11 Hottest Restaurants in Charleston

By Christopher Hassiotis | May 12, 2014 By Christopher Hassiotis  |  May 12, 2014
Photo by: The Ordinary

That road-trip itch is a persistent one, but one of the best ways for Atlantans to scratch it during the summer is with a trip to Charleston, S.C. Located in the coastal Lowcountry region and just a few hours away, it features a markedly different take on Southern culture and cuisine. And with the two-week cultural festival Spoleto (May 23-June 8) coming up, now's a great time to visit - and to eat! Classics choices like Hominy Grill and the much-lauded FIG and Husk are there and serving fantastic food, but also feature disheartening waits or tough-to-snag reservations. The following restaurants are promising new favorites or less heralded spots worth a visit. (And remember, there's more to the city's food than shrimp and grits!)

  • Básico

    Why It's Hot: Seasonal, local fare given a Mexican spin? Flavorful tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and a dang good burger? Sangrias of the day? Yes, please.

    Must-Order: Get any taco you like (served on housemade and -griddled corn or flour tortillas), but be sure to get a side of the turnip greens, an excellent and spicy example of how Southern and Mexican food gets along.

    Insider Tip: If it's not too humid out, ask to be seated on one of the restaurant's picnic-style tables under the trees.

    4399 McCarthy St., North Charleston; 843-471-1670

  • Edmund's Oast

    Why It's Hot: A newly opened brewpub in the northern part of town brings craft beer, cocktails and chef-driven food to the neighborhood.

    Must-Order: The menu changes regularly, but keep an eye on the charcuterie - all butchering, curing, aging and seasoning is done in-house by chef Andy Henderson and his team.

    Insider Tip: Sunday brunch starts early - 10 AM - so set an alarm if you want to grab a seat.

    1080 Morrison Dr.; 843-727-1145

  • Nigel's Good Food

    Why It's Hot: You're in the South, and you need some soul food with personality. Up in the separate city of North Charleston, you'll find this full-service restaurant-by-day, bar-by-night eager to serve great classic dishes.

    Must-Order: The sweet, spicy and crispy Geechie Wings are truly addictive, while the Lowcountry ravioli comes packed with grilled chicken, bacon, black-eyed peas, collard greens and cheese.

    Insider Tip: Order one of three Kool-Aid flavors (lemonade, "red" and "purple") for a nostalgic sweet drink.

    3760 Ashley Phosphate Rd., North Charleston; 843-552-0079

  • The Ordinary

    Why It's Hot: This seafood hall's located in a renovated bank, and the space is as grand as the food is fresh. The FIG team's behind The Ordinary, creating a spot with just as much vigor and confidence, whether the food's coming from the raw bar or the main kitchen.

    Must-Order: The BBQ white shrimp is tangy, spicy, a little funky and a lot delicious.

    Insider Tip: The Ordinary features three-course, $35 prix fixe menus every day of the week except for Mondays (when the restaurant's closed).

    544 King St.; 843-414-7060

  • Palace Hotel

    Why It's Hot: Charleston's East Side isn't (yet) hopping, and this brand-new bar with quality beers and a sizable list of creative hot dogs and sandwiches is bringing some life to the 'hood.

    Must-Order: The Angry Tom, pictured above, is a Wagyu dog made with char siu glaze, wasabi nori, seasonal kimchi and a red-curry mayo.

    Insider Tip: Phone about to die? Don't sweat it - the Palace has USB chargers located at most bar seats.

    35 Hanover St.; 843-501-7994

  • Poogan's Porch

    Why It's Hot: Chef Daniel Doyle cooks terrific takes on Lowcountry dishes, sourcing locally as much as possible. The restaurant's housed in a restored Victorian charmer, with large windows and an inviting atmosphere.

    Must-Order: The Calabash-style seafood takes its lightly fried flavors from a town just across the border with North Carolina.

    Insider Tip: Looking for food on a Sunday, or a holiday? Poogan's is open 365 days a year.

    72 Queen St.; 843-577-2337

  • Sesame Burgers & Beer

    Why It's Hot: This local burger chain with three locations uses hormone-free beef and antibiotic-free, cage-free chicken and turkey, all in the name of a tastier, healthier product.

    Must-Order: The Memphis burger's a real indulgence, topped with bacon, banana slices and housemade peanut butter.

    Insider Tip: Don't see a combo you like? You can build your dream burger by choosing from Sesame's vast array of toppings.

    Multiple locations

  • Sweet Radish Bakeshop

    Why It's Hot: As Charleston's only exclusively gluten-free bakery, Sweet Radish features a menu that changes depending on what ingredients are freshest (keep up with the day's offerings via Facebook). A number of the baked treats are vegan too.

    Must-Order: Their cupcake made with rose-flavored buttercream frosting is nice and mellow, and not as perfumey as you might think it'd be.

    Insider Tip: Sweet Radish is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

    207A St. Philip St.; 843-573-7105

  • Two Boroughs Larder

    Why It's Hot: Open for less than three years, this spot in the downtown neighborhood of Cannonborough-Elliotborough takes its dedication to American seasonal cooking seriously, while working capably in the trends of the day with nightly specials (ramen Tuesdays, burger Wednesdays, etc.) to keep things ever-changing.

    Must-Order: Don't miss the breakfast sandwiches from Two Boroughs Larder. They're all made with local meats, eggs and cheeses.

    Insider Tip: The Larder doesn't take reservations; plan your schedule accordingly.

    186 Coming St.; 843-637-3722

  • Warehouse

    Why It's Hot: Playful and modern takes on classic bar food combine with a terrific beer selection and a lively atmosphere at this clubby new spot. The drinks and foosball bring in crowds, as does the popular Sunday brunch.

    Must-Order: The confit wings come flavored with either a Memphis-style dry rub or with house barbecue flavors. And don't pass on dessert, either; the seasonal empanadas from Empanada Mamma draw parallels between Latin food and traditional Southern fried pies.

    Insider Tip: Keep up with Warehouse's live-music and event schedule via Facebook

    45 1/2 Spring St.; 843-202-0712

  • Xiao Bao Biscuit

    Why It's Hot: Chef Josh Walker's one of our 10 Southern chefs to watch, and that's due to his delicious multi-culti culinary mashups. What began as an Asian-comfort-food pop-up is now bringing the creativity of Charleston's fine dining into a welcome, casual environment.

    Must-Order: The dinner menu features samun phrai, a spicy and herbal Thai sausage dish that's tough to find even at most Thai restaurants.

    Insider Tip: Word around town is the XBB team's opening a new place in Charleston after considering other cities. Keep your ears to the ground.

    224 Rutledge Ave.; no phone

Places Mentioned

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King St. Historic District
Atmo.28 Decor28 Service25 Cost$51
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Food28 Decor23 Service26 Cost$52
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Hominy Grill

Southern AmericanCannonborough/Elliotborough
Food26 Decor20 Service23 Cost$23
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Two Boroughs Larder

Food28 Decor26 Service25 Cost$34

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