Mt. Pleasant, 730-G Coleman Blvd.
A well-regarded neighborhood pub for the well-intended local drinker.
Discreetly situated in Brookgreen Towne Center in Mt. Pleasant, the Lagerhead Tavern caters to a friendly local crowd, young and old, with a full menu of good pub grub, fancy entrées, and pints of good beer.
PLUSES: Clean and comfortable, 10 beers on tap, decent happy hour beer and cocktail specials (ask for the “Turtle Tap” mystery beer), abbreviated wine list, knowledgeable bar staff, live music three nights a week, “Orange Crush” shooters with 180 Energy Drink, four video games, foosball. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Mt. Pleasant, 778 Shelmore Dr.
A stone’s throw from I’On
Towhead owner/chef and Lowcountry native Patrick Owens inspired many a schoolgirl crush in his day. He’s all grown up now and crafted his love for haute cuisine and enduring friendships into an instantly adored and neighborhood-adopted restaurant and wine bar. A rich use of color and a dark, handsome bar make a stop at Langdon’s a chic night out in the midst of suburbia.
PLUSES: Boasts over 100 bottles of wines from boutique vineyards, averaging $10 per glass. (—Ida Becker)
Downtown, 137 Calhoun St.
Not snooty, but nice (and hip) enough to impress that cute guy or gal who works at the record store.
Lite Affair is like a bar out of another city, like Athens or maybe even one of the boroughs of New York. It’s completely laid-back, with low house lights, exposed brick walls, and high ceilings complementing the crowd, usually made up of late-20s, early-30s locals telling funny jokes. OK, maybe the funny jokes are mostly on Wednesday nights, when they host open mic stand-up night. They’ve got a signature drink called the Piccolo Cosmo: Stoli O, cranberry juice, sour, triple sec, and lime … for only $5.
PLUSES: Jazzy Sunday nights with La Calle, an inventive shot list, and Thursday night live trivia. (—Sara Miller)
Little Thai Too
Downtown, 350 King St.
A good stop for an exotic evening.
One of two top-notch Thai restaurants on King Street, Little Thai Too sports a rich, dark wooden bar to one side of its front dining room, where anyone wishing to step into an atmosphere redolent of southeast Asia can occupy themselves admiring the genuine Thai décor (carried back from the owners’ homeland each time they visit, which is regularly). Be sure to pay your respects to the four-armed elephant-figured Hindu god Phikanet, the master of art and wisdom.
PLUSES: More Buddahs than you can shake a stick at, and the house specialty drink, the exotic Lycheetini, 5-7 p.m. happy hour specials include $3 wine and well drinks, and $5 martinis. (—Patrick Sharbaugh)
Downtown, 54 John St.
A small but eclectic club where music is the main ingredient.
This slim and dark space above Joe Pasta might have a slight identity crisis, but that’s all right with the wide array of patrons cruising through its door. On most nights, DJs will be spinning in the booth while cheeky 20- and 30-somethings bump and grind on the floor, but bands and art shows make their way upstairs, too. The Living Room doesn’t have any particular drink specials, but the allure of a slightly lounge-y atmosphere and slightly sweaty coeds is enough to draw a steady crowd.
PLUSES: Latin night on Fridays, the view outside the windows, comfy couch section. (—Shawnté Salabert)
Ma’s Pub & Grub
Summerville, 2140 Royle Road
A low-key pool hall tucked away from the main drag.
At the site where Cue’s and Winner’s Choice once stood (the sign still says “Winner’s Choice”), this newly-opened pool hall and beer house offers five tables set up diagonally across the room and a special “winner’s table” to the side by the tall-standing trophy cases. The L-shaped bar has nothing fancy to offer, but welcomes as many young players as it does grizzled veterans. Located behind the pawn shop off Royle and Ashland roads.
PLUSES: Video pool, video poker, Southern rock blasting on the stereo, karaoke on Saturdays. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
West Ashley, 1680 Hwy 171
A vibrant back bar room to accompany an outstanding Greek restaurant.
This West Ashley bar sits in the back of the wide-open bustling restaurant and grooves at an easygoing pace. Comfortable booths, tables, and 15 TV screens surround the cozy bar area. Attentive wait staff and bartenders serve mostly cold bottled beer, wine (from an impressive list of two dozen selections from California and the Mediterranean), and cocktails.
PLUSES: Popular Thursday and Sunday night trivia games, live music three nights a week, plasma TVs galore, Mimosas and Bellinis during Sunday Brunch (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), five specialty martinis (including the espresso martini with Kahlua and a shot of joe!), no cigar smoking allowed, 12 NTN video trivia screens, pinball, PGA Championship video golf. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
McCrady’s Wine Bar and Lounge
Downtown, 2 Unity Alley
An upscale evening starter where the hip go to sip.
First-timers at this lush lounge and high-end nightspot may be forgiven for thinking it’s a singles bar moonlighting as a restaurant. McCrady’s is certainly a place to enjoy one of Charleston’s better meals, but both the main restaurant bar and associated lounge/wine bar are top places to see and be seen, particularly for the hordes of downtown young professionals who go to conspicuously consume there. Wine is the libation of choice in the lounge (they carry 1,000-plus labels on site), but the $5 happy-hour martinis are also understandably popular options.
PLUSES: The large main bar is separate from the recently renovated lounge, but both provide excellent posing and strutting runways. (—Patrick Sharbaugh)
Summerville, 10597 Dorchester Road
A medium-sized, UK-style tavern with an extraordinarily warm welcome.
Located at the west end of Dorchester Road at the Limehouse Crossroads, this newly-opened Scottish-style pub has quickly become a hit with the locals. Authentic décor, a well-stocked aluminum ’n’ black bar, friendly staff, and a cozy lounge add up to a unique Summerville hotspot.
PLUSES: Happy hour appetizer and beer specials (4:30-7:30 p.m.), Thursday is a non-smoking happy hour, low-key live music two to three nights a week, bench seats along the side wall, big shot menu (try the citrusy “Summerville Sling”), killer crab cakes, food ’til 11 p.m. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
West Ashley, 90 Folly Road
The longtime delicatessen with a casual bar for local diners and beer drinkers.
A long bar counter to the left side of the big room in the South Windermere Shops offers beer and wine aficionados a chance to get away from the smoky bars and relax with a newspaper or TV show. The casual atmosphere continues into the evenings, when live acoustic groups and solo acts occasionally perform.
PLUSES: Authentic N.Y. deli-style grub, close to downtown and James Island, four beers on tap and a 53-strong list of standard domestics, microbrews, and imports, decent wine selection. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Downtown, 235 East Bay St.
Stylish students and the young professional set get their tapas on at this off-the-Market meeting spot.
Technically a tapas-style restaurant, Meritäge is unquestionably better known among the college and young professional set as a meeting place and meat market. Once the dinner crowd has mostly disappeared from the small dining area next to the bar, the bar becomes the focal point of this lively and well-appointed social scene on East Bay Street just a block north of the Market. The pickup potential here goes to 11 on a scale of 10. Wear whatever looks best in a pile at a stranger’s house.
PLUSES: Not one but two outdoor patios make perfect posing platforms for the muscle-T and sundress-wearing crowd during spring and summer months, and an extensive tapas menu makes for easy nibbling all night long. (—Patrick Sharbaugh)
Mt. Pleasant, 1971 Riviera Dr.
The comfy Irish sports pub for the country club crowd.
Set in a cozy corner of the Shoppes at Seaside Farms (near Target), this wood-paneled, two-room bar and grill is well set-up for those hungry for wings and basic pub grub and for drinkers thirsty for a Guinness, Snake Bite, or basic cocktails. Calder’s is decorated with shamrocks, Irish flags, and vintage Guinness and Anheuser-Busch posters and gear. The clientele resembles the roster of a golf tournament.
PLUSES: Happy hour from 4-7 p.m. offers $2.50 Guinness in bottles, 50¢ off domestics, and $3 well drinks, beer bucket specials, 12 beers and ciders on tap, house wines by the glass at $4.50, 9 TVs hung above the bar and dining area tuned into sports, NTN games, open from lunch ’til late (2 a.m.), convenient to “New Mt. Pleasant.” (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Downtown, 714 Rutledge Ave.
Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name … and you can count on excellent grub, too.
For those of us who live above the Crosstown, Moe’s is something of a godsend. It’s within walking (or stumbling) distance of the neighborhoods surrounding Hampton Park, and the food is amazing even when you’re not drinking. Locals jam-pack the bar, many of them young professionals or sports fans, on Tuesdays for 1/2-price burger night and on Thursdays for sushi night. The atmosphere is laid-back and the bartenders are awesome.
PLUSES: 11 beers on tap, 1/2 price burger Tuesdays, 25¢ wings at happy hour, and good tunes over the speakers. (—Sara Miller)
Isle of Palms, 80 41st Ave.
Salt air, breathtaking sunsets, and mouth-watering martinis.
Morgan Creek may be one of the Isle of Palms’ best-kept secrets. Frequented by islanders and Wild Dunes vacationers, Morgan Creek is the perfect place to quell a Saturday night hangover (Sunday brunch with Bloody Mary bar), enjoy the sunset (upstairs patio bar features live music Thursday-Sunday), or sip on a martini (the Georgia Orange is absolutely sinful).
PLUSES: A newly-built upstairs kitchen will now serve appetizers and sandwiches late night. (—Kristen George)
Downtown, 32 Ann St.
Get your groove on and maybe pick up a few drinks while you’re at it.
The Music Farm keeps it simple, stupid. Come for the tunes, fill up on booze as an afterthought. The Music Farm is downtown’s only venue big enough to host many nationally-touring acts — they’ve recently hosted two different Marley offspring, They Might Be Giants, and have frequent visits from Cosmic Charlie, Particle, and a litany of other jam-type bands. The bar was recently redesigned to accommodate concertgoers who choose to stand in the back of the club, a welcome change.
PLUSES: Live music, dancing hotties, and the water cooler they sit at the end of the bar (so you don’t have to annoy the bartender when you’re just drinking agua frio.) (—Sara Miller)
Downtown, 24 N. Market St.
Fine happy hour food brings ’em in at this tourist draw.
The Noisy Oyster happens to be on one of the busiest corners in Charleston, which means that it’s usually slammed, especially during tourist season. When it’s really busy, there’s actually a small oyster bar that opens up near the back of the restaurant with shuckers at the ready. With $2.99 happy hour deals on appetizers (wings, oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp), this places rages from 4-8 p.m. Patrons can catch a nice breeze coming in from the open-panel windows, which goes great with seafood.
PLUSES: $2 domestic bottles, 99¢ drafts and those cheap appetizers at happy hour, bartenders recommend trying the frozen Midori sour — perfect for Charleston summer nights. (—Sara Miller)
Downtown, 17 Broad St.
Upscale and loud, but not pretentious.
A small bar with a serious attitude, this is where we go to discuss the exquisite attributes of our shiny new corporate jet over some cold-ass vodka and a side of lobster macaroni and cheese. What else is there to do at a bar beloved by the bigwigs, the big names, and the big spenders? This is how we roll. Even when the bar crowd is three deep, newbies are — gasp — elbowing their way in to order a Bud Light and waiters are jockeying to pass through the crush with heaping dinner plates, the vibe in this place is definitely “where it’s at.”
PLUSES: Chef Brett McKee is ever-present and quick to greet guests by name. (—Ida Becker)
Oasis Bar and Grill
James Island, 778 Folly Road
This relatively new hangout is a little bit sporty, a little bit rock ’n’ roll.
Once you get past the ugly exterior and strip-mall location, this newly refurbished bar has a lot to offer — including a brand-new sand volleyball court. Food and drink specials abound and there is no lack of entertainment — besides the volleyball court, the Oasis has a patio bar, a vast number of video games, a ping-pong table, weekly karaoke, and a constant flow of live music. There’s even talk of starting up a series of bikini contests this summer — if you’re into that sort of thing.
PLUSES: Giant wood bar, Wacky Wednesday (buy a cup for $1 and drink until the keg runs out), volleyball tournaments, very clean bathrooms. (—Shawnté Salabert)
Mt. Pleasant, 361 N. Shelmore Blvd., I’On Square
A clean, family-friendly, neighborhood style tavern with Irish pretensions.
Although this homey place seems as if it’s been around since the ’60s, it’s only three years old. The staff works hard to keep customers happy, from tending bar to cooking light homemade fare. It’s worth braving the Shelmore Boulevard roundabout to give this pub a try.
PLUSES: Affable staff and sparkling amenities. (—Nick Smith)
Isle of Palms, 1400 Palm Blvd.
Warm and loungy, this popular Irish-style pub provides a quieter, more civil live music atmosphere than most.
The newly-opened pub and restaurant are already full of character and Irish curios, with a decidedly kelly green décor and a two-room layout. The plush furniture is nicely arranged, and glass windows allow bar patrons to check out the live music in the lounge without risking ear damage. Proprietor Carroll Brown is always on hand with a story or a song, and he sees to it that local and regional acts play on the tidy stage every evening.
PLUSES: Eight beers on tap, a half dozen wines by the glass and by the bottle, huge model clipper ship behind bar, snapshot “hall of fame” of regulars taped on walk-in cooler, happy hour specials on U.K. and U.S. specialty ales (Old Peculier, Samuel Smith, Rogue, etc.), Brown’s music available on CD in a glass display case by the front door, good seafood and sandwiches available ‘til 10 p.m., very close to the action on Ocean Boulevard, loads of parking. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Off The Hook
Sullivan’s Island, 2213 B. Middle St.
Island flare meets city chic.
Tourists and island folk alike flock to this quaint little bar featuring a Mediterranean-style menu, live music, and an interesting selection of Mexican and Caribbean beers. A 60-inch high-definition flat-screen TV provides the backdrop for the otherwise beach-inspired dining room while live music entertains guests from Wednesday to Sunday.
PLUSES: Beach proximity will lure you in while quick, attentive service — even when they’re busy — will keep you coming back. (—Kristen George)
Isle of Palms, 1130 Ocean Blvd.
A cozy site for sunburned tourists, local cocktail sippers, and wealthy beachcombers.
Literally a brass rail bar, this cozy upstairs corner offers some refuge from the Ocean Boulevard commotion and the restaurant beside it. The place keeps a Key West theme with framed posters of Hemingway, stuffed marlins, and ceramic parrots on the wall, and a strong menu of lagers, microbrewed ales, fruity liquor drinks, and wines. The uniformed bar staff offer “Shem Creek Private Label” wines, fresh-squeezed mimosas, and spicy Bloody Marys.
PLUSES: Bar manager Ben Thompson, who’s dedicated to customer service, and cool outside seating. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Downtown, 354 1/2 King St.
(down Burns Lane)
Hear live music every night of the week while downing $1 PBR.
Palmetto’s is housed in the space where Fluids and Zanzibar used to be, tucked away down Burns Lane, behind La Ha on King Street. They seem to be doing pretty well as a restyled easygoing bar, drawing in a lot of young collegiates and recent graduates with their cheap beer and big-screen TV holding court over the entire bar. The good-looking bartenders are friendly and speedy. The hotdog man hangs outside the bar some nights, selling his wonderfully greasy wares to hungry partiers.
PLUSES: $1 PBR drafts, 25¢ drafts on Monday nights, Thursdays are reggae nights with $2 Coronas and $3 tequila. (—Sara Miller)
West Ashley, Citadel Mall
The pub formerly known as the Bull & Finch.
This place features an all-new menu custom designed by the chefs to commemorate the pub’s new customer-picked name and style. There are cocktails and martinis galore: a vast array of berry, apple, and cherry flavors. Plus, they’ve got the classic English pub-style décor, complete with miniature clipper ships.
PLUSES: The bar team, Greg, Chuck, Trish, and Courtney, “always relate to the customer.” $3 vodka specials, two pool tables upstairs, and an “Orange Crush” mix of Gran Ma and Wild Turkey that’ll put you right. (—Jason A. Zwiker)
and Grill Out
West Ashley, 1377 Ashley River Road
Where Charleston’s American Idol wannabes go to shine.
If karaoke is your thing, then this is THE place to be on Thursday night. Honey, the stars come out at Patrick’s ’round 10 p.m., OK?! Mixed drinks run two for $10, so budget accordingly if you need alcohol-induced confidence to follow a bunch of cute lesbians’ rendition of “Baby One More Time” with your own spin on “Memories” from Cats.
PLUSES: “If you like your men in leather, chances are you’ll find Mr. Right here.” —Frommer’s description of Patrick’s. (—Ida Becker)
Downtown, 225 East Bay St.
Overlooking the Market and pretty much everything else.
A good place for the gentlemen to wear a tie and, for the ladies, an evening dress. A winter tent keeps things warm in the cooler months. In the summer, enjoy a sensational view of the city as well as the fun of drinking next to a cascading pool. The pool is for hotel guests only, though they occasionally fish an overzealous bar guest out. Jumpers get escorted downstairs, mind.
PLUSES: The regular bartenders, Chip, Junior, Nate, and Matt, serve up one of the largest selections of liquor in the local area, jumbo shrimp satays with Thai chili dipping sauce, panko-crusted lobster tail. (—Jason A. Zwiker)
Penalty Box Lounge @ The Carolina
7665 Northwoods Blvd.
A snazzy, family-friendly, smoke-free, low-noise sports pub.
A sizeable, totally smoke-free, brightly decorated bar located inside the sprawling Ice Palace facility off Ashley Phosphate Road and Northwoods Blvd. — just past the Video Kingdom game room and the Wizard Tells All fortune-teller machine. Open from 5 p.m. until late seven days a week, the place is comfortable and friendly. Veteran NHL jerseys and gear hang in big frames across the walls. Attentive young bartenders work from behind a shiny, zigzag bar counter.
PLUSES: Quick food ‘til late off the snack bar menu (ballpark grub, pizza, wings), one pool table, one dart board, 8 TVs and a big-screen all tuned into sports (they have Direct TV packages), 26 bottled domestics and imports, three wines, happy hour drink specials (Jägerbombs, cocktails, etc…) weekly specials, oversized couches in the front corner. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Downtown, 112 North Market St.
A tony enclave for power brokers and trust-fund babies.
Josh, Chris, and Jen are all three-year-plus veterans behind the bar at this prestigious restaurant. Thanks to its affiliation with the boutique hotel of the same name, Planters Punch is an oft-requested drink here. And while we thought we were the only ones with a secret, we now know that scores of like-minds also belly up to the bar, order a coffee and Bailey’s, and devour a magnificent slice of their coconut cake.
PLUSES: You can eat a stunning meal or decadent dessert at the bar while chatting with the bartenders. (—Ida Becker)
N. Charleston, 8780 Rivers Ave.
Relaxed, newly-opened pub with a casual suburban atmosphere.
A cozy two-room spot with a Caribbean-style menu and a nice selection of bottled and draft beers. Evenings are filled with laid-back locals and pals of the live musical acts. Happy hour (4-7 p.m.) features 50¢ off domestics and $1 off well drinks.
PLUSES: One wide-screen TV (customer’s request!), karaoke on Mondays and Tuesdays, live music on Wednesdays and weekends. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Folly Beach, 32 Center St.
The burgers are juicy and the beer is flowing in this casual corner bar.
While the tourists head towards the most brightly lit spots on the beach, the locals know that this kitschy pub is the best place to unwind. The décor is slightly tacky, the bar food is surprisingly creative, and the jukebox is stacked full of perfect beach bar tunes. If you want to come watch the big game away from the noisy crowds, you’ll find yourself in good company at this local haunt.
PLUSES: 75¢ Busch draft during happy hour several days a week, Blue Tacos, Chrissy at the bar. (—Shawnté Salabert)
Mt. Pleasant, 627 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.
The serious billiards hall for the serious player.
Young and old flock to this cavernous pool hall in the middle of Mt. Pleasant to play on the 20 well-maintained tables varying between 7 and 9 feet in size. A tidy full-service bar keeps watch over the whole proceedings. There’s a cool “showcase room” to the right of the main entrance with antique tables, cues, and equipment. They also have two other locations in West Ashley (Sam Rittenberg) and North Chuck (Festival Center).
PLUSES: The place opens at 4 p.m. with a kickoff happy hour until 7 p.m. featuring 50¢ off well drinks and $1 off pitchers, five beers on tap, small wine list, video trivia and video golf on the bar counter, open until late (2 a.m. most nights), weekly and monthly tournaments. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Downtown, 479 King St.
Dueling pianos and daily drink specials are this college joint’s crowning glories.
This boxy space is a little spartan during the early hours, but the late-night weekend crowds provide the scenery while catching Charleston’s only dueling pianos at work. The rules posted on the wall are strict — singing along is listed as an absolute must, or you risk being thrown out by your collar — but this bar is really about having a little old-timey fun.
PLUSES: Uh … dueling pianos, trail mix at the bar, good lookin’ bartenders, daily drink specials. (—Shawnté Salabert)
West Ashley, 1750 Savannah Hwy.
A compact and welcoming live music beerhouse for hippies and other modern counterculture characters.
This groovy little lounge has a good local reputation for its warm atmosphere and adventurous approach to live music. A favorite haunt of West Ashley locals, notorious jazz musicians, and hippies of all ages, the Pour House serves as a cool hangout in general with bar napkin artwork taped to the ceiling, broken cymbals nailed to the wall, and a mushroom tapestry hanging behind the stage. Alex and Vanessa treat the bands and customers extremely well.
PLUSES: Ten draft beers (cheap Yuengling), cheapo happy hour from 3-7 p.m. with $1.50 domestics and $2 bourbons, one pool table, Monopoly pinball, Golden Tee, video trivia. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Purple Tree Lounge
Downtown, 36 N. Market St.
The team behind City Bar tightens the rules and plays swanky in this new space.
They keep the music ambient and the patrons good-looking at this relatively new club space. Boasting a VIP lounge, a sparkling palm tree, and a host of cozy seating areas, this upstairs venue attracts a higher class of young clubbers. The bouncers are selective, so wear your sexiest evening attire (that means no T-shirts and sneakers, guys) and prepare to haggle for admission at the door.
PLUSES: Nightly DJs, late-night dancing, well-appointed bathrooms, and lack of skanks. (—Shawnté Salabert)