For the fifth straight year, Charleston, South Carolina has captured Travel + Leisure’s top U.S. Best City honor and ranked as the only American destination in the top ten worldwide. Whether you come for the picturesque scenery, the juxtaposition of old versus new, the pristine barrier islands, or the distinctly southern but modern cuisine, Charleston casts its charming spell quickly, leaving one eager to plan the next visit. For food lovers, Charleston delivers a variety of bucket-list dishes for every palette served in some of the most beautiful, unique, and hospitable restaurants. After traveling to the Holy City for 20 plus years, it’s the FOOD that keeps me coming back for seconds. The Foodie Guide to Charleston is by no means all inclusive, but it does offer 39 of my favorite, not-to-be-missed restaurants located in and around the peninsula. From the legendary, highly acclaimed hot spots to the new kids on the block, the Charleston dining scene delivers some of the most delicious-ly memorable experiences — I promise!
Here are 39 of Charleston’s Best Restaurants
Central (North of Cannon) Downtown
Butcher & Bee— American, $$
Edmund’s Oast— Gastropub, $$ Known as a brew pub for food lovers, the restaurant creates a welcoming atmosphere whether at the chef’s counter, wide-open kitchen, communal tables, or under the live oaks on the patio. Enjoy an extensive food and drink menu with over 30 draft beers.
Leon’s Oyster Shop— Seafood, $$ Hailed as one of the best spots for seafood and chicken, stop in for their classic oyster shooters.
Little Jack’s Tavern— American, $$ by Bon Appetit as one of the Best New Restaurants, 2017, (along with Rodney Scott’s BBQ), don’t miss out on one of the best burgers ever!
Martha Lou’s Kitchen— Southern, $ This family owned spot has been going strong for 30 years, and locals swear this is the best fried chicken in town.
Purlieu— American, $$$ The newest kid on the block is actual the work of a long-time Charlestonian acclaimed chef, John Zucker, who started Cru Catering (also on this list) back in 2001.
Rutledge Cab Co.– American, $$ Vintage gas station turned eclectic eatery, and did I mention Bill Murray is one of the founders and known as the “Chief Fun Officer”?
Taco Boy— Mexican, $$
Tattooed Moose— American, $$
Trattoria Lucca— Italian, $$$
WildFlour Pastry— Bakery, $ Cinnamon Roll Sundays are to die for!
Xiao Bao Biscuit— Asian Fusion, $$
82 Queen— Southern, $$$ An oldie but goodie known for its signature she-crab soup.
Cru Cafe— American, $$ John Zucker’s original tucked away in a small alley by the horse carriage houses. A great place for lunch, but make a reservation…it’s a local favorite!
Fig— American, $$$ “Only one meal in Charleston? it Mike Lata and Jason paragon, which takes its cues from the Lowcountry’s abundant waters.” Eater, The Best Restaurants in America – December 5, 2016 This is one of the hardest reservations to get, so plan ahead (at least 30 days out).
Hall’s Chophouse— American, $$$$
Hominy Grill— Southern, $$ Shrimp and Grits and Charleston’s Nasty Biscuit are beloved classics.
Husk— Southern, $$$ James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock’s ode to southern food! And don’t forget his other 2 offerings on this list, McCrady’s and Minero. Another hard to get reservation, so plan ahead.
Jestine’s Kitchen— Southern, $$ Classic old-school meat and three. Don’t let the line out the door and around the corner scare you away, but go early for lunch.
Le Farfalle Osteria— Italian, $$$
The Macintosh— Southern, $$$ Another Charleston “it” chef, Jeremiah Bacon created this hit filled with homegrown flavor and soul, and don’t miss Bacon Happy Hour at the bar.
Magnolia’s— Southern, $$$ A pioneer of the nouveau southern cuisine, Magnolia’s still delivers classic Charleston dishes.
McCrady’s Tavern— Southern, $$ An original in the Sean Brock crown!
Minero— Mexican, $$ Ditto. Sean Brock’s mexican delight.
The Ordinary— Seafood, $$$ Mike Lata (of FIG fame) delivers upscale seafood and showcases the “merrior” (my new favorite word) of the Coastal Carolinas.
Peninsula Grill-– American, $$$$
Poogan’s Porch— Southern, $$
Rodney Scott’s BBQ— BBQ, $$ As mentioned above, Rodney’s made the Bon Appetit Best New Restaurants, 2017. Whole-hog barbecue is his jam!
Slightly North of Broad— American, $$$
Bowen’s Island— Seafood, $$ Don’t let the graffiti covered walls, strewn appliance parts, or a peacemill porch, scare you off. This place is an one-of-a-kind experience that delivers some of the best steamed (roasted) oysters on a shovel and fried shrimp around.
Fat Hen— American, $$ Located in the middle of the farming community, Fat Hen is worth a short drive out for some of the freshest ingredients and fish dishes. Sunday Brunch is especially popular, so call ahead.
Wild Olive— Italian, $$
Sewee Restaurant— Southern, $$ Authentic comfort food; need I say more?
Tavern & Table— American, $$
Wood & Grain— American, $$
The Obstinate Daughter— Seafood, $$ Raw-bar, wood-fired pizza, homemade pastas…something for everyone on the menu.
Early Bird Diner— American, $ Featured on Diner’s, Drive-ins, and Dives (as was Glass Onion), known for the best chicken and waffles ever.
The Glass Onion— Southern, $$ Okra Beignets?, best thing ever, and don’t get me started on the pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes.
Home Team BBQ— BBQ, $$
No matter your mood or your appetite, one of these great restaurants will certainly fit the bill. As I mentioned, many are lured to Charleston by its Southern Charm, but it’s the FOOD that keeps us all coming back for more. Bon Appetit!