From authentic French bistros to delicious Vietnamese street food, Charleston offers diners an array of top-rate dining options. But you can find coquille St. Jacques and bành mí sandwiches back in your own hometown. Here are our choices for the restaurants that you shouldn’t miss if you’re looking for a quintessential Charleston dining experience.

1) Bowens Island

James Island. 1870 Bowens Island Road. (843) 795-2757

Down on the Gulf, oysters are big and fat and served raw on the half-shell, while on the West Coast they come in tiny, crinkly cups with a side of elegant mignonette. If you want to see how oysters are done in the Lowcountry, head out to Bowens Island off Folly Road. For over 60 years, the Barber family has been serving the kind harvested from nearby beds — long, thin, and cemented in clusters. They’re steamed on a large steel plate under wet burlap and delivered onto your newspaper-covered table by the shovelful. Add in stunning waterway views at sunset, and you have a local classic. Of course, oysters are a cold weather delicacy, so you might have to make do with some Frogmore Stew. —Robert Moss

2) Melvin’s or Bessingers BBQ

James Island. 538 Folly Road. (843) 762-0511

Mt. Pleasant. 925 Houston Northcutt Blvd. (843) 881-0549

West Ashley. 1602 Savannah Hwy. (843) 556-1354

The Midlands and Lowcountry of South Carolina have a barbecue style all their own: chopped pork with a bright yellow mustard-based sauce and slow-simmered hash and rice on the side. The Bessinger brothers brought that unique yellow sauce down from Orangeburg County in the 1940s, and Melvin’s two locations (one in Mt. Pleasant, the other on James Island) or Thomas’s on Savannah Highway are still the best bets to get yourself a representative taste. —RM

3) Slightly North of Broad

Downtown. 192 E. Bay St. (843) 723-3424

Chef Frank Lee was a founder of Charleston’s modern culinary style, applying the fundamentals of French cooking to fresh local ingredients and creating something striking and unique. That style is still flying high at SNOB, one of the anchors of East Bay’s acclaimed restaurant row, where you’ll find grilled pork chops paired with baked Sea Island red peas and duck legs served with boiled peanuts and peach barbecue glaze. It’s classic fine dining with a Lowcountry twist. —RM

4) FIG

Downtown. 232 Meeting St. (843) 805-5900

Chef Mike Lata is another of Charleston’s culinary pioneers, establishing many of the elements that now make up the city’s distinctive culinary style. FIG was among the first restaurants to buy vegetables directly from farmers out on Johns and Wadmalaw Islands, and Lata’s gentle but firm demands for top-quality produce helped create the local supply that so many restaurants now enjoy. He was also among the first to buy fish like trigger, once dismissed as trash catch, and serve it on fine dining tables. Perhaps the city’s best technical chef, Lata treats every element of his dishes with loving attention to detail, and that’s made FIG the go-to destination for food lovers in Charleston. —RM

5) Husk

Downtown. 76 Queen St. (843) 577-2500

Husk burst onto the Charleston downtown scene at the end of 2010, and its wood-fired oven cornbread and fried chicken skins vaulted Executive Chef Sean Brock to national celebrity chef status. The offering is more hyper-Southern than Lowcountry, as exemplified by Brock’s famous rule to use only ingredients made in the South. But its purveyor-centric aesthetic and passion for heirloom ingredients is part and parcel of what’s happening here in Charleston today, and Husk’s boldness has inspired a new wave of chefs to aim ever higher. Good luck snagging a table during PGA week, but if you manage to pull it off you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about. —RM

6) Red Drum

Mt. Pleasant. 803 Coleman Blvd. (843) 849-0313

At Red Drum, just about every order that comes out of the kitchen touches Ben Berryhill’s custom-made wood-burning grill. Burgers, steaks, pork chops, and the fresh catch of the day are enhanced with a distinctive Southwestern twist. The wood-smoke from the grill adds extra flavor to traditional Southern dishes like shrimp and grits with venison sausage, applewood bacon, and chile beurre blanc. If you can’t make it in for dinner, the Sunday brunch is a favorite of locals for buttermilk biscuits with fried chicken and gravy and eggs benedict on Texas toast with chile spiked hollandaise. Its Mt. Pleasant location might make this your sleeper hit of the PGA season. —Eric Doksa

7) Charleston Grill

Downtown. 224 King St. (843) 577-4522

Starting with Louis Osteen in the 1980s and continuing today under Executive Chef Michelle Weaver, Charleston Grill has stayed at the head of the pack for the best overall fine dining experience in the city. Its four-sectioned menu may tempt you to go cosmopolitan with escargot or lacquered duck breast or lush with foie gras and butter-poached lobster, but the Southern selection — tomato pie, Frogmore stew, Palmetto squab with butter beans — takes local classics uptown in splendid style. For a sip of history, finish the evening with a flight of Madeira, the wine of choice in antebellum Charleston. —RM

8) Martha Lou’s

Downtown. 1068 Morrison Drive. (843) 577-9583

Martha Lou Gadsden’s little pink building may not be the fanciest place in town, but the food she’s cooking inside comes from the heart. Soul food at its best. She’ll batter and fry up a quarter of a chicken to order. It comes out golden, crispy, and piping hot. Lima beans are slow-cooked with a little bit of pork and seasoning, and her iced tea is extra sweet and lemony. It’s the kind of food that makes you feel all warm and cozy. Martha Lou has been at it for 29 years and has set the bar for authentic Southern cooking. —ED

9) Red’s Ice House

Seabrook. 1882 Andell Bluff Blvd. (843) 518-5515

Mt. Pleasant. 98 Church St. (843) 388-0003

Red’s has made itself a local happy hour favorite for one simple reason: its big multi-level deck overlooking Shem Creek (it also has a comparable location out near Seabrook). There’s no better place for enjoying a few waterside brews while watching the sun go down, and if you can connive to arrive by boat and tie up at their dock, it’s even better. —RM

10) Hominy Grill

Downtown. 207 Rutledge Ave. (843) 937-0930

If you’re hankering to eat some shrimp and grits, Hominy has the ultimate example. It’s simple, delicious, and will explain the appeal of the dish. They open early (7:30 a.m.) for breakfast, so you can stop by for eggs and housemade sausage or a stack of buttermilk pancakes. They also have a big and burly biscuit called the Big Nasty that’s become famous. At lunch and dinner, they have great sandwiches, lots of specials, and a killer veggie plate. The line is usually long, but if you come at an off-time, you can usually find a table pretty quickly. —Stephanie Barna

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