Peninsula Grill is a go-to restaurant for special occasions (Ruta Smith file photo)

The Dish Top 50 Fall 2022

Looking for a bite to eat in Charleston can be overwhelming. Simply searching the internet for “food in Charleston” can yield inconsistent results. Fortunately, we’ve narrowed down the list to the city’s Top 50 restaurants, a not-so-easy task. From steak and scallops to Japanese fried chicken and curry mac and cheese, there’s no shortage of classic and traditional foods you can find in the Holy City. But what sets these 50 establishments apart isn’t the price or location, but the dedication each establishment puts into providing a memorable dining experience. This is the list to give family or friends visiting the city; the list to scan through when you’re undecided; the list with options for every budget; and the list that, like Charleston and the seasons, always changes. 

The list is organized in alphabetical order.

167 Raw Oyster Bar
Seafood
Moderate
Downtown. 193 King St. (843) 579-4997
167raw.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)

Surrounded by high-end boutiques, swanky inns, antique stores and art galleries, 167 Raw’s King Street home sits along a quiet stretch of storefronts. But fear not, it still boasts the same lineup of New England bivalves and lobstah rolls that were much-lauded at its existing original (and teeny) spot at 289 East Bay St., which now operates as 167 Sushi Bar. The first floor of 167 Raw’s ever-so-charming 19th century building is long and narrow, with original brick walls and a walnut bar. Even with four times (at least) as much seating as its original space, 167 Raw gets packed. Arrive early to tuck into your 10-hour carnita taco and tuna burger. 

Baker & Brewer pairs EVO pizza with Holy City Brewing’s beers

Baker & Brewer
Pizza
Moderate
Downtown. 94 Stuart St.  (843) 297-8233
Bakerandbrewer.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)

Baker & Brewer is the brainchild of two great local joints: EVO Pizzeria and Holy City Brewing, both in North Charleston. The blended restaurant brings two things everyone loves together: pizza and beer. It’s a more casual spot than EVO’s Park Circle location but all of its renowned pizzas remain on the menu, such as the pistachio pesto pie (named one of the best pizzas in the country by Food Network Magazine) and the sinful Pork Trifecta. Pair fan-favorite pizzas with Holy City-brewed and Baker & Brewer-exclusive drafts like Clyde’s Banana Split (a banana milk stout brewed by a College of Charleston student), and you’ll think you’ve gone to foodie heaven on Earth. There’s nothing like a Baker & Brewer sweet-and-savory meal in the middle of the work day. (And then again for supper!)

Basic Kitchen
Cafe
Moderate
Downtown. 82 Wentworth St.
(843) 789-4568
basickitchen.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Weekend Brunch

In a city filled with hearty Southern cuisine, sometimes it’s tricky to find a flavorful, light meal. Not the case at Basic Kitchen. According to co-owner Ben Towill, that has been exactly the goal since opening the restaurant with his wife Kate in 2017. “We want to provide massive flavor and a meal that’s hearty but still feels light,” he said. Robin Hollis, who took over as Basic Kitchen executive chef in July 2019, has honed in on this mission by creating more wholesome dishes that highlight vegetables from local purveyors. BK’s lunch menu is divided into small plates, bowls, salads, sandwiches and sweets. For dinner selections, it offers big plates like market fish with peach salsa, cilantro, avocado and lime or chicken or cauliflower schnitzel.

Bertha’s Kitchen
Soul Food
Inexpensive
Downtown. 2332 Meeting Street Road.
(843) 554-6519
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Fri.)

Head up Meeting Street until you see a two-story robin’s egg blue building with purple trim and a line stretching out the door. The Southern soul food platters here are so tasty, generous and inexpensive, that the line starts forming well before it’s open for lunch. Businessmen, laborers and far-flung tourists alike shuffle through the quick cafeteria-style service counter loaded with a smorgasbord of meat and threes, such as fried pork chops, fish specials, yams, stewed greens, home-style mac and cheese, limas nestled with smoked turkey necks, dark roux okra soup, moist cornbread and fried chicken better than anyone’s Grandma ever made. Bertha’s building was announced for sale earlier this year, but has since been taken off the market. 

Bistronomy by Nico
French
Expensive  
Downtown. 64 Spring St. (843) 410-6221
bistronomybynico.com
Serving Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch

One month after getting the keys to 64 Spring St., Bistronomy by Nico co-owners Nico Romo and Dominique Chantepie opened the French bistro after revamping the space previously occupied by Josephine Wine Bar. The cuisine mirrors the vibrant atmosphere and draws on celebrated dishes from Romo’s 10 years at Fish, which closed in 2017 after 17 years on King Street. Romo calls Bistronomy’s menu approachable French cuisine with an Asian fusion twist. The menu changes seasonally, but at the time of publishing, it included items like frog legs, 24-hour short ribs, bouillabaisse and escargot rice dumplings. If you want to sample Romo’s fare in Mount Pleasant, his original bistro NICO sits right off of Shem Creek. 

Bowens Island Restaurant
Seafood
Moderate
James Island. 1870 Bowens Island Road.
(843) 795-2757
bowensisland.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)

Don’t expect white tablecloth and maitre d’service at Bowens Island. It’s famously no frills, but it’s worth it. The nightly crowds are a testament to the family fish camp. Since its founding in 1946, it’s grown from a grimy, albeit quaint, cinder block outpost to a pluff-mud pantheon that offers up damn good fried seafood, hushpuppies and cold local beer in its upstairs dining room. Follow your nose downstairs and elbow-out yourself a space at the all-you-can-eat oyster tables and slurp down tasty local oysters by the shovelful that were likely pulled off the marsh that day. Oyster season or not, we have a hard time passing up the Frogmore Stew, a pot full of potatoes, sausage, corn on the cob and shrimp steamed together as God intended it. 

Butcher & Bee’s whipped feta is one of its most popular appetizers (Photo by Andrew Cebulka)

Butcher & Bee
Mediterranean
Moderate
Downtown. 1085 Morrison Drive.
(843) 619-0202
butcherandbee.com
Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch

Butcher & Bee is an elevated restaurant that belies its hipster hangout roots in its old dark, tiny space on Upper King Street. B&B’s menu features a range of dishes with everything from falafel to crispy schnitzels and carefully crafted local seafood to veggie-forward dishes. B&B’s mezze selection is a collection of small plates with a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influence, an excellent feature on the menu for brunch, lunch and dinner. It’s safe to say that pretty much anything you order from here will be incredibly creative. 

Charleston Grill
Modern American
Very Expensive
Downtown. 224 King St. (843) 577-4522
charlestongrill.com
Serving Dinner (Wed.-Thurs.)

Amid ever-shifting culinary fashions, Charleston Grill has remained one of the city’s crown jewels by delivering a consistently flawless dining experience. Executive chef Michelle Weaver’s dishes can be decadently lush, like her beef tenderloin with a red wine gastrique or seared foie gras, spiked with a strawberry jam and balsamic vinegar. The dishes are balanced, ingredient-centric creations, while contemporary spins on Southern cuisine are bold and satisfying. The best way to experience the full sweep of the cuisine is to pick out items from each section of Weaver’s menu and sit back to enjoy the house jazz band tucked in the corner.

Chasing Sage
Modern American
Moderate
Downtown. 267 Rutledge Ave. (854) 444-3402
chasingsagerestaurant.com
Serving dinner (Mon.-Sat.)

Focused on farm-to-table cuisine, Chasing Sage is always a delight because you never quite know what dishes will appear on the menu. The plates rotate regularly, depending on what’s in season and what local purveyors provide. You might indulge in small plates like corn dumplings with bacon and chili oil or blue crab lettuce wraps topped with avocado and watermelon. Plates are organized by price and designed to be shared. Dishes are often veggie-forward, but there are plenty of options for meat eaters. If you’re dining with a large group, opt for the chef’s choice and let the kitchen decide.

Chez Nous
French
Expensive
Downtown. 6 Payne Court. (843) 579-3060
cheznouschs.com
Serving Lunch,  Dinner (Tues.-Sun.), Sun. Brunch

Most mornings before lunch, the Chez Nous Instagram feed (@cheznouscharleston) features a picture of the day’s menu, handwritten in black ink on a small white card in executive chef Jill Mathias’ eccentric and highly stylized script. Next comes a separate picture of each and every dish being served that day, taken from above in flawless light. Admittedly, it’s only seven pictures total, since Chez Nous serves just two starters, two entrees and two desserts, and the selection changes daily. The setting is charmingly old and the cuisine European-inspired, but it’s hardly a throwback to an older mode of dining. Chez Nous stands alone just as it is, an eccentric outlier. With such a dynamic menu, any review of Chez Nous is by necessity a fleeting snapshot.

Chubby Fish
Seafood
Expensive
Downtown. 252 Coming St. (843) 222-3949
chubbyfishcharleston.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)

Executive chef James London serves a hyper-local, daily changing menu at this vibrant Coming Street restaurant, which opened in June 2018. And while the fish selection may vary, London is known for a few signature preparations. Expect raw oysters, crudos and likely one small plate that incorporates caviar. We recommend ordering several dishes and sharing with the group before finishing off with sweets from Life Raft Treats’ Cynthia Wong, who supplies Chubby Fish with dessert. Chubby Fish doesn’t take reservations, but it’s well worth the wait for one of 30 or so seats inside a restaurant that prides itself on turning under utilized types of fish into dishes you’ll crave for weeks. 

Coda del Pesce
Italian/Seafood
Expensive
Isle of Palms. 1130 Ocean Blvd. (843) 242-8570
codadelpesce.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)

With Coda del Pesce, chef/owner Ken Vedrinski of former downtown mainstay Trattoria Lucca headed out to Isle of Palms to create a beachside Italian seafood restaurant. The beautiful second-story dining room has brick walls, reclaimed wood floors and, in a rarity for the Lowcountry, floor-to-ceiling windows offering a lovely view of the Atlantic. It’s an ideal setting for Vedrinski’s signature high-end Italian fare, which offers plenty of bright flavors and unexpected twists. Masterful pasta anchors the primi selection, which includes ricotta gnudi tossed with mushrooms, guanciale (pork jowls) and vacche rosse parmesan cheese. The secondi highlights fresh fish like swordfish and swordfish “marsala.” Pair any of these with an Italian wine from the impressive list, and you’ll have one splendid fish tale to share with friends. 

Dave’s Carry-Out
Soul Food/Seafood
Inexpensive
Downtown. 42-C Morris St. (843) 577-7943
facebook.com/Daves-Carry-Out-111720082197029/
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)

This soul food joint offers a true taste of Charleston. For under $10 you can get a takeout box filled to the brim with the best of Lowcountry cooking like pork chops, crispy chicken wings and finger-lickin’ ribs. The selection of sides is small but tasty — try the lima beans, thick steak fries or rice. The lunch specials change daily, but your best bet is to go with a seafood platter, which ranges from $10 for a generous portion of shrimp to $20 for shrimp, fish, scallops and deviled crab. If you want a true local experience, opt for the lima beans and rice. It’s meaty and filling. A few tables allow customers to dine in, but most folks get their Dave’s to-go, whether for lunch or a greasy late-night snack.

Delaney Oyster House
Seafood
Moderate
Downtown. 115 Calhoun St. (843) 594-0099.
delaneyoysterhouse.com
Serving Dinner (daily)

The Neighborhood Dining Group — owners of Husk — have converted an old single house on Calhoun Street into a stunner of a seafood restaurant. The raw bar offerings range from local oysters and clams to hackleback caviar, and executive chef Shamil Velazquez’s inventive small plates are stylish and intensely flavored. The menu has featured rich poached lobster tossed with mayo and lemon and a golden tilefish served with roasted carrots, apple and collard green salad. Each dish is finished with a precise visual style that befits the picture-perfect setting. Grab a seat out on the second floor piazza, order a glass of chilled red wine and dig in. 

Edmund’s Oast
Modern American
Expensive
Downtown. 1081 Morrison Drive.
(843) 727-1145
edmundsoast.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Daily), 

This hip gastropub has a laid-back vibe. There are communal tables, as well as a chef’s counter and an expansive outdoor patio. Chef Bob Cook’s menu highlights include the house-made charcuterie and cheese plates, plus upscale bar food like barbecue escargot, port skirt steak or spicy Korean meatballs with pineapple and Carolina gold rice. The drink menu is every bit as compelling, rife with small batch cocktails, meads and a host of inventive beers brewed on-site. And happy hour in The Bower when the weather’s nice, well, the price and vibes cannot be beat. 

Estadio
Tapas
Moderate
Downtown. 122 Spring St.
estadio-chs.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)

Estadio, which opened on Spring Street in October 2019, is technically the second outpost of a successful Washington, D.C., Spanish-style bar and tapas restaurant. The decor and the deep sherry and gin selection echo the D.C. original, but executive chef Alex Lira’s impressive menu is unique to Charleston. The pintxos and tapas — grilled shrimp on skewers, deviled eggs and caviar and matriano hashbrowns with black and white anchovies — offer beguiling little bites. Fresh local crudo and flat iron steak cooked with a poblano romesco and served with caramelized leek mashed potatoes are offered on the heavier side. With a slate of sherry cocktails, “gin tonics” made with rare Spanish brands and porróns of wine, Estadio brings a brilliant taste of Spain to the heart of downtown Charleston. 

Felix Cocktails et Cuisine
French bistro
Moderate
Downtown. 550 King St. (843) 203-6297
felixchs.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sun.), Brunch (Sat.-Sun.)

If you’re looking for a bright, comfortable French bistro in which to relax with delicious food with small plates and a soothing glass of wine or a cocktail, this is the place. We like a lot of what’s on the menu of this French-style bistro and bar, but will direct you to three classics that won’t disappoint – French onion soup, lobster deviled eggs and steak frites. “Everything is exceptional,” said one patron who returns time and again. “If you are hungry and want a burger, get the Raclette Burger. Do not add any condiments, eat it as served. Be prepared to have a food orgasm.”

FIG
Modern American
Very Expensive
Downtown. 232 Meeting St. (843) 805-5900
eatatfig.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)

In 2003, chef Mike Lata set out to prove that “food is good.” After blazing a trail for the robust local farm-to-table restaurant scene, FIG still stands out, winning awards and creating devotees year after year. Although snagging a reservation can be a challenge, the seasonally inspired cuisine and impeccable service are worth the effort. Change is a constant, but stalwart menu standbys, like the pillowy ricotta gnocchi alla bolognese, never fail to satisfy. Be sure to check out the wine offerings, as — along with two nods for Best Chef Southeast — FIG is also a national James Beard award-winner for Outstanding Wine Program.

The Glass Onion
New Southern
Moderate
West Ashley. 1219 Savannah Hwy. (843) 225-1717
ilovetheglassonion.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Sat. Brunch

Since 2008, the Glass Onion has exemplified the “neighborhood favorite” category — a restaurant less formal and ambitious than a fine dining spot but still delivering seriously delicious meals. The offering blends the home cooking of chef/owner Chris Stewart’s native Alabama with dishes and styles he absorbed while working in fine dining kitchens first in New Orleans and then in Charleston. That means hearty, savory gumbo brimming with okra and sausage and Cajun fish cakes made with shrimp and catfish, served with Charleston red rice, collard greens and a red remoulade. Pristine local seafood makes for fresh, satisfying plates, like pan-roasted trout served over tender braised beans and thick mashed potatoes. While some have become staples on the menu like the shrimp po’boy, others rotate daily, with a new menu available every day at 11 a.m. on the website.

The Tomahawk Steak at Halls Chophouse is a 34 oz. dry aged delicacy (Andrew Cebulka)

Halls Chophouse
Steakhouse
Expensive
Downtown. 434 King St. (843) 727-0090
Hallschophouse.com
Serving Dinner (Mon.-Thurs.), Lunch (Sat.-Sun.)

Sure, there are newer and “hotter” restaurants, but Halls Chophouse is a special occasion classic for a reason. You can’t get better service with your steak, the wine list includes some unexpected offerings and the cocktails are generous. And the steak, of course, is fabulous. Pro tip: order the giant tomahawk cut and split it. One diner told us to order any of the dried aged steaks, especially if you need a reason to cry tears of joy. “While I have only eaten there a few times for dinner,” he said. “I dream of the next opportunity to go back.”

Hannibal’s Kitchen
Soul Food
Inexpensive
Downtown. 16 Blake St. (843) 722-2256
Hannibalkitchen.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Sun.-Sat.)

Hannibal’s Kitchen is a no-frills soul joint on the East Side of downtown Charleston that has “been feeding the soul of the city” for more than 40 years. After serving the community for so many years, Hannibal’s has become an institution in the Charleston food scene. It was even listed on The New York Times 2021 top 50 restaurants in the country. Try the signature dish “crab and shrimp rice.” Salmon, shrimp and shark steak are three other hot items at lunch time. And don’t skip out on the traditional Southern sides including lima beans, okra soup, fried chicken, pork chops and collard greens. 

Husk Restaurant
New Southern
Expensive
Downtown. 76 Queen St. (843) 577-2500
huskrestaurant.com
Serving Dinner (daily), Sat.-Sun. Brunch

Husk has outposts in Nashville, Greenville and Savannah, but this location — housed in a white mansion on Queen Street — is the original. Here, the kitchen creates must-try marvels with a frequently changing menu like Southern fried chicken skins, “Kentuckyaki” pigs ear lettuce wraps or the hulking Carolina heritage pork chop, while dessert offerings include such innovations as the savory-sweet cornbread pudding. There’s a welcoming, rustic atmosphere indoors, but if weather permits, sit out on the upstairs porch and enjoy what is, without hesitation, Southern food at its best. 

Indaco
Italian
Moderate
Downtown. 526 King St. (843) 727-1228
Indacorestaurant.com
Serving dinner (daily) Sat.-Sun. Brunch

If you’re looking for classic Italian pizza and pasta in a chic but laid back setting, Indaco is the place to go. Choose from classic Italian antipasti like polpette (meatballs) and prosciutto di parma; wood-fired pizzas, including a spicy soppressata; and handmade pastas like the staple tagliatelle with pork tesa and black pepper, topped with a Storey Farms egg, chives and parmesan. For the full Indaco experience, order the “for the table” chef’s choice, which includes a three-course meal for $50 per person. One frequent Indaco diner said, “This is comfort food your Italian grandma would make if she kept up with food trends. You can’t go wrong with the pizza, which changes seasonally, or the evergreen tagliatelle.”

Jack of Cups Saloon
International
Inexpensive
Folly Beach. 34 Center St. (843) 633-0042
jackofcupssaloon.net
Serving lunch, dinner (Wed.-Mon.)

Jack of Cups Saloon describes its cuisine as “globally inspired comfort food made with love,” and anyone who has dined here understands why. Jack of Cups co-owner and chef Lesley Carroll puts creativity and care into every dish she develops. And she’s always quick to offer a smile or share a laugh with diners. Menu offerings rotate with the seasons and incorporate unique, unexpected flavor combinations like the ever-popular red curry mac and cheese. Other unusual and delicious offerings that have popped up on the menu include Tom Kha Gai gnocchi, a traditional Vietnamese coconut broth-turned-sauce blended with a classic Italian dumpling, and Cap’N Crunch deviled eggs. Check the menu ahead of time to discover the latest Jack of Cups creations. One diner is particularly fond of the ever-changing menu. “The seasonal menu brings new, exciting changes every quarter,” she said. “This summer’s Cashew Korma was hands down the best curry I’ve ever put in my mouth. Sweet and savory, I couldn’t get enough. I felt like I died and went to curry heaven.”

Jackrabbit Filly serves up tasty iterations on quintessential Asian dishes (Rūta Smith file photo)

Jackrabbit Filly
Chinese
Moderate
North Charleston. 4628 Spruill Ave.
(843) 460-0037
jackrabbitfilly.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Wed.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch

The menu at Jackrabbit Filly — Shuai and Corrie Wang’s brick-and-mortar jump from their popular Short Grain food truck — takes quintessential Asian fare, and adds some vamp. The pork and cabbage dumplings are where Yangtze meets Ganges, with a rich mix of pork, cabbage, ginger and coriander encased inside the perfectly cooked pasta wrapper. Topped with a pungent chinkiang vinegar and Lao Gan Ma chili crisp sauce, the first bite is like suddenly finding something in life you hadn’t even realized was missing. Short Grain’s beloved karaage endures — the meat is juicy, the coating crunchy and the drizzle of lemon mayo and ponzu, along with some togarashi-induced heat, should be presented with the following disclaimer: “The karaage is a small structure made of chicken. It is delicious, and you are not ready for it.” 

Kwei Fei
Chinese
Moderate
James Island. 1977 Maybank Hwy.
kweifei.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)

Set next door to Charleston Pour House in the space previously occupied by The Lot, Kwei Fei’s interior looks the same-ish, except now the chairs are yellow and you’ll find some Asian knick knacks scattered about. But the updates are the only understated thing about Kwei Fei. Pretty much nothing else — from the food to the music to the chef himself — can be described as subtle. Kwei Fei’s menu is an equally wild ride, offering an array of appetizers, entrees and veggie-based sides sorted into blocks labeled “Loud,” “Hot” and “Vibes.” The crescent dumplings are an outstanding way to give your tastebuds a crash course in the events to come. Made with ground pork and redolent Sichuan pepper, the five plump dumplings are served in a soy-based, vinegary sauce and topped with fresh cilantro and chives. Hot, sour, salty, sweet: everyone’s here. On the “vibes” side of things, vegetarians are well-taken care of with the dry-fried green beans. Here some rice makes sense and adds bulk to the dry, fried shiitakes and peppers, which are coated in sichuan peppercorn and fermented bean paste, served with mushrooms and of course, peppers.

Le Farfalle
Italian
Expensive
Downtown. 15 Beaufain St. (843) 212-0920
lefarfallecharleston.com
Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch

Led by celebrated chef Michael Toscano, Le Farfalle is certain to delight. The bright, upscale space is generously laid out with an elegant bar suitable for a quick lunch of agnolotti pasta or a relaxed after-dinner conversation over craft cocktails. Dinner service starts with a slice from the restaurant’s ginormous wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but matters are then in your own hands. Seasonal appetizer stand outs have included a veal tartare toast served with shoestring fries and a sublime octopus carpaccio. You can’t go wrong with the housemade pastas, and other memorable dinner selections have included a vibrant whole branzino with pine nuts and a tender fried chicken picatta.

Chef Vivian Howard’s Lenoir offers reimagined Southern classics (Photo by Baxter Miller)

Lenoir
New Southern
Moderate
Downtown. 68 Wentworth St. (843) 534-9031
Dineatlenoir.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)

Chef Vivian Howard’s first restaurants outside Eastern North Carolina opened in Charleston in the first half of 2021. After PBS’ A Chef’s Life introduced Howard to audiences far from her first restaurant, Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, N.C., she now has two concepts open in the Wentworth-facing side of the downtown Renaissance Hotel. Handy & Hot checks the boxes as the hotel’s quick-service lobby cafe (with the addition of snackable hand pies and knockout biscuit sandwiches), but Lenoir is where Howard will make her mark. Tables ring the cozy dining room around a central bar, and a steady stream of reinvented Southern specialties flow from the kitchen. With dishes ranging from cornbread fritters and blueberry barbecue chicken wings to the K-town patty melt, Howard’s touch as a chef is apparent without taking things too seriously. 

Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters
Seafood
Moderate
Downtown. 698 King St. (843) 531-6500
leonsoystershop.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)

The chargrilled oysters at Leon’s embody the restaurant’s approach to food: unfussy and delicious. The “Fry-Up” platter is a choice of oysters, shrimp, catfish or clams battered and delicately fried and served with a tartar sauce so good we sometimes just dip a fork in it in between bites. If we know anything about restaurateurs Brooks Reitz and Tim Mink, it’s that they know how to design a restaurant that both looks and feels good. This is the kind of place that gets in your regular rotation because it’s comfortable, delicious and reliable.

Lewis Barbecue
Barbecue
Moderate
Downtown. 464 N. Nassau St. (843) 805-9500
lewisbarbecue.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)

Lewis’ building houses four custom-built smokers and a sausage smoker that can cook 1,600 links at a time, all hand-built by Lewis and his father. Once inside, you’ll queue up to have meat hand-sliced by one of two meat-cutters stationed behind a long counter directing you to opposite ends. Lewis’ “life changing” beef brisket is definitely the star. The infinitely tender meat has a salty, peppery crust and shines with melted fat. But there’s also juicy smoked turkey, pulled pork, pork ribs and Texas sausage called “hot guts” available and priced by the pound (or hot guts by the link). After your tray is filled with your order of meats, choose your sides from mustardy potato salad, lemon slaw, cowboy beans and rich green chile corn pudding. 

Little Miss Ha
Vietnamese
Moderate
Mount Pleasant. 915 Houston Northcutt Blvd.
(843) 388-7251
Littlemissha.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)

Janice Hudgins’ elevated fast casual Vietnamese restaurant grew from humble beginnings. What started as a family endeavor, doing private dinners and pop-ups, turned into a booth at former food court The Workshop, which morphed into the current full-service restaurant Hudgins opened in Mount Pleasant in early 2020. Hudgins’ brother Ryan is the executive chef but their mother (“Miss Ha”) was the inspiration behind the restaurant. So it goes without saying, “mom’s egg rolls” are a standout on the menu. We have a special affinity for the dumplings, spicy green curry and beef pho (though you can swap beef for chicken or veggies). But, you can get a taste of authentic Vietnamese from any of the offerings at Little Miss Ha, where every dish tastes like a home cooked meal. 

Maison
French
Expensive
Downtown. 708 King St.(843) 990-9165
maisoncharleston.com
Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)

Maison shares a low, unassuming King Street building with a climbing gym, but step inside and you’ll find an immaculate invocation of a stylish French bistro. There’s a pewter-topped bar, hexagonal white and black floor tiles and Parisian-style bistro chairs with white and black woven backs. The menu options — escargots, steak frites, rabbit en croute — seem to hew to traditional bistro standards at first, but chef Vandy Vanderwarker gives each a creative, flavorful spin. The thick wedge of the monkfish chop has a smooth, buttery bite beneath its golden brown sear, heightened by the unexpected richness of roasted chicken butter sauce. With deep, intense flavors and a playful sensibility, Maison’s daring interpretations of traditional French plates are a welcome addition to the Charleston scene.

Malagon
Tapas
Moderate
Downtown. 33 Spring St. (843) 926-0475
malagonchs.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)

Even experienced tapas lovers may find themselves a bit wide-eyed at Malagon — the comprehensive menu isn’t fooling around. Rather, it gets right down to some sweet tapas tenderness, starting with familiar snacks like marcona almonds and dates wrapped in ham. The mojama (cured tuna belly) is a classic treat. Firm and salty, it’s often referred to as the jamón of the sea. Accompanied by roughly a dozen baby potatoes, tender chunks of octopus have a silky texture similar to that of a rare scallop. The mild flavors of the two soft ingredients are dominated by the sprinkling of smoked paprika on top. Despite being “small plates” and probably owing in part to all the potatoes, your meal can be surprisingly filling and notably affordable. Malagon is not only doing something different, it’s doing it extremely well.

Malika Pakistani Chai Canteen
Pakistani
Moderate
Mount Pleasant. 1333 Theater Drive.
(843) 897-5727
Malikacanteen.com
Serving lunch (Fri.-Sun.) and dinner (Tues.-Sun.)

Owners Maryam Ghaznavi and Raheel Gauba have taken Charleston by storm with their authentic Pakistani comfort food. First starting out as a pop-up in 2019 as Ma’am Saab (which will be opening in the old Jestine’s Kitchen on Meeting Street), the couple introduced a new cuisine to the market, bringing to the table dishes like chicken biryani or aloo gobi. When the couple opened up Malika, they expanded their flavors and brought Pakistani street food to the fold, introducing samosa chaats, aloo tikki, dhamaka burger and chicken tikka rolls. Wash down the spices with local beers, selected wines and house-made cocktails at one of the few Pakistani restaurants in the country to serve alcohol. But if you’re looking for something traditional, Malika also offers Pakistani staples like mango lassi, a creamy mango shake or Pakola, a rosewater cream soda. 

Melfi’s
Italian
Expensive
Downtown. 721 King St. (843) 513-0307
eatatmelfis.com
Serving Dinner (daily)

Named for the family who once ran a pharmacy in the same space, Melfi’s menu offers updated takes on Italian staples. The polished, old-school dining room is warm and buzzy, providing a welcome backdrop to get your carbs on. Slip into a leather booth and proceed to feast on house-made linguine tossed with clams, or “Roman-ish” pizza, like the Mr. Wally, made with vodka sauce, Fresno peppers, sliced salami and meaty hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. Don’t miss the delicate tuna crudo with buttery pine nuts and Calabrian chile vinaigrette. 

Oak Steakhouse
Steakhouse
Expensive
Downtown. 17 Broad St. (843) 722-4220
oaksteakhouserestaurant.com
Serving Dinner (daily)

Located in a restored 150-year-old bank building, Oak is a long-running favorite for a big Charleston night out. Hefty prime ribeyes and strips are the main attractions, with luxurious family-style accompaniments like creamy whipped potatoes and lobster mac and cheese. Within the traditional steakhouse format, there is always a twist or two, like a daily local seafood special or beef belly with sorghum barbecue sauce. The deep wine list focuses on California reds, and the service is reliably top-notch, regardless of whether you eat downstairs in the bar area, with its exposed brick walls and clubby red leather booths, or at the white cloth-draped tables in the second story dining room, its high windows looking out over Broad Street. 

The Obstinate Daughter’s short rib gnocchi is a mainstay on the menu along with other pastas and pizzas (Andrew Cebulka)

The Obstinate Daughter
Seafood/Southern
Moderate
Sullivan’s Island. 2063 Middle St. (843) 416-5020
theobstinatedaughter.com
Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch

At The Obstinate Daughter, executive chef Jacques Larson’s big, open kitchen has a plancha and a wood-fired oven, and he uses it to create a beguiling array of pizzas, pastas and small plates. The pizzas bear tempting toppings, like guanciale, white anchovy or pancetta. The dishes on the rotating “plates” menu range in size from griddled octopus with crispy potatoes and black olive tapenade to swordfish siciliana with green olives, capers, tomatoes, raisins and currant. Fluffy ricotta gnocchi are topped with an intensely flavorful short rib ragu with tender strands of beef in a pool of reddish orange tomato-tinged jus. OD boasts a cheery, casual environment for enjoying Larson’s impressive parade of delicate but flavorful dishes. And that makes it one of the best upscale dining destinations not just out on the beaches, but anywhere in town. 

The Ordinary
Seafood
Expensive
Downtown. 544 King St. (843) 414-7060
eattheordinary.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)

In December 2012, a historic King Street bank building found new life as an upscale oyster hall. The Ordinary — second child of Adam Nemirow and chef Mike Lata — opened with soaring 22-foot ceilings, the promise of locally sourced seafood and lots of buzz.The Ordinary was the first of its kind. While regularly packed and filled with an upbeat ambiance, The Ordinary’s high ceilings diffuse the jovial noise to a pleasant buzz. Along with six daily varieties of raw oysters on the half shell, the house-smoked oysters are not to be missed. Presented in an oil and vinegar-filled preserve jar and spiked with slices of crisp pickled celery, the six oysters are so gently smoked that they are still raw. As a result, each is tender and juicy, the delicate hint of ocean flavor touched with woodsy smoke. Served with fancied-up saltines (brushed with butter and Old Bay), rich, cold creme fraiche and vibrant hot sauce, the combination is outstanding: cool, crisp and smoky all at once. 

Peninsula Grill is a go-to restaurant for special occasions (Ruta Smith file photo)

Peninsula Grill
New Southern
Very Expensive
Downtown. 112 N. Market St. (843) 723-0700
peninsulagrill.com
Serving Dinner (daily)

There are milestones in life that require a fancy steak. Or at least the kind of place where one can get a fancy steak. If you’re in the midst of such an occasion, Peninsula Grill has got you covered. Even after more than two decades, Peninsula Grill continues to impress with its luxurious fare. Executive chef Kalen Fortuna has taken the helm, bringing with him over a decade of fine dining experience with plans to change the restaurant’s course. “We’re trying to take it in a much more refined aspect,” Fortuna said about the restaurant’s new direction. “A lot less meat and the stuff that’s been there for a long time. It’s really just trying to put nice, beautifully composed plates on the dish and working a lot with local farmers & seafood.” 

Post House Restaurant
Modern American
Expensive
Mount Pleasant. 101 Pitt St. (843) 203-7678
theposthouseinn.com
Serving Dinner (daily); Weekend Brunch

Post House Restaurant opened in Mount Pleasant in August 2020 after undergoing significant renovations led by Kate and Ben Towill of design and hospitality firm Basic Projects. Post House is a reincarnation of The Old Village Post House, which closed in February 2019 after 16 years at 101 Pitt St. The Towills completely redesigned the circa-1896 space, moving the main dining room to the back of the restaurant and the bar to face Pitt Street. The space is adorned with antiques, vintage rugs, local art, archival wallpaper and handcrafted fixtures. You’ll find seasonal snacks, raw bar options, fresh pastas, local seafood and an assortment of vegetarian dishes at Post House. Local seafood massaman curry, Carolina heritage farm pork with creamy kimchi collard greens and a “backbar” cheeseburger are some of the main dishes that pair with starters like lamb wraps or Anson Mills cornbread. Post House also features an expansive wine list with bottles from around the world, and those looking for a staycation can grab a room in the quaint inn connected to the restaurant.  

Renzo
Pizza
Moderate
Downtown. 384 Huger St. (843) 952-7864
renzochs.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)

This former storefront-turned-hip neighborhood trattoria has a wood-fired oven and knows how to use it. Along with tempting starters like ricotta gnudi, charred broccolini or cavatelli, the menu features a trio of pastas, plus an array of creative Neapolitan-style pizzas. Feeling adventurous? The Cheli offers a tomato base with lamb sausage, tangy pickled peppers, honey and za’atar. There’s a bagel brunch on Sundays, plus Renzo offers one of the area’s largest selections of natural wine. 

Rodney Scott’s BBQ
Barbecue
Inexpensive
Downtown. 1011 King St. (843) 990-9535
rodneyscottsbbq.com
Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)

Rodney Scott made waves in 2017 when,
after two decades of cooking hogs at his family’s acclaimed operation in Hemingway, he brought his traditional burn barrel style of barbecue down to Charleston. That splendid whole hog — basted in a pepper-laced sauce and pulled into long, succulent strands — remains the foundation of Scott’s offering on King Street, but he’s added a few new options for the city crowd, like meaty spareribs, crisp fried catfish and craft beer on tap. The flawless collards and the ribeye sandwiches, made from pit-smoked steak sliced thin and piled high on soft rolls, are must-try sleepers.

The poke at Royal Tern incorporates fresh flavors (Rūta Smith file photo)

Royal Tern
Seafood
Expensive
Johns Island. 3005 Maybank Hwy. (843) 718-3434
theroyaltern.com
Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)

Set on Johns Island between Wild Olive and Minero, The Royal Tern is a welcome and well-positioned addition to that existing pair of successful Maybank Highway restaurants. With a focus on fish, the menu offers an aquarium-full of options. Along with a raw bar, there are a handful of sandwiches, a half-dozen seafood entrees and a hat trick of wood-fired steaks. The building is also glorious. Outside, it’s effortlessly stylish and would look just as appropriate nestled amongst a row of upscale beachfront estates. Inside, the chic, airy space boasts wood floors and high ceilings adorned with dramatic lights that resemble giant clusters of white grapes. The interior incorporates a number of current trends, including an open kitchen, marble-topped bar and miles of banquette seating. One of the best-looking joints in the area, The Royal Tern offers a hip place to scratch a variety of seafood itches on Johns Island. 

SHIKI offers fresh nigiri (above) in addition to sashimi and sushi rolls (Rūta Smith file photo)

SHIKI
Seafood
Moderate
Downtown. 334 E Bay St. (843) 720-8568
shikicharleston.com
Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)

One of downtown’s longest standing restaurants, SHIKI delivers fresh sushi rolls, nigiri and more in a cozy, recently renovated dining room. Owner Hae Gon “David” Park opened SHIKI at 334 East Bay St. in 2001 after moving to Charleston from New York City, where he worked at esteemed sushi restaurants like Yuraku, serving as head sushi chef for five years. The chef prides himself on sourcing the highest-quality fish and his technique when making rolls, sashimi and nigiri that is second to none. Patrons who want to go big can order the chef’s choice “omakase,” which translates to “I’ll leave it up to you” in Japanese. Chef Park will bring out a seemingly endless assortment of sashimi and nigiri bites, allowing guests to try a little bit of everything. For less devout sushi enthusiasts, there are approachable options like tempura shrimp and avocado rolls, teriyaki beef, pork katsu and more. Shiki’s menu hasn’t changed much over the years, but why would it, as the restaurant helps fill a void in a city that has very few sushi-focused restaurants. Next time you’re in the mood for high quality sushi, give this family owned and operated restaurant a try.

The apple pie at Slightly North of Broad

Slightly North of Broad
New Southern
Expensive
Downtown. 192 East Bay St. (843) 723-3424
snobcharleston.com
Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch

Slightly North of Broad is the perfect place to take visiting friends for their first taste of Charleston cuisine, for it embodies so much of what makes the city’s dining scene special. Since taking the reins in 2016, executive chef Russ Moore has deftly balanced the restaurant’s traditional dishes with more forward-looking fare. Pristinely fresh seafood gets an elegant Southern touch on plates like New Bedford scallops with tomato ham hock broth or seared tuna topped with crisp fried oysters and tart yellow “mustard Q” sauce. SNOB was a local charcuterie pioneer and a platter of hearty country pate, savory pork rillettes and lush chicken liver mousse is the perfect evening starter. 

Stella’s
Greek
Moderate
Downtown. 114 St. Philip St. (843) 400-0026
stellascharleston.com
Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)

It’s hard to say what’s most striking about Stella’s on St. Philip Street. Is it the hip, yet boisterous vibe? The large portions at an incredibly reasonable price point? Or the vast, authentic and consistently delicious menu? Regardless of your ultimate conclusion, this is a trifecta worth a visit… or five. The grilled octopus and spanakopita are simple perfection, while the saganaki is a visual showstopper and an excuse to pig out on cheese. Stella’s own recipes — namely her calamari and braised lamb shank with No. 5 noodles and brown butter shank sauce, are at once comforting and elevated, testimony to the woman who inspired it all.

Vern’s
New American
Expensive 
Downtown. 41 Bogard St. 
vernschs.com
Serving dinner (Thurs.-Mon.), Weekend Brunch

Tucked on the corner of Bogard and Ashe streets, Vern’s is the definition of a friendly neighborhood dining spot. And boy, is it popular. This New American restaurant offers family-style meals, which allow everyone at a table to enjoy dishes like gnochetti sardi, a rich and creamy gnocchi dish with arugula and walnut pesto, or the bavette steak with a sweet-tart balsamic glaze. If you get the chance to stop by for weekend brunch, don’t miss the sesame seed pancakes that embrace slices of local fruit and whipped ricotta for a delicate balance of sweet, creamy and nutty flavors. This, however, is a dish you might not want to share. 

Wild Common
Modern American
Expensive
Downtown. 103 Spring St. 
WildCommonCharleston.com
Serving Dinner (Wed.-Sun.)

The experience at Wild Common is different every time. Executive Chef Orlando Pagán changes the menu daily for a one-of-a-kind dinner. Items on the menu may start with crab rice and kimchi for some funk or a baked oyster. And if you’re feeling fancy AND funky, throw in a caviar course to liven up the night. Other past menu items include the delightfully pink “Unicorn Grits” from Marsh Hen Mill with yeasted cultured butter or a robust duck breast with mushroom quiche. For dessert, expect something playful like the chef’s elevated take on a Fig Newton or the chocolate and blood orange terrine with a citrus marmalade, hazelnut and dark chocolate. No two experiences are ever the same. How cool.

Wild Olive
Italian
Moderate
Johns Island. 2867 Maybank Hwy.
(843) 737-4177
wildoliverestaurant.com
Serving Dinner (daily)

Right off Maybank Highway sits Wild Olive, chef Jacques Larson’s haven for exquisite Italian fare. Since 2009, it has served as the go-to place for anniversary dinners and reunions with old friends. A comfortable bar greets those looking for a casual bite, but don’t let that relaxed atmosphere deceive you. Larson’s food is anything but. Incredible (and decadent) risotto fritters stuffed with sausage, spinach, Parmesan and mozzarella are a great way to start. And always ask about the specials, of which there are plenty. A past highlight was a pappardelle with prosciutto, pork and escarole. Larson is a firm believer in local and his conviction permeates everything on the plate.

Zero Restaurant + Bar
Modern American
Expensive
Downtown. 0 George St. (843) 817-7900
zerogeorge.com
Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)

On the grounds of the elegant Zero George Street Boutique Hotel, Zero Restaurant + Bar’s romantic dining room is set in a former carriage house built in 1804. Here, chef Vinson Petrillo whips up innovative tasting menus with the option of four or seven courses, plus optional wine pairings. Selections vary with the seasons, but anticipate such treats as lightly grilled mackerel served with foie gras and local citrus, or venison prepared with vadouvan curry and taleggio cheese. Hit up happy hour for a craft cocktail; whether wielding a lead pipe or the candlestick, the bourbon-based Colonel Mustard is sure to pack a punch.



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