Great Charleston Restaurants for Visitors to the City
Courtesy of Kevin Lacassin
Here are some of my (our) favorite restaurants in Charleston, listed in no particular order. They are all great for first time visitors and exemplify the local cuisine and culture. This is by no means a complete list, but from experienced foodie travelers, this will give you some solid recommendations based on our experiences and research. Updated July 2009.
In some cases, each restaurant is followed by the neighborhood where it is located. All of the downtown restaurants are within walking distance (to downtown, of course). Websites are listed. Prices listed below assume that you’re eating well, probably with a bottle of wine.
$ - Cheap / Dive
$$ - Casual Dress and price
$$$ - Dress Nice and bring your MasterCard
$$$$ – More expensive, dressy
Magnolia’s – downtown, $$$ – probably the most popular shrimp and grits in Charleston can be had at Magnolia’s. Great upscale but relaxed atmosphere and fantastic service. They carry a decent selection of half-bottles of wine, which is super convenient for lunch. Besides the shrimp and grits, just about anything on the menu is worth ordering. Cool bar as well, so you can stop in for a casual meal or appetizer with a drink at the bar. http://www.magnolias-blossom-cypress.com/
Blossom – downtown, $$ – This is the “casual” sister restaurant by the group that owns Magnolia’s. Great pizza cooked in a wood fired oven and pretty decent sandwiches. One of the best things we’ve eaten in Charleston was the crabmeat stuffed ravioli in a roasted corn and cream sauce with a half-bottle of King Estate Pinot Gris. Fantastic food and if you are in the mood for an afternoon appetizer with a drink, they’re bar is a great place to sit. Another plus is a decent selection of half-bottles of wine. http://www.magnolias-blossom-cypress.com/
39 Rue De Jean – $$$ – A real French Bistro with the food and atmosphere to match. Excellent food and outstanding frites (French fries). Love the mussels, Steak au poivre , beef short ribs, sushi (yes, believe it or not) and pretty much everything we’ve had there. http://www.39ruedejean.com/
Coast – $$$ – Really good and fresh seafood in a somewhat casual setting. Next door to 39 Rue de Jean and owned by the same restaurant group. I had a great fried softshell crab on top of a seafood linguine. http://www.coastbarandgrill.com/
Virginia’s on King – $$ - Casual but really good food. Southern style food, and reasonably priced with a nice and comfortable atmosphere. Fried crawfish appetizer was great, as were their homemade biscuits. Have only been there for lunch. http://www.virginiasonking.com/
Poogan’s Porch – downtown, $/$$ – GREAT brunch and can be inexpensive. Only been there once but cannot wait to return. They have great Bloody Mary and Mimosa specials on Sunday mornings, so drinks are cheap. The food was excellent, especially the breakfast shrimp and grits. http://www.poogansporch.com/index.html
SNOB (Slightly North Of Broad)- downtown, $$$$ – Arguably the best meal I’ve had in Charleston was at SNOB. We began by splitting a Grilled BBQ Tuna, which was a beautiful piece of grilled ahi tuna, served rare and topped with perfectly fried oysters and a mustard based BBQ sauce. We followed that with filet mignon (for my wife) and an unbelievable duck dish for me. Our waitress, Mel, recommended a great bottle of wine and we shared dessert, though I was probably still thinking about the BBQ tuna! http://www.mavericksouthernkitchens.com/snob/
Hominy Grill – $/$$ – We had a great brunch at Hominy grill and would recommend it. Small place, so you can expect a wait unless you get there early. http://www.hominygrill.com/
Taco Boy – Folly Beach, $ – Great little taco place about a block from the beach, on Folly Beach. Pretty good margaritas too; we tried several tacos and really liked them all, especially the seared tuna taco. http://www.tacoboy.net/
Was Not Impressed
82 Queen – We had one meal there and will not return. The menu reads very well but the food didn’t impress. We made a meal with a bottle of wine and five or six different appetizers but nothing really stood out. The waitstaff was snooty and the atmosphere seemed a bit “dated.” Spend your money elsewhere.
Heard These Were Good; they’re all on our list for future visits, but have not had the opportunity to dine.
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