Charleston is known far and wide these days for all of its good eats. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city annually to taste what the Lowcountry has to offer. And social media users are constantly posting about all of the delicious food and beautiful eateries they visit on the regular.
For a city known for its hospitality, Charleston’s food and beverage workers are often the first folks who make an impression on local and traveling diners. Their knowledge of the city, its culture and cuisines is insurmountably valuable. But when the doors are locked, the cash drawer is taken into the office and the kitchen pumps up the volume of music on the speaker, where does the staff go to eat? On the oh-so-valued day off of a food and beverage worker, where do they go to kick back, eat up and be served, instead of being the server?
The answers, as you see, may become your next favorite joint.
North Area has plethora
of good eats
Chef and freelance recipe developer Reina Gascon-Lopez, who lives in North Charleston, suggests a few places near her home that are standout stars.
“A few spots are in my current rotation that I enjoy visiting solo or with friends,” she said. “La Cocina de Lucy has solid tacos and burritos. Pollo Loko is my favorite for grilled Peruvian-style chicken and comfort Latin American foods.”
Her choices aren’t surprising as the North area continues to see growth. Latinx grocery stores and restaurants with owners from places like El Salvador, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico and more are springing up more frequently to serve the growing Latinx community and give them a taste of home, while also giving Charlestonians something new to try.
Jodie Holder, pastry chef at Melfi’s Restaurant and a commercial oysterwoman at Brown’s Oyster Supply, shared a mix of local favorites and up-and-coming restaurants for her favorite places to dine.
“When I find a place that I really enjoy, I quickly become a loyal customer,” she said. “So it isn’t difficult to loudly sing praises of a few of my favorite Charleston eateries.”
Her list includes:
Gaulart and Maliclet, popularly known as Fast and French. “You can never go wrong with their daily special, which includes a classic meal, fresh fruit and a glass of French wine — all for $15!”
Shiki, Charleston’s oldest sushi restaurant.
Welton’s Tiny Bakeshop, an Upper King neighborhood bakeshop with sweet and savory pastries and pizza pop-ups in the narrow alleyway next door.
CudaCo on James Island: “As a person in the fishing industry, I can really appreciate a clean and well-run fish market. But do NOT sleep on their food menu! I like to enjoy my lunch at one of their creekside picnic tables.”
Micah Pearson, recent musician-turned-chef and food lover works at Harold’s Cabin on Congress Street as garde manger. He contributes to the fun rotating menu of fresh local seasonal fare.
“I love the taste of my own food, but my biggest stops tend to be Malagon, Berkeley’s, the CODfather and Low Country Fish Camp. I think simple, fresh food that’s been tried and tested is always the way to go.”
Good wine pairs with fresh, local ingredients
The team at Edmund’s Oast Exchange had brilliant choices for their top spots to eat in Charleston, often citing places with wonderful wine options.
General Manager Sarah O’Kelley survives busy days at the wine shop on the iced matcha and overnight oats from Baba’s.
“I can eat breakfast all day and time becomes a blur in the retail world, so this was my saving grace!”
Team member Walker Harris shouts out Torres Superettes for having the best burrito in town. The brightly colored blue building on the corner of Rutledge and Maple streets serves up Mexican food alongside hot dogs, hamburgers and fries.
Edmund’s staff member Tom Zarillo, who’s new to Charleston, recommends the Caviar Bar at Zero George for caviar and Champagne, and The Ordinary for its seafood tower and whitefish — two local favorites serving high-quality seafood.
For local hospitality workers, finding quality, tasty and filling food isn’t hard. Many have floated between the multitude of establishments that have come and gone in the city. So they know where to look for some of the best places to go for good food and drinks, good service and a good time off the clock.
The focus on using local and fresh ingredients is a running theme throughout what most food and beverage workers look for in their favorite places to eat, as well as a diverse menu. They prefer places that showcase the flavors and cuisines of other cultures that can be new and even adventurous for many native Charlestonians.
Gracie Bates, a server at Millers All Day downtown, shouts out Neon Tiger for its plant-based menu and said that even though she isn’t plant-based herself, the food is so amazing that anyone would want to eat it. Her favorites? The falafel sandwich and the Buffalo chicken.
Hamilton Horne, owner and operator, at King Tide Farms, agrees.
“Right now, I’m eating Phuong Vietnamese, Quinte, Rocket Burger (Red Drum’s Food Truck), and Cold Shoulder Gourmet. I like these places because they are quick eats, as I’m always on the go, but focus on using only a few ingredients just super fresh done the right way.
“I believe the trends we are seeing for the Charleston culinary scene are going to be more small, hyper-local shops and vendors. People just want to know where their food comes from again.”
As Charleston continues to grow, so will its culinary scene. And at the forefront of that growth are the thousands of hospitality workers that staff and work the restaurants, food trucks, farms and waterways that supply the Lowcountry with its award-winning fare.
Where they eat before and after a long shift of dealing with locals and curious tourists with a million questions is the important fuel that keeps the area running and brings people back for more.
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