Jo's Disco Fries at Bumpa's | Photo by Rūta Smith

Charlestonians are fortunate to live in a city filled with celebrated dishes. Fried chicken from Bertha’s, oyster sliders from The Ordinary, whole hog barbecue from Rodney Scott, a lobster roll from 167 Raw — the list goes on.

Locals know the city has more to offer than what comes up in a Google search for “best dishes in Charleston,” and we’re here to help. From breakfast to dessert and everything in between, this list of Charleston’s hidden gems will give you the insider’s scoop on what to eat and how to get it. 

 Breakfast Taco

Breakfast Taco at Babas on Cannon | Photo by Rūta Smith

Babas on Cannon (11 Cannon St.)

Babas on Cannon’s breakfast menu includes items like avocado toast and overnight oats, but the star of the show is the breakfast taco. Find Nueske’s bacon lardons, Storey Farms eggs and just the right amount of gruyere inside a flour tortilla. Order the grab-and go breakfast on Babas’ app, and be sure to keep an eye out for weekly breakfast taco specials, which use local ingredients like brisket from Lewis Barbecue or Home Team BBQ. 

 Pizza Cake 

D’Allesandro’s Pizza (229 St Philip St.)

The existence of the pizza cake at D’Al’s has been an open secret among City Paper staff since 2015. Account manager Ashley Frantz’s friends knew she wasn’t a fan of traditional cake, so they asked D’Allesandro’s Pizza co-owner Nick D’Allesandro if he could whip something up. On that day, the D’Als pizza cake was born. 

“I was like ‘I don’t know, but I can try.’ I looked it up on Google to see if I could figure it out,” D’Allesandro said. “They all looked pretty disgusting, but I thought I could make something better.” 

His creation, which he said is just “three small pizzas wrapped in a large pizza” was a huge hit at the party, but D’Allesandro said he only makes it for special occasions. 

“We don’t really have it on the menu. It holds up the kitchen a little bit, but we make it from time to time for people.”

 Butcherblock  Burger

Ted’s Butcherblock (334 East Bay St.)

You only have one chance each Saturday to dive into the Ted’s Butcherblock burger, which is made using freshly ground Painted Hills natural beef. Each burger is prepared out back in the eatery’s special Green Egg grill and placed inside a fresh bun from Brown’s Court Bakery. Opt for basic toppings or try the special — one recent offering featured a pickled green tomato, candied bacon, house-made pimento cheese and hot sauce aioli. 

Jo’s Disco Fries 

Bumpa’s (5 Cumberland St.)

Tucked away on Cumberland Street near the waterfront, Bumpa’s is a new hidden gem itself. After quietly opening this summer, executive chef Joe Palmitessa rolled out a menu featuring elevated bar fare like Scotch eggs, fried shrimp rolls and hearty burgers along with one can’t-miss riff on a Northern classic.

 “The Jo’s disco fries are named after [co-owner] Dan’s wife and are a spin on a classic New Jersey disco fry which is traditionally mozzarella and beef gravy,” Palmitessa said. “We put our own spin on it by adding our Guinness-braised short rib and caramelized onions.” 

 Fries, gravy and beer-braised beef. Sold. 

 Blackened Tuna Nachos 

Rita’s Seaside Grill (2 Center St.)

Rita’s convenient Center Street location makes it a popular choice for visitors at Folly Beach. Nachos are the perfect shareable snack, but the pandemic might be just the excuse you need to hoard them for yourself. Rita’s ups the ante by topping crunchy corn tortilla chips with blackened ahi tuna, queso and watermelon pico de gallo, along with all the other expected toppings. Sweet, spicy, salty — these nachos have it all. 

 Brisket Nachos

Lewis Barbecue (464 Nassau St.) 

While we’re talking nachos, Lewis Barbecue’s brisket nachos are a can’t-miss hidden gem. Going for the nachos at Lewis might sound crazy, we get that. Anything topped with the Prime-cut Lewis brisket, creamy queso and jalapenos works for us. Pro tip: Go during happy hour (3:30-6 p.m. Monday through Friday) when they’re just $4. 

 Fried Sushi Burrito

Tobo Sushi (10 Conroy St.) 

Fried sushi burrito — need we say more? Tobo Sushi, Revelry Brewing’s resident food truck stationed outside seven days a week, serves a colossal flash-fried sushi burrito for just $10. Filled with your choice of crab, shrimp, tuna or salmon along with avocado, masago, cucumbers, jalapenos and cream cheese, this handheld is truly the best of both worlds.

 Fried Chicken 

Edmund’s Oast (1081 Morrison Drive)

 Chefs have been forced to revisit their menus in 2020, and Edmund’s Oast executive chef Bob Cook’s fried chicken has proven to be a delicious, comforting option that travels well. 

 “Corona of course had a lot to do with how we’ve come to sell so much fried chicken,” Cook said. “We kind of crossed our fingers and decided to, in true Edmund’s Oast fashion, make an insane deal package and hope it takes off. We’re extremely grateful that it did and that Charleston received it so well and still supported it like crazy.” 

 Since rolling out the fried chicken this spring, Cook has expanded the offering. 

 “If we’re going to be a comfort food place for a while, may as well be a cool one. We’ve added four new flavors: spicy, New Orleans barbecue, Korean and most recently garlic crab. I still can’t pick a favorite.” 

 S’mores Chocolate Mousse

The Darling Oyster Bar (513 King St.) 

The Darling Oyster Bar is likely on the hit list for most tourists visiting Charleston, but we doubt people are stopping in for the restaurant’s take on chocolate mousse, a treat that rarely finds its way onto the menus at local establishments. The Darling’s s’mores spin has texture and elegance while bringing you back to your childhood with a bruléed marshmallow fluff-topped mousse with graham cracker crumble. 

 Lamb Rogan Josh 

Nirlep Indian Restaurant (908 Savannah Hwy.)

Samosas, korma and tandoori roti are all delicious options at this casual West Ashley eatery, but the lamb rogan josh is an off-the-beaten-path dish that won’t disappoint. Reminiscent of the sauce you’d expect in a classic butter chicken, all this rich ginger and garlic-infused curry needs is a piece of naan for dipping.

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.