Charleston, my adopted hometown. I’m originally from Miami and lived in Tampa for a good part of my life, so I’m always happiest living by the water. Charleston has a charm that many other places lack. The history, the food, the friendly locals…it’s what makes Charleston so unique.
Charleston is consistently rated among the top places to visit, to live, to eat, etc… It’s a happening city right now and the food scene is just one of the beneficiaries. The following are some of my favorites and my fellow blogger, Rachel’s, favorites as well.
How to eat cheap:
by Rachel Brean
Zia Taqueria: You’ll have the venture for a 10 minute drive or so from downtown to James Island but Zia is worth the short trip. My favorites are the Baja Fish or Portobello tacos, both under $4. And the margarita at Zia is amazing for only $5. You can sit inside or out, and catch a movie next door at the Terrace movie theater before or after.
Hominy Grill: Hominy Grill is in almost every tour book in Charleston rightly so for its amazing breakfast or brunch, but I like to go for their lesser crowded dinner. Entrees are less than $20 and come with two authentic Southern sides. If you go with a group of 3 or 4, you’ll end up with a great sampling of sides for the table to share.
Cypress: Unless it’s a special occasion, I only go to Cypress on Monday night for their James Beard nominated cuisine for only $5. Yup, for $5 you can get the All-American Burger, the Wood Grilled Burger, or the Foot Long Chili Cheese Dog. Sides are $3 and beers are $3.50 and $4.50.
Rue de Jean: Rue de Jean is in the hopping Upper King area of Charleston has french bistro far and sushi and their signature dish is their mussels. The mussels are only $9.99. Pair it with some crusty bread and wine for a romantic french meal at about $20.
Prohibition : Prohibition is the new guy on the block and I have already been there multiple times for their happy hour deals. Their wine pours are large and their menu items that are on special such as the duck quesadilla and oysters are wonderful. The interior was completely re-done and now has a roaring 20s feel complete with live big band music. A very classy spot!
LeLe’s Hot Kitchen: Fear not of the sketchy downtown location … LeLe’s is well worth the adventure off the beaten path. When I ate here, we had the chicken lettuce wraps ($9), crab rangoon ($6), mu shu pork ($11), and salt and pepper calamari ($13). This was more than enough food for 4 and delicious. They don’t take reservations and it’s small, so you’d be smart to try and go at an off time.
How to Drink, Craft Beer:
By Shawndra Russell
Here’s how to divvy up your day to get the full Charleston craft beer experience. Since the breweries in Charleston are spread out a bit, your best bet is to start out in North Charleston and work your way to the heart of downtown—here’s your Charleston beer tour Google map for the day.
It’s never a good idea to start a beer adventure on an empty stomach, and what better place to begin than Sesame Burgers & Beer—beer is in their name. Voted best burger by Charleston City Paper in 2013, this joint lets patrons customize their burgers with your choice of beef, black bean, chicken or turkey with over 50 toppings—including selections like grilled zucchini, fig & bacon jam, or prosciutto. Or, go for one of their creations like the Memphis, where your meat base gets topped with homemade peanut butter, bacon and banana slices. Pair your food with one of the specialty brews off their beer board for a true happy meal.
Coast Brewing Company is next door to Sesame, so stop by for a tour if you’re visiting on a Thursday or Saturday. This family-owned place uses organic, local ingredients and only has a couple of brews on hand at a time. Holy City Brewing, named after one of Charleston’s affectionate and multi-functional nicknames, sits just a few miles away too. They have eight or so beers on hand at their tasting room at all times, including a year-round homage to those piazzas, Slanted Porch Pale Ale, and plenty of seasonal choices like Notorious P.I.G., made with 40 pounds of cooked bacon and bacon grease-soaked wood chips.
Onward to Palmetto Brewing Company, South Carolina’s oldest brewery and home to the Loading Dock Concert Series happening on most Fridays. Unfortunately, brewery tours are suspended until construction of their new biergarten is complete.
Southend Brewery & Smokehouse sits on a prime corner in downtown Charleston, which means ample people-watching either at their outdoor tables or through the floor-to-ceiling windows. This beautiful, old red-brick warehouse turned brewhouse has big holding tanks as their interior centerpiece and a big menu with brick oven pizzas, seafood entrees, and, of course, a variety of smoked meats. Get the sample beer tray too so you can try all six Southend beers like Rip Tide Red and Love Me Two Times Blonde. After dinner, head up to the third floor for some pool or darts, but fair warning: some folks claim Southend has ghosts.
Only a bit larger than a walk-in closet, The Charleston Beer Exchange is a must-do for any true craft beer connoisseur. Their shelves are stocked to the gills with 900 inventive brews and plenty of hard-to-find bottles. They also have a handful of beers on tap to fill your growler, typically with some local drafts and some seasonals. The folks behind this beer haven take their jobs seriously, updating their website and social media frequently and shipping 3, 6, 12 or 24 bottles to nearly every state in the USA. Tuesdays have been tapped as Rare Beer days, with one special keg available for growler fills. Create your own six-pack or fill up a growler to enjoy back at your inn or hotel; they’re open until 9 p.m. except on Sundays.
How to eat like a local:
by me, Stacey Segal
Halls Chophouse is a local favorite and legendary for the food and service. The Hall family exudes classic southern charm and make every guest feel welcome. From the steak and salmon to the classic duck and desserts, you won’t leave Halls disappointed.
The Obstinate Daughter: The Obstinate Daughter located on Sullivan’s Island, pays homage to the rich Revolutionary War history of region. According to its website, on June 28, 1776, under the command of Colonel William Moultrie, the defenders of Fort Sullivan foiled the British fleet’s attempt to capture the city of Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. The website says, “To us, The Obstinate Daughter is a beautiful reminder that the stubborn refusal to change one’s course of action can change the course of history.” This is a perfect description for the restaurant. A classic restaurant set on beautiful Sullivan’s Island, a quiet respite for locals, focused on fresh food and fabulous flavors. Italian influence with Southern Charm and local seafood make the Obstinate Daughter a local favorite. You’ll need reservations if you want a spot at the table! My favorite item on the menu? The local lettuce salad. Yep, it’s my favorite with the garlic buttermilk dressing and fresh variety of local greens, you can’t go wrong with this as your starter.
The Granary: hidden in a Mt. Pleasant shopping center, The Granary is a local favorite that is focused on supporting local farms while bringing the freshest food to their guests. The atmosphere makes you feel like you’ve walked into a neighborhood pub that serves high-end food. The menu changes regularly, but one of my favorites here is also a salad. I always start with the Bibb Lettuce Salad that has pickled peaches, candied pecans and local veggies. Charleston native Brannon Florie is executive chef of The Granary. The Granary pays homage to Florie’s grandparents from whom he learned to farm and live off of the land.
Evo Pizzeria – Known as one of the original farm-to-table establishments in Charleston, EVO keeps their ingredients local and changes up the menu regularly. There are always great specials, but the Pork Trifecta pizza has a cult-like following with its house-made meats (the trifecta – sausage, pepperoni and bacon) make it a fan favorite. I personally like the white pizzas’ and the ability to “make your own” pizza selecting the toppings and sauces of your choice. Be prepared for a wait during prime time hours and weekends…this is one of the busier places in the Park Circle neighborhood.
There are so many places to choose from in Charleston that this will be a series of posts….look for more great Charleston foodie tips in the future