Founded in 1670, Charleston is one of the America’s oldest cities, and the centuries have transformed it into one of the best food destinations in the world. Whether you’re craving locally caught seafood, traditional Southern cuisine with a modern twist, or in-your-face flavorful barbeque, you can find it in the Holy City. But with so many restaurants to choose from, how does one decide? As a food-obsessed local, I’ve rounded up 16 of the best restaurants in Charleston to get you started.
For over a decade, Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar has been the go-to destination for seafood lovers near and far. The restaurant prides itself on serving the freshest local and sustainable seafood and features a raw bar of comprehensive oysters. These delicious plates are served in a welcoming dining atmosphere perfect for occasions ranging from a casual friend gathering to a family reunion.
Insider tip: Go big and order the seafood tower! Trust me, you won’t regret it—and you’ll get to try all the fresh seafood available that day.
What to order: Amen Street’s Famous Shrimp Corndogs, New Bedford Sea Scallops, and Faroh Island Salmon
205 E Bay St, Charleston; 843-853-8600 or amenstreet.com
If you’re looking for a gorgeous Insta-worthy restaurant, Church & Union is the spot. Right in the heart of North Market Street, this restaurant really lives up to its name: it’s located inside a former church. With high ceilings and stained-glass décor, the mood sets itself for an unforgettable dining experience.
Insider tip: Don’t skimp on their creative craft cocktails! The Ghost, Lavender Empress and Pot of Gold are all winners.
What to Order: Burrata, Keegan Filion Farms Pulled Pork Benedict, Praline French Toast, and Salmon vs Eggs
32B N Market St, Charleston; 843-937-8666 or churchandunioncharleston.com
Fun and vibrant, Maya is a hidden gem on Charleston’s iconic King Street. Inspired by Mexico’s colorful flavors, Maya is one of THE perfect brunch spots in the Holy City.
Insider tip: Plan ahead and make a reservation for the patio. Its beautifully decorated outdoor dining room makes the perfect backdrop for any occasion.
What to Order: Queso Fundido, Pan Frances, and Tostada de Atun
479 King St, Charleston; 843-789-4299 or mayachs.com
We can’t talk about iconic dining experiences in Charleston without bringing up Husk? Ask anyone in the city for a good dining recommendation and there’s a 90 percent chance Husk will be included. The restaurant takes pride in serving iconic Southern dishes with a modern twist composed of the freshest ingredients from local purveyors. That means you have to visit at least once a season since the menu rotates based on the harvest.
Insider tip: This is one of the city’s most popular restaurants. Plan ahead and make sure to have a reservation weeks, or even a few months, ahead of time, otherwise, you’ll risk missing out on this amazing experience.
What to Order: Pimento Cheese, Benne Crackers, Chili Crisp, Pimento Cheese, Benne Crackers, Chili Crisp, and Pastrami-Glazed Swordfish, Kohlrabi, Cabbage, Peanuts, Garden Herbs, Colatura & Lime (Note: Husk features a rotating menu depending on fresh ingredient availability, be sure to check the menu the day of your reservation.)
76 Queen St, Charleston; 843-577-2500 or huskrestaurant.com/home
If you’ve got a major sweet tooth like me, Carmella’s needs to be on your list. This café combines old-world charm with new-world desserts. Complement your first-class dessert with one of their organic coffee drinks.
Insider tip: Skip the always-present long line and place your order online. You can also take your order to-go and take a short stroll to the waterfront. Enjoy your sweet treats on one of the waterfront swings.
What to Order: Carrot Cake, Key Lime Pie and Cannoli Cake
198 E Bay Street #100; 843-722-5893 or carmellasdessertbar.com
I like to think as Eleve as one of the city’s best-kept dining secrets. Situated high above the Holy City, this restaurant, which is a part of the Grand Bohemian Hotel, features everything from gourmet dishes with a bohemian fare, a rooftop garden, and a great collection of craft cocktails. With its lavish atmosphere, it’s the perfect choice for a special occasion, celebration, or fancy date night.
Insider tip: The restaurant is a favorite for wedding receptions and large-group events, so be sure to plan ahead and make a reservation to ensure you get a good table.
What to Order: Roasted Pear Salad, Corn Ravioli, and Nutella Chocolate Lava Cake
55 Wentworth Street; 843-724-4144 or kesslercollection.com/bohemian-charleston/dining
Immerse yourself in the essence of southern cuisine at 82 Queen. For over 40 years, this restaurant, which sits at the heart of the city’s historic French Quarter has wholeheartedly embraced its Southern roots. Today, it still features timeless favorites like fried green tomatoes, southern tomato pie, and jambalaya. You can dine in their intimate courtyard (don’t forget the bug spray though) or inside the preserved Victorian house.
Insider tip: They’re known for serving Charleston’s most revered She Crab Soup, so be sure to give it a try!
What to Order: Award-Winning She Crab Soup, Lowcountry Seafood Gumbo, and Barbeque Shrimp & Grits
82 Queen Street; 843-723-7591 or 82queen.com
A finalist for the 2022 James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Award, Butcher & Bee is a farm-to-fork restaurant that specializes in whipping up eclectic sandwiches and stand-out dips. They have three different set-ups to choose from, patio dining, traditional dining room or the chef’s table—and you honestly can’t go wrong with any of them.
Insider tip: If there’s one thing you need to try here, it’s their famous Whipped Feta dip!
What to Order: Whipped Feta, Chicken Schnitzel Pita, and Butcher & The Bees Knees cocktail
1085 Morrison Drive; 843-619-0202 or butcherandbee.com
If you’re down South and didn’t snag some Rodney Scott’s BBQ, are you even in the South? Enter Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ, where the namesake chef has turned barbequing into a master craft. Indulge in fall-off-the-bone spareribs and pulled pork BBQ so good, you don’t even need sauce to take yourself to BBQ heaven.
Insider tip: Depending on how business they are, you can ask the pit master for a quick behind-the-scenes tour!
What to Order: Rod’s Original Whole Hog Pork Plate, Pork Spareribs, and Beef Brisket Sandwich
1011 King Street; rodneyscottsbbq.com
If you’re a breakfast lover like me, Millers All Day should be on the top of your list. Embrace the most important meal of the day with Southern staples like biscuits and gravy and Pimento Cheese served with crackers and pepper jam.
Insider tip: Go hungry and be prepared to leave stuffed. These carb-heavy dishes are to-die-for and are sure to leave you more than satisfied.
What to Order: Signature Fried Chicken Biscuit, Waffle Plate, and Frozen Blackberry Bellini
120 King Street; 843-501-7342 or millersallday.com
A city as old as Charleston was bound to have its fair share of speakeasies. Tucked away on iconic King Street is The Cocktail Club, a speakeasy hidden right under your nose! The worn-out brick walls and vintage-style leather lounges transport visitors to the 1920s at first sight.
Insider tip: While weeknights are pretty tame, the weekend can get busy. If you’re visiting with a group, split a punch bowl because the bartenders can get slammed.
What to Order: The Double Standard Cocktail, Vaxed and Waxed, and Limmer’s Punch Bowl
For over two decades, The Crab Shack has been a gathering place for beachgoers and seafood lovers near and far. Located just two blocks from Folly Beach, their down-to-earth atmosphere and focus on serving the freshest seafood has made them a staple of the city.
Insider tip: Plan accordingly! They’re a first-come, first-serve, no reservations restaurant. So either come early or be prepared for a wait. Also, their raw bar has special hours, so be sure to do your research ahead of time.
What to Order: The Crabby Mary, Snow Crab & Shrimp Bucket, and Shrimp & Scallop Casserole
26 Center St, Folly Beach; 843-588-3080 or crabshacks.com
A New York-style deli with a Southern twist sounds odd at first, but East Bay Deli makes it work! The original location of this local deli chain is just a few blocks from the boardwalk and doles out unique made-to-order sandwiches, salads, and desserts that will leave you wondering how a simple sandwich can be so delicious.
Insider tip: Take your meal to go and to Gadsdenboro Park across the street for an impromptu picnic!
What to Order: Dixie Darling, Charleston Deli Dip, and The Carolina
334 E Bay Street, Ste H; 843-723-1234 or eastbaydeli.com
Yes, Charleston is a coastal city and boasts some of the best seafood restaurants in the country, but one bite of a mouth-wateringly steak at this steakhouse, and you might just forget that fact. Halls exclusively serves USDA Prime Steaks from Allen Brothers of Chicago, the premier purveyor of the finest prime meats. Each piece is hand-selected, meticulously aged, and hand-cut into perfect portions.
Insider tip: Be prepared to share! Prices are slightly on the higher end, but the portions are generous and going family-style is the best way to try everything out.
What to Order: Tomahawk Rib Eye, Pan-Seared Scallops, and Grilled Vegetable Ravioli
434 King Street; 843-727-0090 or hallschophouse.com/location/halls-chophouse-charleston
Head to Indaco for a rustic Italian cuisine experience. From hand-crafted pastas, housemade salami and wood-fire pizzas, Indaco is a taste of Italy on the north end of Charleston’s King Street. The open-kitchen concept gives you a peek at the magic behind the scenes.
Insider tip: If you’re heading for brunch, be brave and give the Breakfast Pie a try!
What to Order: Parppadelle, Spicy Soppressata Pizza and Tagliatelle
526 King Street; 843-727-1228 or indacorestaurant.com/charleston
Located in historic downtown Charleston, this cozy and chic restaurant pays homage to traditional French cuisine (as well as its ambiance), decidedly dubbing itself the “neighborhood brasserie.” But with its innovative raw bar preparations and fabulous wine selection (including a robust by-the-glass offering), it’s probably a little more of a thing than your neighborhood spot. But it’s definitely a destination to wear that cute dress for a date night or girls’ night out.
Insider tip: Remember what we said about speakeasies? Well, beneath the restaurant, hidden in plain sight, is Bar Vauté. Enjoy your meal at Brasserie la Banque and then head downstairs for an after-hours crepe or cocktail.
What to Order: Braised Carolina Rabbit, House Cured Salmon, and Black Cocoa Cured Foie Gras Torchon
1 Broad Street; 843-779-1800 or brasserielabanque.com