The Ultimate Foodie Guide to Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina is one of America’s very best cities for food, and one of my favorite places to take a couple cheat days with some mouthwatering biscuits, barbecue and fried chicken. But, even if typical Southern fare like shrimp and grits, pimento cheese, or fried chicken isn’t your thing – Charleston’s buzzing restaurant scene has something for absolutely everyone, and it’s no wonder that this southern charm-ed city full of colorful architecture, cobblestone streets, and southern hospitality is a foodie’s dream. With Chucktown’s fresh seafood (you can get oysters pretty much anywhere in the city), incredible world-famous chefs (Husk, Hominy Grill, and FIG all boast James Beard Award-winning chefs), and new restaurants popping up all the time looking to put their own contemporary spin on the South’s famous cuisine, you can’t go wrong eating in Charleston. Here are my very favorite restaurants in Charleston, for every occasion.
Hands down the best barbecue in Charleston, head to Lewis for Texas-style house-smoked meats served up counter-style in an industrial-hip space with a hopping bar & plenty of outdoor picnic tables. If this spot feels a little like you’re in Austin, Texas, there’s a reason – pit-master Lewis learned his craft in Austin under world-famous Aaron Franklin, and then became the headliner at La Barbecue, a serious contender against Franklin BBQ.
My order: Be sure to go with a group so you can get a little bit of everything. The brisket, pulled pork, and ribs are a must. Their coleslaw is tangy and healthy – which I love, and their mac n’ cheese is anything but healthy but is to-die-for.
A friend of mine, who writes for Charleston Eater recommended this new gourmet wood-fired pizza and wine spot to me as his very favorite place in town – so I went in with pretty high expectations, all of which were exceeded immediately. The adorable date night hot spot is quickly taking over Charleston’s foodie scene, after just opening a few months ago, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does stepping into the quaint neighborhood restaurant feel like you could be some chic restaurant tucked in an alleyway of Florence, New York City, or San Francisco, but each and every one of their inventive wood-fired pizzas will blow your mind. They’re small which makes them perfect to share amongst a group when you want to try all the different kinds. Make sure to head there on the early side, or be prepared to wait, as it’s a small restaurant (only about 12 tables), and they don’t take reservations (you can sit at the bar, though!).
My order: The Montepulciano wine, the Shabazi pizza, and the Rocco pizza. (Holy cow you guys these both were easily some of the best pizzas I’ve ever had).
HUSK and The Bar at Husk
James Beard award-winning HUSK features an ever-changing seasonal menu of locally sourced Southern dishes served in a gorgeous restored Victorian-era home. At Husk, there are some hard-and-fast rules about what can go on your plate – if it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door. While supper at the iconic Husk is unbelievable and a destination dining experience for travelers worldwide, it can be hard to get a reservation, and the real locals secret is that the Bar at Husk is just next door and just as good – the bar features a similar ingredient-driven food menu, and a drink menu full of beautiful cocktails and 50+ bourbon choices that will knock you right off your rocking chair.
My order at the Bar at Husk: The burger!!! A glass of chardonnay, and the cheese plate
If you’re walking down King Street past 1am, you’re likely to see a long line out of a small storefront labeled with a simple “HLB”. What started as a local breakfast counter selling world-famous flaky buttermilk biscuits has quickly turned into the best late night around, and pretty much everyone in the city is willing to stand in line for one. Callie’s is the real deal, y’all. They’ve been featured by Saveur, Food & Wine, Southern Living, The New York Times and even Oprah! So whether you want to make your morning with a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast biscuit, or soak up a long night of partying on King Street with their late night, Callie’s is a must-stop on any trip to Charleston.
My order: three hot little biscuits (buttermilk, shortbread and cinnamon), and a bacon, egg and cheddar biscuit sandwich.
Fried chicken and oysters – does it get more Charleston than this? This outdoor and indoor rustic-chic restaurant is a locals favorite hangout for fresh oysters, crispy fried chicken, delicious cocktails, and its cozy patio – Leon’s is a must on any trip to the Holy City… it’s so good you’re going to want to go two times in one weekend.
My order: A frozen G&T, a half dozen of the chef’s choice oysters, a fried chicken sandwich, and the brussels sprouts.
When a bunch of friends and I went to this historical bar, we were expecting a small pub… but walk further into this seemingly neighborhood restaurant and bar and you get to the most beautiful outdoor patio area that truly makes this place the gem it is. It kind of feels like a mix between an old historical English courtyard and a jungle. Their food is great, as are their cocktails.
Check out their Sunday brunch for $3 mimosas, bellinis (my favorite) and Bloody Mary’s until 3pm!
Looking for the locals’s secret bes oysters in Charleston? You’re going to want to check out 167 Raw, a small, chic neighborhood raw bar and seafood restaurant with some of the best oysters & seafood in town. (they also have some heartier fare like their to-die-for carnitas tacos).
There are no reservations, but you can always grab a drink while you wait.
With three locations across the city (in West Ashley, Downtown Charleston, and Sullivans Island), Hometeam barbecue has become more than just a barbecue staple – it’s a Charleston meat empire. Their addictive smoked wings, their delicious pulled pork nachos, and their signature frozen gamechanger cocktails are just what the doctor ordered after a long day on the beach or out exploring Charleston. We went twice in a single trip, and even after that, my boyfriend, (a buffalo wing connoisseur), said “I’d fly back to Charleston just for more of those wings”. So there you have it, folks. Home Team always wins.
Looking for the best Mexican in the South? Did you even doubt for a second that I’d find it? If you guys follow me on Instagram Stories, you know my undying, unadulterated love for good Mexican food (and great margaritas). So let’s taco ’bout the best Mexican restaurant in the South for a minute. Minero has homemade melt-in-your-mouth corn tortillas and chips, fresh guacamole that will make you feel like you’re in Tulum, mouthwatering carnitas, delish catfish tacos, chicken taco salads, fresh-fried churros and chocolate sauce, and so, so much more. The only thing I’ll knock them for is they do charge for chips and charge per tiny container of salsa (Sacrilege! Only in the South can you get away with that – Californians would never stand for it). But, luckily, this Mexican gem also happens to be one of the best happy hours in Charleston – Minero’s happy hour (Monday through Friday, 3:30-6:30) features $3 PBR pints, $2 tequila shots, $3 bourbon shots, $4 select wines, and $2 off margaritas, micheladas, and sangrias.
This contemporary Southern American bistro is a Charleston staple. From scallops, to Carolina flounder, to lamb, to shrimp and grits, SNOB is one of the best restaurants in Chucktown. But wait- you haven’t even heard the desserts, yet. Sour cream apple pie? Banana cream pie? Creme brulee? You’re already dialing the restaurant to get a reservation, aren’t you?
This place is so good – I’m talking finger-lickin’ down-home-country-cookin-on-the-cutest-southern-porch-y’all-have-ever-seen good. Fried chicken, biscuits, sweet tea glazed salmon, fried pimento cheese, local seafood, filet mignon …. this menu has everything you could ever want and more that you’d ever thought you’d try (fried alligator salad? Only in the south). Check it out for brunch, lunch or dinner – you won’t be disappointed.
Enjoy eating your way through Charleston! And if you need more Charleston recommendations check out my blog post The Ultimate Jetset Guide to Charleston: