The task of selecting some of the city’s top dishes was challenging, but we narrowed it down to a few delicious contenders. Here are our recommendations for some perfect quick bites to be found in Charleston:
1. Cheese Biscuits at Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q: We love a good biscuit, and the cheese biscuits at Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Que are more than good, they are addictively amazing. Luckily, they sell a kit to make them at home and for anyone who dines in one of their restaurants. Once seated, you are served a warm basket full of the cheesy delicious bites. The key is to eat just a few — that is, if you can manage to stop and save room for the rest of the meal you’ve ordered.
2. Pretzels at The Gin Joint: This tucked-away bar is the place to go for some of the city’s best cocktails, but their snack menu at The Gin Joint is not to be overlooked. Perfect to eat while sipping on drinks like Nerd Alert, Card Shark, and Colonel Angus, the soft pretzels melt in your mouth and are delicious when dipped in the accompanying sriracha-laced cheese.
3. Deviled Eggs at The Glass Onion Any restaurant that serves deviled eggs on the daily menu is a friend of ours. At The Glass Onion, Jennie Ruth’s deviled eggs are a staple and can be purchase individually for 75 cents each. Chef and owner Chris Stewart uses his grandmother’s recipe for this dish and adds his secret Thunder Sauce for a little kick. If you want the recipe for your own, be sure to pick up a copy of The Glass Onion Classics Recipe Book sold at the restaurant before leaving.
4. Oyster Sliders at The Ordinary<>: One of the cheapest items on the menu at The Ordinary are the oyster sliders. Lightly breaded fried oysters lay inside a Hawaiian roll from nearby Brown’s Court Bakery. Filled with a pickled cabbage and carrot slaw, sriracha, and fish sauce, every bite is perfection. At just $6 per slider, we recommend ordering a pan full.
5. Scones at WildFlour Pastry: It is no secret that Lauren Mitterer is one of the most talented pastry chefs in the south. She keeps quiet in her tiny bakery, but the secret is out on how incredible her sweet and savory treats are. Walking into the space, you are overtaken with the smell of the most amazing baked treasures — cakes, cookies, and muffins galore. We recommend the scone of the day, which often feature ham and cheese, berries, jam, and more.
6. Butter Bean Salad at Monza: One might go into Monza for pizza or pastas, but one of the best dishes is the butter bean salad comprising fresh shelled butter beans that are topped with lemon and olive oil. Don’t skimp out and be sure to add the house tuna conserva that makes it the perfect dish to provide the energy needed for the day.
7. Wings at Home Team BBQ: Chef Aaron Siegel’s wings are famous and were recently selected by Star Chefs to be featured at their annual conference in New York. The secret is the 10-hour process to make them, from smoking to confiting the meat, to then rendering them until they are “fall-off-the-bone” tender. Right before serving, they are flash-fried to caramelize the sugar on the skin. Served with the secret Alabama white sauce, a dozen might not be enough once you start eating them.
8. Duck Fat Fries at the Tattooed Moose: If you are more of a dive bar kind of person, then one of the best for food, cheap beverages, and atmosphere is the Tattooed Moose. The menu is filled with great sandwiches but the highlight is an order of a basket of hand-cut duck fat fries. You can order them plain with a side of homemade garlic aioli, topped with bleu cheese fondue sauce, or with duck gravy.
9. Bacon Happy Hour at The Macintosh: Named after chef Jeremiah Bacon, the Bacon Happy Hour is a deal at $5 plates from 5 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. The menu changes daily and currently features pork dip, confit duck wings, and pork-filled lettuce wraps, all which pairs well with the cocktail featured of the evening.
10. Fried Chicken at Martha Lou’s: there are many opinions about who has good fried chicken in Charleston, but one of our votes is at Martha Lou’s. Ambiance alone wins as this bright pink building featuring a mural of Martha Lou herself serves as the restaurant’s signage. When you enter, you know if Martha Lou is in and if you’re lucky she will place your chicken order — which takes 20 minutes, so be prepared to wait — and entertain you with her stories.
11. Chicken Soup at Santi’s: If you are tending to a massive hangover or just need something hearty, head to Santi’s. The margaritas alone can cure anything but the real gem is Mama’s Specialty: a chicken soup with beef-filled tortillas, lettuce, tomato, Chihuahua cheese, avocado, and sour cream all mixed in.
12. Fondue at Fast & French: you can only get it on Thursday nights, but the fondue at Fast & French is a treat. This restaurant is another longstanding local jewel and hidden away from the more bustling tourist areas of town. The fondue selections include beef, seafood, Swiss, and blue cheese and makes for the perfect date night.
13. Loaded Tater Tots at The Alley: Loaded tots are what to order at this one-stop entertainment establishment. Topped with sour cream, chives, and house made pork belly, the tots make for the perfect snack to eat while bowling.
14. Piggy Plate at The Grocery: The bar at The Grocery has an extended counter to sit at and order snacks, and The Piggy Plate is the perfect option. A staple dish for the hot spot, the plate comes on a pig-shaped cutting board and features five cured meats like house made city ham, pork cheeks, mortadella, and pâtés along with mustard and some of chef Kevin Johnson’s prized pickled vegetables and relishes.
15. Benne Seed Salsa at Minero: we hope that Sean Brock soon bottles and sells the now-famous benne seed salsa at Minero. Brock sourced the benne from West Africa and it is probably one of the best salsa out there. Accompanied by two other dips and served with handmade chips, the salsa is the star of the show.