Best Restaurants in Charleston Our favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
Charlestonians uphold Southern culture and traditions, and nowhere is this more evident than in the culinary arena. Now, as in Colonial times, Lowcountry cuisine makes creative use of abundant ingredients from coastal waters, marshes, farms and fields. World-class chefs take Southern comfort food to sophisticated levels and consistently garner industry acclaim for Charleston's finest restaurants. As a major culinary travel destination, Charleston is the New Orleans of the Lowcountry.
Courtesy of Charleston Grill
Whether your cravings lean toward haute cuisine or Southern comfort food, there are places to eat downtown to satisfy. The menu at Charleston Grill in The Charleston Place features traditional Lowcountry cuisine with a dash of French influence, demonstrated in such dishes as the Grilled Kurobuta Pork Chop and the enticing Seared Flounder & Shrimp. The wait staff is well-versed in all menu selections, and the sommelier is ready to help you navigate the 1,300-plus vintage wine list. With low lighting, dark wood paneling and live jazz, Charleston Grill's upscale ambience comes off relaxed, while still being on the list of things for couples to do. The popularity of the restaurant has made it a destination in its own right.
At High Cotton you'll find straightforward, flavorful dishes prepared from the choicest meats, seafood and produce. Consider these menu options: Lowcountry boil, stuffed rabbit loin, grilled swordfish or a whopping 34-ounce rib-eye steak. Start or end the evening in the lounge, one of the most popular watering holes in the city. Housed in a historic warehouse, this chic destination exudes Southern gentility and dignified ambience.
Circa 1886 operates out of the elegantly remodeled carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion. Charleston's rich culinary history serves as the chef's inspiration for contemporary gourmet cuisine that reflects the availability of seasonal ingredients. The Sake Brined Salmon, 1855 Beef Tenderloin and Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope Loin are some of the representative dishes. Like many restaurants of its caliber, Circa 1886 is staffed with an accomplished pastry chef, so save some of your vacation calories for dessert.
Lou Hammond & Associates
A seamless marriage of cosmopolitan accents and Charleston gentility, Peninsula Grill is simultaneously refined and relaxed. Velvet-lined walls and the plush interior of this restaurant bespeak the atmosphere of a cosmopolitan supper club from another era. And why not? Peninsula Grill is in the historic Planters Inn .
More than 30 years in operation and a host of industry accolades have earned 82 Queen Restaurant its place in Charleston restaurant lore. The chef honors his trade by presenting a diverse menu of Lowcountry favorites with French, Caribbean, English and African culinary influences. If you're looking for a slice of authenticity during your trip, consider a representative dinner with fried green tomatoes or fried oysters for an appetizer, followed by the jambalaya or roasted rack of lamb as an entrée, finished off with crème brûlée or Bourbon pecan pie for dessert. Seating is available in multiple dining rooms of a restored house or outside in a lovely garden courtyard around an oversize magnolia tree.
Farm to Table
Courtesy of HUSK
Heralded for its farm-to-table approach, casual-chic Husk occupies a renovated antebellum mansion on Queen Street (the historic brick house next door is home to Husk’s cozy bar). Though the menu changes daily, you can always count on creatively tweaked Southern classics that incorporate only the finest ingredients from the chefs’ heirloom garden and from regional meat, poultry and seafood suppliers. Offerings might include country ham with acorn pancakes; deviled eggs with pickled okra and trout roe; and glazed pork ribs with lima beans and pickled peaches.
The menu of nouveau French cuisine at bustling Gaulart & Maliclet Cafe Restaurant features a variety of sandwiches, fresh breads, pates, cheeses, ooh-la-la desserts and wines as well as seafood, chicken and vegetarian entrées. The popular Thursday night fondue is one of the best fun things to do with friends while visiting Charleston. Expect seating at community tables or counters, and don't be surprised by the frenetic pace of the servers.
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AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
The 9 percent sales tax rate in Charleston consists of 6 percent South Carolina state sales tax, 1 percent Charleston tax and 2 percent special tax. There is no applicable county tax. There is an admissions tax of 5 percent on most amusements and a 2 percent accommodations tax.
Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, (843) 402-1000; MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina), (843) 792-2300; and Roper Hospital, (843) 724-2000.
Most major airlines serve
Hertz, (843) 767-4554 or (800) 654-3131, is at the airport and offers discounts to AAA members.
The Amtrak train station, (800) 872-7245, is at 4565 Gaynor Ave. in North Charleston.
Service is provided by Southeastern Stages and Greyhound Lines Inc., (843) 744-4247 or (800) 231-2222, at 4565 Gaynor Ave.
Cab companies include Safety Cab, (843) 722-4066; and Yellow Cab, (843) 577-6565. The fare is $5 for all trips that pick up and drop off on the peninsula. A $2 surcharge is added for each additional passenger. Outside of the peninsula, the fare for the first 2 miles is $4 and 35c for each succeeding one-fifth mile. A $1 surcharge is added for each additional passenger. Cabs must be ordered by phone.
Bus service is provided by Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA); phone (843) 724-7420 for information about routes and schedules.