Every year millions of visitors come to Charleston with one question, “Where can we get good seafood?” While many locals are inclined to shuffle tourists off to a Market Street crab house, we wouldn’t maintain our reputation as the most polite city in America if we did that. The following is a guide to everything seafood in Charleston. Look beyond the Lowcountry boil, and stop at one of these establishments for a real Holy City experience.Read More
Top 11 Seafood Restaurants for a Fresh Catch in Charleston
From shrimp to oysters to flounder
1. Nana's Seafood & Soul Uptown
For those looking for seafood, soul, or real-deal Gullah-Geechie menu items, Nana’s is the place to be. Mother and son team Carolyn and Kenyatta McNeil create Lowcountry classics, with local products. For a reasonable price, patrons can score a giant piece of perfectly-fried whiting, fried cabbage on rice, lima beans, and a sweet piece of cornbread — really, it’s enough for two people. The trick is to keep up with the restaurant’s Instagram feed to check when crab rice or garlic crabs are on the menu (two of the most popular dishes).
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2. Gillie's Seafood
Gillie’s Seafood is dedicated to chef/owner Sean Mendes’ grandmother LaReese Gilliard, so patrons are treated like family when they sit down at a table. There’s plenty of Southern seafood favorites here, from shrimp purloo to fried flounder to shrimp and grits. Fun note: if you bring in a framed photo of your grandmother, the staff will hang it on their wall of grandmas — how adorable is that?
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3. Bowens Island Restaurant
Any visitor Charleston must trek out to Bowens Island at least once. The experience of non-stop steamed oysters, cheap beer, and creekside views makes for lasting memories. It’s rustic (some say “dive”), and a bit hard to find, but as former Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison said, “It has been a draw for decades and remains luring both for its ramshackle funkiness and the gut-level goodness of its food.” And if you’re searching for a Lowcountry boil, a combination of corn, sausage, shrimp and potatoes, this is the place to find it.
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Leon’s gives fried-fish goodness with a side of crispy chicken and freshly-shucked oysters. This North Central hangout is the spot to be if you prefer perfectly-battered bait with a glass of rosé and New Orleans soul pumping out the speakers. The outdoor patio is the place to be if the weather is nice.
5. Dave's Carry-Out
Charleston, SC 29403
Dave’s Carry-Out has somewhat unpredictable hours, but if visitors can find the Morris Street dining room open, then they are in for some of the best fried fish around. Most people take their food to go, but there’s a few tables scattered about and a television on, so folks like to hang out and discuss the day in between bites. The popular seafood platter allows diners to sample fried shrimp, scallops, fish, and a deviled crab.
6. The Ordinary
What can be said about The Ordinary that hasn’t already been printed in hundreds of other publications? The hype is real. Gather friends and family, make a reservation, and luxuriate in the two-story dining room housed in a former bank from 1927. Standouts include a selection of local oysters, king mackerel pâté, and the New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. Imbibers should finish the night with a few a rum drinks and go home very happy.
7. The Darling Oyster Bar
Upper King hot spot the Darling keeps a lively dining room full of guests seeking fry baskets, Hawaiian-influenced poke, and clam chowder poutine. The attractive space draws in crowds night after night. Go early for happy hour and sit at the window-facing raw bar to watch the hustle on King Street in between shucks.
8. 167 Raw
Seafood house 167 Raw started as a small storefront on East Bay Street and has since upgraded to a multi-dining room space on King Street, but that has not diminished the crowds vying to grab a seat for perfectly shucked oysters, little neck clams, or a jumbo shrimp cocktail. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but it does offer online ordering. The lobster roll with a buttery, buttery bun is the stuff of legends. Don’t sleep on the shrimp taco or the frosé.
9. Hank's Seafood Restaurant
Hank’s is the OG fine dining fish house in Charleston. The menu stocks Charleston legends like seafood a la Wando and she-crab soup. The servers wear white dinner jackets and black ties, the dining room is old-school polished, and the seafood tower and whole lobster are always a good idea.
10. The Kingstide
Daniel Island’s the Kingstide is the newest waterfront seafood restaurant in the Lowcountry, and it’s already packing the dining rooms regularly. Diners stop in for a chance to sample chef Kevin Getzewich’s menu of creative fish dishes like swordfish with nage, English peas and whipped potato or a trout rueben. There’s also more traditional dishes, like a packed lobster roll, and plenty of items to choose from at the raw bar.
11. Coda Del Pesce
If you wish for fine dining by the sea, then Coda del Pesce can satisfy your needs for Italian plates — heavy on the frutti di mare — on the beach. Chef Ken Vedrinski offers a taste of the Italian Coast closer to the Lowcountry with grilled octopus, snapper crudo, and fusilli with blue crab. Enjoy a dinner and then go for a walk on the Isle of Palms sand.