Shrimp and grits—it’s inarguably the most sought-after dish by Charleston visitors. The delicious duo, once the stuff of humble Lowcountry breakfasts, has swept the nation as one of the most iconic Southern dishes of all time. From white-cloth establishments to country cafes, you can find it on countless lunch and dinner menus, too. “It’s not just for breakfast anymore,” would surely make an apt tagline.
While fresh shrimp and stone-ground grits form the foundation of the dish, it lends itself beautifully to creative interpretations by Charleston chefs. Perhaps no place does that better than Charleston, where you will not only find the best shrimp and grits on earth (thanks to SC shrimp and locally milled grits) but some of the most imaginative versions. You can order shrimp and grits across the Lowcountry and feel like you’ve not had the same dish twice.
Here are 10 Charleston-area restaurants that excel at shrimp and grits, each with its own signature elements. If you’re a food adventurist, you’ll love exploring the many exciting flavors of this beloved local dish.
Acme Lowcountry Kitchen Vibe: Casual/upscale hub of traditional Lowcountry and coastal cuisine on Isle of Palms Shrimp and grits: Varietal jackpot with seven options, including "Isle of Palms” with blackened shrimp, smoked sausage, tomatoes and onions over truffle cheese grits and “Charleston” with blackened shrimp, smoked sausage, roasted tomatoes and onions.
Circa 1886 Vibe: Elegant fine dining in the carriage house of Wentworth Mansion in historic downtown Shrimp and grits: Shrimp, cabbage leaves, goat cheese and smoked ham hock gravy served over rice grits (aka middlins) for a traditional Gullah touch
The Darling Vibe: Hip, vintage oyster bar on Upper King Shrimp and grits: Shrimp, cheddar grits, crispy Brussels sprouts, country ham and fennel
Edison Vibe: Upscale, but casual restaurant with creative dishes made from fresh, local ingredients Shrimp and grits: Caribbean style with shrimp, conch, bacon, saffron-tomato gravy and smoked Gouda grits
82 Queen Vibe: Refined Lowcountry cuisine; white tablecloth dining in the historic district Shrimp and grits: Shrimp, stone-ground grits, bourbon–barbecue sauce, applewood bacon, cheddar and scallions
Nigel's Good Food Vibe: Casual cafe (three locations) serving scratch-made soul food and Southern eats, fresh seafood baskets, burgers, salads and more Shrimp and grits: Grandma Fred’s Shrimp & Grits is studded with onions, bell peppers, bacon and sausage, then smothered in brown gravy.
HUSK Vibe: Iconic establishment in the historic district; focus on Southern ingredients; menu changes daily, so call ahead for availability Shrimp and grits: Seasonal menu offers a rotation of versions; examples include shrimp and grits with March Hen Mills grits, andouille sausage, peperonata, kale, preserved tomato broth and poached egg or with Edisto Island grits, HUSK City Ham, heirloom peppers, NC turnips, buttermilk broth and poached egg.
Marina Variety Store Vibe: Bustling, nautical-themed diner serving breakfast and lunch; views of Ashley River and marina Shrimp and grits: Sauteed shrimp, onions, peppers and peasant gravy over grits; other variations come with fried green tomatoes, smoked sausage or crispy alligator
Slightly North of Broad Vibe: Eclectic Lowcountry bistro in historic downtown Shrimp and grits: Shrimp, house sausage, country ham, tomatoes, green onions, garlic and Edisto yellow grits
Vicious Biscuit Vibe: Knife-and-fork homemade biscuits; serving breakfast, lunch and brunch in Mount Pleasant Shrimp and grits: Open-face buttermilk biscuit with blackened shrimp, Lowcountry gravy, white cheddar and Palmetto Farms stone-ground grits, topped with thick-cut bacon crumbles and scallions