Charleston, South Carolina is a Southern city with a rich history that predates the Revolutionary War. Phenomenal architecture, homes and gardens remain, and the dining scene, per capita, rivals any city in the U.S. Johnson & Wales University decamped for Charlotte in 2006, but even without that prized culinary school talent pipeline, Charleston continues to compile compelling new restaurants. In the past few years, Upper King Street has become guide-worthy unto itself. Within a short drive, you can find gorgeous beaches and marshes, outdoor adventures (with or without alligators) and luxury beachfront resorts. I’ve been an annual visitor to Charleston since 1995. Here are my 18 favorite food and drink stops.
View Charleston Restaurants in a larger map
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
1. Black Tap Coffee: Ross Jett previously worked in California in renewable energy. Jayme Scott worked in D. C. as healthcare lobbyist. The former University of Virginia roommates now run an ambitious coffeehouse in Charleston’s Harleston Village. The purple building with tan accents debuted in February 2012, in the former home of a sandwich shop that lay dormant for almost a decade. Now, the coffee menu appears on a burlap coffee sack, in an upraised room with wood tables and framed black-and-white photos. The bar houses a black La Marzocco espresso machine, four-cone pourover station, Kyoto cold brew tower, and cold brew on tap. Regardless of brew method, Black Tap features Counter Culture coffee.
MUST ORDER DRINKS: Cold Brew, Pourover Coffee, Black Julep
2. Butcher & Bee: This beyond-seasonal sandwich shop with global influences from Michael Shemtov, who owns two branches of Mellow Mushroom in town, resides on Upper King, near the rise of Highway 17. The space, set back from the street, by the Charleston Center for Photography, features reclaimed wood walls, mismatched metal chairs, communal wood tables, an open kitchen framed with white tile, and a pressed tin ceiling. Shemtov and his team butcher primal cuts and whole pigs in-house to produce “honest to goodness sandwiches.” Order at an olde time cash register from an ever-changing blackboard menu.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Popcorn, Banh Mi, Ham & Gruyere
3. Closed For Business: Karalee Nielsen and Tim Mink of Revolutionary Eating Ventures delivered an inspired take on the gastropub with Closed For Business. Their wood-lined space features high ceilings and clean lines. High-top communal tables frame the entrance. A fireplace mantle hosts a number of taxidermied animals, including a seven-point buck head and a squirrel. The Pork Slap sandwich is a modern classic, but the reasonably priced menu runs far deeper and credits several nearby purveyors in the process. A 30-handle craft beer bar draws from around the country and includes local breweries like Holy City and Coast.
MUST ORDER DISHES & DRINKS: Crispy Green Beans, The Pork Slap, Duck Pot Pie, Craft Beer