This is the food of the people, born of slavery and poverty and chock full of hocks, intestines, rice, and beans. On Charleston’s soul food menus look for specialties like okra soup, purloo (a rice stew also spelled pilau/priouleau), and, of course, fried chicken. You’ll have to stray from the historic district to find most of these kitchens, but you’ll be glad you did.


It may not be the oldest soul food spot in town, but Craves has the best oxtails around. They also serve a mean pig’s foot purloo, if that’s your sort of thing. The big, meaty oxtails are braised until they literally fall off the bone and come out in a bowl full of delicious broth, thick with gelatin and just waiting for some of that cornbread served on the side to be dunked in.

Martha Lou’s

No soul food trip through Charleston would be complete without a stop at Martha Lou’s little pink building up by the port. She has been turning out authentic soul food for years. Her sweet tea alone is enough to warrant a visit, both to Martha’s and afterwards to your dentist to make sure it didn’t rot any holes in your teeth. The truly adventurous won’t want to miss the big plates of chitlin’s that she occasionally offers up, but even a nice plate of fried chicken and some pork-laden collards can give you that authentic taste of Charleston. Her lima beans are legendary too.


This place is famous from here to New York City — and with good reason. This is where you take company who want to feast at a traditional meat and three. This is where the work trucks line up three deep at noon on Monday. This is where the okra soup comes over rice, and the fried chicken should not be missed. Bertha left us a few years ago, but her family continues the tradition of great home-style soul with all the steam line fixings.


Perhaps the most accessible of all the authentic soul/southern joints in town, Huger’s lunch buffet is an impressive spread. With daily specials that run the gamut from turkey legs in gravy to bread pudding, this joint delivers big. Since it’s a buffet, you get all you want, in infinite variety, which might make it the perfect place to truly sample the soul of Charleston.

Love Best of Charleston?

Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.