Top 10 Must-Try Restaurants In Charleston, South Carolina

Photo of Virág Gulyás
9 February 2017

As the oldest town in South Carolina, Charleston is home to a wealth of cultural dining establishments, each with its own unique history and flavor. From established local legends like Edmund’s Oast and Chez Nous, to up-and-coming restaurants putting new spins on Southern tradition, Charleston’s dining scene is certainly dynamic. Here are the top places to eat in the area.

Courtesy High Cotton

High Cotton Maverick Bar & Grill

The city’s best brunch is without doubt served at High Cotton Maverick Bar & Grill. Luckily you don’t have to hold out for Sunday mornings — step in anytime during the week for fine dining and indulge yourself with excellent steak and seafood dishes while jazz, blues or live gypsy music nourishes the soul. A perfect combination of terrific food and great music is complemented by attentive Southern hospitality. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere with leather chairs and classy ambiance, while sampling from delectable local clam and mussel sharing platters or any of the other dishes from the menu.


FIG, standing for the expression ‘Food is Good’, is a venue that is all about eating well and locally. Receiving ingredients from local farms and growers, quality and freshness are the top priorities of FIG. The part-diner, part-bistro setting offers something for all tastes, and while the former was designed in a retro style, the latter has a more elegant vibe. Featuring a short, concise menu lining up seasonally changing five-star options, FIG offers dishes from contemporary American fare to European kitchens. FIG is an intimate, cozy place coupled with an upscale fine dining experience.

Courtesy FIG

Husk Restaurant

Located in an old Southern house in Charleston’s most historic neighborhood, Husk Restaurant counts among its assets the James Beard award-winning chef Sean Broc, who has appeared on the acclaimed American TV show The Mind of a Chef. Since opening in 2010, the restaurant has become a favorite among critics and hungry foodies thanks to its imaginative use of Low Country ingredients and its attempts to rediscover the South’s ‘heirloom’ eating traditions. Menus change daily, but with dishes like glazed pig’s ear lettuce wraps, sweet vinegar marinated cucumbers and onions, or cornmeal dusted North Carolina catfish, sweet corn and sausage gumbo, carolina gold rice and charred okra, you’re sure to get a taste of the South.

The Ordinary

The Ordinary, led by chef Mike Lata, is Charleston’s seafood paradise. Considered the best oyster bar in the region, The Ordinary is a must-try place for everyone craving mouth-watering lobster, fish schnitzel, fish stew, fish fry or shellfish tower, just a few of the specialties from the enticing menu. Run by the same operating team as FIG, the concept is similar – supporting local producers and cooking from the freshest ingredients. Housed in a former bank building, guests can enjoy a lively and stunningly refurbished American brasserie.

How Art Thou Café

Cafe, Restaurant, American, $$$
How Art Thou Jazz Club & Restaurant, Charleston
How Art Thou Jazz Club & Restaurant, Charleston | Courtesy How Art Thou Cafe
In James Island, just a few minutes drive away from Charleston, lies a little gem that aims to fuse several roles under one roof — cafe, concert venue and art gallery. The ultimate mission of How Art Thou Café was to create a place where artists are encouraged to express their identity freely. Since it is not a restaurant in the fullest sense, the menu mainly features sandwiches, tapas, wraps and salads, with the famous Joshua’s batterito being the house specialty – a wrap of chicken, avocado, black beans and chipotle. Wine and beer-tasting Tuesdays, jazz Fridays and Saturdays, lively brunches on Sundays and art displays all week long make How Art Thou Café the area’s uplifting cultural hot-spot.

Two Boroughs Larder

Charcuterie, Restaurant, American, $$$
Two Boroughs Larder was opened in 2011 by husband and wife Josh and Heather Keeler, who moved to Charleston from Philadelphia. The once art-focused Josh used this restaurant as his creative outlet and, off the tourist track, Two Boroughs Larder is definitely on Charleston’s list of must-try venues. The venue is famed for its rich, tasty breakfasts and contemporary American-inspired kitchen featuring an outstanding charcuterie platter, mouth-watering burgers and many other fresh dishes, while guaranteeing that vegetarians feel welcome as well. The owners keep a careful eye on the ingredients, using local farms as their primary suppliers. The quiet neighborhood and rustic, wooden interior guarantee relaxing fine dining at very affordable prices.

Basil Thai Cuisine

Restaurant, Thai, $$$
Voted as Charleston’s best Thai restaurant for multiple years, Basil Thai Cuisine is a charming and welcoming venue in the heart of the city. Created by two brothers who immigrated from Cambodia, the restaurant serves a wide array of terrific, authentic yet refined Thai food. The coconut soup, pad thai and basil duck are among the favorites, but the menu’s noodle rice and curried specialties have offer some delectable options as well. As for drinks, try one of their Thai beers.

Circa 1886 Restaurant

Nestled in Charleston’s historic area in a former carriage house, Circa 1886 Restaurant took its name from neighboring Wentworth Mansion, which was built in 1886. Under the leadership of Chef Marc Collins, Circa 1886 serves up an eclectic menu, blending international tastes with a healthy touch, and though the menu seems rather short at first sight, Circa never disappoints on the creative combination of flavors and delightful presentation. The interior is classic and elegant, with a fireplace and candlelight, making the restaurant the city’s high-end dining establishment.

McCrady’s Restaurant

The McCrady’s name has a long history stretching back to 1778, when the former tavern was opened by Edward McCrady. Until 2006, when new ownership took over and established the current restaurant, the venue was home to such events as a grand 30 course dinner for President George Washington in 1791. Its historical prominence, as well as the reputation of the current chef Sean Brock, elevates McCrady’s to one of Charleston’s finest cultural restaurants. The interior reflects a by-gone era but with modern accents; the fireplaces, brick walls, wooden furniture and archways all set the tone for a pleasant evening. Sit by the long bar or at any of the welcoming tables, McCrady’s meals and impeccable service will make sure you’re comfortable. Serving an American contemporary four to nine course menu, accompanied with over 1,000 wines, McCrady’s brings Charleston heritage in line with modern day foodie innovation.

Courtesy McCrady’s

Wild Olive

Opening its doors in 2009 and certified as South Carolina’s first Green Restaurant in 2013, Wild Olive is an Italian culinary gem. Serving homemade variations of all of Italy’s classic national dishes, Wild Olive follows the local trend of sustainability and active collaboration with local producers. The restaurant attempts to bring authentic Italian culture to a city where the occasional respite from Low Country dining is certainly welcomed by adventurous locals.

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