Photo by Ruta Smith

The South is the birthplace of soul food, which is why Charleston is home to some of the best restaurants to enjoy the traditional cooking. These top five soul food restaurants in Charleston serve up classic Southern dishes from fried chicken and okra soup to pork chops and red rice. And if there’s one thing soul food is known for besides being delicious, it’s the big portions, so you can guarantee you won’t be hungry when you leave these soul food joints. 

To help you get a real taste of Charleston cooking, we’ve compiled a list of the top five soul food restaurants in Charleston with a couple local favorites from our Dish Top 50 Spring 2021 Restaurants — and we added a few extras worth checking out.

Bertha’s Kitchen
North Charleston. 2332 Meeting Street Road. 
(843) 554-6519
Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Fri.)

Head up Meeting Street until you see a two-story robin’s egg blue building with purple trim and a line stretching out the door. The Southern soul food platters here are so tasty, generous and inexpensive, that the line starts forming well before they open for lunch. Businessmen, laborers and far-flung tourists alike shuffle through the quick cafeteria-style service counter loaded with a smorgasbord of meat and threes, such as fried pork chops, fish specials, yams, stewed greens, home-style mac-and-cheese, limas nestled with smoked turkey necks, dark roux okra soup, moist cornbread and fried chicken better than anyone’s Grandma ever made. —Allston McCrady 

Dave’s Carry-Out 
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

Nana’s Uptown
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  

Eastside Soul
Downtown. 46 America Street.
(843) 973-3100
Serving Lunch and Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)

At Eastside Soul Food, the menu is straight to the point. You’re offered all the Southern classics: fried pork chops, deviled crab, lima beans and collard greens, amongst other traditional soul food dishes. Located in the heart of downtown Charleston’s East Side neighborhood, this no-frills Southern eatery is a staple in the community. Pop in anytime between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday for a taste of some real Southern cooking. The deviled crab, lima beans and mac and cheese are some of the most popular menu items, but you can’t go wrong with any of the dishes coming out of this kitchen. —Samantha Connors

Hannibal’s Kitchen
Downtown. 16 Blake St.
(843) 722-2256
Serving Lunch and Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)

This family-owned and operated soul food kitchen has “been feeding the soul of the city” since opening on the Eastside in 1985. When founder Ronald “Hannibal” Huger died in 2005, his son L.J. took over the restaurant located at Blake and Drake streets, passing it on to his daughters Sani and Felicity. They continue to serve a lunch and dinner crowd affordable Southern staples with an emphasis on seafood. Try shark steak or the famous crab rice — both are less than $9 — with a side of collards or okra soup. There’s also fried chicken, barbecue ribs and oxtail with rice. Hannibal’s is a must for those searching for a taste of the Lowcountry.  —Parker Milner