If you’ve stepped onto the Charleston peninsula, you know it’s a place that’s completely unique unto itself. Almost every trip is bike-able, and while the historic city may have a heavy tourist element, don’t go looking for Charleston’s version of Times Square. Think elegant antebellum architecture, preserved stone streets, and theaters dating back hundreds of years. The good folks of Charleston recognize the beauty in their roots, and do everything possible to preserve them. And when it comes to Charleston culture, food is right smack in the center.
Lowcountry cuisine is a huge part of the areas identity — think a combination of Southern comfort food, fresh seafood right from the Atlantic, and heavy doses of French, Caribbean, Creole, and African influences. The unique food culture has made Charleston a perfect storm for distinctive Southern eating. Of course it helps that there’s enough old money in town to keep the fine-dining machine in perpetual motion.
And if one person has helped to put Lowcountry food on the national map, it’s chef Sean Brock. With Husk and McCrady’s, two restaurants that frequently receive national notices for excellence (including our “Best Restaurants in America” list), Brock has helped make Charleston a food destination.
But Husk and McCrady’s are just two of many Charleston restaurants keeping the Lowcountry on top of national lists. Joints like Trattoria Lucca and Wild Olive, which put a heavy emphasis on fresh seafood and pasta, have made for upstanding Italian eating in the area. Charleston institutions like Hominy Grill, Slightly North of Broad, and Charleston Grill continue to be worthwhile contributors, not to mention Circa 1886 and Two Boroughs Larder, which have grown to become local innovators.
New York is unmatchable. Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Francisco are top culinary spots too. But don’t sleep on Charleston, which as of late, has been holding its own with the greatest American food cities. Here are our choices for the best restaurants the Lowcountry has to offer.
15) Charleston Grill
Frequently receiving accolades as one of the best restaurants in the city, this jazz and food hot spot serves four categories of dishes: pure, lush, cosmopolitan, and Southern — each with its own theme (for example, the “pure” plates value simplicity). The experience isn’t nearly as pretentious as it sounds. This is simple Southern food made gourmet with careful flavoring and near-artistic plating. As lesser old-school Charleston institutions have fallen by the wayside, chef Michelle Weaver keeps the menu inspired.
14) Fat Hen
A John’s Island favorite, Fat Hen delivers everything you’d want from a French-Lowcountry crossover spot. Chef Fred Neuville sources local ingredients to create dishes that are sure to comfort, satisfy, and slowly expand your waist band. Bacon cheese grits? Potato au gratin? Pomme frites? Merci. The brunch is also a favorite among locals. How could anyone possibly argue with crème brûlée French toast?