Where to eat in Charleston
Charleston is very well known for its fabulous restaurant scene. In fact, when I was researching things to do, dining out seemed to be the most popular activity.
Following this realization, I texted local friends in a panic because eating is really not my specialty. I am picky and take more pleasure in dressing up for dinner than actually eating or preparing it.
Additionally, Dan is not a big seafood eater and seafood seems to be the primary special on most of the menus. I was feeling helpless when it came to picking restaurants off of Yelp since every restaurant seemed to tout their oysters or shrimp and grits as the most popular dish.
With the help of friends and some thorough research, we found our way to some of the most enjoyable meals we've ever had. Here is a list of the places we ate at and a few extra restaurants that we did not get to try, but friends assured us offered an amazing dining experience. The pictures are a mix of the Sony A7Rii shots and my iPhone 6S, since we try to actually enjoy our meals together instead of letting them get cold while I snap photos.
1. Black Tap Coffee: I couldn't pass up a visit to Black Tap Coffee when I see it featured on Instagram on a daily basis. We biked here on our way to Sullivan's Island. I had the popular lavender latte, which I meant to get iced, but the hot version is prettier anyway. It was good, but it didn't really taste like lavender to me. I don't know, I think it might just be good marketing because they know us basic girls love lavender. I think I was expecting something similar to the purple taro latte that I fell in love with in Bali. In any case, it was the perfect coffee shop and we both enjoyed sipping our drinks paired with a breakfast treat. The quiche was actually really good, too.
2. Poogan's Porch: I liked Poogan's Porch so much, that we ate here twice. It was friendly and non-pretentious and it offered all of the southern food I was expecting, instead of the sometimes overeager foodie kind.
Our first visit was for brunch in there darling upstairs dining room. We drank many mimosas, and enjoyed a typical American style breakfast with eggs, bacon, grits, fruit, biscuits, chicken and sweet potato waffles... you know, the works.
For our second visit, we made a reservation for dinner. We arrived early and enjoyed a drink at the bar downstairs. Then, we were seated upstairs on the outside patio, which I was grateful for since it was quieter.
If you know me, then you know that I always order the salmon if it is on the menu. The sweet tea salmon (sorry for the iPhone pic) was perfectly cooked, marinated and hit all the right flavor spots paired with creamy rice, asparagus, and lemon herbs. Dan said his steak was perfectly cooked as well.
Make sure to stop by Poogan's Porch, you'll feel right at home.
3. The Ordinary: This was by far my favorite meal of the trip in the gorgeous interior of a former bank building. I should have put it first in the post, but Dan has a strict "no camera during dinner" policy, so I was only able to squeeze in a few iPhone 6S photos.
We had an early reservation, which we cancelled after we got washed out on Sullivan's Island (funny story, read here), but they were still able to fit us in at the oyster bar when we arrived at 7:30PM. I actually loved getting to watch all of the oysters shucked and the guy working the oyster bar confirmed all of my order choices. Our waiter was super fun and helpful with the menu, as well.
We started with a fun series of cocktails. Dan happily enjoyed the steak since Saturday is Steak Night, while I ordered a series of small plates. First, I asked for two of their smallest raw oysters, which came with four different sauces and a lemon. They were perfect and fresh and I tried really hard to get Dan to order one too. Sigh.
Next, I ordered the snapper ceviche, which the guy behind the oyster bar grunted his approval at and assured me that he had prepared that fish earlier and it was perfect in every way. I had never tried ceviche before and was intimidated by the fact that it is not cooked, just cured in citrus juices. Good lord, was it amazing, though. It honestly just tasted like the freshest guacamole ever, served with chips.
Finally, I finished with two fried oyster sliders, which I mean, I just keep staring at the picture and it is only an iPhone photo! Yum, get in my belly, and other Instagram captions.
4. Husk: In full disclosure, we did not eat here, but the restaurant is too pretty not to post. This fine, southern style restaurant is very, very popular with tourists and locals alike. They also have a very nice space for grabbing drinks with friends.
People swore up and down to me that this place was worth visiting and I just couldn't get past the Pig's ears on the menu... not my thing. I'm looking at it now, though, and I'm thinking that I should definitely give the menu a shot next time, if only just to have a table in this beautiful restaurant for an hour or so. Also, many of these restaurants locally source their menus, so I really think that the fall harvest menu is where the magic is made. Stay tuned!
P.S. Husk is right next door to Poogan's Porch, so it was really easy to snap this picture.
5. Leon's Oyster Shop: This insta-worthy lunch spot was further away than we expected it to be on King Street, so we had to take a 10 minute Uber. The normally packed patio was empty because of the intense noon time heat, so we almost left thinking it was closed! Once inside, though we knew we had come to the right place.
I had already had my fill of oysters, so instead we tried the avocado toast, the siam salad, and the famous fried chicken sandwich. My favorite was the avocado toast. Also, I feel like I need to warn my fellow bloody mary fans, as it was just not right. In fairness, I probably should have ordered the more popular Frosé... yes that's right a rosé slushie. I was already fairly out of sorts from the night before, though, and this sounded like an extended hangover.
6. Poogan's Smokehouse BBQ: I had a craving for Carolina style barbecue on my last day in Charleston. Back home in Texas, barbecue means three huge servings of meat and the sides are extra (and not very good).
In every other southern state I've ever enjoyed barbecue in, it means varying styles of pulled pork and the most delicious three sides you have ever tasted. I live for the sides! My go-to's are usually cole slaw, mac and cheese, and baked beans.
Luckily, South Carolina knows how to barbecue and I found my way into Poogan's Smokehouse BBQ on my walk back from the waterfront. I ordered my usual pulled pork, but switched up my sides to try the creamiest white cheddar grits and perfect bacon roasted brussels sprouts.
7. Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream: If you like ice cream, you will love Jeni's. There is a reason there is a line to get in, well actually two reasons. One is that it is definitely a touristy spot, right on King Street, and the other is that it is delicious.
Confession: I actually have been (failingly) avoiding dairy all year, but people will not shut up about this place, so I broke my diet for the thousandth time because lavender ice cream is just something I need to try in this life. Spoiler alert: it tasted more like berries with a lavender essence...still tasty though, especially after the insane Charleston humidity.
I also tried the Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Chips and the Sweet Cream, because they reeled me in with their cute trio flight serving size garnished with a waffle cone. Their flavors change all of the time and right now they have a Churro, a Sweet Potato with Torched Marshmallow, and a Pumpkin Spice that are making me want to plan another trip to Charleston.
8. The Restoration: We met friends here at the popular rooftop bar and had the best time... maybe too much fun. It was not too crowded and the drinks were great.
Other restaurants our local friends swear are amazing:
- Zero George Restaurant (see my post on the hotel here): fine dining, reservation required, great for special occasions. We knew we didn't have time for this lengthy five course meal, so this will have to be something we try next time.
- Cannon Green: Zero George's sister property for a classy meal in a great space. We actually tried to go here but it was closed for a private event. Next time!
- Chez Nous: cosy French restaurant, fine dining, reservation recommended, great romantic date spot.
- SNOB (Slightly North of Broad): southern and low-country, fine dining, reservation recommended. Tell them about any special occasions to be hooked up with some freebies! Our friends went here for their anniversary and raved about it.
- The Darling Oyster Bar: trendy seafood spot on King Street, great for oysters.
- Magnolia's: refined southern cooking, reservations recommended, great location in historic Charleston. I'm looking at pictures of this place now and wishing we had squeezed it in, it looks so good!
- Hall's Chophouse: popular steakhouse, reservations recommended. They also have something called a Gospel Brunch which sounds heavenly.
- Indaco: Italian, you know because apparently there are other choices besides seafood and low country fare. Our friends love this spot because its "near all of the fun bars."
- Butcher & Bee: popular for breakfast and brunch, great for lunch and dinner too, not downtown so will need an Uber/Lyft.
- Callie's Biscuits Hot Little Biscuits: this one should be self-explanatory.
- The Grocery: described as a great neighborhood spot with an innovative, seasonal menu. It looks like a foodie place to me, but the brunch does look delicious.