A Weekenders Food Guide to Charleston
The charming city of Charleston, South Carolina is a true living museum with its well-preserved colonial mansions and historical sites. The “Holy City” is also booming with culture, outdoor activities, and world-class dining. The popular southern city welcomes nearly four million visitors each year.
From a culinary perspective, the city has really come into its own with award-winning restaurants, acclaimed casual eateries, and popular bars.
Check out this concise list of top restaurants and bars. This is truly a “concise” list as Charleston is a foodie’s heaven with many other options worthy of their own lists.
Brunch or Breakfast
Mercantile and Mash labels itself as a gourmet food emporium and the moniker is well-deserved. Breakfast is served from 7 AM through 11 AM during the weekdays and brunch is available on weekends starting at 8 AM. Some of my favorites are the Breakfast Hash consisting of a sunny side up Story Farm egg, roasted potatoes, black beans and pickled red onion served with a grilled scallion vinaigrette, the Spicy Chicken Biscuit with white Cheddar Mornay sauce on a house-made buttermilk biscuit and the Bread Pudding French Toast with apple butter, Mascarpone cream and candied pecans. Note that all brunch plates are served with tater tots.
At the very popular Hominy Grill, breakfast is served on weekdays from 7:30 AM through 3 PM and brunch is offered weekends from 9 AM until 3 PM. A must-order is the infamous Charleston Nasty Biscuit with a fried chicken breast, Cheddar cheese, and sausage gravy. Other popular dishes are the three breakfast Grit Bowls, the Roasted Mushrooms & Leek Cream, the Slow Smoked Pork Belly served with farm egg and Cheddar and the Sesame Fried Catfish with Geechee peanut sauce.
For brunch, make your way to Poogan’s Porch, one of Charleston’s oldest independent culinary establishments, and enjoy a cup or a bowl of Chef Issac’s She Crab Soup with dry Sherry and lump crab – it is sublime. The Shrimp Etouffée Omelet with herbed goat cheese and scallions and the Pulled Pork Benedict with perfectly-poached eggs and BBQ Hollandaise sauce are favorites.
Lunch, Snacks, and Bites
To get some of the best barbecue in the south, Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ Charleston is THE place to visit. Rodney Scott is known as the king of the whole hog in America. He grew up around his family’s BBQ business since he was a kid and in the summer of 2016 Scott opened his own place right in Charleston. The whole hog plate and two sides is the way to go.
Martha Lou’s Kitchen’s James Beard Award-winning namesake has been serving low-country soul food favorites and sweet tea at her roadside cozy restaurant for over 30 years. The Charleston institution serves some of the best fried chicken in the country, set in a modest pink building. There are also daily specials that include chitterlings, “mystery meat” and other southern favorites.
My next suggestion is a very popular restaurant named Husk, it is so popular in fact that you might have a hard time making a dinner reservation. But don’t fret, Husk serves a delicious lunch on Mondays through Saturdays. Award-winning Chef, Sean Brock uses locally sourced ingredients and the menu changes based on the availability of local ingredients. The Skillet of Real Cornbread served with Benton’s bacon crumble cannot be missed.
For a proper cocktail prepared by a professional mixologist, look no further than Prohibition. Reminiscent of a classic 1920s speakeasy with its old-fashion décor and bourbon barrel ceiling, Prohibition’s cocktails crafted by Beverage Director, Jim McCourt, are anything but classic.
Rooftop at the Vendue is the perfect place for an al fresco cocktail in a fun, hip spot with sweeping views of Charleston. Happy hour is offered Monday through Thursday from 4 pm until 7 pm and draws an energetic crowd of locals and guests to the city.
The Gin Joint offers “balanced cocktails alongside defiant bar food.” Monday through Thursday from 5 PM until 7 PM The Gin Joint features a $5 cocktail hour menu; a bargain for the sort of expertly-prepared drinks this place offers.
King Street Dispensary honors the historic South Carolina dispensary legacy with one of the widest selections of local and craft beer and liquor in the southeast. To match the extensive list of libations, a gastropub-style menu is offered.
Chef Sean Brock’s futuristic-meets-low-country, McCrady’s, South Carolina’s only AAA five-diamond awarded restaurant, is a difficult reservation to secure, but so worth it. The “tasting menu-only” restaurant features a limited 22 seats with an open kitchen; creating an intimate and audacious dining experience.
Butcher & Bee started as a sandwich shop that expanded to offer some of the best shareable food in Charleston. The kitchen team conjures up Israeli-inspired food using locally sourced seasonal products. Do not pass up the Whipped Feta with fermented honey, cracked black pepper and served with pita and the fantastic Kebabs, a choice of two skewers (shrimp, vegetable, chicken or lamb), Israeli salad, freekeh, tahini served with pita.
Tucked away in the gardens behind Wentworth Mansion in the original carriage house is Circa 1886. At this fine dining restaurant, Chef Marc Collins honors Charleston traditions while creating contemporary cuisine, beautifully presented and using the finest locally-sourced ingredients.
Many visitors come to Charleston with food on their mind. Here, diners will enjoy the best grits they will ever have, enjoy fun oyster roasts right off the docks, eat at some of the best upscale restaurants in the nation – all prepared to perfection by warm, inviting people. Charleston is a must-visit city for all interested in great food.
Cheers and happy travels!