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The cheeseburger at H&R Sweet Shop
Robert Donovan

18 Oldest Restaurants in Charleston Worth a Visit

From 1930 to 1999

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The cheeseburger at H&R Sweet Shop
| Robert Donovan

Charleston is one of the oldest cities in America, but doesn't boast many long-standing restaurants. For a quick history of Holy City dining rooms, writer Robert Moss has a brief timeline, starting in the early 20th century. Most of what's still around today began when the Spoleto Festival USA came to town. With the influx of performers and patrons came a hunger for continental cuisine. After a French trend moved through, Lowcountry menus became popular. A mixture of fine dining, Southern cooking, and — above all — hospitality has survived through the years.

Everyone on this map opened before 2000. If we missed your favorite, let us know in the comments.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Bertha's Restaurant

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Established in 1979, iconic soul food stop Bertha's Kitchen is known for their fried chicken and fish, and heralded for their Southern sides. Everyone from famous chefs and food writers to locals and tourists seems to make the trek to Bertha's to take in the now-famous dishes created by the late founder Albertha Grant.

Turquoise and purple building.
Bertha’s
Bill Addison

Martha Lou's Kitchen

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Since 1983, the tiny pink restaurant on Morrison Drive has been home to some of the best fried chicken in the South. Macaroni and cheese, collard greens, catfish — name a true Southern comfort food and Martha Lou’s will probably have it. Wash it down with a glass of iced cold sweet tea for pure Southern bliss.

Hannibal's Kitchen

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Hannibal's Kitchen has served the Charleston community for over 40 years. The casual soul food restaurant is located on the Eastside of town, away from the normal tourist path, but locals know that this is the place to seek out for okra soup, shark steak, and a lima bean plate.

Dave's Carry Out

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The little corner fish shack Dave’s Carry-Out is unassuming with their plastic tablecloths and styrofoam platters, but they have consistently served up big plates of fried fresh catches and fixin’s since 1987. The current address is their third location, but the shrimp platters and deviled crab recipes are the same.

H&R Sweet Shop

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Started in 1947, Old Village institution H&R Sweet Shop still serves up classics for retro prices. The kitchen serves one of the best cheeseburgers or pork sandwiches around for under $5. The place doesn’t look like it’s had any work done to it in 20 years, and the decor is sparse — but you’re there to taste a piece of history.

Gene's Haufbrau

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Established in 1952, Gene’s Haufbrau is the area’s oldest bar still in operation. It’s a dive with the standard selection of bar snacks, pool tables, and an extensive beer list with plenty of local selections on tap. Lots of character (and characters) in this establishment.

Hank's Seafood

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The youngest restaurant on this list, Hank's Seafood opened in 1999 to critical acclaim. The menu serves classic, fresh from the ocean dishes, like Seafood a la Wando or curried shrimp, and traditional fried shrimp plates. Chef Frank McMahon sought to recreate Charleston fish houses of the past and succeeded with Hank's.

Peninsula Grill

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Dining at the Peninsula Grill is a special, opulent experience. Jackets are preferred in the velvet-lined dining room, but not required to indulge in the classics. If you simply want to dip your toe in luxury, before diving in, stop by the champagne bar for a slice of their world-famous coconut cake. Peninsula Grill joined the dining scene in 1997.

Charleston Grill

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Charleston Grill is fine dining at its best. Located in the stunning Belmond Charleston Place, the Grill is home to one of the most elegant menus in Charleston. The seasonal menu has four categories: Pure, Southern, Cosmopolitan and Lush, but you can mix and match and create the perfect meal. Chef Michelle Weaver has been with the restaurant since 1997.

charleston grill

Fulton Five

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Italian restaurant Fulton Five is consistently voted "Most Romantic" year after year. The slightly hidden entrance and intimate interiors of the restaurant (built in 1991) are a hit with locals and couples looking for a quiet date night.

Erin Perkins

The Griffon Pub

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The little dive bar near Waterfront Park started in 1996, which was also when the practice of stapling dollar bills to the wall began. The Griffon has deals on beer and some of the best fish and chips around. Go for a pint if you're near East Bay.

The Griffon

Marina Variety Store Restaurant

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Marina Variety Store has served some of the same dishes since 1963. It’s a bit like a diner by the water. Breakfast and brunch are always popular — order the shrimp and grits at least once.

Poogan's Porch

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Established in 1976, Poogan's Porch has been a place to go for Charleston hits like shrimp and grits and she-crab soup ever since. The restaurant is housed in a grand Victorian home, so guests get a taste of the genteel Southern life.

82 Queen

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Southern spot 82 Queen opened in 1982. Out-of-towners still flock to the courtyard or one of the 11 dining rooms for she-crab soup or fried green tomatoes. It’s a Charleston institution.

82 Queen

The Barbadoes Room Restaurant

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Nestled in the Mills House Hotel, The Barbadoes Room has seen some changes since its opening in the ‘70s. Once a hotspot in the early days of Spoleto, the bar is a little quieter than it once was, but the updated restaurant menu utilizes local products to offer guests options like a Johns Island tomato salad or a purloo with shrimp, scallops, mussels, and local fish.

The Boathouse at Breach Inlet

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The Boathouse rooftop bar has been the home to one of the best views of the water since 1997. Local seafood is the draw for many vacationers and beach bound locals. Take in the sights with the day's fresh catch and a glass of wine.

Gaulart & Maliclet/Fast & French 

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Gaulart & Maliclet, better known as Fast & French, transports patrons to Europe for less than $10 a plate. Choose the special of the day, and you'll be treated to a sandwich or light entrée with a soup, fresh fruit, and a glass of wine. The atmosphere of the cozy café has remained a mainstay on Broad Street since 1985.

fast and french building

Bowen's Island Restaurant

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Seafood shack Bowen's Island has served up steaming oysters since 1946. The restaurant has survived fires, hurricanes, and changing tastes to remain a go-to for bivalve lovers seeking the smell of pluff mud while they slurp on fresh catches.

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Bertha's Restaurant

Turquoise and purple building.
Bertha’s
Bill Addison

Established in 1979, iconic soul food stop Bertha's Kitchen is known for their fried chicken and fish, and heralded for their Southern sides. Everyone from famous chefs and food writers to locals and tourists seems to make the trek to Bertha's to take in the now-famous dishes created by the late founder Albertha Grant.

Turquoise and purple building.
Bertha’s
Bill Addison

Martha Lou's Kitchen

Since 1983, the tiny pink restaurant on Morrison Drive has been home to some of the best fried chicken in the South. Macaroni and cheese, collard greens, catfish — name a true Southern comfort food and Martha Lou’s will probably have it. Wash it down with a glass of iced cold sweet tea for pure Southern bliss.

Hannibal's Kitchen

Hannibal's Kitchen has served the Charleston community for over 40 years. The casual soul food restaurant is located on the Eastside of town, away from the normal tourist path, but locals know that this is the place to seek out for okra soup, shark steak, and a lima bean plate.

Dave's Carry Out

The little corner fish shack Dave’s Carry-Out is unassuming with their plastic tablecloths and styrofoam platters, but they have consistently served up big plates of fried fresh catches and fixin’s since 1987. The current address is their third location, but the shrimp platters and deviled crab recipes are the same.

H&R Sweet Shop

Started in 1947, Old Village institution H&R Sweet Shop still serves up classics for retro prices. The kitchen serves one of the best cheeseburgers or pork sandwiches around for under $5. The place doesn’t look like it’s had any work done to it in 20 years, and the decor is sparse — but you’re there to taste a piece of history.

Gene's Haufbrau

Established in 1952, Gene’s Haufbrau is the area’s oldest bar still in operation. It’s a dive with the standard selection of bar snacks, pool tables, and an extensive beer list with plenty of local selections on tap. Lots of character (and characters) in this establishment.

Hank's Seafood

The youngest restaurant on this list, Hank's Seafood opened in 1999 to critical acclaim. The menu serves classic, fresh from the ocean dishes, like Seafood a la Wando or curried shrimp, and traditional fried shrimp plates. Chef Frank McMahon sought to recreate Charleston fish houses of the past and succeeded with Hank's.

Peninsula Grill

Dining at the Peninsula Grill is a special, opulent experience. Jackets are preferred in the velvet-lined dining room, but not required to indulge in the classics. If you simply want to dip your toe in luxury, before diving in, stop by the champagne bar for a slice of their world-famous coconut cake. Peninsula Grill joined the dining scene in 1997.

Charleston Grill

charleston grill

Charleston Grill is fine dining at its best. Located in the stunning Belmond Charleston Place, the Grill is home to one of the most elegant menus in Charleston. The seasonal menu has four categories: Pure, Southern, Cosmopolitan and Lush, but you can mix and match and create the perfect meal. Chef Michelle Weaver has been with the restaurant since 1997.

charleston grill

Fulton Five

Erin Perkins

Italian restaurant Fulton Five is consistently voted "Most Romantic" year after year. The slightly hidden entrance and intimate interiors of the restaurant (built in 1991) are a hit with locals and couples looking for a quiet date night.

Erin Perkins

The Griffon Pub

The Griffon

The little dive bar near Waterfront Park started in 1996, which was also when the practice of stapling dollar bills to the wall began. The Griffon has deals on beer and some of the best fish and chips around. Go for a pint if you're near East Bay.