After signing up for a photo workshop in Charleston, South Carolina, I reached out to a friend who has lived there for 18 years to inquire about top Charleston restaurants. While I’d heard Charleston offers fantastic cuisine, I found myself blown away by the quality and variety.
Dining on tasty dishes in historic locations while sipping creative craft cocktails cemented Charleston’s charm and appeal for me. When visiting, be sure to check out these 12 top Charleston restaurants.
Charleston Restaurants #1: Kick off a Charleston visit at farm-to-table Husk
Husk is one of the hottest restaurants within Charleston. Although reservations are hard to come by, it’s the perfect place to kick off your Charleston experience.
TOP TIP: To secure a spot at top Charleston restaurants like this, make sure to reserve two months in advance.
Not only will you be delighted with the fresh farm-to-table offerings that change daily at this phenomenal restaurant, you will love the gorgeous, historic home in which it is situated. Check out the chalkboard when you enter displaying the source farms for each item – a nice personalized touch.
We enjoyed starting with an arugula, strawberry and pecan salad with a preserved peach dressing. And, pairing brown butter cauliflower, smoked tomato and greens with a savory chicken, spring pea, and kale dish is a delicious combination.
Husk’s cocktail offerings are incredibly unique as well. The “Turn the Page” with vodka, hibiscus, vanilla and page mandarin orange is refreshing.
TOP TIP: If you aren’t able to secure a reservation at Husk, pop into “The Bar at Husk,” located right next door in a beautifully restored kitchen house.
Interestingly, mid 19th century Charleston kitchens were in a detached building outside the main house to minimize potential fire damage.
Grab a seat upstairs in the comfortable second floor lounge and admire century old brick and exposed wooden beams. Sip on a classic cocktail created by their talented mixologists or sample unique microbrews and wines by terroir and soil type.
I really enjoyed spending my last evening here, reminiscing on the fantastic time I had exploring and photographing. Savoring a cocktail and nibbling on Pimento cheese (a Southern staple that appears on many top Charleston restaurants menus made with cheese, mayo, and pimento peppers) and crackers is the perfect finale.
Charleston Restaurants #2: Delight in the low country cuisine at Slightly North of Broad
Don’t miss the opportunity to dine at SNOB – Slightly North of Broad. This top Charleston restaurant offers iconic “low country cuisine” in an 18th century warehouse. This cool space allows you to observe the hustle and bustle within the kitchen as it prepares delectable offerings.
I thoroughly enjoyed my poached pear salad with marcona almonds and a delicious lavender vinaigrette. The scrumptious vegetable plate is one of the best I have ever had. Highlights included citrus glazed sweet potatoes, sautéed local kale and decadent mashed potatoes. The “Cider Mule” with vodka, apple cider, lemon and ginger ale served as an ideal accompaniment.
TOP TIP: Make sure to save room for a rich pot de crème. If you can, request Pauli Maloni as your server – his upbeat attitude and exceptional service made our experience that much more enjoyable.
Charleston Restaurants #3: Marvel at the delectable fried chicken at 5 Church
5 Church has the most unique space of all the top Charleston restaurants in which we dined. Located in an old church, you’ll spend time admiring the ornate stained glass windows and picturesque arched roof, which has been hand painted with the “Art of War” text. Not surprisingly, this place is popular for Instagram photos.
The fried chicken at 5 Church is next level. Despite having not eaten chicken with skin or bones in 20 years, I opted to try it after my friend raved about the flavor resulting from the chili infused honey. Hands down – the BEST piece of fried chicken I have EVER eaten. I still dream about that perfectly spiced and succulent chicken breast and have talked about it almost every day since.
The farro risotto with curried carrot puree is also mouth-watering as is the beet salad with granola. This is not a combo I would have ever imagined working so well together. The “Ready Orgeat” cocktail, with vodka, strawberry, mint, cucumber, lemon and orgeat, is a well-balanced cocktail that paired well with all my dishes.
TOP TIP: Make sure to order the fried chicken as soon as you sit down as they were running out when we arrived for our 8:30PM reservation. Since it comes with four pieces, two people can easily split this dish.
Charleston Restaurants #4: Mix up cuisine with San Marzano tomato dishes at Indaco
If you are looking to diversify your meals after a few nights of Southern cooking, look no further than Indaco. It’s a fabulous Italian restaurant offering a yummy selection of salad, pasta and pizza.
When cooking Italian food at home, I always use San Marzano tomatoes in my soups and sauces. Their gemelli al telefono combines San Marzano tomatoes, burrata, garlic, capers and basil for a dish you will dream about. I still do! I also heard the Margherita pizza with San Marzano tomatoes is fantastic.
TOP TIP: Make sure to save room for dessert as the Apple Crostata with gelato is divine. Given its size, I’d recommend skipping or splitting appetizers to save room. The Burrata salad with fennel, pistachio, salsa verde and naval oranges is a tasty starter.
Some other top Charleston restaurants to check out for brunch or dinner include:
Charleston Restaurants #5: Indulge in eggs benedict at Obstinate Daughter
Obstinate Daughter. A short 20-minute drive from downtown, this top Charleston restaurant is named to commemorate a battle in 1776 where Sullivan Island patriots prevented the British from capturing Charleston.
A hip space with bar seating, booths and high top tables provides a variety of options to accommodate various group sizes.
At brunch, I usually indulge in eggs benedict as I never make poached eggs and hollandaise sauce at home – too much work. Obstinate Daughter’s tomato hollandaise is worth the calories!
I almost opted for the flatbread with butterbean puree since they are known for their flatbreads. The roasted beet plate and H.E.C croissant with egg, fontal cheese and garlic aioli were also tempting. Fortunately, beets feature prominently on many top Charleston restaurants menus.
Charleston Restaurants #6: Be surrounded by light at One Broad Street
One Broad Street While photographing the Battery and Rainbow Row, another photo workshop attendee discovered a cool former bank dating from 1853 on the corner of Broad and East Bay. This eatery houses a bakery, bar and restaurant.
They had me at fresh squeezed orange juice and shakshuka. Their shakshuka, which combines chickpeas with tomatoes, greens, eggs and salsa verde, hit the spot. Sit at the bar and watch the baristas greet regulars, lounge at one of the brightly lit tables or grab a delightful pastry and coffee to takeaway. Workshop counterparts raved about their baked goods sourced from Normandy Farms Artisan bakery.
They also have a sister restaurant at 19 Broad – Bar Normandy – that serves oysters and drinks.
Charleston Restaurants #7: Step back in time at Poogan’s Porch
Poogan’s Porch, yet another of top Charleston restaurants, dates from 1976 and offers both brunch and dinner. Located on Queen Street, next to Husk, it’s named after an adorable dog that used to live at the house.
It resides in a historic Grand Victorian home built in 1891 with dual level porches. Enjoying your dinner next to one of the warm fireplaces will keep you toasty on cold nights.
TOP TIP: Make sure to ask your hostess for their two short write-ups. The first summarizes Poogan’s Porch conversion from a home to a restaurant. The second is a ghost story surrounding Zoe Aman, a woman who resided at the home in the 1900s and apparently still “visits.”
And, be sure to peruse the framed autographs from celebrities and politicians who have eaten at this top Charleston restaurant in the hallway when you enter.
I tried fried green tomatoes here for the first time, enjoying the accompanying seasonal chutney immensely. They are well known for their shrimp and grits and fried catfish as well. But, since I don’t eat seafood, I didn’t try them.
Other top Charleston restaurants to try:
- Edmund’s Oast – They craft their own beer and cure their own meat. The charcuterie plate is a perfect starter to share.
- O-Ku – Although I didn’t make it here, I heard great things about this sushi restaurant that sources from Norway, Scotland, Hawaii, and New Zealand. I found the vegetarian avocado roll with asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumber and pickled ginger intriguing.
- Basil Thai – I evaluate Thai restaurants by their pad see ewe and theirs did not disappoint!
- Verde – Awesome customizable takeaway salads and juices, using compostable packaging and straws. I loved their buffalo cauliflower, baked falafel, wild rice and creamy poblano dressing. I wish we had these in San Francisco.
- Beech – After trying acai bowls in Maui for the first time recently, I’m hooked. Beech offers some tasty combos with kiwi and mango. The “Peachee Lychee” smoothie resulted in a happy dance by me. Since it’s incredibly rare to find lychee fruit on any menu, I relished the combo with peach, banana, lemon and coconut water. Hats off to them for using compostable packaging and straws as well!