Charleston is home to some of the South's finest restaurants, owned and operated by some of the South's finest chefs. Their philosophies are simple: source quality ingredients with an eye toward what's local and create dishes to showcase the flavors.
The chefs here are like one great big family with a little healthy sibling rivalry. But in the end, they have an enormous amount of respect for one another.
It shows in the wide variety of Charleston offerings, from high-end beef and pork dishes at white-tablecloth steakhouses to classic Southern fried seafood platters and everything in between.
Several Charleston-area stalwarts are simply must-tries, offering time-honored classics with modern twists. You might be pleasantly surprised that many of these dining experiences won't bust your wallet, too.
Like barbecue? Then begin a meal at Page's Okra Grill in nearby Mount Pleasant with an order of "redneck rolls," crispy spring rolls stuffed with pulled pork barbecue and homemade pimento cheese.
You'll also find fresh oysters prepared a myriad of ways on everyday menus: char-grilled on the half-shell with a parmesan topping at Leon's Fine Poultry and Oysters, fried and served on a deviled egg sauce with bread-and-butter pickles on top at The Grocery, and tenderly mingled with potatoes, bacon and leeks in Hank's Seafood Restaurant's renowned oyster stew.
For a modern take on a time-honored Lowcountry dish, head to Edmund's Oast on Morrison Drive for tangy pickled shrimp nestled on aioli-slathered grilled rye toast and topped with pickled veggies and fresh herbs. The Iron Rose at the Mills House Hotel also serves a citrusy version punched up with fresh herbs and a bit of jalapeno.
For those who crave chicken livers - and we know you're out there - your best stop is Magnolia's, where these pan-fried gems get special treatment with appointments like caramelized onions, country ham and demi-glace.
James Beard Dining
Charleston chefs are some of the best in the country and definitely in the Southeast, as their nationally recognized talents and restaurants demonstrate.
Among a long list of past nominees, these chefs hold the distinction of receiving the James Beard Award for Best Chef - Southeast: Mike Lata (2009) of FIG (Food Is Good) and The Ordinary, Sean Brock (2010), formerly of Husk, Jason Stanhope (2015) formerly of FIG (now with The Quinte and his stunning new concept, Lowland), and Rodney Scott (2018) of Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ.
Among Charleston's many award-winning and nationally acclaimed restaurants are lauded establishments like Husk, which celebrates Southern ingredients and local purveyors with a rotating menu of favorites such as Southern fried chicken with housemade bread and butter pickles, Broadbent's ham with biscuits, and fresh local catch like wreckfish.
The same holds true at Chef Lata's FIG and The Ordinary. FIG specializes in seafood, such as a wonderful fish stew with shrimp, squid, mussels, Carolina Gold rice and rouille. The Ordinary does almost nothing but seafood. You just have to try one of the shellfish towers; there is plenty for everyone and every taste. FIG also took home the 2018 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program.
Legendary pitmaster Rodney Scott opened Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ in Charleston in 2017, broadening his base of smoked-meat fans and winning national accolades. His self-taught techniques are lauded by critics and chefs, who admire his rustic, authentic touches that result in some of the best barbecue on the planet. He has recently branched out into Georgia and Alabama, as well.
In 2017, Bertha's Kitchen in Charleston was designated as a James Beard Foundation America’s Classic. The family-run soul food operation is a local institution where people line up on weekdays for fried chicken, pork chops, yams, macaroni and cheese, field peas with hocks, lima beans, okra soup, cornbread and more. This is authentic, stick-to-your-ribs Southern cooking with a bit of Gullah flair.
Experience AAA Four Diamond dining at these acclaimed hotel restaurants. For a special treat, enjoy their luxury accommodations, too.
Peninsula Grill at Planters Inn is known for its chic dining room, romantic outdoor dining space, and incomparable Ultimate Coconut Cake.
Melt-in-your mouth prime cuts get expert treatment at Charleston's premiere steakhouses.
Oak Steakhouse, located in a former bank, has a cozy bar downstairs and elegant upstairs dining room overlooking historic Broad Street. Enjoy dry-aged steaks with additions such as roasted bone marrow, truffle butter, bordelaise and au poivre, among other sauces.
Halls Chophouse is known for it USDA Prime beef flown in from Allen Brothers of Chicago. Choose dry- or wet-aged cuts and pair them with one (or two) of Halls' terrific sides like creamed spinach and pepper jack grits.
Grill 225, the onsite restaurant of the refined Market Pavilion Hotel, has an atmosphere reflective of classic upscale steakhouses with its gleaming wood, banquettes and white tablecloths. But it's the menu of 100 percent USDA hand-selected choice beef wet-aged up to 50 days that draws discerning carnivores.