The Best Restaurants in Downtown, Charleston, SC

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Richard Tulis

This charming small town is adrift in salty sea air and emits nothing but coastal class. The palm trees conflate with a bustling downtown district, filled with small shops and local cafés. Walk along King Street and become accommodated with a relaxing Southern feel. There is no shortage of 18th century architecture in Charleston, complete with Victorian and Georgian style houses – many of them renovated as some of the restaurants in the American South.

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Halls Chophouse

Juicy steaks & gourmet sides

Well known for its juicy, tender cut steaks, Halls Chophouse provides a menu with plenty of turf to complement its surf. Coming in at number 17 in Yelp’s Top 100 Restaurants of 2015, Halls Chophouse emulates professionalism and possesses a stark reputation. Try a tender, 14-ounce New York strip, a 16-ounce dry aged rib eye, or even the dry aged 26-ounce porterhouse cut depending on the appetite in question. Halls boasts a set of signature sides ranging from gourmet lobster macaroni and cheese to their highly flavorful pepper jack creamed corn skillet.

Coast Bar & Grill

Restaurant, Seafood, $

This downtown spot features a full open-air patio and roomy bar. There are palm trees lining the edifice and original plates lining the menu. The selection presents several seafood-style starters such as coast crab soup and fried oyster salad. Continue down to the entrée section in order to encounter the crab encrusted tilapia, which is delicately baked and topped with crab, chives, Parmesan cream, and sautéed green beans. Coast also has a plethora of house specialties, including their delectable lemon baked Carolina crab cakes.

Husk

Southern Living calls Husk a result of chef Sean Brock’s ‘sensibility’ and compliments it as the ‘archetype’ of his skills, projected into consumable perfection. The truth is, this restaurant is as Southern as it gets. Everything from the cornbread to the cornmeal, the fried chicken to the fried cabbage – and even the field peas – is packed with the flavor of true comfort food. Since Husk changes its menu twice a day, it is imperative to scan over the supper options meticulously. The restaurant also offers brunch from 10 am to 2:30 pm on Sundays.

The Grocery

Restaurant, American, $$

Locally paraded by the Charleston City Paper, the Grocery serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday in addition to preparing weekend brunch. The downtown area can be quite crowded, so it’s nice to see parking that is both on-site and complementary here. For those who wish to make a reservation online, take a quick peek at the menu as well. The Grocery derives much of its produce section from only the most local farm sources, and for good reason – the squash salad and Ambrose farm beets are two of the restaurant’s very popular vegetable dishes.

Smoke BBQ

Bar, Restaurant, BBQ, $

In a June 11th article appearing in Charleston Eater, this brand new joint stole the spotlight. Finally, the successor of Motorbar has assumed its new role on King Street, and it’s off to a hot (or should that be ‘smoky?’) new start. This trendy spot has an affinity for all things smoked. Smoked tomato ketchup, smoke infused rye whiskey… you name it, they smoke it. Smoke BBQ’s Cuban sandwich plate is packed with tender pork and crisp pickles and served on a fluffy, yet slightly toasted bun. Ask about the bar’s locally brewed selection of IPAs while you await your food.

Fleet Landing

Restaurant, Seafood, $

Where to begin? Perhaps with the waterfront setting? Or how about Fleet Landing’s superb view of the pier? This retired naval building is home to some of the freshest seafood Charleston has to offer. The Carolina crab cakes come with a red pepper sauce and crispy fried onions, the seared shrimp is accompanied by outstanding pimiento cheese grits, and the restaurant’s seaside location even includes a free view of energetically playful dolphins swimming across the coastline. Make sure to plan ahead; Fleet Landing usually requires a reservation.

Ted’s Butcherblock

Butcher, Charcuterie, Food Truck, American, Vegetarian

For anyone beginning to feel a bit seasick, fear not: Ted’s Butcherblock has the cure for any landlubber. Their arsenal of ciabatta paninisGreek style, grilled vegetable, the New Orleans Mortadella and salami – combines with hearty entrée options such as the house smoked brisket, prepared with natural, local beef. Ted’s is also known for its catering abilities, so no matter the occasion (Low-country boils, family reunions, and the like), simply make room for their food truck and watch Ted’s do the rest.

Cru Café

Cafe, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, $

Coming in at number eight on USA Today’s 10 Best in Charleston, Cru Café garners thick crowds throughout the day, and it has become a challenge for many to get in without at least a little bit of resolve. But boy, is it worth it… this artful powerhouse of a kitchen has been slinging pleasingly crispy fried green tomatoes and brazenly crafted grilled swordfish with butternut squash like no other since its much awaited opening in 2002. Cru also brings fresh soups and salads to the table in order to top off their always popular rotating specials. Situated in an 18th century Charleston-style brick and mortar home, Cru’s layout stands out just as comfortably as its food does.

Early Bird Diner

Diner, American, Vegetarian
A gleaming staple of Food Network’s ‘On the Road’ series, Early Bird Diner embodies a made-from-scratch ambiance. Don’t let the name fool you – Early Bird serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But this one stop shop’s chicken and waffles plate may be too tempting to resist. The pecan encrusted fried chicken rests atop a cinnamon drizzled, fluffy-as-ever waffle, complete with rich, sweet syrup. Early Bird Diner’s late weekend hours extend to 4 am, and the restaurant’s walls are lined with pieces from local artists in order to adorn the establishment with a true Southern touch.

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