Every six months we publish Dish, our guide to the very best food in the Lowcountry. It’s a delicious, albeit exhausting, project that involves examining every new restaurant, and old standard to see who makes the cut in our guide. And that’s just the work that goes into our neighborhood guides. The hardest part, by far, is culling down our list of the 50 Best Restaurants in Charleston.
This Top 50 ranking changes every issue as we examine which places continue to knock our socks off and what restaurants should be demoted. Qualifications include taste, service, experience, but ultimately it comes down to “would we recommend this place to a friend?”
With that said, here are our newest recruits:
We’ve been hesitant to even mention this Broad Street jewel of a restaurant for fear it would become overrun and we’d no longer be able to get a seat at the tiny bar. But we finally decided that keeping mum just wouldn’t be fair to the dining public. Bar Normandy (Normandy Farm Bakery by day) is Chef Alex Lira’s small menu-meets-tongue-in-cheek spot and a great one at that. Lira’s menu changes daily and is so affordable you can have three courses for often less than $40. Columnist, comedian, and EffinBRadio co-host Philip Michael Cohen mans the bar and half the fun is shooting the shit with him as he gives wine suggestions. The vibe is casual, quirky, unpredictable, and altogether exactly what this city has been in need of for some time.
The bar was set high the minute Michael Toscano’s name began to circulate around Charleston. The chef behind NYC’s Perla, Michael and his wife Caitlin brought big name cred to the city when they arrived two years ago. Now, with seven months under their belts at Le Farfalle, they’ve successfully brought a new option for excellent Italian to downtown. It’s easy to get carried away ordering at the 15 Beaufain St. restaurant — with the agnolotti your mind may be telling you no, but trust me your body is telling you yes. However, as a recent drink at the bar proved, you can grab a glass of Prosecco and Le Farfalle’s chicken liver mousse and walk away entirely satisfied as well.
Having read and edited Robert Moss’ reviews for years, I know it takes a lot for the guy to be wowed. Moss travels extensively and has eaten at some of the best restaurants in the United States. So when he turned in his review of McCrady’s restaurant with the line “I felt like I had found my city again,” I knew he wasn’t playing. Sean Brock’s new tasting menu-only space on East Bay Street — $125 per person without wine pairings — is the culmination of his years of obsessive study and training and conveys what Moss describes as a quintessential taste of the Lowcountry: “For me, the essence of contemporary Charleston cooking is found in deft, nuanced flavors, especially seafood combined with fragrant herbs and fresh local produce … Brock’s tasting menu fits that to a T.”
Quietly Park Cafe continues to be a place for comforting and consistent breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The bar is always crowded in the morning as neighbors meet to gossip over avocado toasts and espressos. At lunch, the Park lettuce salad and honey poached turkey bring in everyone from business lunchers to friends catching up. And by dinner laughter spills out onto the patio as folks meet up for bottles of wine and buratta to share. We always recommend this sunny spot to friends which is why it’s more than deserving of our Top 50 list.
This marks the first time a food truck has made the Top 50. Traditionally this list has referred to only brick-and-mortar places, but do we really need to explain why Short Grain deserves to be here? Shuai and Corrie Wang have crushed it over the past year winning faithful followers with their Japanese comfort food. With a new James Beard longlist nomination on Shuai’s resume, it only felt right to acknowledge the food truck’s critical place in Charleston’s culinary scene. Whether they’re parked in a hardware store parking lot or popping up at Feathertop, Short Grain is one of the city’s best.
To read the rest of Dish, click here.