If you think you've eaten your way through Charleston, think again. Every few months another restaurant opens, and the resulting praise often flows as easily as sherry dolloped on she-crab soup. When even The New York Times says that Charleston is a food haven, who are we to say otherwise? Here are some gems that others have found to be among the best:
EVO Pizzeria was voted No. 1 Pizza in South Carolina and in the Top 50 Pizzerias in the U.S. by Food Network Magazine in 2011. What more could you want than one of their white pizzas with pesto sauce and fresh veggies of the week? Of course, the wood-burning oven gives the crust that perfect fresh crust.
Park Circle, North Charleston
Butcher & Bee
Bon Appetit magazine has been very good to Charleston. In April, they found the Butcher & Bee sandwich shop and thought that the pulled squash with smoked slaw on a hoagie “is just one irresistible example of how this forward-thinking spot does some of the most creative takes on the classics in the country.” Of course, you need to be patient for a table and be prepared to share it with the new friends you made while waiting to order.
Upper King Street, Charleston
And then there was the now-famous award by Bon Appetit to Husk in 2011 as the Best New Restaurant in America. Husk is known for taking the freshest, local ingredients and cooking them to perfection. While the food isn't the fanciest in town, it is certainly the most Southern to its roots. Chef Sean Brock has hunted his food in a five-state radius and only food grown in season. Fried chicken never tasted this good.
Queen Street, Charleston
Chef Sean Brock's other restaurant in town has deep roots of another type. Go down the brick alley, enter the tavern-like atmosphere and be prepared for a restaurant that pulls out all the stops. Duo of lamb tops the list during the summer, with fresh butter beans and English peas. The menu changes frequently, so look at the restaurant's website for seasonal dishes. Oh yes, Brock was nominated for this year's James Beard Best Chef category for his phenomenal work with both restaurants.
East Bay Street, Charleston
Off the beaten path is Bowens Island (left) where fresh seafood is served upstairs overlooking a creek complete with dock, while downstairs fresh oysters are served over an open fire in season. This landmark restaurant has kept remnants of its original site that burned down a few years ago. Still preserved in the new place is the tradition of dumping oysters fresh from the creek onto a steel plate over an open fire and then shoveled by the bushelful onto your table. Owner Robert Barber, a former S.C. legislator, may join you for a chat, although he will never slow you down from scooping up those steamed bivalves. If you want the full fresh oyster experience, go in months with an “r” in the name.
Folly Road, James Island
The Tattooed Moose
Duck fries, a moose hanging over your head and motorcycles parked outside. Some of the most unique sandwiches in Charleston are served here, along with a wry attitude that makes anyone feel welcome. They can pile on the duck, and it was enough to earn them a spot on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on the Food Network. Watch the reruns and you can pick out just what seat host Guy Fieri settled into while he was filming.
Morrison Drive, Charleston
On the same show, Fieri also sought out Perfectly Frank's for its comfort food, like sweet tea-marinated pork chops and deep-fried hot dogs topped with chili. It's run by a local football legend so it's likely that you will be rubbing elbows with town athletes, past and present, while you wait for your table. It's one of the area's best-kept secrets.
Main Street, Summerville
No Southern adventure would be complete without a breakfast to die for. Robert Stehling has been serving up not only breakfast but also lunch and dinner for years at Hominy Grill. You can find it by the line that forms first thing in the morning down Rutledge Avenue, and it's very likely that you will have boiled peanuts waiting for you as a munchie before you order. Stehling was a James Beard award winner for the Southeast and has kept his high standard of excellence as a trademark while he serves up classic Southern fare at a reasonable price.
Rutledge Avenue, Charleston
… And then there are a few up and coming stars:
Heart Woodfire Grill
This small restaurant is rapidly becoming a hot spot on James Island and is known for cooking everything in its wood-fired oven. They bake their own breads, roast their meats and fire up their pizzas, all right in front of you. They've been open a little over a year, and have already expanded their outside seating area to accommodate all the nighttime crowd.
Folly Road, James Island
Two Boroughs Larder
Tucked into the heart of the student district of Charleston, this up and coming restaurant plays with food in fascinating ways. Only a few tables are available at any one time, but the combos are worth the wait. You might even try sitting at the communal table in the midst of the groceries.
Coming Street, Charleston
This elegant new restaurant ranks right up there with Husk and McCrady's for its elegant take on Southern food. The difference is that it is also a great hangout spot for drinks. The rooftop bar is one of the few that look out over the city, and it's a great place to meet for some quiet conversation before going downstairs to eat.
King Street, Charleston