If an abundance of great restaurants is a prerequisite to moving here, start packing your bags. Charleston rivals many, much larger cities, especially in the fine dining category. This is owed in large part to the steady stream of visitors the city enjoys. And while many restaurants offer upscale menus, you'll find the dress code to be mostly "come as you are."
Charleston has it's share of celebrity chefs including the Food Network's Tyler Florence and Lowcountry Cuisine pioneers Donald Barickman and Frank Lee. Many of our chefs learned their trade at the well regarded culinary arts school Johnson & Wales University.
On the Bubba side of the menu, you'll also find inimitable barbeque joints, hamburger havens and classic "meat and three" lunch diners. All in all, Charleston delivers for foodies of every stripe.
We've compiled a list of our local favorites, by area, below. Bon appetit!
F.I.G. burst onto the Charleston dining scene four or so years ago, but it stills seems like the HOT new place in town. Local sourcing of ingredients is taken very seriously here, but that's been a raison d'Ítre for a number of Charleston restaurants. The real story is that head chef/owner Mike Lata lets the flavor of those local ingredients star in nearly every dish. The sauces compliment but don't overwhelm. The combinations of ingredients sometimes seem plain, but are spectacular on the palate. The side dishes offer a contrasting flavor or texture, but again, do not try to steal the show from the main attraction.
Our favorite entre is a perfect example: Pan Roasted Scamp Grouper, white bean ragout, squash, basil, arugula. Enjoy this plating once and you'll find yourself thinking about it for weeks afterward.
Believe the hype - go now.
Cypress ups the ante for the Charleston dining scene by introducing a sophisticated, big city style to the mix. Yes the food is inventive, equal parts Lowcountry and New American, and worth the visit alone - but we love this place for the atmosphere. When visitors come to town, this is the place we always go for happy hour. Their upper level bar is the perfect place to enjoy a sampling of appetizers (Tuna Tartare, Scallops & Bacon, Lobster Bisque) while we sip a beverage. The setting is spectacular and perfectly demonstrates, once and for all, that Charleston offers dining experiences that rival anything, anywhere.
Southern Living Magazine Writers Choice
Favorite Romantic Restaurants-February 2004 issue
Hands down best place for lunch Downtown (Slightly North a Broad is second). Housed in a charming, off the beaten path location, the food is superb and the serving sizes are, well, huge. Guaranteed to please.
Isle of Palms
Our favorite place for seafood. The servings sizes are huge. The fish is always fresh, fresh, fresh. And the management and wait staff are efficient but still personable. The inside dining area feels like a nicely appointed yacht - or eat on the back deck if you're feeling more casual. Everyone will like the food here - guaranteed.
Wine Spectator Magazine - Award of Excellence, two years in a row - Breach Inlet & East Bay
Voted Best Waterfront Dining in the Charleston Readers Poll
Voted Best Seafood in the Charleston Readers Poll
Best of Charleston Award - Post and Courier Newspaper
Voted Best Isle of Palms Restaurant in the Charleston Readers Poll.
Old Village Post House
Lowcountry cooking with a twist, welcoming service and a light-filled dining area grace this historic inn and restaurant. The menu changes seasonally, but if the Grouper Entre is available, by all means have at it!
Read Charleston Post & Courier's Review: Old Village Post House Review
The word legendary shouldn't we used frivolously, but with all candor, the Bessinger family is truly legendary to lovers of Bar-B-Que. David Bessinger operates two Bar-B-Que restaurants called Melvin's, named for his father, the family's second generation pit-master and creator of the Original Golden Secret Sauce.
Melvin's serves up the area's best South Carolina style Bar-B-Que. For the uninitiated, South Carolinians prefer their Bar-B-Que to be of the pork persuasion and served with a sweet, golden mustard-based sauce. Generations of Charleston diners swear by the place - and you will too.