Visiting Charleston, South Carolina
If you haven’t visited Charleston, South Carolina yet, start planning a trip to this southern coastal gem! Charleston is consistently rated as one of the best travel destinations in the United States, winning a spot on Travel + Leisure’s 2018 list of “The World’s Top 15 Cities.” For those of you who don’t know much about Charleston, I’ll give you some basic travel information about the city, and tell you all about delicious Charleston SC food (and where to eat in Charleston SC)!
Charleston is located on the coast of South Carolina, located in the southeastern United States. The city was prominent during colonial times as a major shipping port, and it was the sight of several significant American historical events during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Today, tourists visit the city to see historical sights, wander through the beautiful streets, and enjoy the vibrant culture. Charleston food is a major part of any tourist’s trip to the city because the city is famous for its southern cuisine and up-and-coming restaurants.
Charleston Food: Where to Eat in Charleston SC
As a South Carolina native and former Charleston resident, I’ve had the opportunity to eat at a LOT of Charleston restaurants. These are my favorite places to eat in Charleston, and I’ll note the best (and most well-known) dishes at each restaurant! These restaurants range from classic southern soul food eateries to new fusion restaurants, so I’ve grouped them by cuisine type.
American (and Southern) Food
For an amazing steak and life-altering bread pudding with unbeatable hospitality, visit Hall’s Chophouse. Even though this restaurant is known for its high-quality steaks, you can find a range of other dishes at Hall’s, including southern classics like she-crab soup. This is one of the priciest restaurants on my list, but its food and service really can’t be beaten. And seriously, try that bread pudding.
Hank’s Seafood Restaurant
Hank’s Seafood Restaurant is a great option for classic Charleston food in an upscale environment. This restaurant offers a wide selection of Lowcountry dishes that you must try in Charleston, like shrimp and grits (the unofficial signature dish of the city) and oyster stew!
A few years ago, Husk was at the top of everyone’s list of “where to eat in Charleston,” and it’s still one of the hottest places to eat in the Holy City. James Beard Award-winner Chef Sean Brock is the driving force behind Husk, a restaurant that breathes new life into traditional southern dishes. The menu (which sources local meats and produce) changes all the time, but dishes like fried catfish and country ham are mainstays.
FIG is a great place to enjoy an upscale, American dinner. Their menu changes all the time, but you can expect American and southern fare with a fresh twist. You can make reservations online here.
Even though I don’t love it quite as much as Hall’s, Grill 225 is a great steak chophouse, located on East Bay Street. The dishes I love at Grill 225 aren’t actually steaks – I love the tuna tower, which features raw tuna, (cooked) crab, and more in a tower shape. The chocolate bonbon dessert is amazing- everyone in my family loves it. The nitrotini drinks, made with liquid nitrogen, are also super fun. Definitely check out the rooftop Pavillion Bar associated with the restaurant for beautiful views of the Charleston Harbor.
The Darling Oyster Bar
For a taste of delicious Charleston seafood, visit The Darling Oyster Bar. At the raw bar, you can get a variety of shellfish, including local oysters and clams (when they’re in season)! If you make it to brunch at The Darling, try The Captian bloody mary. This giant drink-meets-appetizer is topped with all sorts of yummy seafood!
Charleston Grill, located inside of Charleston Place on King Street, is one of nicest places for dinner in Charleston. I’ve never eaten here, but my parents have, and they say its multi-course dinners with wine pairing are worth the splurge. The hospitality at Charleston Grill is excellent, and the manager Mickey Bakst does a great job making everyone feel welcome.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Biscuits are a breakfast standard in the south, and Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit has some of the best! There are so many combinations to try, but the pimento cheese, sausage, and egg breakfast biscuit is supposed to be incredible (if you don’t have a heart attack mid-bite). Callie’s is a major player in the casual Charleston food scene.
For a taste of classic Carolina soul food, check out Bertha’s. You can find main dishes like fried chicken and fried fish, and sides like collard greens and sweet potatoes. Even though the outside of the building doesn’t look like much, the food is yummy and good for the soul (but not so good for the waistline).
Leon’s Oyster Shop
In case I haven’t given you enough options for deliciously sinful fried Charleston food, here’s one more you should check out during your trip to the Lowcountry! Leon’s is a relatively new restaurant, but people are already raving about the fried chicken and fried oysters! Try the hushpuppies too, a southern snack made of fried cornmeal batter.
Taco Boy used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Charleston, and I still love going back for great Mexican food in a fun, vibrant atmosphere. The patio is a great place to chill with a margarita! This is my top choice for good Mexican food in Charleston.
Sean Brock, the chef behind Husk, recently opened Minero in Charleston. You can get tacos, platters, and more at this casual Mexican restaurant. Fun fact: Minero makes their own tortillas using specially sourced corn.
Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale
Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale is self-described as “Mexican-ish,” and you can find lots of normal Mexican restaurant fare like tacos, bowls, and burritos at this restaurant. The most interesting dish on the menu (and the restaurant’s namesake) is the Nacho Royales, which is served “Mexican-pizza style.”
If you need a lighter break from all the southern fried seafood and chicken, head to O-Ku for incredible sushi. I love how fresh the fish is and how interesting the roll combinations are. I personally love the Surf and Turf roll, which is topped with seared wagyu beef. Local tip: go to O-Ku during happy hour (Monday, Wednesday, Friday 5-7) for a deal on great sushi rolls.
Poke Tea House
This Asian eatery on Upper King Street has amazing Poke, with lots of fun toppings. Poke Tea House is a great place to stop for a casual, light lunch.
Although Basil has expanded past the Charleston area, this is still a great place to go for Thai food in downtown Charleston. I always get the pad-see-ew noodle dish with beef, and it’s always delicious. Other menu highlights (from my past experience) are the massaman curry and pad thai.
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Craving interesting and inventive Asian cuisine? Xiao Bao Biscuit is your place, located on trendy Rutledge Avenue (where lots of new restaurants are setting up shop). This isn’t your basic Chinese restaurant, so don’t expect General Tso’s Chicken or egg rolls. Instead, try Sichuan style lamb or green papaya salad. The menu changes seasonally, and you can see what’s new on the menu on their website.
If you want to take a break from southern Charleston food and grab some really good Italian, Monza is your best bet. The Neapolitan-style pizza steals the show here, but I’ve heard the lasagne is really good, too. You can try classic pizzas like the Materassi (a Margherita pizza), or get one of the more adventurous pies, like the Campari, topped with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, olives, capers, and eggplant.
This modern food court located on the Upper King Street Extension is an awesome place for a casual meal. Workshop is beautiful, open, and modern, and it has a very west coast vibe. When I visited, there was a Vietnamese stand, a salad stand, a Cuban stand, a Mexican stand, and a small sushi shop! This is great if you’re with a group with lots of different tastes!
For the best acai bowl in Charleston, go to Beech, located on King Street! The bowl I had here was the best acai bowl I’ve had in my life! Beech also sells poke and some healthy meals if you want something more substantial!
Where to Eat in Charleston SC- A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC Food
Now that you know where to eat in Charleston SC, you’re ready to take on the Holy City! The Charleston food scene has grown and evolved so much in recent years, and I’m sure I’ll be updating this list soon with even more delicious options!
Heading to the SC Upstate? Check out my list of the best restaurants in Greenville SC or check out my weekend guide to Greenville, SC!