11 Hottest Restaurants in Charleston

By Christopher Hassiotis | September 28, 2015 By Christopher Hassiotis  |  September 28, 2015

That road-trip itch is a persistent one, but one of the best ways for Atlantans to scratch it during the fall is with a trip to Charleston, SC. 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 humidity and mosquitoes taking somewhat of a break, 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 and recent favorites or less heralded spots worth a visit. (And remember, there's more to the city's food than shrimp and grits!)

  • Mercantile and Mash

    Why It's Hot: The Indigo Road restaurant group (Macintosh, Indaco, Oak Steakhouse) has been transforming a space in the Cigar Factory into a double-sided space that's both cafe and kitchen-products shop on the Mercantile side, cocktail bar on the Mash side. Plentiful reclaimed wood contrasts with black metallics for a minimal, sleek yet rustic vibe in the bar, while clean white subway tiles brighten up the cafe and shop.

    Must-Order: The Flight Attendant cocktail pairs gin with mezcal and other aromatic spirits.

    Insider Tip: Want a preview of what to expect, but you're still in Atlanta? Indigo recently opened Oak Steakhouse and Colletta up in Alpharetta's Avalon, with more ATL restaurants planned for 2016.

    701 E. Bay St.; 843-793-2636

  • The Westendorff

    Why It's Hot: Global flavors meet Lowcountry at this new hot spot, where Italian arancini are likely made with grits and a coconut curry incorporates local seasonal veggies and seafood. The stylish look of the renovated Radcliffborough building adds to the draw, as does available-every-day brunch dishes.

    Must-Order: Dishes change daily depending on seasonal ingredients, but ricotta gnudi have appeared sometimes with pea purée, sometimes with local beets, pine nuts and honey.

    Insider Tip: On the floors above the restaurant space, the Westendorff also has spaces for large events and rooms that can be rented out for overnight stays.

    114 Saint Philip St.; 843-400-0026

  • Chick's Fry House

    Why It's Hot: Not all of Charleston's hot spots need to be high-end, as this much-anticipated diner-style spot specializing in fried chicken proves. The easygoing eatery's bright-blue booths gets crowded quickly thanks to its deft ways with a fryer, from crisp chicken to fluffy donuts.

    Must-Order: Fried chicken, naturally, either on the bone or in sandwich form. And add some housemade chow-chow for 50¢.

    Insider Tip: The chicken, pork and catfish at Chick's are all naturally raised.

    1011 King St.; 843-203-4871

  • Cannon Green

    Why It's Hot: Seasonal Mediterranean fare's delivered in a bright room and open courtyard that incorporates the facade of a pre–Civil War house. It's a unique space in a city already packed with historic sites.

    Must-Order: Brunch veers Latin American, with a Mayan-spiced roast pork shoulder with eggs and sweet potato hash.

    Insider Tip: The remarkable design of the restaurant has already made it a popular spot for wedding events and other private get-togethers. In a city that's already super popular as a scenic wedding destination, you'd better book any event early, even just a dinner reservation.

    103 Spring St.; 843-817-7311

  • 492

    Why It's Hot: A sizable courtyard and an interior that's a real looker have drawn in crowds to this new American spot on busy King Street, but it's chef Nate Whiting's daily changing menu — informed by European traditions but incorporating familiar Lowcountry ingredients — that keeps diners returning. 

    Must-Order: Look for anything with an unexpected fruit or veggie use, like beet "tartare" or a rillette of anchovies and green apple.

    Insider Tip: Take a minute to look up from your meal — the fabric ceiling in the main dining room is printed with a replica of a map of Charleston circa 1902.

    492 King St.; 843-203-6388

  • 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 prix fixe menus every day of the week except for Mondays (when the restaurant's closed).

    544 King St.; 843-414-7060

  • 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

  • Palace Hotel

    Why It's Hot: Charleston's East Side isn't (yet) hopping, but this bar opening last year is helping. With quality beers and a sizable list of creative hot dogs and sandwiches, Palace 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 installed at most bar seats.

    35 Hanover St.; 843-501-7994

  • Two Boroughs Larder

    Why It's Hot: Open for less than four years but already a strong local contender, 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, especially the seasonal empanadas from Empanada Mamma.

    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 Zagat's 2014 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 Decor24 Service24 Cost$56
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American Ansonborough
Food27 Decor22 Service26 Cost$56
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Hominy Grill

Southern American Cannonborough/Elliotborough
Food25 Decor20 Service23 Cost$26
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Two Boroughs Larder

American Cannonborough/Elliotborough
Food26 Decor21 Service23 Cost$31
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Xiao Bao Biscuit

Asian Cannonborough/Elliotborough
Food27 Decor21 Service23 Cost$24

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