Whether you are looking for soul food or fine dining Charleston has you covered. Most menus are pork and shellfish heavy and you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve at least a couple of deep fried items on the menu. Many chefs have impressive charcuterie programs and you’ll never eat collard greens as tasty as you will eat here. This is country southern cooking at its finest.
Here are my Top 10 Best Restaurants in Charleston SC:
- Husk – Ask any tourist walking down the street where they are going to dinner while they are in town and they will say Husk. It’s everyone’s favorite here, including the locals and rightfully so. Chef Sean Brock is the man in this town. You can’t get food much more locally sourced than here not to mention the dramatic plate presentations and southern hospitality are also exceptional. The menu is very pork heavy offering southern staples like Broadbent country ham with buttermilk biscuits to innovative craveable bites like Kentuckyaki glazed pig’s ear lettuce wraps with sweet vinegar marinated cucumber. My favorite guilty pleasure on our visit was the southern fried chicken skins with pimento cheese “ranch” and Espelette pepper. I had to finally step away from these crunchy, salty bites smothered in that addictive sauce so that I could eat the rest of my meal. Come hungry, order as many dishes as you can and save room for dessert. There isn’t a bad choice on the menu and selections change daily. There is some serious talent in the kitchen here. **Important tip – Make a reservation well in advance or show up at 5pm and stand in line to put your name on the list. They’ll shoot you a text when your table is ready (which could be 2-3 hours from then). 76 Queen St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-2500
- Xiao Bao Biscuit – I was beginning to feel the wrath of southern cooking when I stumbled upon this place. I felt like I was back in San Francisco. Once an old gas station now a beautiful eclectic space filled with succulants and Asian imports offers up an exciting menu of what they call Asian soul food. Classics from Korea, China, Japan and Thailand are reimagined and refined using local ingredients, modern techniques and elegant yet rustic plating style. We ordered every dish on the menu I kid you not. Words cannot describe the complexity of flavors you will experience. I think the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy this one. 224 Rutledge Ave. Charleston, SC No reservations – first come, first serve
- Bertha’s Kitchen – Bertha’s and Martha Lou’s are a dead tie in my book. Both restaurants offer the best no frills soul food I’ve ever had in my life. Even though they are equally good they do have their differences and that is why you must try them both. Bertha’s is a little bit further out of town but worth the cab fare. Customers line up everyday before the doors open and once they do the line remains there all day long so just be prepared to wait. Don’t worry it goes fast. Once you get up to the front of the line there is no menu. You point and they scoop. Every plate comes with cornbread and 2 sides and their offerings are subject to change on a daily basis. Their fried chicken is a must – it’s the best I’ve ever had. I also recommend their okra soup, lima beans, hopping johns, collard greens, red rice and braised cabbage. You can not go wrong with anything you order here so go crazy. 2332 Meeting Street Rd. Charleston, SC 29405 (843) 554-6519
- Martha Lou’s Kitchen – Martha Lou is a culinary legend in these parts. At 86 years old she still takes orders and runs food. The restaurant is tiny, I think I remember it only having about 7 or 8 tables. The fried chicken (which you are going to get) is fried to order so it takes a while for the food to come out but it’s worth the wait. If you want a cold beer you’ll have to ask because they aren’t listed on the menu. She usually has a stash of Budweiser in the back though. If they aren’t already sold out order the chitterlings, she is known for those. I also recommend the lima beans, collard greens with rice, braised cabbage and mac and cheese – all ridiculously good. 1068 Morrison Dr. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 577-9583
- The Ordinary – This is where you come if you are in the mood for seafood and especially shellfish. Their claim to fame are their shellfish towers. Huge trays piled with ice, oysters, clams, crab and whatever else they are throwing on there that day. They have an innovative selection of cold and hot small plates offering everything from vegetable crudos to oyster sliders. They even do caviar. I loved this place for wine and apps. 544 King St. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 414-7060 Closed Mondays.
- The Butcher and Bee – When you are ready for something a little bit healthier cruise over to this place. They are open breakfast, lunch and dinner and offer a wide variety of choices. To drink you can get a cold-pressed juice, a finely crafted coffee, specialty cocktails, local beer and wine. Their bakery produces fresh daily pastries like donuts, croissants and cinnamon rolls. Try an avocado toast for breakfast, a brown rice and vegetable bowl for lunch and come back for Moroccan fish and grits or braised half chicken for dinner. The menu is loaded with vegetables, salads and whole grains. I wish I could have eaten here 3 times a day, every day of my trip to try everything. 1085 Morrison Dr. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 619-0202
- The Macintosh – With a name like Jeremiah Bacon you know this chef is going to have some pork on the menu. The “Bacon Happy Hour” Monday-Friday 5-7pm offers fun snacks like pork belly banh mi and totchos (tator tots served in the style of nachos). The menu is constantly changing to make room for new local vegetables and fish in season. Besides pork you will find interesting dishes like Asparagus with fish sauce, fried breadcrumbs and poached egg. I recommend grabbin’ a spot at the bar for dinner with it’s fun lively atmosphere. 479B King St. Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 789-4299
- Cypress – I ate the biggest hot dog I’ve ever had in my life here. If you have sat upstairs in the bar and/or are in the industry you know what I am talking about. The chef here has a damn fine charcuterie program and makes things like mortadella, bresaola and headcheese. But he also makes amazing hot dogs! He serves them on a house made pretzel bun with bread and butter pickles and ballpark mustard. But beware this thing is massive. Oh yeah, and they have amazing other food too like Lobster Bisque and Steak Diane which you can enjoy in a very fancy high end dining room. I like to sit upstairs in the bar and look down into the kitchen to see what they are up to where it’s a little bit more casual. 167 East Bay St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 727-0111
- Slightly North of Broad – Charmingly nicknamed, SNOB this restaurant has almost a cult like following in this city. Like almost all restaurants down here the place is packed daily so reservations are encouraged. Think upscale lowcountry cuisine with a party atmosphere. You’ll find classics like she crab soup, shrimp and grits and soft shell crab here. 192 East Bay St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 723-3424
- McCrady’s – Located in a building established in 1778 this beautiful upscale bar and restaurant is an elegant place to come and enjoy a romantic dinner. The tasting menu created by Sean Brock (also of Husk restaurant) includes beautifully prepared, locally sourced ingredients like Virginia oysters, Ossabaw pork and Charleston ice-cream. 155 East Bay St. Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-0025 Closed Monday and Tuesday
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.