I’ve seen a lot of list of the best restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina. Some are really good but all are based at the end of the day on personal preference. How much do you want to spend? What kind of food do you prefer? Can you get a reservation? These questions are much more likely to drive what your favorites are going to be. Most of the restaurants I’ve listed, you can expect to pay $50/person plus drinks. Expensive for some, I know, but you get what you pay for. There are certainly more affordable options to eat in Charleston, they just didn’t make my top five list.
We travel to Charleston several times a year. It is a short three hour drive from our home in Greenville, SC. I’ve said it before in other posts, but I love Charleston for the history, the beaches and the food. My wife loves the history, the beaches and the shopping (not necessarily in that order). It is just about our favorite place to go. I’ve eaten at A LOT of restaurants over the years, but a few keep me coming back over and over. Here is my completely biased and unscientific list with a few bonuses below. By the way, if you are planning a trip to Chucktown (as no one calls it) and need some advice, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to help. Or, if you have some suggestions for me, pass those along in the comments as well.
My favorite restaurant ever. This is the pinnacle, my culinary Mecca. Executive Chef Sean Brock, a James Beard awarding winning chef, grew up eating a lot of the same southern things I did. He took that old school knowledge, sourced the finest local ingredients (people, he has his own farm) and applied modern techniques. The result is not just food but amazing dinning experiences, it is art.
Another amazing restaurant from another James Beard awarding winning chef, Mike Lata. This small restaurant also focuses on local, seasonal ingredients. The simplicity of the food is what gets me every time. Da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” That is what you should expect here, elevated cuisine. Perfectly executed, well balanced and tasty food. Even the name FIG, or Food is Good, is perfectly simple.
Shhhhhh. This is a local favorite and as fate would have it, where I got engaged to be married. It is that kind of place. Southern Living routinely (if not every year) ranks it as the most romantic restaurant in the south. The food is ridiculous as well. A heavy Italian influence is clear on the menu but most of the ingredients are sourced local based on the season.
IF (and that is a big capital IF) you can get dinner reservations, the restaurant is totally worth the visit. All ingredients (exept maybe some wines) are sourced this side of the Mason Dixon line. This is the second restaurant Chef Sean Brock opened and was named “Best new restaurant 2011” by bon appetit. This is southern cooking at it’s best. Think pork chops, bacon, fried chicken, collard greens, buttermilk biscuits and on and on. (Another shhhhh, but if you can’t get dinner reservations, stop by for lunch or go by the Husk Bar next door.) This restaurant was so popular, they opened another one in Nashville.
Truth be told, I haven’t been here yet. We have reservations for next week. I’m preemptively adding this one to the list. Why? Two reason, Chef Mike Lata (see FIG above) and seafood (after all, it is Charleston). I’ll follow up with more legit reasons after we are back.
Bonus dish: Hank’s Seafood a la Wando
Bonus view: Fleet Landing
Fleet Landing is right on the water. On a nice day, you can sit outside and watch the dolphins and other sea creatures playing. You can also watch the cruise ships let out (some times the best people watching, especially the European ones.) This is one of our favorite lunch spots. I’ve heard they have a great brunch but we never make it passed… well, see the next item.
Bonus brunch: Poogan’s Porch
After a long night of whiskey drinking at Husk Bar, you can cure your ills. Poogan’s Porch, named after a dog that hung out there (love it already, right?), has the best southern brunch you could want. Get there before Church let’s out though, our you’ll be waiting a while.