While South Carolina is infamous for its dog days of summer, there is a cooler, less sweat-inducing side that pervades the state for a short time each year. It’s called winter, and though it doesn’t involve snow shovels, parkas or truck beds of rock salt, it’s a force to be reckoned with, nevertheless.
When the temperature drops below 50 or so, it’s our cue to pull out the mittens, scarves, puffy coats, sweaters, knit caps, snow boots and wooly socks. Just kidding—you’ll be hard-pressed to find such frippery in the wardrobes of most South Carolinians. Actually, when the mercury takes a dip, we slip into sweatpants and flip-flops and mosey toward the kitchen. Soup pots get a rinsing off and stovetops start to bubble with the warm aromas of stew, chili and other steamy things that make the blustery weather tolerable.
For the dining-out crowd, cold weather initiates the hunt for cozy dining rooms, glowing hearths and something hot and satisfying on the menu. Here are a dozen South Carolina restaurants where you can sit down to a fireside meal and put winter chills on the back burner.
Chuck’s Steakhouse, Myrtle Beach
A large, brick fireplace rising into the rafters of this hunting lodge-style restaurant is a commanding focal point and a literal hotspot for dining when the fire is roaring.
Recommended belly warmer: Baked French onion soup
City Range Steakhouse Grill, Spartanburg
The Spartanburg location of this bustling steakhouse boasts a massive, multi-sided fireplace—big enough to warm a crowd.
Recommended belly warmer: Prime rib chili
Clark’s Inn and Restaurant, Santee
A favorite stopping point for I-95 travelers and outdoorsmen taking a lake break, Clark's features a comfy atmosphere heightened in the winter when they fire up the hearth. Specify a fireside table for optimum heat.
Recommended belly warmer: Roasted pork loin with spiced apples
Fish Market, Fort Mill
Elegant dining heats up in the cold weather when the Fish Market stokes up the fire. Reserve a fireside table at this Fort Mill favorite and enjoy a cozy date with your honey.
Recommended belly warmer: Creamy pepper jack crab fondue
Lighthouse Restaurant, Seneca
It might be cold outside, but the views of Lake Keowee are always stunning here. The base of the restaurant’s lighthouse feature forms the fireplace and is centered in the dining room for the enjoyment of all.
Recommended belly warmer: Chesapeake crab bisque
Poe’s Tavern, Sullivans Island
Once upon a midnight dreary ... folks got hungry and cold and huddled ‘round the hearth at Poe’s Tavern. This beloved beach haunt serves up some of the best burgers in the state. They taste even better when downed in front of a roaring fire under the watchful eye of Mr. Poe.
Recommended belly warmer: Hand-cut fries with Edgar’s drunken chili and cheddar
Poogan’s Porch, Charleston
The charm factor of this storied Charleston restaurant goes through the roof when the fireplaces are in use. All those warm fuzzies will make you wish you never had to leave.
Recommended belly warmer: Macaroni and cheese baked with country ham and smoked gouda
Got game? Saskatoon does and it's pretty wild. Folks come for expertly executed dishes like elk loin, antelope and cedar-planked salmon. The cabin-esque motif is the perfect setting for a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace.
Recommended belly warmer: Herbed campfire chicken in tarragon cream sauce
The dining is always divine at this downtown Greenville gem, so it seems impossible that things could get any better. Take off the chill, thrill to a fabulous meal and bask in the ambience when you take a table near the impressive stone fireplace.
Recommended belly warmer: Sherry-drizzled she crab soup
Southern Culture, Greenville
The food at Southern Culture delivers plenty of comfort, but add a fire and, well, you’ve got a double dose to soothe that winter beast. Snag a fireside table and hunker down.
Recommended belly warmer: Short rib pot roast with mashed potatoes, carrots and cremini mushroom jus
Thoroughbreds, Myrtle Beach
With nearly three decades of dining excellence under its belt, this Myrtle Beach tradition knows just how to take care of off-season visitors. The food is top-notch and the mood particularly ambient when you dine in front of the fireplace.
Recommended belly warmer: Chateaubriand for two, flambéed tableside
Whistle Stop at the American Cafe, Travelers Rest
Brimming with railroad memorabilia and country charm, this welcoming cafe is always cozy. But there’s something about a blazing fire in the rustic fireplace that makes cold weather dining here simply irresistible.
Recommended belly warmer: Creamy potato soup with cheddar, bacon and chives