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A papaya salad topped with charred chicken in a bowl, next to a orange cocktail.
Som tum with chicken at Xiao Bao Biscuit.
Mike Ledford

18 Essential Restaurants in Charleston

Where to find plates of smoky pulled pork, spicy Thai dishes, and crunchy fried shrimp

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Som tum with chicken at Xiao Bao Biscuit.
| Mike Ledford

It’s time for the summer update of the Eater 18, your answer and ours to any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” This group of restaurants is part of the city’s intrinsic cultural tapestry — the places that have impacted or represent the constantly evolving culinary canon of Charleston. Ultimately, Eater Carolinas’ list showcases the restaurants that make dining in the Lowcountry memorable during this unique moment; in 2022, these businesses are still reshaping what it means to serve communities under conditions of uncertainty. Removal from the Eater 18 does not mean a restaurant isn’t still great and won’t return in the future, but allows for new additions, keeping the 18 fresh, inclusive, and geographically representative.

New to the map is tasting menu restaurant Wild Common, seafood master 167 Raw, and hip pizza place Renzo.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Jackrabbit Filly

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Chinese-American restaurant Jackrabbit Filly comes from the minds behind the super sought-after food truck Short Grain. Corrie and Shuai Wang bring the flavors of Shuai’s Chinese family to the menu with some Japanese and American influences thrown in. Many of the offerings conjure takeout menu comfort food vibes, like fried rice with ham and pineapple or pork and cabbage dumplings. The chirashi bowl is a solid lunch choice and brunch offers one of the area’s only dim sum menus.

Bertha's Restaurant

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Established in 1979, iconic soul food stop Bertha’s Kitchen is known for its fried chicken, fish, and sides, like slow-simmered lima beans. Tourists and locals in search of Southern comfort make the trek to the big turquoise house in North Charleston to take in the dishes established by the late founder Albertha Grant, like smothered pork chops and oxtails. Bertha’s has even drawn its fair share of critical acclaim. In 2017, the restaurant took home the James Beard Award for America’s Classic.

Lewis Barbecue

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Pitmaster John Lewis brought the best-ever brisket to Charleston by way of Austin, and it’s been a hit since day one. The airy dining room is unlike any other barbecue space — it’s clean and modern with several nods to Texas and Mexico, including an 8-foot longhorn head mounted on the wall and imported Oaxacan tile on the service counter. Some of the most popular dishes include the hot guts (sausage links), fatty brisket, green chili corn pudding, and ultra-moist turkey slices.

Bill Addison/Eater

Rodney Scott's BBQ

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James Beard-winning pitmaster Rodney Scott brought whole hog barbecue to Charleston by way of Hemingway, South Carolina, and it became an instant classic. 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. There are plenty of picnic tables outdoors and takeout is easy at Rodney Scott’s BBQ. Everyone should leave with a bag of skins for snacking later on.

Restaurateurs Erik Hutson and Nayda Friere (of hip bar Faculty Lounge) opened North Central spot Renzo to feel like a party every night — the best kind of party, a pizza party. The gold embellished bar takes up half the room, with views of the kitchen and Friere’s extensive collection of natural wines. The booths are usually full of groups sharing the creative wood-fired pizzas, like the Cheli with lamb sausage, feta, honey, and za’atar. For non-pie items, the gnudi in a roasted tomato vinaigrette is a standout choice.

Dark walls and a wooden bar with wooden booths.
The dining room at Renzo.
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Breezy French restaurant Maison highlights the precision and craft of chef Vandy Vanderwarker (formerly of the Ordinary). The seasonal menu is likely to offer dishes spanning from steak tartare and mussels bourride to dry-aged duck. Regardless, the plating here is beautiful enough to give pause on any Instagram feed. For a deal, customers should stop in for the $5 champagne happy hour and stay for dinner.

Maison
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Hannibal's Kitchen

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Tucked away in the Eastside neighborhood, this Lowcountry legend has served classic Charleston dishes since 1985. Far off the tourist path on Blake Street, try Gullah Geechee cuisine staples like crab rice, lima beans with smoked turkey neck bones, okra soup, and local shark. Open for lunch and dinner, this casual spot meets the need for Lowcountry flavors in a convenient all-day format.

A plate of lima beans on a table
Lima bean supper with rice and smoked turkey necks at Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen
Bill Addison/Eater

Leon's Oyster Shop

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Combine fancy champagne, cheap beer, fried chicken, and a casual raw bar — all housed in a retrofitted auto body shop — and you get Leon’s Oyster Shop. The menu has plenty of salads, like the iceberg stack covered in buttermilk dressing, for the lunch crowds and soft serve for the kids. The owners put a lot of thought into every detail, so go marvel at the wondrous interiors of the former auto body shop, full of custom art and thrift store finds, in between chargrilled oysters.

Leon’s Oyster Shop/Official

Chubby Fish

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Cannonborough/Elliotborough restaurant Chubby Fish is tucked away from the normal downtown cluster of eateries, so it almost feels like a secret when diners find it. The sailor-themed dining room is always packed with customers looking to discover what chef James London has created with the day’s fresh catch. Wahoo crudo, poached black grouper, and grilled oysters with lamb sausage round out the menu and are worth the wait (Chubby Fish doesn’t take reservations, so expect a wait).

Chez Nous

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At this rustic, romantic French destination, chef Jill Mathias serves a concise selection of two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. The staff posts the menu daily on Instagram, but it’s usually a safe bet to grab a table without knowing what plates will delight the dining room that day. Recent offerings included seared trout with creamy fennel, a crab and melon salad, and a lavender custard to round out the meal.

Erin Perkins/Eater Charleston

Wild Common

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Spring Street restaurant Wild Common is a tasting menu restaurant for people who don’t normally like tasting menus. It’s not stuffy or pretentious, but rather a chill atmosphere full of light installations, art, and vegetation — a place that makes it easy to relax into the four-course meal at $85 a person. Four courses may not sound like much, but the first course, “Bites,” includes substantial samples of rich chicken shio ramen, crab rice with kimchi, and chicken har gao. For those really wanting to indulge, chef Orlando Pagán can include a caviar supplement served atop a layered potato cake crisped in duck fat.

Dining room at Wild Common
The arty dining room and bar at Wild Common.
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Xiao Bao Biscuit

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Asian soul food spot Xiao Bao Biscuit was one of a kind when it opened on Spring Street in 2012. The kitchen offers items not commonly seen in downtown Charleston, like okonomiyaki covered in “pork candy” and the extra spicy mapo tofu. The menu pulls inspiration from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, so there’s always something new and unexpected to sample.

Cabbage pancake covered in mayo on a white and blue plate.
Okonomiyaki at Xiao Bao Biscuit.
Mike Ledford

Dave's Carry-Out

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The little corner fish shack is a laid-back stop off the hectic hustle of King Street; as its name implies, the kitchen is very adept at the carryout game. For years, this corner shop has consistently served up big plates of crisp, golden-fried fresh catch and fixin’s. Those in the know pair the buttery flounder with a side of creamy lima beans and rice.

Fried fish and shrimp in a Styrofoam container.
Fried fish and shrimp from Dave’s Carry-Out.
Mike Ledford

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. Go for innovative takes on seasonal produce, like the highly anticipated tomato tarte tatin, which appears each summer, and always opt for the chicken liver pate or the ricotta gnocchi topped with lamb bolognese. Make a reservation far in advance for one of the white-clothed tables or go right at 5 p.m. to grab a seat at the bar.

A tomato terrine on a white plate.
The famous tomato tarte tatin at FIG.
Erin Perkins

167 Raw Oyster Bar

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Perpetually packed seafood restaurant 167 Raw showcases the best that the ocean has to offer. The dining room feels like a party with a full room of friends and families enjoying plenty of cold frosé, oysters on the half shell, baked crab dip, and rich lobster rolls. 167 Raw doesn’t take reservations, so sign into the queue and take a walk around Charleston while waiting for the restaurant to text.

A blue and white bar at i67 Raw.
Nautical touches surround the bar at 167 Raw.
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Bar George

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Combine Peruvian roast chicken, oysters on the half shell, inventive hot dog combinations, and a few surprises along the way to come up with the unique menu at James Island spot Bar George. Here, diners can eagerly expect the unexpected from the kitchen and the bar. The cocktail list ranges from a yuzu dirty martini to a shot of banana-flavored Jameson with a Miller High Life pony. It’s no surprise, then, that no matter what night you land, you’ll find a fun time at Bar George. 

Kwei Fei

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Charleston was severely lacking in Sichuan options before chef David Schuttenberg came to town via multiple venerated kitchens in New York. His restaurant Kwei Fei brings the heat on James Island to adoring fans looking for lamb dumplings, spicy noodles, and mapo tofu. Order several dishes, like dan dan noodles and lamb dumplings, because leftovers are just as good the next day.

Mapo Tofu.
Kwei Fei
Andrew Cebulka

The Obstinate Daughter

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Visitors to Sullivan’s Island can dine on wood-fired pizza, filling pasta, and fresh seafood by the ocean in a stylish, nautical-themed dining room. The Obstinate Daughter offers a bright space to spend the lunch, brunch, or dinner hour; the menu includes the signature William Moultrie cocktail made from local gin and key lime juice, oysters on the half shell, and a sumptuous ricotta gnocchi with short rib ragu.

The Obstinate Daughter
The Obstinate Daughter
Andrew Cebulka

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Jackrabbit Filly

Chinese-American restaurant Jackrabbit Filly comes from the minds behind the super sought-after food truck Short Grain. Corrie and Shuai Wang bring the flavors of Shuai’s Chinese family to the menu with some Japanese and American influences thrown in. Many of the offerings conjure takeout menu comfort food vibes, like fried rice with ham and pineapple or pork and cabbage dumplings. The chirashi bowl is a solid lunch choice and brunch offers one of the area’s only dim sum menus.

Bertha's Restaurant

Established in 1979, iconic soul food stop Bertha’s Kitchen is known for its fried chicken, fish, and sides, like slow-simmered lima beans. Tourists and locals in search of Southern comfort make the trek to the big turquoise house in North Charleston to take in the dishes established by the late founder Albertha Grant, like smothered pork chops and oxtails. Bertha’s has even drawn its fair share of critical acclaim. In 2017, the restaurant took home the James Beard Award for America’s Classic.

Lewis Barbecue

Bill Addison/Eater

Pitmaster John Lewis brought the best-ever brisket to Charleston by way of Austin, and it’s been a hit since day one. The airy dining room is unlike any other barbecue space — it’s clean and modern with several nods to Texas and Mexico, including an 8-foot longhorn head mounted on the wall and imported Oaxacan tile on the service counter. Some of the most popular dishes include the hot guts (sausage links), fatty brisket, green chili corn pudding, and ultra-moist turkey slices.

Bill Addison/Eater

Rodney Scott's BBQ

James Beard-winning pitmaster Rodney Scott brought whole hog barbecue to Charleston by way of Hemingway, South Carolina, and it became an instant classic. 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. There are plenty of picnic tables outdoors and takeout is easy at Rodney Scott’s BBQ. Everyone should leave with a bag of skins for snacking later on.

Renzo

Dark walls and a wooden bar with wooden booths.
The dining room at Renzo.
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Restaurateurs Erik Hutson and Nayda Friere (of hip bar Faculty Lounge) opened North Central spot Renzo to feel like a party every night — the best kind of party, a pizza party. The gold embellished bar takes up half the room, with views of the kitchen and Friere’s extensive collection of natural wines. The booths are usually full of groups sharing the creative wood-fired pizzas, like the Cheli with lamb sausage, feta, honey, and za’atar. For non-pie items, the gnudi in a roasted tomato vinaigrette is a standout choice.

Dark walls and a wooden bar with wooden booths.
The dining room at Renzo.
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Maison

Maison
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Breezy French restaurant Maison highlights the precision and craft of chef Vandy Vanderwarker (formerly of the Ordinary). The seasonal menu is likely to offer dishes spanning from steak tartare and mussels bourride to dry-aged duck. Regardless, the plating here is beautiful enough to give pause on any Instagram feed. For a deal, customers should stop in for the $5 champagne happy hour and stay for dinner.

Maison
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Hannibal's Kitchen

A plate of lima beans on a table
Lima bean supper with rice and smoked turkey necks at Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen
Bill Addison/Eater

Tucked away in the Eastside neighborhood, this Lowcountry legend has served classic Charleston dishes since 1985. Far off the tourist path on Blake Street, try Gullah Geechee cuisine staples like crab rice, lima beans with smoked turkey neck bones, okra soup, and local shark. Open for lunch and dinner, this casual spot meets the need for Lowcountry flavors in a convenient all-day format.

A plate of lima beans on a table
Lima bean supper with rice and smoked turkey necks at Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen
Bill Addison/Eater

Leon's Oyster Shop

Leon’s Oyster Shop/Official

Combine fancy champagne, cheap beer, fried chicken, and a casual raw bar — all housed in a retrofitted auto body shop — and you get Leon’s Oyster Shop. The menu has plenty of salads, like the iceberg stack covered in buttermilk dressing, for the lunch crowds and soft serve for the kids. The owners put a lot of thought into every detail, so go marvel at the wondrous interiors of the former auto body shop, full of custom art and thrift store finds, in between chargrilled oysters.

Leon’s Oyster Shop/Official

Chubby Fish

Cannonborough/Elliotborough restaurant Chubby Fish is tucked away from the normal downtown cluster of eateries, so it almost feels like a secret when diners find it. The sailor-themed dining room is always packed with customers looking to discover what chef James London has created with the day’s fresh catch. Wahoo crudo, poached black grouper, and grilled oysters with lamb sausage round out the menu and are worth the wait (Chubby Fish doesn’t take reservations, so expect a wait).

Chez Nous

Erin Perkins/Eater Charleston

At this rustic, romantic French destination, chef Jill Mathias serves a concise selection of two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. The staff posts the menu daily on Instagram, but it’s usually a safe bet to grab a table without knowing what plates will delight the dining room that day. Recent offerings included seared trout with creamy fennel, a crab and melon salad, and a lavender custard to round out the meal.

Erin Perkins/Eater Charleston

Wild Common

Dining room at Wild Common
The arty dining room and bar at Wild Common.
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Spring Street restaurant Wild Common is a tasting menu restaurant for people who don’t normally like tasting menus. It’s not stuffy or pretentious, but rather a chill atmosphere full of light installations, art, and vegetation — a place that makes it easy to relax into the four-course meal at $85 a person. Four courses may not sound like much, but the first course, “Bites,” includes substantial samples of rich chicken shio ramen, crab rice with kimchi, and chicken har gao. For those really wanting to indulge, chef Orlando Pagán can include a caviar supplement served atop a layered potato cake crisped in duck fat.

Dining room at Wild Common
The arty dining room and bar at Wild Common.
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Xiao Bao Biscuit