Charleston Eats – Ultimate Foodie Guide
Here is my “the Best Restaurants in Charleston SC” list. Consistently mentioned as one of the top foodie cities in the US, Charleston did not disappoint!
From she-crab soup to shrimp and grits, the most perfect hush puppies or fried frog legs, the food in Charleston was SO incredible. James and I visited Charleston earlier this year, and he took me on a foodie tour rivaling anything I have experienced before.
Below are the highlights from our restaurant adventures with MUST VISIT places, local hideaways, and renowned dining spots
Know before you go
- Remember, there are so many incredible options for food in Charleston. Don’t worry about trying to “do it all”. Decide what types of food or experiences you want to have and pick a few from each list, you won’t be disappointed!
- Certainly, the Charleston foodie scene has boomed. It is often named one of the best food cities in the US. Accordingly, the most popular restaurants often book 6 weeks out or more. Grab a reservation early!
- Also, the portions are generous, and I mean gennerrouusssss. Southern hospitality dictates that no one will go home hungry!
- Brunch is a whole food group here! Some of the best restaurants in town specialize in brunch, take advantage of this and enjoy that mid-morning mimosa!
- Finally, if you have never had a proper “low-country boil” then this is the place to do it. I will have a whole separate blog post going up on all things low-country boil.
Looking for some accessories for your restaurant visit? Check out these great finds by Callie!
Coffee Stop at Kudu and walk along The Battery to visit the fountain
Breakfast and Brunch – Best Restaurants in Charleston SC
COZY, CASUAL : $$$ : 7 days a week 8a-3p
In the heart of downtown on King street, this small southern restaurant blends comfort food with regional dishes in high end fashion. Brunch is their specialty, served daily from 8am-3pm. You can order a Magnum Mimosa (magnum bottle of champagne in a hat with various juices for mixers), a Bloody Mary, or many other specialty drinks. The “Virginia’s Pimento Cheese” starter is to die for, we followed that up with Shrimp & Grits and Chicken & Waffles. I recommend grabbing a reservation just in case, also the location allows you to follow up brunch with a walk to many of downtown Charleston locations including the Market, Marion Square, and others.
LAID BACK VIBE : $ : brunch served weekends 9a-3p
On the other side of the river from downtown, The Shelter offers locally sourced comfort food in a laid back environment. From dirt cheap mimosas to their huge portions, you won’t leave The Shelter wanting for anything but a nap. A favorite of the college and young adult crowd, the wait time can get lengthy on the weekends but it is well worth it. Also known for live music, you may occasionally see local legends like Darius Rucker frequenting for some good food.
Chicken and Waffles from Virginia’s on King, Coffee Stop, and Brunch at the Shelter
COMFORTABLE ELEGANCE: $$$$ : brunch served Sundays 10a-2p
Halls gospel brunch is the pinnacle of brunch experiences in Charleston. Upscale elegance in the heart of downtown Halls is best known for their exceptional steaks, only to be outdone by their even more outstanding service. With food and hospitality that rivals the best, TripAdvisor named Halls the #3 fine dining restaurant in the country, and it never disappoints. Live gospel music, the best crab cake benedict in Charleston, and French toast with lavender-scented brioche and espresso mascarpone cream…an elegant slice of heaven in the south. This experience is truly one to remember, enjoy the food, atmosphere, and hospitality, but grab a reservation early. At the time of publishing this article, brunch is booked out for over 6 weeks!
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit has multiple locations around town
CASUAL: $ : hours vary based on location
With several locations around town and a mobile food truck always popping up at events, Callie’s biscuits are never far. Their most well-known location is in the Charleston Market, making it a quick and easy stop to grab a scrumptious breakfast. Cinnamon biscuits, sausage gravy, pimento cheese, or a building on your own, you can enjoy many classics. They also offer baking classes, cookbooks, biscuit mixes, and more. Stop by Callie’s for a super fun and tasty bite and leave with the knowledge to go home and make that famous southern biscuit for the whole family.
Steampot, alligator bites and Sweet Tea at Charleston Crab House – Fried Pickles and Mac n Cheese Bites at Mac’s
Lunch or Dinner – Best Restaurants in Charleston SC
CASUAL : $$ : 7 days a week 11a-9p
With three locations in the Charleston area, you are never too far from some of the best BBQ the south offers and is the reason it is on our Best Restaurants in Charleston SC list. The pimento cheese and crackers are a must have starter. If you want a more unique starter, the Pork Rind Nachos piled high with BBQ, Queso, Jalapenos, and more are fantastic. You can’t go wrong with any of the plate options and the Chocolate Cream Pie to end the meal is a must. Don’t forget to wash it all down with some phenomenal sweet tea. James has eaten BBQ almost everywhere there is to eat in Charleston and swears this is the best. No reservations needed.
CONTEMPORARY : $$$ : m-sat 11a-11p
Oysters, clams, shrimp, various combinations of oysters clams and shrimp, you can’t go wrong with the seafood offering at 167. The raw bar has daily offerings of the freshest seafood in Charleston. Their selection of oysters is not to be rivaled in the holy city. If you aren’t in the mood for the raw bar offerings, their Po’boys are fantastic and won’t leave you hungry. While some of their small plates and tacos are very good, the raw bar is the star of the show. No reservations offered here, get here early, grab a seat, and enjoy a taste of the ocean paired with some great local drafts beers.
CASUAL SPORTS BAR : $ : lunchtime-2am 7 days a week, opening hours can vary a bit
Self proclaimed as “the number one choice for Chicago sports in Charleston SC” Mac’s is a hole-in-the-wall treasure downtown only a few blocks from the famed Charleston market. If you’re missing a taste of home, want some sports on tv with over 50 on tap beers, or need a good burger with hot fries, swing into this “not so traditional” Irish pub to make some new friends. A favorite of locals, the atmosphere is great and the bartenders will take great care of you. Favorite Dish – Fried Mac & Cheese Bites, you just can’t beat em.
Bucket cocktails, crab dib and great views of the water at Red’s Ice House
LAID BACK VIBE : $ : hours vary
The Charleston Crab House has three locations in Charleston, including two on the water, beautiful views! It has all the seafood you could want, family friendly with affordable prices. And, the “World Famous Steampots“ are fantastic, nothing like sausage, corn, potatoes, seafood, and a healthy helping of Old Bay seasoning.
So, bring your bib and enjoy the liberal amount of napkins provided while you dig in. Try the crab dip, some of the best on the coast, also the Hushpuppies are to die for. Fair Warning – Everything is better with Garlic Butter. This is the motto we love. Bring the kids, bring your friends, there’s something for everyone here.
Happy Hour Casual: $ : 11a-varies
Red’s Icehouse, an absolute Charleston staple since 1947. Best Waterfront Bar, Best Mt. Pleasant Bar, Best Outdoor Patio, Best place to watch dolphins while drinking a $2.50 beer. Red’s is just THE BEST. The view is unbeatable, and we watched dolphins play while enjoying food and drinks. There is a restaurant side dock for people to pull up their boats for food and drinks.
The drink prices are a steal and all the food is a southern comfort bar, and it is all great. You will see a lot of locals enjoying time with their friends and relaxing after a day at work. Wait times can get lengthy here and there are no reservations, but you can always enjoy a drink and a view while waiting for your table. Also, if you order a mimosa here, they will ask you if you want a single or a double….it’s my kind of place!
QUICK SERVE : $ : 7 days a week 11a-8p
The best chicken sandwich in Charleston, the US, the WORLD so we are adding it to the Best Restaurants in Charleston SC list! As a big fan of chicken sandwiches, I struggled to believe this could be the best, then I ate there. Now I am convinced it is the best. Small eatery, order at the counter, and food is out to you in 5-10 minutes. Hand-cut sweet potato fries, fried pickles, and fried green tomatoes as sides. Enjoy your sandwich with more fried everything. Make this a quick lunch stop, you won’t regret it!
ELEVATED CASUAL : $$$ : 7 days a week 11a-10p
Fleet Landing Restaurant & Bar is at the foot of the City Market in downtown Charleston. It has a location overlooking the water and indoor and outdoor dining options. This location is a great place for an elevated lunch or a date night dinner and drinks.
It’s a no brainer that seafood is the specialty but don’t count out the mixed drinks! And they make some fantastic classic drinks with a twist. Grab their Chocolate Torte at the end of the meal. And don’t forget a reservation if you are going here for dinner! If you don’t want to do desert at Fleet Landing, there are several wonderful hole-in-the-wall places within walking distance after dinner near the market. This restaurant clearly deserves to be on our list of the Best Restaurants in Charleston SC!
Charleston Views, 434 Cocktail and Steaks at Halls Chophouse
Dinner – Best Restaurants in Charleston SC
Note – I am only including the tippity top of the very best dinner restaurants I have experienced. There are many amazing places in Charleston and I want to share my absolute personal favorites for those DO NOT MISS meals
FINE DINING : $$$$ : hours vary for dinner, check location
As we said earlier in this article, ranked the #3 restaurant in the nation by TripAdvisor for “Fine dining”, this is an experience not to miss.
I have eaten at a lot of steakhouses throughout my travels, and I believe nothing rivals the overall quality of food and service received at Halls. The steaks are out of this world; the sides are a la carte and there are a few must haves. DO NOT MISS the Lobster & Smoked Bacon Mac’n Cheese, The Loaded Mashed Potatoes, but the tiptop of the experience is the Pepper Jack Creamed Corn Skillet.
There is nothing like it anywhere.
They have a Halls Seafood Tower as a starter with oysters, shrimp, and lobster tail. That is phenomenal if you are a lover of seafood to whet your appetite before the main course. They have an extensive wine and bar menu, and the desserts are not to be missed either. Try the “434” drink, it is simply pineapple-infused orange vodka, served chilled in a frosty martini glass…it is heaven.
The whole meal is a NOT TO MISS EXPERIENCE. If you want a beautiful evening out as a date or with close friends this is THE restaurant to do it at. This is a fine dining atmosphere and is not recommended for young children. Two Notes. One, get reservations early (at least 6 weeks out for their downtown location). Tw0, here is a tip for table selection. When you request a table reservation note that the downstairs tables may be located close to live music or the bar. This makes for a louder more lively environment. For a true fine dining experience, request a table upstairs in one of their smaller rooms.
Stunning interiors, scallops and oysters at Anson
FINE DINING: $$$$ : dinner only, check website for hours
Local ingredients, traditional southern cuisine with innovation, beautiful dining environment, Anson makes for a intimate evening out. Located in a historic house just steps from Market street the décor and setting for dining is amazing.
In addition, the service was absolutely top notch. And the menu offered what rivals the best She Crab Soup in Charleston. The menu changes and has a nice variety of red meat, fish, and poultry (often including duck, quail, and others. This is a beautiful place to eat some beautiful food with top notch service. I would recommend a reservation here although it is not nearly as hard to walk into as many of Charleston’s “Top” restaurants.
FINE DINING : $$$$ : Dinner 7 days a week 5:30p-10p
Since it was founded in 1982 in three different building surrounding a courtyard, 82 Queen has wowed the Charleston area with fine “Lowcountry Cuisine” for 40 years. This beautifully romantic setting consists of 11 total dining rooms in the three buildings. It also offers a very intimate setting for meals with most of the dining rooms only consisting of 2-4 tables. The atmosphere alone makes it one of the best restaurants in Charleston SC.
So, if The Anson Restaurant does not have the best She Crab Soup in Charleston then 82 Queen does. The Carolina Crab Cake a well is absolutely mouth watering. The main course offerings are the epitome of “Lowcountry Cuisine” at it’s finest. You cannot go wrong with an order here. The romantic atmosphere lends itself to wonderful dates, special occasions, and the not so infrequent proposal. Make sure to take an evening an enjoy a candlelit dinner at 82 queen with that special someone.
Conclusion – Best Restaurants in Charleston SC
Certainly, this is just a small sampling of all the incredible dining Charleston has to offer. You’re sure to find great cuisine all over town. To check out more of my travel recommendations, come hangout with me on Instagram or read my other travel related blog posts