Charleston has a national reputation as a city full of fine food, which was the reason Fodor’s Travel named it one of the places you must visit this year. So here’s a summary of what a lot of people have said about Charleston restaurants in the past couple of years.
No other Charleston restaurant has received as much publicity in recent years as Husk, which opened in November 2010. The restaurant was a nominee for the James Beard Award’s Best New Restaurant of the Year, and Southern Living magazine named it the Best New Restaurant in the South in January. USA Today called Husk one of the 10 best places in the country for local food and wine; the New York Times has gushed over it numerous times. And the biggest honor for Husk was that Bon Appetit magazine named it the nation’s best new restaurant.
The executive chef is Sean Brock, the 2010 James Beard Best Chef of the Southeast and also executive chef at McCrady’s, also a top dining choice.
At Husk, only Southern ingredients are used. I loved it. If you go, be sure to try the pig’s ear wrapped in lettuce.
And If you plan to go, make your reservations immediately, and be prepared to go late or for lunch.
You can also go to other restaurants and experience the cuisine of a James Beard award winner. Try Hominy Grill, owned by Robert Stehling, who was the Best Chef of the Southeast for 2008. Everything on the menu is excellent, but you’ll want to be able to tell your friends you’ve had the Big Nasty, a biscuit with fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese and sausage gravy. It’s outrageously good, and it’s on the breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner menus.
Another James Beard award winner is Mike Lata, chef at FIG (for Food Is Good), who won in 2009. FIG is a favorite spot for its emphasis on local foods, especially vegetables, and it consistently gets raves at online review sites.
No wonder FIG and Hominy Grill were among the 18 restaurants that Eater Charleston, an online publication about dining, called essential – “the places that you think of when you think of Charleston. Not necessarily the newest and hottest on the block, but the classics.”
Others on Eater Charleston’s essential list are:
Poe’s Tavern at Sullivan’s Island for delicious burgers;
Peninsula Grill for its famous coconut cake;
Fat Hen in John’s Island for fresh, local food;
Bowens Island Restaurant for excellent seafood in a very rustic spot;
McCrady’s for its inventive cuisine;
Martha Lou’s Kitchen for great Southern favorites like fried chicken and collard greens;
Hank’s Seafood for excellent seafood;
Oak Steakhouse for exceptional steaks;
Jestine’s Kitchen on Meeting Street, for such favorites as pork chops, fried chicken and Coca-Cola cake;
Charleston Grill for its elegant menu;
The Glass Onion for combining the best of the Lowcountry and New Orleans;
Red Drum in Mount Pleasant, for Lowcountry with a Texas twist;
Trattoria Lucca for the best Italian cuisine in the city;
and High Cotton for Charleston classics such as shrimp and grits.
If you’re looking for a restaurant with an exceptional wine selection, several in the area have earned Wine Spectator magazine’s second-highest award, the Best of Award of Excellence. They are: The Ocean Room in Kiawah Island, Charleston Grill, Cypress and Social Restaurant & Wine Bar.
In the mood for a hamburger? Southern Living magazine has picked its South Carolina favorites and several are in Charleston: The Macintosh, Moe’s Crosstown Tavern and Poe’s Tavern in Sullivan’s Island.
Hungry for pizza? The Food Network Magazine says South Carolina’s best pizza is the Pistachio Pesto at EVO or Extra Virgin Oven in North Charleston. But if that pizza doesn’t appeal to you, no worry. The menu changes daily at EVO, as the owners emphasize local ingredients in season.
And for one last endorsement, four Charleston restaurants made the list of online reservation service Open Table’s Top 100 Restaurants of 2011. They are FIG, Charleston Grill, Hall’s Chophouse and Peninsula Grill.
But all of those lists and recommendations only scrape the surface of the delicious food served in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Here are some others that people love:
Fish, Virginia’s on King, Amen Street Raw & Fish Bar, Poogan’s Porch, Magnolia’s, Blossom, 82 Queen, Anson, Five Loaves Café, Circa 1886, Cru Café, Tristan Restaurant, and Martha Lou’s Kitchen.