If you don’t know it by now, Charleston is a great place to eat. Fresh seafood and local produce rule the city along with the top chefs and cooks who coax out flavors to blow your mind.
But how do you choose? Yes, it’s hard. But here’s a little help in sifting through the menus of what’s hot, right now.
What it’s known for: Located in an 1800s brick building, Amen Street revives the historic name for the centuries-old street. The restaurant has an awesome raw bar, where the fish and oyster menu changes daily. The large, comfy booths are perfect for families, and the spot is a particularly good stop for lunch or happy hour.
Style: Seafood, casual, family-friendly
Address: 205 E. Bay St.
What it’s known for: For some of the best down-home seafood in Charleston, look no further than Roadside Seafood. Enjoy house specialties such as the famous she-crab soup, just one of several delicious creations prepared by South Carolina Chef Ambassador Sean Mendes.
Style: fresh seafood, casual, family-friendly
Address: 807 Folly Road, Charleston, SC 29412
What it's known for: Located on busy US 17 west of Charleston's historic district, this relaxed restaurant serves what it calls "soulful food." It's the place to teach your kids about deviled eggs, po' boy sandwiches and other seasonal Lowcountry fare. Don't miss the dessert board or the homemade ice cream.
Style: Southern, casual, family-friendly
Address: 1219 Savannah Hwy, Charleston
What it’s known for: Chef Sean Brock designed this restaurant to use only ingredients from the South. If it’s not grown or caught here, it doesn’t come into the kitchen. The menu changes daily, but some things appear often. Don’t miss the crispy pig ear lettuce wraps, fried chicken skins, shrimp and grits or cult-favorite cheeseburger. A floor-to-ceiling chalkboard lists where all ingredients originate.
Style: Southern, farm-to-table, family-friendly, James Beard award winner
Address: 76 Queen St.
What it’s known for: Grab a table outside and drink in the view. Situated on the Cooper River near Waterfront Park, this is the place to watch boats go by, marvel at the Ravenel Bridge and dine on traditional seafood dishes. You can see the USS Yorktown across the river and Fort Sumter in the distance. Great for families.
Style: Family-friendly, seafood, waterfront
Address: 186 Concord St.
What it’s known for: Specializing in the use of all-natural ingredients, South Carolina Chef Ambassador Sean Mendes has helped Blues Cajun Kitchen become a local favorite. Enjoy handcrafted burgers, craft beer and the sweet sound of down home blues at this family-friendly burger joint.
Style: Family-friendly, Burgers, Casual
Address: 815 Folly Road, Charleston, SC 29412
What it’s known for: Traditional South Carolina dishes shine here, with a daily changing menu of locally sourced, not-to-miss classics. Chef/owner Robert Stehling embraces and updates dishes created generations ago with superb execution. It’s one of the few great places open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and by all means leave room for a piece of house-made pie.
Style: Lowcountry, seafood, breakfast, brunch, biscuits, James Beard winner, pie, lunch, dinner, family-friendly, casual
Address: 207 Rutledge Ave.
What it’s known for: FIG stands for Food is Good, and that sums up everything that comes out of the kitchen here. Chef/partner Mike Lata works with local farmers and fishermen to showcase the best of the Lowcountry on each plate. This is a meal and place to remember.
Style: Southern, James Beard winner, seafood
Address: 232 Meeting St.
What it’s known for: Set in the elegant Belmond Charleston Place hotel, this standard-bearer for the Holy City is as welcoming as it is beautiful. Chef Michelle Weaver uses local ingredients to create innovative, memorable dishes. Enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine at the accompanying jazz bar, where the service shines as much as it does in the main dining room.
Style: Southern, Lowcountry, Elegant, James Beard Award Winner
Address: 224 King St.
What it’s known for: Don’t let SNOB’s name fool you. It stands for Slightly North of Broad, but there’s nothing snobby about this Port City standout. For more than two decades, SNOB has been combining locally grown vegetables, meats and seafood with Southern and French technique. Don’t miss the shrimp and grits. They might just be the best in the city.
Style: Southern, Lowcountry, James Beard winner, traditional
Address: 192 E. Bay St.
What it’s known for: Tucked away behind a beautiful wrought iron gate down a brick pathway just off Charleston’s historic market, Peninsula Grill is one of the city’s most romantic dining spots. Whether you choose the elegant dining room or lush courtyard, it’s a remarkable setting for an exceptional meal. And don’t miss the signature 12-layer Ultimate Coconut Cake, which is always on the menu.
Style: Traditional, Southern, Elegant
Address: 112 N. Market St.
What it’s known for: Set in a building that was a restaurant and bar during the Revolutionary War, McCrady’s combines the freshest local ingredients with the cutting edge culinary skills of chef Sean Brock for contemporary Southern dishes. The menu changes daily. Don’t miss the hand-crafted cocktail list, which is filled with both classic and created drinks.
Style: Traditional, Southern, James Beard winner
Address: 2 Unity Alley
What it’s known for: With a larger menu than some fine dining spots, High Cotton combines great local ingredients with expertise. It’s a warm, inviting place that’s also open for brunch. Don’t miss the praline souffle. It takes a while to cook, so order it early.
Style: Traditional, Southern, Seafood, brunch, Lowcountry
Address: 199 E. Bay St.
What it’s known for: The bone marrow bread pudding, the Mac burger and the Deckle, the most decadent, tasty part of the rib eye, have developed a loyal following here. Don’t miss the Bacon Happy Hour, named appropriately after chef Jeremiah Bacon, who also is turning out seafood charcuterie from local waters as well as other innovative dishes.
Style: Southern, Lowcountry, James Beard nominee
Address: 479B King St.
What it’s known for: This is the place to go for roasted oysters, Frogmore stew and fresh fried shrimp. Set on the marsh near Folly Beach, this James Beard American Classic restaurant is just that – a classic seafood joint. No trip to Charleston is complete without a visit.
Style: Classic, traditional, seafood, James Beard winner, Lowcountry, family-friendly, casual
Address: 1870 Bowens Island Road
What it’s known for: “The Wreck,” as it’s known to locals, is named for a trawler that landed on the same spot in Shem Creek during Hurricane Hugo in 1989. And it’s the place to get fried shrimp and other seafood. You’ll snack on boiled peanuts while you’re waiting.
Style: Seafood, family-friendly, Lowcountry, casual
Address: 106 Haddrell St., Mount Pleasant
What it’s known for: Tucked away in a little pink building might just be the best fried chicken you’ll ever taste. Martha Lou’s has been serving up home-style, Southern soul food for more than 30 years. Come hungry because plates come with sides, and you can’t leave without having some bread pudding.
Style: Southern, traditional, Lowcountry, family-friendly, lunch, casual
Address: 1068 Morrison Drive
What it’s known for: Located in the midst of fertile farming community of Johns Island, The Fat Hen combines the best of local ingredients with French techniques. Don’t miss their menu of specialty cocktails and local brews, as well as a divine Sunday brunch.
Style: Southern, Lowcountry, French, family-friendly, brunch
Address: 3140 Maybank Highway, John’s Island
What it’s known for: Chef Kevin Johnson uses seasonal ingredients from local farmers and fishermen to create his menu, and his in-house canning program keeps local wares available all year. The wood-burning oven contributes to the homey atmosphere. Don’t miss the house-made charcuterie or great Sunday brunch.
Style: Southern, Lowcountry, brunch
Address: 4 Cannon St.
What it’s known for: This tiny spot brings big flavors, turning local ingredients into terrific Spanish, French and Italian dishes. The menu is the same for both lunch and dinner and changes each day, offering two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts.
Style: Italian, French, Spanish, Lowcountry
Address: 6 Payne Court
What it’s known for: The premiere Italian restaurant in the Lowcountry, chef Ken Vendrinski changes the menu daily to showcase the freshest local ingredients. Pasta is handmade each day and paired with local seafood in dishes you’ll be talking about long after you leave.
Style: Italian, Southern, James Beard nominee
Address: 41-A Bogard St.
What it’s known for: The beer inspires the menu at this brew pub, where almost everything, including the extensive charcuterie program, is made from scratch. And it’s almost as fun to read the beer menu as taste from it. The patio makes for a nice experience, and they serve Sunday brunch, too.
Address: 108 Morrison Drive
What it’s known for: Regional Italian dishes sourced from local ingredients make this comfortable restaurant in lush farm country a must stop. House-made pasta and house-cured salumi shine here, as does whatever is growing in the fields nearby. Leave room for dessert for sure.
Style: Italian, family-friendly
Address: 2867 Maybank Highway
What it’s known for: Best sandwich in Charleston? Check. Mike’s Famous Duck Club is in a league of its own and has quite the following. There are other great choices too, plus do not miss the duck fat fries. Crazy good.
Style: Diner, late-night, lunch, brunch, sandwich, family-friendly
Address: 1137 Morrison Drive
What it’s known for: This is an old-style seafood house, complete with a big menu of fresh Lowcountry fare and a great view of Shem Creek. Fried shrimp shines here, but you can also get almost any traditional Charleston seafood dish. It’s a great spot if you have a bigger party.
Style: Seafood, family-friendly, traditional, Lowcountry, lunch
Address: 97 Church St., Mount Pleasant