One of the top questions I get emailed goes a little something like this, “I’m coming to Charleston next month and was wondering if you have any recommendations of places to eat and things to do?” So to any of you who have asked me this before, thank you for inspiring this post! I don’t know why I haven’t done it sooner.
I knew good & well before starting this post that I couldn’t nail down all of my Charleston favorites in just one post. There’s too much goodness in this city. So I’ve decided to break it down into multiple parts: upscale restaurants, casual restaurants, shopping, and finally, various things to do (this one might include some nightlife for those of you planning bachelorette parties!).
The restaurant scene has exploded in Charleston, which works well for me since eating is one of my favorite things to do. Every time we try a new restaurant, two more new ones open. It’s hard to keep up sometimes! So even though I’ve hardly tried them all, these are my favorites in the fine dining category. You’ll probably recognize a lot of these from my instagram and previous posts.
rustic Italian cuisine
First of all, the restaurant itself is beautiful and although this photo is too, I just don’t think it does this gorgeous, warm space justice. The rustic vibes start on the outside with these giant wooden doors and continues inside with butcher block tables and lime-washed brick walls. I’ve nibbled on quite a bit from the menu and I’m always impressed with the unique combinations and the taste of absolutely everything. My favorite dish is the Black Pepper Tagliatelle, which has pork tesa, carbonara, egg yolk, chives, and pecorino romano cheese. Of course, I’ve never met one of their wood fired pizzas that I haven’t liked. The dessert is worth mentioning, as well. The salted caramel gelato is deserving of the praise hands emoji.
The atmosphere? Lively, in the heart of upper-King’s new expansion of bars and restaurants. Suited well for an intimate date or a large group.
seasonally-inspired cuisine with a commitment to using local and sustainable foods
Like most fine dining restaurants in Charleston, this menu changes seasonally, but at FIG (Food Is Good), it’s mainly because the ingredients are harvested locally. There are not a ton of offerings on the menu, but you better believe each and every item is going to be good (the chef is Mike Lata, for goodness sakes). What impresses me so much about this restaurant is the knowledge the servers have! I could spend forever just listening to them describe how each entree is prepared (mind-blowing). This creates a wonderful experience because you feel well taken care of at this restaurant—almost like you’ve been invited in for dinner by the FIG family, if that makes sense.
The atmosphere? Intimate and special, in a much less-lively part of town. The lighting is soft and the whole space feels elegant, yet cozy.
an upscale brewpub with thoughtful cuisine
So here’s the deal. If you can pick your jaw up off the floor when you go in and see the decor for yourself, make sure to eat the pickled shrimp. From someone who doesn’t even love pickled shrimp, I cannot seem to get this one off my mind. Their charcuterie boards are on point and the bar selection is amazing. They also brew their own beer—the PB&J beer is pretty amazing.
The atmosphere? I think this place has a good mix of big groups and romantic dates—so it’s suited for anyone and everyone. It’s a little removed from other restaurants, but they have a big parking lot, making it super convenient. There’s also an outdoor patio area that is perfect for happy hour. For me personally? This isn’t a place I would go with just Brandon on a date. In my opinion, this is somewhere you should go with your a group of friends to grab cocktails and multiple small plates.
asian cuisine with a southern approach
O-Ku has the best sushi I’ve ever tasted. I’ve said this since the restaurant opened in 2010 and have yet to find a restaurant that rivals it. I think you’ll be surprised at the interesting sushi combinations they have, much different than the tempura battered, cream cheese rolls you’ll find elsewhere. The fish is so fresh and tasty, something I don’t think I’ve ever said about another sushi restaurant. There are tons of other options if you aren’t a sushi lover, too. Brandon and I always share the rock shrimp to start, which is very similar to Bone Fish’s Bang Bang Shrimp. The cocktails are amazing too—some of the best in Charleston, in my opinion.
The atmosphere? Trendy, up-beat, and normally always hosting a table or two for a bachelorette party or birthday celebration. It kind of turns into a club after hours, so the later it gets…the more it becomes a party atmosphere. Brandon and I normally go around 7 to avoid this because we are old and boring. 😉
a southern seafood hall and oyster bar
This is not somewhere to go if you’re looking for a fried shrimp basket. The menu includes a fancier take on coastal southern comforts, like peekytoe crab toast, oyster sliders, a vast oyster bar selection, and tons more. You can expect the same concentration on local sustainability that you can find at FIG since it’s owned by the same team. The Ordinary is worth visiting just for the decor alone, but the food being awesome is just a little icing on the cake. Let me be real here, though. The portions are small. Don’t go if you’re absolutely starving unless you’re prepared to order lots of different things (which will add up quick). But if you’re wanting to try local seafood prepared in ways you’ve never thought of and aren’t wishing for an overflowing portion, this is your place. It’s a flavor explosion in the best of ways. The exception to the small portion claim I just made would by the daily prix fixe menu, which provides a soup, entree, and dessert for $35 (I want to go back for the lobster rolls on Tuesdays!).
The atmosphere? Full of energy and stylish. The 22ft tall ceilings and large windows give this place a grand feel (it used to be a bank in the 20s!).
“The Charleston Steakhouse”
Hall’s is a little treasure to Charleston. When you walk in the door, you’re genuinely greeted like an old friend and once inside, you’re pampered like family. I don’t say that lightly. As the name mentions, this steakhouse is owned by the Hall family, who is normally making rounds throughout the restaurant and eager to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves. The steak cuts are robust and the rest of the menu is amazing, as well. My two favorite things are the chop salad (I dream about it.) and the lobster mac & cheese. This is such a versatile place, too. It’s quite the happening place for after-dinner drinks and my absolute favorite brunch in Charleston, as well. Their Sunday Gospel Brunch is a real treat. The crab cake eggs benedict is mouth watering, plus they have gospel singers filling the restaurant with their soulful sounds. This place makes me happy.
Other upscale favorites (all downtown): Basil (thai, borderline casual atmosphere), Blossom (american cuisine with local ingredients and amazing seafood), 82 Queen (refined southern food with a beautiful outdoor courtyard!), and Cannon Green, which I’m sharing two photos of below because it’s too pretty for words.
|Borrowed & Blue and Charleston Eater|
I’ll be back soon with “My Favorite Things to do in Charleston, Parts 2, 3, 4, etc….!”