Charleston is a tiny, Southern, coastal town with a brimming culinary scene, so it’s easy to try to attack in one day — but there are so many choices. Starting the day with a classic, waterside breakfast to ending the day with rum cocktails that once washed over the Holy City, here’s how to restaurant and bar hop to get the most out of your 24 hours.
8 a.m. — Marina Variety Store
Established in 1963, Marina Variety Store is part diner, part seafood house, and all stunning views. Snuggle up in a booth to overlook the Ashley River and watch the boats bob in the water. The placemats are paper, the coffee mugs don’t match, and condiments come in plastic containers, but a trip to Marina Variety is a trip back to a less-crowded, slower-moving Charleston. Go for a bowl of shrimp and grits or one of the eggs Benedict. It’s no frills here, but the hash browns are just fine without any fuss.
10 a.m. — Baba’s on Cannon
If cocktails before noon aren’t your thing (no judgement either way), Baba’s on Cannon also serves fun coffee creations like the café libre with Mexican Coke, espresso, and lime. For those with room for a snack, the breakfast tacos are a solid choice or the jambon buerre on a Tiller Baking baguette.
11:30 a.m. — Bertha’s Kitchen
Long-standing Gullah restaurant Bertha’s Kitchen was knighted a James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award winner in 2017, so the lines can get long — but they move fast. The purple-and-turquoise-blue North Charleston restaurant has been a favorite of locals in search of limas, fried chicken, okra stew, fried whiting, and red rice for over 30 years. Don’t skimp on the cornbread.
1 p.m. — Rodney Scott’s BBQ
Pitmaster Rodney Scott brought whole hog barbecue to Charleston by way of Hemingway, South Carolina, and it was an instant hit — he even won a James Beard Award for his work this past year. Settle into a red booth at the North Central restaurant and order smoky pulled pork with a hint of vinegar or a comforting ribeye sandwich — don’t forget the collards and cornbread. Shove a bag of skins in your luggage for a great late-night snack.
5 p.m. — Chubby Fish
Find the tucked-away Chubby Fish on Bogard Street This new-ish comer serves some of the most inventive seafood dishes in the Lowcountry. The nautical dining room is always full of diners looking for dishes like fish tail tempura or braised grouper cheeks with field peas. At 5 p.m., take advantage of the $1 oyster happy hour.
7 p.m. — FIG
Mike Lata and Adam Nemirow opened FIG in 2003, and the Ansonborough restaurant continues to be a top destination for pristinely executed plates in Charleston. The kitchen is driven by what is local and available. Go for chef Jason Stanhope’s innovative takes on seasonal produce, like the tomato tarte tatin, and always opt for the chicken liver pâté and ricotta gnocchi topped with lamb bolognese. Make a reservation far in advance for one of the white-clothed tables or try for a seat at the long bar up front.
9 p.m. — Chez Nous
At this rustic, French, and romantic destination Chez Nous, chefs Jill Mathias and Juan Cassalett serve a concise selection of two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. They post the menu daily on Instagram. Go after dinner for a chocolate tarte, crème anglaise with fruit, mille feuille, and a great glass of wine or espresso.
10:30 p.m. — Cane Rhum Bar & Caribbean Kitchen
It’s always a party at Cane Rhum Bar & Caribbean Kitchen, so make it the last stop of the evening. Chill in an island atmosphere with a few rum drinks like the Instant Vacation or Pain Killer. In case of a hangover the next day, devour those Rodney Scott pork skins to soak up the alcohol before bed.