Photo by Ruta Smith

While downtown Charleston is known for its fine dining restaurants, fast casual spots, late night dive bars and craft cocktail joints, it isn’t the only area in Charleston with standout menu items. Just over the Ashley River in West Ashley, you’ll discover many locally-owned restaurants that serve quality food for a fraction of the downtown price. 

Plus, when you’re hanging at these 13 restaurants, you can escape the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Avondale Wine and Cheese
813 Savannah Hwy.
(843) 769-5444
Open Mon.-Wed. 3-9 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 12-9 p.m.

Voted Best Wine Bar by City Paper readers this year, Avondale Wine & Cheese currently offers a variety of charcuterie and cheese board options, tapas and, of course, wine. Choose your own combination of meats, cheeses and tapas items for your board, so you can try a little bit of everything. It’s a lot to choose from, and can be daunting for those less educated in all things meat, cheese and wine, but the staff at Avondale is there to help pick the right flavors for you. 

Boxcar Betty’s
1922 Savannah Hwy.
(843) 225-7470
Open daily 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Boxcar Betty’s is the perfect place to fulfill a chicken sandwich craving. The fried-to-order chicken sandwiches here can be customized to your desires, with a range of toppings and sauces to choose from. Or, opt for a classic sandwich like the Boxcar with pimiento cheese, house-made peach slaw, pickles and spicy mayo. Even vegetarians can indulge in Boxcar Betty’s offerings with pimiento-stuffed portobello mushrooms as a protein choice.

Early Bird Diner Chicken and Waffles | File photo by Adam Chandler | Credit: Adam Chandler File Photo

Early Bird Diner 
1644 Savannah Hwy.
(843) 277-2353
Open daily 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Though Early Bird made a name for itself as a spot for late night adventures and a hangover-fueled morning haunt, its hours have shifted to a traditional cafe, but it hasn’t lost its charm. The famous pecan-fried chicken and waffles taste as good as ever. The sweet, crispy exterior of the chicken pairs perfectly with the fluffy Belgian waffles. Pro-tip: Pour the syrup over everything on the plate, get a biteful of chicken and waffle and dip the syrup-coated pair into the honey mustard. It’s a flavor combo unlike any other. 

Gene’s Haufbrau
817 Savannah Hwy.
(843) 225-4363
Open daily 11:30-2 a.m.

Gene’s Haufbrau is a West Ashley staple. This year, it celebrated 70 years of serving Charlestonians one of the largest selections of beer. And, the food is stellar too. Gene’s knocks pub fare out of the park with classics like chicken wings and burgers, but ask about the daily blue plate specials, ranging from pork chops and pot roast to fried flounder. 

The Glass Onion
1219 Savannah Hwy.
(843) 225-1717
Open Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

The Glass Onion has been a neighborhood favorite since 2008, serving fine dining quality meals in a casual atmosphere. Chef/owner Chris Stewart combines his native Alabama roots with cooking styles he learned in New Orleans and Charleston, giving the menu a creative Southern flair.  Menu items like gumbo brimming with okra and sausage, pan-roasted flounder served over tender braised beans and thick mashed potatoes, shrimp and grits and fried catfish with red rice are part of the reason City Paper readers voted The Glass Onion as the Best West Ashley Restaurant in 2022. 

Home Team BBQ | File photo by Jonathan Boncek

Home Team BBQ
1205 Ashley River Road
(843) 225-7427
Open daily 11-12 a.m.

Chefs Aaron Siegel and Taylor Garrigan started their acclaimed barbecue empire, Home Team BBQ, in West Ashley. The meats here, like pulled pork, smoked chicken, ribs and a superb salt-and-pepper brisket, are all cooked over wood on offset metal pits. Siegel and Garrigan’s fine dining roots show up in an array of creative snacks and tacos, like chopped brisket sliders on brioche buns and smoked shrimp tacos with white bean puree. And, don’t miss out on Home Team’s smoked chicken wings with tangy white Alabama-style sauce. 

Old Li’s
1662 Savannah Hwy. Unit 105
(843) 640-3994
Open Thurs.-Tues. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Old Li’s is a hidden gem in West Ashley tucked in the Indigo Village shopping center on Savannah Highway. It first opened in 2021, serving Chinese cuisine, but not the standard Chinese American takeout dishes like General Tso’s. Instead, Old Li’s offers more adventurous meals like squirrel fish and griddled pork intestines. Of course, you can also stick to some favorites like pork fried rice, Yuxiang (or shredded) pork and Kung Pao Chicken. 

Red Orchid’s China Bistro
1401 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. 
(843) 573-8787 

City Paper readers have voted Red Orchids Best Chinese for many years — and for good reason. Not only are the dishes affordable but also delicious. Tucked away in the back of the Ashley Landing Mall parking lot, Red Orchids is the perfect place for a quiet lunch or dinner out. Pro-tip: As the temperatures in the Lowcountry drop, stop by Red Orchids for a bowl of wonton soup. It’s savory, warm and served with delicious pork dumplings. It also comes with crispy wonton strips that add extra crunch.

R Kitchen
1337 Ashley River Road
(843) 789-4342
Open Wed.-Sat. Reservation Only. 

R Kitchen is a different dining experience than the traditional sit down, order and eat. R, is reservation only and the menu changes every night, offering a five-course menu based on seasonal ingredients and the chefs’ creativity. Reservations can be made by texting (843) 789-0725. 

Swig & Swine
1217 Savannah Hwy.
(843) 225-3805
Open daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Swig & Swine specializes in fresh-smoked meats with ice-cold drinks. Its extensive drink menu includes local draft beers as well as signature cocktails. Try the St. Louis ribs or the pork rind nachos for a messy good time. 

Three Little Birds’ Sweet Potato Benedict | file photo

Three Little Birds
65 Windermere Blvd.
(843) 225-3065
Open Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Located near the Earth Fare in the South Windermere Center, Three Little Birds is a quaint dining space wrapped in lush greenery. big breakfast and lunch meals. Serving big breakfast and lunch meals, some classics standout like Tom’s Plate offer two eggs any style, toast, a side and the choice of bacon, ham or sausage. Or, you can try the lox bagel, topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers or the Carolina Scramble with eggs, andouille sausage, shrimp, peppers and onion.

Triangle Char & Bar
828 Savannah Hwy.
(843) 377-1300
Open Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11-12 a.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-11 p.m. 

Triangle Char + Bar is a family-friendly neighborhood restaurant with a cozy vibe and delicious food. Highlights of the menu include a selection of grass-fed burgers like the Hot Sh*t, a blackened burger with jalapeno-bacon jam, an over easy egg and pepper jack cheese. Or if you don’t feel like getting your hands a little messy, Triangle has “fork and knife” options like the retro bowl made with quinoa, sweet corn, spinach, bacon and white onion, all tossed in a parmesan cream sauce.

Zen Asian Fusion
2037 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.
(843) 766-6331
Hours vary

Zen is the perfect spot to relax after a long day or hang out with a group of friends. The dim lighting and calm ambiance adds to the delicious sushi rolls and entrees offered at this Asian fusion restaurant. Traditional Chinese dishes like Mongolian beef share the menu with chef specials like crispy roasted Mandarin duck or noodle dishes like pad thai and mei fun. But Zen shines in its abundance of delicious and well-crafted sushi rolls. Take, for example, the Holy Moly Roll, made with King crab, tuna, avocado and spring mix, then deep fried and topped with a creamy sauce.

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