Quick and easy doesn’t have to mean flavorless when it comes to lunch in Charleston. These destinations provide options, local ingredients, and fast service. Everything is made with care, allowing Charlestonians to not waste the midday meal — even if crunched for time. Skip the stale packed lunch this time and try one of these essential spots instead.
1. Hen and the Goat
· Chef Thomas Smith stuffs guilty pleasures in between several varieties of doughy bread at Hen and The Goat. Pork belly pairs with Gouda and beer mustard, while the restaurant’s namesake sandwich, The Hen, features turkey, pancetta, and brie.
· Rotating vendors line the cafeteria-style interior of this Upper King street compound. Find eclectic choices here for the flawless lunch break as well as outdoor seating to survive the afternoon lull.
3. The Harbinger Café & Bakery
· Step into Harbinger to find an overwhelming perfume of fresh baked treats. Scones, breads, and bars are inventive, pairing ingredients such as peanut butter and sriracha. Seasonal salads and freshly baked quiche offer more variety to satisfy any craving.
· Huriyali offers wraps, salads, and fresh espresso drinks to go with the popular acai bowls. The sunlit garden out back is the ideal quick escape from the work day.
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· Since the Church Street specialty cheese shop added a café arm to its repertoire, the response by customers has been overwhelming. The NoMo space serves cheese boards, sandwiches, and several wines by the glass to wash it all down.
6. Dell’z Uptown
· Health nuts have found a home at Dell’z. This quaint, off-the-beaten-path café serves vegetarian and vegan twists on classics, such as the “BLT” made with tempe bacon. Bring a carnivorous friend to see if they miss the meat (they won’t).
7. Persimmon Café
· Find astonishingly cheap prices and satisfying sandwiches at Persimmon. Curry chicken salad piled onto toasted Pullman pairs seamlessly with a refreshing iced tea.
8. Brown Dog Deli
· Two downtown Brown Dog locations offer salads, sandwiches, and hot dogs to the masses. These aren’t just everyday deli sandwiches, as favorites include the pig n’ fig, grateful duck club, and apple butter jeans, all of which have multiple layers of meat, cheese, spreads, and (maybe) vegetables.
9. Poke Tea House
· Poke Tea House is the “Chipotle” of poke bowls. Choose from a variety of bases, proteins, toppings, and sauces. Online ordering is available.
10. Queen Street Grocery
· Hidden among houses in a quiet corridor of downtown, Queen Street Grocery is home to hot-pressed sandwiches, fresh salads, and all-day breakfast. The hallmark of this one-of-a-kind corner store is the crepes filled with savory or sweet ingredients. Don’t miss out on S’mores in crepe form with the James Island, which is filled with chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker.
· Addictive acai bowls and smoothies at Beech keep healthy eating interesting. Make-your-own poke bowls add a fresh twist to this counter-serve location near the College of Charleston.
12. Mercantile & Mash
· Located in the old cigar factory on East Bay Street, this specialty food markets’ refrigerator is stacked with anything from hand-rolled sushi to kale salads. Keep it light with the made-to-order fig and walnut salad or go big with the house pastrami Reuben.
13. Cru Café
· Cru Cafe is doing serious comfort food for lunch in an 18th century Charleston single-style home. The post-lunch desk nap required will be worth it for the fried green tomatoes with pork belly croutons.
· Head up the stairs at Minero with a coworker for creative tacos and fresh guacamole. The football-sized burrito is smothered in cheese for those who brought an appetite.
15. Mozzo Deli
· Expect friendly and fast service at this Mt. Pleasant deli, which added a downtown location last year. At Mozzo, it’s common to hear, “Hey Jimmy, are you having the regular?” Other patrons can choose from an extensive sandwich menu featuring proteins such as chicken cutlet, roast beef, turkey, and Italian meats served on 10 different kinds of bread. Daily soups, house-made pickles, and local iced tea are a few of the many accompaniments offered.
16. Bon Banh Mi
· This Southeastern Asian kitchen has two Charleston area locations, each offering salads, toasted baguette sandwiches, and tacos. Protein options run the gamete, from red curry beef to five spiced tofu, and the eatery often has additional daily specials like shrimp summer rolls or cold soba noodles.
17. Vintage Coffee & Café
· The name may have the word coffee in it, but Vintage offers that and much more in their cozy space. Find a daily soup, charred brussels sprouts, and sandwiches like the prosciutto and brie with fig jam from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Patrons can also try the $6 toast bar, which offers options ranging from almond butter with toasted coconut to smoked salmon with tzatziki.
18. Gaulart & Maliclet Café Restaurant
· This pint-sized eatery has the nickname “Fast & French” for good reason, as patrons can stop in for a quick bowl of soup or mill over a special of the day for hours. Here, they have been serving cuisine reminiscent of home cooked meals in France since 1984. Lunch specials include anything from cheese & paté to a croq’ monsieur, all of which come with a complimentary glass of house wine, tea, or coffee.