’s Chop House Yes, they are on here twice because they also do a great Gospel Sunday Brunch with live local gospel singers on the first floor. Reservations far in advance is a must anytime you want to eat here. Downtown – North of Calhoun
Fat Hen French Lowcountry. If you can get a reservation, go.
Charleston Eats: Bakery
Brown’s Court Bakery – Their housemade savory breads are fantastic but I go to Brown’s Court for the sweet rolls, amazing, unbelievable, gorgeous sweet rolls including Cinnamon Rolls, Sticky Buns, Schnecken, Kouign Amann and Monkey Bread.
Charleston Eats: Burgers
39-Rue de Jean The burger at 39 Rue de Jean was the first great burger I ever had…EVER! Like any great burger in South Carolina, if the establishment wants the client to have an option for how its cooked other than well done, they have to grind their own beef. This means that you are more than likely getting some incredible cuts of beef ground into your burger. Maybe it’s because it’s my first or maybe its because of the duck fat-fried pomme frites. Actually no, it is because it is thick and juicy and cooked just the way I like it. The bun is perfection, and the Dijon mustard is the absolute correct mustard to eat on this burger. Others exist, but this is my favorite.
Charleston Eats: On the Waterfront
Fleet Landing For a city that is surrounded by water, Charleston is bereft with waterfront drinking and dining with one exception: Fleet Landing. The food is good but nothing spectacular unless you get the Crispy Steak Calamari (think calamari french fries) and the Crispy Whole Fried Flounder. So when you want a view of the waterfront, go there. You could also just sit outside at the bar and have a few drinks as that is always fun too.