Oysters from 167 Raw | Photo by Ruta Smith

Charleston is surrounded by water, meaning chefs have an assortment of fresh fish from local purveyors at their disposal. And the spots on the City Paper’s top 10 seafood restaurants in Charleston offer everything a seafood fan could want, from oysters to sushi to no-frills fried fish. There’s no shortage of options, but we’re here to help narrow down the list with a couple local favorites from our Dish Top 50 Spring 2021 Restaurants

On the City Paper’s list of top 10 seafood restaurants in Charleston, you’ll find spots of all shapes and sizes. Downtown, there’s an elevated upper King Street eatery in a former bank building, a soul food spot that will feed a family of four for under $30 and an uber popular raw bar that’s well worth the two hour wait. And on the outskirts of town, you’ll find destinations like Bowen’s Island and Coda del Pesce that serve standout seafood with the waterfront views to match. 

Each of our top 10 seafood restaurants in Charleston serve something a little different, and don’t miss the honorable mentions at the bottom there’s no reason to limit your seafood excursion to just 10 spots, especially in the Holy City. 

167 Raw
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 new King Street home sits along a quiet stretch of storefronts. But fear not, they’re still boasting the same lineup of New England bivalves and lobstah rolls that were much-lauded at their original (teeny) East Bay spot. The first floor of the ever-so-charming 19th century building is long and narrow, with original brick walls and a new walnut bar. Bar vet Teddy Nixon is behind the long bar, shaking up the good stuff, while owners Jesse Sandole and Harrison-Panes, donning matching aqua hues, greet regulars at the door. Even with four times (at least) as much seating as their original space, 167 Raw gets packed. Arrive early to tuck into your 10-hour carnita taco and bay scallops in stud butter. —Mary Scott Hardaway 

Bowens Island Restaurant 
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, cinderblock 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. —Sam Spence 

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

With Coda del Pesce, chef/owner Ken Vedrinski of longtime 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 tagliatelle tossed with blue crab, Colatura di Alici, lemon and basil. The secondi highlight fresh fish like black bass and there’s a little heavier fare, too, like naturally raised veal “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. —Robert F. Moss

Dave’s Carry-Out 
Inexpensive 
Downtown. 42-C Morris St.
(843) 577-7943
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 red beans and rice. The lunch specials change daily, but your best bet is to go with a seafood platter — they range from $7 for a generous portion of shrimp to $13 for shrimp, fish, scallops and devil 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. —Melissa Tunstall

Delaney Oyster House 
Moderate 
Downtown. 115 Calhoun St.
(843) 594-0099.
delaneyoysterhouse.com
Serving Lunch, 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 Kaluga caviar, and executive chef Shamil Velazquez’s inventive small plates are stylish and intensely flavored. Menus have featured rich kombu-poached lobster is tossed with orbs of tangy Asian pear, ground peanuts and green Thai basil leaves, while a deconstructed chowder delivers tender clams, mussels, shrimp and a flawless peach-hued scallop within a pool of creamy, savory broth. Each dish is finished with 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 dive in. —Robert F. Moss

Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters
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 fish fry platter is a jumble of oysters, shrimp and fish 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. —Stephanie Barna

Nana’s Uptown
Inexpensive 
North Charleston. 5117 Dorchester Road.
(843) 937-9311
Serving Lunch and Dinner (Tues.-Sat.) 

Downtown’s Nana’s Seafood & Soul closed in 2020 after nearly two decades on Line Street, but fans of the family owned and operated restaurant can still find its affordable Lowcountry fare at Nana’s Uptown, located in North Charleston at 5117 Dorchester Road. Mother and son duo Carolyn and Kenyatta McNeil’s takeout- and delivery-only outpost specializes in seafood, with options like flounder, whiting, shrimp, scallops and more. But that’s not all you’ll find at Nana’s. 

The chicken wings are a must as are daily specials like crab legs with garlic shrimp. For sides, expect the classics, with the baked mac n cheese and bread pudding stealing the show and don’t forget to wash it all down with Nana’s signature pineapple sweet tea. 

If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that high quality takeout is something that can’t be taken for granted. Nana’s Uptown delivers every time, offering the North Charleston community an affordable option serving authentic eats. —Parker Milner  

The Ordinary
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. Today such concepts are a dime a dozen (on the half-shell, please). But The Ordinary was the first of its kind, and I would argue, still the best. While regularly packed and filled with an upbeat ambiance, the 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. —Vanessa Wolf 

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

Set on Johns Island near Wild Olive, The Royal Tern is a welcome and well-positioned addition to that existing pair of successful Maybank Hwy restaurants. With a focus on fish, the menu offers an aquarium-full of options. Along with a raw bar, there are fried “and chips” platters, elegant small plates and four variations of cooked oysters. Add to that 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. —Vanessa Wolf 

Shiki
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, newly renovated dining room, which is set to reopen this summer. Owner Hae Gon “David” Park opened Shiki at 334 E. 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 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’s 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. —Parker Milner  

Honorable Mention: 

Darling Oyster Bar 
Moderate
Downtown. 513 King St. 
(843) 641-0821
Serving Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch 

Gillie’s Seafood 
Inexpensive 
James Island. 805 Folly Road. 
(843) 297-8615 
Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily) 

Rappahannock Oyster Bar
Moderate 
Downtown. 701 East Bay St. #110. 
(843) 576-4693
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Wed.-Sun.) 

Tempest 
Moderate 
Downtown. 32 N Market St. Suite C. 
(843) 996-4966 
tempestcharleston.com 
Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (Daily), Weekend brunch