Aside from being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Charleston, South Carolina, also boasts a world-renowned food scene, drawing top chefs from around the world. Fondly referred to as “The Holy City,” it is known equally for its food and history, especially around the convergence of the two. Intrigued? Take a trip to Charleston’s top 10 culinary destinations on your next vacation for an unforgettable, mouth-watering culinary adventure, sampling everything from Gullah cuisine to barbecue. There really is no shortage of things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.
A trip to Charleston wouldn’t be complete without a stroll through the historic French Quarter, and while you’re there, be sure to visit 82 Queen for a memorable meal. Dine on Lowcountry cuisine – influenced by the African, French, Caribbean and Anglo-Saxon people who inhabited the area – made with fresh, local ingredients. Be sure to try their award-winning She Crab Soup or the barbecue shrimp and grits. Guests also have the choice of dining indoors or in their picturesque courtyard.
Charleston City Market
First built in 1841, the Charleston City Market is the city’s most visited attraction. With both day and night markets, it’s the place to shop for specialty foods and spices, kitchen items like aprons, table linens and cookbooks, and a wide selection of art, clothing, jewelry and other souvenirs. While there, snack on freshly baked buttery biscuits or sweet praline pecans. You’ll also catch a glimpse of local food history with Gullah artisans weaving sweetgrass baskets that are both functional and beautiful. The Gullah people, descended from enslaved West Africans, have always used these baskets to winnow their rice, separating the grain from the chaff. Many visitors purchase these baskets as decorative items rather than using them to winnow their own rice.
Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen
Located on Charleston’s East Side, Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen has been serving Gullah and Soul food since 1985. A casual eatery popular with locals and visitors alike for its home-style cooking, its slogan is “feeding the soul of the city,” known for delicious dishes like their signature shrimp and crab rice while preserving Gullah history in the Holy City. After sampling their hearty eats, explore the Gullah culture in the surrounding neighbourhood’s churches, gravesites and other historic spots.
Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oysters
The Charleston food scene has managed to preserve many of the city’s historic buildings, and Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oysters is a fascinating example of this. Formerly Leon’s Paint and Auto Body, which served the community for over 40 years, the restaurant has maintained the aesthetic of the former auto garage. Recognized as a leader among Charleston’s dining establishments since opening in 2014, it is known for Lowcountry fare, like juicy fried chicken made with their secret recipe, and both raw and fried oysters. The fried oysters are served “pluff mud” style, placing them on a bed of a pesto-like sauce that resembles the mud that lines the coastal inlets.
Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ
While many states claim they have the best pitmasters and BBQ around, South Carolina is the birthplace of barbecue with a legacy that’s five centuries strong. For whole hog cooked slow and low, head to Rodney Scott’s BBQ, which opened in 2017 and has quickly developed a reputation as one of the best restaurants in Charleston. Rodney is from a long line of pitmasters and cooked his first hog at only 11 years of age. In addition to their famous pulled pork, the menu includes pit-cooked brisket, turkey, chicken and ribs, along with drool-worthy sides like mac and cheese, hushpuppies and collard greens.
Stars Rooftop & Grill Room
For the only 360-degree rooftop view in Charleston, make your way to Stars Rooftop & Grill Room for cocktails and irresistible farm-to-table cuisine. Situated in a restored Arts and Crafts building in Charleston’s downtown dining and entertainment district, savour their live-fired-grilled meats and shareable plates like prawns and cornbread, or indulge in the chef’s tasting menu. Drinks include artisan wines, a variety of beers, and signature cocktails like the Bobby E. Jones, made with Firefly Lowcountry Sweet Tea Vodka and house-made lemonade.
For a casual restaurant and brewpub experience, Edmund’s Oast offers an extensive selection of their own beers alongside guest taps from local breweries, world-class wine and cocktails, and comforting food like charcuterie made from scratch. The patio menu features pub fare like their fried chicken meals and an impressive selection of desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth. In the evenings, dine indoors on plates like monkfish and shrimp stew with shareable sides.
A unique experience in the Charleston area is boating along the Intracoastal Waterway and indulging in what’s known as “dock and dine” at an on-the-water eatery along the way, like Bowens Island. Serving the city since 1946 and specializing in fresh seafood and Lowcountry eats, sample their locally harvested oysters, fried shrimp and Frogmore stew while taking in the surrounding river, marsh and island views.
FIG, short for Food Is Good, is the James Beard Award-winning restaurant from Mike Lata. This celebrated chef got his start in New England and eventually made his way to the culinary paradise that is Charleston. Lata and his team work closely with local farmers and fishers to feature the best foods the Lowcountry offers. Specializing in seafood, their menu changes daily, with dishes like a bouillabaisse made with shrimp and Carolina Gold rice, sautéed soft shell crab or roasted grouper.
Camellias at the Hotel Bennett
If your trip to Charleston happens to be a girls’ getaway, Camellias at the Hotel Bennett is a must! This champagne bar is known for bubbly by the glass or bottle, charcuterie, seafood and caviar, plus they offer afternoon tea on the weekend. There’s also a slice of Charleston history in their signature pink-hued cake, a tribute to the marble that once graced the library where the hotel now stands. That same marble was reclaimed and restored for Camellias’ bar and tabletops.
Ready to satisfy your appetite? Start planning your culinary adventure to Charleston today at DiscoverSouthCarolina.ca.