In a culinary destination like Charleston, South Carolina, finding a place to eat can be really overwhelming. With so many popular, highly acclaimed places to choose from and a lot of healthy competition, I can understand why I am often asked for restaurant recommendations. While it would take a lot more time than my year in Charleston to explore all the city has to offer, I did discover some pretty delectable dishes during my time there. These unforgettable appetizers and entrees from my culinary explorations are both classic and out-of-the-box, but they all possess one common denominator: Fresh food made with quality, local ingredients, presented in style.
So, whether you’re planning a weekend trip to the beautiful Lowcountry, going out on a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner date (make that reservation snappy!) or simply looking to grab a quick bite for lunch, dig in to my Best of Charleston: Top Eight Most Memorable Plates. Each of these restaurants come highly recommended.
1. Duck & Waffles – Eli’s Table
Eli’s Table was the first and last restaurant I visited in Charleston. Owned by the Charleston Hospitality Group, it is easily one of my top recommendations. This was the best duck dish I ate all year (That’s saying something in a duck-obsessed town!). Moist, tender and juicy, the meat and waffles together were absolutely glorious.
2. The Ultimate Coconut Cake – Peninsula Grill
We visited Peninsula Grill for the sole purpose of eating this cake. I have to say, it was worth the parking ticket we received in downtown Charleston, and the more than $100 check we payed upon leaving that evening (my husband may beg to differ). Made famous by Bon Appétit, Saveur, Martha Stewart Living, The New York Times, TODAY Show, and Vogue, its 12 towering layers of fresh vanilla and coconut had me at hello. My only regret? Eating it after dinner. Eat dessert first. Don’t try this on a full stomach. Get the full story of the Ultimate Coconut Cake here.
3. Chargrilled Oysters – Cove Oyster Bar & Grille
This 1/2 dozen order of flame grilled oysters on the half shell with garlic and butter is a reason to visit Cove. One of Charleston Hospitality Group’s newest destinations, I loved the presentation of hot rocks and the salty, browned Parmesan cheese topping.
4. Nachos Mamas (Little Mamas with Cantina Chicken) – Mex 1 Coastal Cantina
These nachos are everything nachos should be: Crispy chips, decadent smoked chicken, creamy guacamole…I ate them for lunch and had leftovers. I personally love the coastal vibe in the restaurant, too. All the surfboard decor and live music creates an oceanfront-like dining experience.
5. Fried Pickles – Swig & Swine
Swig & Swine may be known for their BBQ, but don’t overlook the Fried Pickles. Of everything we ate here, they stood out for their spear shape and tangy taste. Crunchy and served with house-made honey mustard, they are Some Kinda Good! The Mac & Cheese here is also noteworthy.
6. Deep Fried Kale – HUSK
The star of this plate was the crispy kale. Lightly deep fried, it was pure enlightenment! We were truly amazed at the simple ecstasy this usual garnish-turned-side-dish elicited. Try this at home! The menu at HUSK changes daily, so it’s not guaranteed to make another appearance.
7. Blackened Shark Tacos – Five Loaves Cafe
Five Loaves Cafe is a really delightful place to eat. I ordered these blackened shark tacos with cabbage, cilantro and fresh pineapple for lunch one day. The flavors were so bright and healthy, I couldn’t resist!
8. Pecan Crusted Chicken, Virginia’s Macaroni & Cheese, Green Beans – Virginia’s On King
From the Supper Menu, I ordered a classic Southern, familiar meal – and tasting it was like having a seat at my Grandma’s table. Of all my restaurant experiences in Charleston, Virginia’s on King takes the cake. I love the family story behind this restaurant, but most of all, the incredibly reasonably priced menu. With Virginia’s on King, Holy City Hospitality has truly found the balance between upscale cuisine and down home comfort.
What are your top restaurants in Charleston?
Check out my slideshow for a few other fun food moments: