Every traveler knows Charleston has built an international reputation as a go-to destination for “culinary tourism,” i.e., eating your way across the peninsula, and sampling all manner of great dishes and exotic styles, and its reputation is well-deserved. But not far away, Mount Pleasant, while offering a shorter list of eateries, takes a back seat to nobody—including the Holy City—when it comes to great food and great variety.
Where to begin? Well, this being a coastal community, the logical first stop is fresh, local seafood. Check out Red Drum, which offers delicious seafood and other items, but with a Southwestern flair, plus a great crowd of bar regulars and excellent happy hour prices.
For more of a traditional seafood chow-down, visit Charleston Harbor Fish House with its rooftop bar and views of nearby Patriots Point. Seafood is also the specialty of the Rusty Rudder, a fun spot offering live music.
If you aren't put off by a bare-bones setting, you owe it to yourself to try The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant. Overlooking Shem Creek, this iconic seafood shack is a favorite with locals looking for fresh-from-the-trawler, Lowcountry-style grilled or fried seafood. Be aware, it's only open a few hours each day and meals are served on paper plates.
At the other end of the spectrum is NICO Oysters + Seafood, the culinary quarters of highly acclaimed Chef Nico Romo, who earned his reputation serving sustainable, French-inspired cuisine at the former FISH in Charleston. This fine dining establishment offers a fantastic menu of uniquely prepared seafood and shellfish sourced from local purveyors.
Lunchtime provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy a selection of great foods without the dinnertime prices, and Mount Pleasant gets that. For a delicious breakfast or lunch, there’s Mozzo Deli and the Square Onion, offering sandwiches, baked goods and a cold case with casseroles and other to-go items for takeout. Likewise, the Five Loaves Café does an excellent lunch and dinner and features homemade breads and soups.
Another sandwich-and-soup place—with wine, of course—is the Pickled Palate, specializing in homemade sandwiches, salads and Italian panini made fresh and in house. If pizza is your thing, a local favorite is Coastal Crust, where you can enjoy your pie in an outdoor setting.
A decidedly different take on breakfast and lunch can be found at Vicious Biscuit. What the cooks put on a huge, soft biscuit is only limited by your imagination—and what’s in the kitchen. And since there’s never anything wrong with a great hamburger and a beer for lunch, give a look to Sesame Burger with its inspiring choices for both food and beverages.
Now it’s time to satisfy your international/ethnic palate, which Charleston has done for decades. Mount Pleasant can serve up French cuisine at Bistro Toulouse or Japanese specialties at Kanpai Japanese Restaurant, a mom-and-pop spot with a variety of Asian dishes (and where the owners, interestingly, are Korean).
Then there’s the Obstinate Daughter, named in honor of the Revolutionary War defenders of nearby Fort Moultrie. After the Americans repelled the British fleet, a London political cartoonist portrayed the victors as “Miss Carolina Sullivan, one of the obstinate daughters of America, 1776.” Unique name, unique menu. At this Sullivan's Island eatery, you can choose from Geechie frites with salsa rosa, Frogmore chowder, roasted beets with ricotta cheese, pistachio, horseradish and pomegranate molasses, gnocchi alla Romana (semolina, marinara and Battery Park brie). In other words, let your taste buds run wild.
Ready for dessert? BeardCat’s dishes up ice cream and coffee for everyone’s favorite combination, and Ye Olde Fashioned Ice Cream & Sandwich Café is a hidden delight—an old-fashioned drugstore serving up old-fashioned fountain favorites.
If late-night noshing is your thing, Coleman Public House serves up food and an impressive beer list until midnight. But really, if you’re into a pub environment with local flavor and a tourist vibe, a must-do is Poe’s Tavern on nearby Sullivan’s Island, where the decor pays homage to local 19th-century poet macabre Edgar Allen Poe.
One final hot tip: Every other Thursday morning (you’ll have to ask to figure out which Thursday that is), a collection of former college football and basketball coaches, most of whom live on nearby Sullivan’s Island or have summer homes there, converge on the premier breakfast spot in Mount Pleasant, Page’s Okra Grill. If that’s not enough of a sightseeing draw, the Okra Grill breakfasts are huge and flavorful, including the local specialty, shrimp and grits—for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
You’re on vacation. It’s about sights, sounds—and good food. Indulge yourself.