Vern's hen of the woods mushrooms with ginger and spring onion | photo by Lizzy Rollins

New to our quarterly Dish is the CP Hotlist, which shines a spotlight on notable, relatively new hot restaurants that have impressed our cuisine team. We encourage you to check them out and let us know whether you think they should be added to our Top 50 list.

On the CP Hotlist (in alphabetical order):

Berkeley’s serves up sandwiches, pasta and more

Berkeley’s (2021), downtown Charleston. Soak in the North Central neighborhood from the front patio and escape King Street crowds at this spot that feels like going over to a friend’s home for dinner. Berkeley’s keeps its menu relatively simple but packs big flavor into each dish with plenty of options for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. Opt for a traditional or vegetarian cheesesteak (made with mushrooms) or select another savory sandwich. If you’ve craving something heavier, look to chicken or eggplant parmesan, cavatappi or hanger steak. One satisfied diner said, “The spicy shrimp polenta appetizer has been on my mind for weeks since I first tried it. It’s filling, flavorful and definitely more than enough to share. Pair it with the smoked salmon dip if you want to start your meal with a decadent seafood spread.” Moderate. Lunch, dinner, Wed.-Sun.

The Pass (2021), downtown Charleston. If you’re looking for an OMG sandwich experience, this is the joint. Not only does it have a tuna crudo sandwich named OMG, but every one of the “unapologetically interesting sandwiches” could have “OMG” as part of their names. Among the other delights served up in the 700-square-foot space: the Cacio e Pepe, a sandwich served on sourdough bread filled with cheesy goodness mixed with the saltiness of prosciutto and a drizzle of truffle honey; Such a Nice Italian Boy, a classic Italian sandwich with pickled Calabrian chili relish on a ciabatta roll; and the LBC, the perfect breakfast sandwich with house-cured lox, housemade scallion cream cheese, cucumbers and pickled onions on an everything bagel. When you stop by, make sure to get a full plate of banter, too, with owner and chef Anthony Marini. Inexpensive. Lunch, Wed.-Sun.

Philosophia (2022), Mount Pleasant. A new entry for East Cooper dining, Philosophia blends the joy of dining with friendship and a menu that rocks Greek cuisine. “Amazingly good Greek food served in one of the most attractive new restaurants in the area,” one satisfied gourmand said. Favorites include starters of pesto hummus and Greek pimento cheese and main dishes of pastitsio, whole branzino and stuffed leg of lamb. Wow. Moderate to expensive. Dinner Wed.-Sun.

Pink Bellies garlic noodles | Pink Bellies Instagram

Pink Bellies (2021), downtown Charleston. From humble beginnings as a food truck serving hungry College of Charleston students to a stall in former food hall Workshop, Pink Bellies has now morphed into a bustling hot Vietnamese spot in midtown. Cult-followers enjoy Thai Phi’s spicy, decadent garlic noodles and other Vietnamese fare in a moody, yet vibrant dining room that brings a much-needed modern vibe to King Street. Other fan favorites include the spicy lamb dumplings and pho mai burger. Sample the cocktail menu’s Tres Coop Riff, a tequila-based cocktail with an orange creamsicle flavor that is smoked and topped with cinnamon chips for a s’mores flavor. Expensive. Dinner, Thurs.-Sun.

Rancho Lewis (2022), Charleston Neck. Barbecue chef extraordinaire John Lewis, already known for bringing his tasty Texas brisket to Charleston, adds Tex-Mex to the mix with Rancho Lewis, where he uses his favorite Hatch chiles in many dishes. The tortillas are made fresh onsite, and, if you can stray from the tempting tacos, the burger — made with brisket — is terrific. Another diner raved: “Don’t leave without eating the steak fajitas. Period.” Moderate. Lunch, Wed.-Sun.

Vern’s (2022), downtown Charleston. 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 peaches and whipped ricotta for a delicate balance of sweet, creamy and nutty flavors. This, however, is a dish you might not want to share. Expensive. Dinner, Thurs.-Sun; Brunch, Sat.-Sun.

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