There’s a reason Charleston was voted Best City in the world in 2016. The weather is warm, the people are friendly, and Holy City grits are so delicious visitors may consider worshipping the local masters of the culinary arts. There is so much to see and do here, but the best restaurants in Charleston, SC, offer meals that tug at your heart-strings. As demonstrated by a recent visit by Anthony Bourdain, Charleston, South Carolina, is on the map for its food culture. Many Charleston restaurants have gained nation-wide notoriety for their ingredients, their chefs, or just their flavors. No visit to Charleston is complete without exploring as many of the fantastic Charleston restaurants as time here permits. So avoid the standard tourist trap restaurants in Charleston and experience some of the best places to eat that the Holy City has to offer, especially if you’re looking for romantic things to do in Charleston.
A foodie paradise, Charleston’s restaurants keep on getting more and more creative every day. Get your palate teased by the Lowcountry and its world-famous cooking at Charleston’s top restaurants offering mouthwatering cuisine. Some of the top Charleston foods to try while you’re here are shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, fried green tomatoes, okra, collards, red rice, boiled peanuts, and Hoppin’ John. Below are our list of the top 10 restaurants in Charleston. Be sure to check-out our list of the top seafood restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina, to ensure the full experience of a gourmand while you’re here!
Top 10 Restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina
1. Hominy Grill
Hominy Grill is as Southern as Southern gets. It’s a must visit for tourists and locals, which is a rare accomplishment for any restaurant. The Chef on board is Robert Stehling, winner of the Best Chef of the Southeast award in 2008 by the James Beard Foundation. Checkout the Charleston Nasty dish for brunch — it is a fried chicken biscuit covered in gravy and is arguably the epitome of comfort food.
You’ll find locals and tourists lined up for Sunday brunch at Hominy Grill. This restaurant showcases Charleston’s taste with menu items like shrimp beignets, okra, catfish creole and much more. The shrimp and grits are highly recommended here, the only establishment on this list that one could consider one of the casual restaurants in Charleston, SC.
FIG was first opened in 2003 and the restaurant has continued to be a top destination for perfectly executed plates in the Charleston area. The food at FIG (which stands for “Food is Good”) is the top priority with a seasonally-inspired menu based on locally-procured ingredients. The silky-smooth, rich, chicken liver pâté is highly recommended, but it would be difficult to find a bad meal at this Charlestonian staple. Mike Lata, chef here at FIG, was also awarded the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef of the Southeast in 2009, by the way.
3. Hall’s Chophouse
When folks are searching for an old-fashioned night on the town, they go to Hall’s Chophouse on Upper King Street. There’s normally a keen musician on the piano (and Gullah singers at Sunday brunch), hearty steaks, ladies in their finest outfits, men in suits and a lot of martinis. The restaurant is not that old, but the ambiance feels like it’s from a different decade. Consistently included at the top of anyone’s list of fancy restaurants in Charleston, the experience at Hall’s Chophouse is worth the expense, especially the service.
This is one of the more high end restaurants found in Charleston. Magnolias is famous for its contemporary upscale dishes in Charleston’s historic district on East Bay Street. On their menu are many Charleston classics with a heavy focus on seafood, like sautéed mussels, pimiento cheese and spicy catfish.
5. Hank’s Seafood
Hank’s Seafood is one of the most famous seafood restaurants in Charleston, and overlooks the City market. The restauarant is built in a classic 1940’s Charleston Fish House style. This long-time Charleston eating establishment offers patrons specialty meals like Lowcountry bouillabaisse and crab soup. While many visitors to Charleston know of Hank’s Seafood before or shortly after they arrive, be sure to explore the many other options when it comes to dining here in the Lowcountry.
6. Anson Restaurant
This trendy and stylish restaurant features iron balconies reminiscent of New Orleans, Victorian rococo and Corinthian pilasters recovered from ruined colonial houses. The menu is infused with culinary styles from throughout the Southeast. Regular menu items at Anson Restaurant include green beans, cashew-crusted grouper, and champagne cream sauce. A children’s menu is also available for those not feeling quite so adventurous.
7. High Cotton
High Cotton is the number one restaurant for ‘high-steppin’ Lowcountry living in Charleston. It has an atmosphere of warmth and festivity that starts the moment you step into High Cotton. You’ll find it in the expertly made dishes and an extraordinary wine and cocktail collection. From mirth in the bar to the trendy dining rooms of antique brick and pine floors, you’ll come to appreciate true Charleston hospitality. They offer a jazz night and Sunday brunch, as well as private dining rooms for business, weddings and social events.
8. Poogan’s Porch
Tucked away on a delightfully romantic Charleston downtown street (called Queen Street), Poogan’s Porch is one of the oldest restaurants in Charleston, serving staples of Lowcountry cuisine. Since its beginnings in 1976, Poogan’s has been preferred by well-known tourists, politicians, celebrities and locals alike who love this Southern institution. Acknowledged by the Wine Spectator, the Travel Channel, and Martha Stewart Living, this attractively restored Victorian building is the perfect spot for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch in Charleston. Even if it’s a warm sausage gravy on a homemade buttermilk biscuit for brunch, or their signature buttermilk fried chicken, your food at Poogan’s will be memorable. Be sure to try the fried alligator, she crab soup, or iron tip steak. Open all through the year, both indoor and outdoor spaces are available, be sure to take advantage of their special anniversary pricing in February (when they roll-back their food prices to match the rates of their first year in business). Poogan’s Porch also has a few fascinating ghost stories, including one of the ghostly dog named Poogan that occupies the front porch and snatches-up any food accidentally dropped by diners (only food dropped accidentally, mind-you, so don’t bother intentionally making more work cleaning-up for your server). Leave room for one of their amazing biscuits.
Centrally situated in historic downtown Charleston on Queen Street (next to Poogan’s Porch), few restaurants in Charleston have gained as much notoriety as rapidly as Husk. Run by Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes and Chef Sean Brock (awarded the title of Best Chef of the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2010), the restaurant expresses the abundance of the Lowcountry and the South in general. Discover an ingredient-focused cuisine that starts in the rekindling and redefining of what it means to eat and cook in Charleston. At Husk, there is one major rule as to what can be seen on your plate – “if it doesn’t come from the South, it isn’t coming through the door”! They have consistently been true to this promise, even refusing to use olive oil on their menu until they could source an olive oil producer in Texas, for example. The restaurant is as laid-back as it is stylish, suggesting a way of life focused on seasonality and the impressive customs of Charleston life. It is a social meeting place for friends, and a target dining location for tourists, with a bit of the South to suit everyone’s palates.
A lively mixture of contemporary regional southern cuisine that centers on local ingredients, excellent wines and unmatched service is the standard at McCrady’s. At this Lowcountry restaurant tucked-away on Unity Alley off of Queen Street, Chef Sean Brock mixes liberal American cuisine with current culinary methods while giving deference to the uppermost quality and freshest ingredients. This relaxed, opulently detailed and visually sumptuous restaurant is situated in Charleston’s first ever tavern that was constructed in 1771. This National Historic Landmark is situated in the middle of the momentous French Quarter neighborhood in downtown Charleston.
So next time you find yourself in Charleston, South Carolina, consider tasting the traditions and culture of this amazing city by visiting one of these restaurants. Get excited to enjoy fantastic interpretations of the Lowcountry cuisine available in any of these Charleston, SC, restaurants. Enjoying the local cuisine is, without question, one of the best things to do in Charleston, SC!