As much as we all love a good home-cooked meal, sometimes you just really want to eat out. Whether it’s a special occasion like a birthday, anniversary, or a first date, eating in a fine restaurant is always a treat.
Here we’ve compiled a list of the 12 best restaurants in Charleston SC for you to explore!
What Is Charleston SC Famous For?
Charleston is the largest and oldest city in South Carolina and is full of historically significant sites. It’s located on Charleston Harbor which is where the rivers Ashley, Cooper and Wando converge. The city has a population of over 760,000 and covers a total area of 127.5 square miles.
Charleston is a beautiful city to visit at any time of the year as the winters are mild and the summers are hot and humid. Charleston is well-known for its cultural mix of traditional Southern U.S., French, English, and West African influences.
Charleston’s annual Spoleto Festival USA is held in late spring and showcases the performing arts. Other popular festivals include the Historic Charleston Foundation’s Festival of Houses and Gardens, the Lowcountry Oyster Festival, the Charleston Food and Wine Festival.
A major event in the library industry is the Charleston Conference, that’s been held in the city center since 1980.
How We Chose Our List of the 12 Best Restaurants in Charleston SC
When we compiled our list of Restaurants we wanted to make sure that we catered for a large variety of tastes and styles. We’ve included some budget-friendly options as well as the more expensive.
You’ll notice that there’s restaurants suitable for the whole family and some that are appropriate for date night. We judged the venues by the value for money they provided, their atmosphere, menu range, and customer reviews where available.
The 12 Best Restaurants in Charleston SC
When a Restaurant has the tagline of Eat up – Drink up you know its going to be one of those places you’ll want to spend a lot of time in.
Open since Spring 2017, Uptown Social is a festive bar located in a renovated turn-of-the-century building on Upper King Street. It’s truly a Charleston original.
Uptown Social boasts a rooftop deck, 40 plus tvs, four projection screens, and daily happy hours. The menu includes such delights as Pizza dough bites, Tarvin family shrimp tacos, and Parm truffle fries. For dessert you can treat yourself to mason jar s’mores or cinnamon dough bites.
The bar has a wide selection of beer in bottles and cans, along with a good selection of wines. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can treat yourself to a signature cocktail. With names like Shipwreck’d, Grape-full dead, and (un)safe haven, you might want to make sure you have plenty of food with your drinks. Perhaps start with an Uptown old-fashioned.
2. Chubby Fish
We all know that chubby fish are the best kind of fish. Owners Geoff Shyatt and Chef James London have partnered with local fishermen and farmers to offer spectacular seafood dishes. The restaurant can be found on Coming Street and they are open Tuesdays through to Saturdays.
The menu changes daily, depending on what fish was caught that morning, but some of the treats have included stone crab claws, grilled squid, and Sea Cloud oysters. If you’re not in the mood for fish, you can try the mustard glaze short rib or half chicken with cilantro braised cabbage and ginger soy.
3. Parcel 32
A winner of this year’s Diner’s Choice award this charming restaurant is located in a renovated 1837 home on King Street.
This is a gorgeous eatery with a distinctly Charleston flavor. The bar features regular happy hours and cocktails and they are currently redecorating a space on the second floor that will be available for special events.
The kids get a separate menu at Parcel 32 and the Smash Burger is probably the most popular dish.
The adult’s menu includes the pan roasted Sumac day boat catch and Josper open fire broiler hen. Extras of cinnamon buttered carrots and Lowcountry creamery yoghurt are just parts of the reason Parcel 32 is so popular.
If it’s atmosphere you’re looking for, this is the place to be. The Vintage Lounge is also known as the Jewel of King Street, and with good reason. Its been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast, and Hospitality Design Magazine.
But its not just the atmosphere that makes the Vintage Lounge special. They have live music most nights and you can book a vintage wine tasting experience to top off your evening. During your meal you can try the Blind and if your best guess is correct, your glass of wine is free.
The food menu has an extensive selection with sections titled Buttery Oozey, Funky Rich and Nutty Smooth. And that’s just the cheese. The dinner menu contains delights like Truffled Fontina Fondue and Cupid’s Cup Oysters. For Charcuterie you can indulge in salty, sweet, hot, wild, and decadent choices.
The Basic Kitchen could have made it onto our list of best restaurants in Charleston SC, just because of its order online service.
However, it also has one of the most delicious and healthy menus in Charleston. Basic Kitchen offer a rotating menu with lots of grains, legumes, spices, vinegars, and healthful oils.
The restaurant is bright and airy with a beautiful courtyard. They offer lunch, brunch, dinner and drinks menus and you must try the vegan ice cream. Because the Basic Kitchen wants to promote healthy living and communities, all their wines are made from sustainably grown grapes, which are often biodynamic and organic.
Even the name sounds comfortable and warm, doesn’t it? Betty’s Eatery serve an all-day breakfast, sides all day long and original classic sodas.
Reading the menu will take you back to Sunday’s at Grandma’s house. The weekend brunch menu is full of dishes like country fried chicken, shrimp po’boy and Bourbon caramel cinnamon bun with orange glaze.
Betty’s Eatery is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm. At the weekends, brunch is served between 10am and 3pm.
As you’ve probably guessed by the name, Miller’s serve an all-day breakfast, but that’s not all. Their inviting restaurant has an antique flour mill that operates in the front window and vinyl albums decorating the walls.
The menu included Southern favorites like grits, corn muffins, and biscuits and gravy. Wine, beer, coffee, tea, and juices are also available and there’s a fine selection of cocktails. Banana nut muffins and moon cakes can be found in the bakery along with some tasty looking cookies.
You can even take the taste of Miller’s home with you. The shop sells Unicorn grits, Bear jam, and Indigo popcorn. You can take a cap or a t-shirt away with you or take an oyster shell dish home to display.
Inspired by traditional European cooking and traditions of the Lowcountry, Purlieu’s menu choices include frog leg tarte as a starter, Duck Prosciutto for a main, and tobacco onions as a side dish. The restaurant can be found in Charleston’s Westside, but you could be forgiven for thinking you’d walked in to a French country café.
The wine and beverage menus have some delightful non-alcoholic selections such as Charleston Plantation hot tea and sugar cane root beer. Wine choices include a 2015 Albert Bichot, Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) and a 2016 Domaine de Corbilliéres, Touraine Sauvignon (Sauvignon Blanc).
There are a lot of seafood restaurants on our list of the best restaurants in Charleston SC, but that’s because of the abundance of fish that can be found in the area. Freshly caught fish has a distinct taste to it that is unrivalled. The Establishment put their own unique twist on the typical seafood restaurant.
The open kitchen with chef’s table allows the anticipation to grow as you watch the meal’s being cooked.
The menu offers Razor clams with gazpacho, jalapeno, and verjus, Duck with crispy confit, raw vegetables, and blackberry, and many other culinary delights. A private dining space can be hired and seats up to 40 people.
Renzo’s wood-fired pizza and natural wine restaurant was opened in March 2018. Erik and Nayda Hutson have created a unique space for their customers that encourages conversation and laughter. Erik did most of the work himself, right down to building the booths and tables.
The menu includes some interesting selections including wood-fired octopus and a Wrath of Kahan pizza. If that doesn’t tickle your taste-buds, you can have a Mayor Quimby pizza instead. You can finish your meal off with a Guava Pastelito sundae.
The wine menu consists of natural wines produced by small, family-run estates. Nayda likes to promote underrated wine regions and highlight lesser-known bottles.
11. Zen Asian Fusion
Rhong Zhou and his family came to America from China, by way of Japan in the late 80s. In 2010, they opened Zen Asian Fusion in Charleston SC and their business, and menu, have continued to grow since then.
Zen’s philosophy is that food is an art that should be enjoyed with all five senses.
The sushi menu offers a wide range of choices including Black Angel and Godzilla signature rolls. The main menu offers traditional Chinese cuisine next to Southeast Asian food. The chef’s signature meals include steamed or grilled wild Chilean sea bass and seasonal steak.
12. The Alley
This is a great place to take the kids, without having to worry about disturbing other diners. There’re bowling lanes, pinball machines and classic arcade games. The Alley has three bars, two 160-inch projection screens and too many tv’s to count.
The Alley is host to many regular events such as Hip-Hop BBQ nights, live trivia, and happy hours.
They also have space for private parties and some fabulous kids’ packages. The birthday boy or girl will get their own autographed bowling pin to take home.
The menu here covers soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers. Most kids and adults would love a meal that consist of boiled peanuts, Holy City Chilli, and a black bean quinoa sandwich or pizza burger. How about some fresh fruit, ranch mac & cheese, or tater tots for a side dish?
If you still have some room left you can have ice cream, fried Oreos or a fried Oreo sundae for dessert. The beverage options include cranberry, pineapple, and orange juice.
The Final Word on the 12 Best Restaurants in Charleston SC.
Seafood features heavily on our list, you would expect from a harbor town. The beauty of Charleston SC’s seafood restaurants is that they all have their own unique style and atmosphere.
Due to the multicultural influences in Charleston, you don’t have to eat seafood every day though. There’s plenty of variety from each culture to tempt you.