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The 18 Essential Charleston Restaurants, January 2013

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Welcome to the updated Charleston Eater 18, your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This highly elite group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines, and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those occasions when you absolutely must spend half a paycheck. Every couple of months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), or have stepped up their game.

These are the places that you think of when you think of Charleston. Not necessarily the newest and hottest on the block, but the classics. Much like Peninsula Grill's coconut cake and Martha Lou's fried chicken, our town just wouldn't be our town without 'em. New to the list this time is WildFlour Pastry and Butcher & Bee.

For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favorite restaurant isn't on the list, wouldn't it just be more productive to leave your thoughts in the comments? State your cases for (or against) restaurants in the comments or in the tipline.


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Peninsula Grill

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This elegant downtown spot exemplifies fine dining. The service is attentive, the dining room is stunning and the food is beautiful. Everyone talks about the famous coconut cake, and it is decadence on a plate, but the Banana “Panna Cotta” Pudding is also outstanding.

The Fat Hen

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Fred Neuville opened Fat Hen on Johns Island in 2007 and the crowds have been flocking there ever since. Neuville has been a fan of the farm to table concept since before it was a term, and Fat Hen serves food that is as fresh and local as possible.

Hominy Grill

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Hominy Grill is about as southern as southern can get. It’s a must stop for tourists and locals alike, which is a rare achievement for a restaurant. Chef Robert Stehling won the James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2008.

Bowen's Island Restaurant

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Situated on the water and providing gorgeous views to diners, Bowens Island may be short on frills, but it’s long on charm. The menu is limited, but you are going to Bowens for seafood. Order the shrimp or the oysters and you can’t go wrong.

McCrady's

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In the land of shrimp and grits, Sean Brock decided to dabble in molecular gastronomy. Before anyone ever heard of Husk, McCrady’s was wowing diners. Inventive cuisine, pre-Prohibition cocktails and a gorgeous space that dates from the early 1800’s make McCrady’s one of the best restaurants that this city has to offer.

Martha Lou's Kitchen

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The tiny pink restaurant on Morrison Drive is home to some of the best fried chicken in the south. Macaroni and cheese, collard greens, catfish…you 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.

Oak Steakhouse

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This beautiful restaurant on Broad Street in downtown’s French Quarter makes you feel like you’re having a special night out even if you are going to sit at the bar and have a burger. You want a steak, though, and Oak knows how to do a steak. The Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Wedge Salad with Bibb lettuce, 24 oz. Bone-In Rib-Eye and French Fried Onions might be the perfect meal.
Mike Lata and Adam Nemirow’s FIG has been steadily impressing diners since the doors opened. Through years of accolades and awards, including Lata’s 2009 James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast, the food at FIG has remained the top priority. The menu is driven by what is local and available, and the vegetables tend to be the stars of the plate.

Charleston Grill

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Charleston Grill is fine dining at it’s best. Situation within the lovely Charleston Place Hotel, 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. Better yet, let Chef Michelle Weaver create a tasting menu for you and your table.

The Glass Onion

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Chris Stewart and Sarah O’Kelley managed to bring New Orleans to the lowcountry and the combination is a winner. The menu features local, seasonal specials but the standards like Deviled Eggs, Gumbo and the decadent Fries with Béarnaise are always great choices.

Red Drum Gastropub

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Looking for lowcountry cuisine with a hint of Texas flavor? Ben Berryhill’s Red Drum is one of a few Mt. Pleasant restaurants that will bring downtown Charlestonians across the bridge for dinner. Red Drum has a great bar, a lovely outdoor seating area, and a killer brunch.

Trattoria Lucca

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Ken Vedrinski’s Trattoria Lucca is home to some of the freshest and best Italian cuisine in Charleston. Vedrinski, who grew up cooking with his grandmother and traveled extensively in Italy to hone his craft, rolls out the fresh pastas daily at Trattoria Lucca. Monday’s Family Suppers are a must-do.

Cypress

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Executive Chef Craig Deihl is a two-time James Beard nominee, a charcuterie master, and an advocate for the locavore movement. His dining room menu is filled with classics like Steak Diane and a Garlic & Herb Rubbed Rack of Lamb. He gets a bit more adventurous in the upstairs bar area with Steamed Buns and Crispy Pork Belly.

EVO Pizzeria

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It's always a toss-up at EVO: To order the classic pork trifecta pie or to try something off the ever-changing seasonal menu? The answer is always to get one of each, and make sure a crisp, balanced salad is in the mix.

Home Team BBQ

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There's a reason Home Team has received local and national nods for its barbecue. The pork is consistently outstanding, and the mustard-y sauce is exemplary. Hitting up the beachside location for dinner puts the perfect Lowcountry cap on any day.
Lots has been written about Husk, but it's impossible to ignore the place where Sean Brock cooks with his heart. It's all Southern, all the time. At Husk you'll eat what's popping out of the ground this minute, and maybe even look at an old classic in a new way.

Butcher & Bee

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A reliable spot for burgers and sandwiches, as well as the Southern and Mediterranean sides people can't stop talking about. Open only for lunch (or brunch) and late nights, so check their site before walking in. Their pop-ups, which range from vegan to Vietnamese dinners, are also a must.

WildFlour Bakery

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Pastry chef Lauren Mitterer and her staff turn out addictive sweets and savories, like doughnut muffins and quiche every day but Monday. WildFlour's Sticky Bun Sundays make it worth getting out of bed after Saturday night.

Peninsula Grill

This elegant downtown spot exemplifies fine dining. The service is attentive, the dining room is stunning and the food is beautiful. Everyone talks about the famous coconut cake, and it is decadence on a plate, but the Banana “Panna Cotta” Pudding is also outstanding.

The Fat Hen

Fred Neuville opened Fat Hen on Johns Island in 2007 and the crowds have been flocking there ever since. Neuville has been a fan of the farm to table concept since before it was a term, and Fat Hen serves food that is as fresh and local as possible.

Hominy Grill

Hominy Grill is about as southern as southern can get. It’s a must stop for tourists and locals alike, which is a rare achievement for a restaurant. Chef Robert Stehling won the James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2008.

Bowen's Island Restaurant

Situated on the water and providing gorgeous views to diners, Bowens Island may be short on frills, but it’s long on charm. The menu is limited, but you are going to Bowens for seafood. Order the shrimp or the oysters and you can’t go wrong.

McCrady's

In the land of shrimp and grits, Sean Brock decided to dabble in molecular gastronomy. Before anyone ever heard of Husk, McCrady’s was wowing diners. Inventive cuisine, pre-Prohibition cocktails and a gorgeous space that dates from the early 1800’s make McCrady’s one of the best restaurants that this city has to offer.

Martha Lou's Kitchen

The tiny pink restaurant on Morrison Drive is home to some of the best fried chicken in the south. Macaroni and cheese, collard greens, catfish…you 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.

Oak Steakhouse

This beautiful restaurant on Broad Street in downtown’s French Quarter makes you feel like you’re having a special night out even if you are going to sit at the bar and have a burger. You want a steak, though, and Oak knows how to do a steak. The Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Wedge Salad with Bibb lettuce, 24 oz. Bone-In Rib-Eye and French Fried Onions might be the perfect meal.

FIG

Mike Lata and Adam Nemirow’s FIG has been steadily impressing diners since the doors opened. Through years of accolades and awards, including Lata’s 2009 James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast, the food at FIG has remained the top priority. The menu is driven by what is local and available, and the vegetables tend to be the stars of the plate.

Charleston Grill

Charleston Grill is fine dining at it’s best. Situation within the lovely Charleston Place Hotel, 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. Better yet, let Chef Michelle Weaver create a tasting menu for you and your table.

The Glass Onion

Chris Stewart and Sarah O’Kelley managed to bring New Orleans to the lowcountry and the combination is a winner. The menu features local, seasonal specials but the standards like Deviled Eggs, Gumbo and the decadent Fries with Béarnaise are always great choices.

Red Drum Gastropub

Looking for lowcountry cuisine with a hint of Texas flavor? Ben Berryhill’s Red Drum is one of a few Mt. Pleasant restaurants that will bring downtown Charlestonians across the bridge for dinner. Red Drum has a great bar, a lovely outdoor seating area, and a killer brunch.

Trattoria Lucca

Ken Vedrinski’s Trattoria Lucca is home to some of the freshest and best Italian cuisine in Charleston. Vedrinski, who grew up cooking with his grandmother and traveled extensively in Italy to hone his craft, rolls out the fresh pastas daily at Trattoria Lucca. Monday’s Family Suppers are a must-do.

Cypress

Executive Chef Craig Deihl is a two-time James Beard nominee, a charcuterie master, and an advocate for the locavore movement. His dining room menu is filled with classics like Steak Diane and a Garlic & Herb Rubbed Rack of Lamb. He gets a bit more adventurous in the upstairs bar area with Steamed Buns and Crispy Pork Belly.

EVO Pizzeria

It's always a toss-up at EVO: To order the classic pork trifecta pie or to try something off the ever-changing seasonal menu? The answer is always to get one of each, and make sure a crisp, balanced salad is in the mix.

Home Team BBQ

There's a reason Home Team has received local and national nods for its barbecue. The pork is consistently outstanding, and the mustard-y sauce is exemplary. Hitting up the beachside location for dinner puts the perfect Lowcountry cap on any day.

Related Maps

Husk

Lots has been written about Husk, but it's impossible to ignore the place where Sean Brock cooks with his heart. It's all Southern, all the time. At Husk you'll eat what's popping out of the ground this minute, and maybe even look at an old classic in a new way.

Butcher & Bee

A reliable spot for burgers and sandwiches, as well as the Southern and Mediterranean sides people can't stop talking about. Open only for lunch (or brunch) and late nights, so check their site before walking in. Their pop-ups, which range from vegan to Vietnamese dinners, are also a must.

WildFlour Bakery

Pastry chef Lauren Mitterer and her staff turn out addictive sweets and savories, like doughnut muffins and quiche every day but Monday. WildFlour's Sticky Bun Sundays make it worth getting out of bed after Saturday night.

Related Maps