25 Best Charleston Foods To Try in 2024

Published on June 5, 2024 | 0 Comments
Shrimp and grits close up

What is Charleston food? What cuisine is the city known for? Not just one of the world's most beautiful cities, Charleston's food culture is also world-renowned, attracting great chefs from all over the globe. Fondly referred to as the Holy City, Charleston is celebrated for its culinary culture and rich history, particularly where the two intersect.

Intrigued? In this list, you'll learn about the best foods to try in Charleston and exactly where to find them. By the end of this read, you'll have the full scoop on all the staple foods Charleston boasts. With everything from Gullah cuisine to barbeque, there is plenty of goodness awaiting on Charleston's culinary scene.


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Get a Taste of Iconic Charleston Foods

Diving into local Charleston cuisine is the best way to truly experience the city's food culture. Charleston food tours provide an excellent opportunity to explore the Holy City's diverse culinary landscape while learning about its storied history. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours take you to hidden gems, allowing you to savor authentic flavors and gain insights into the art of Lowcountry cooking.

Feeling inspired? Why not try your hand at recreating these iconic dishes? Food tours in Charleston often include interactive cooking classes, where you can master the techniques behind beloved local specialties under the guidance of expert chefs.

25 Best Foods in Charleston, SC

1. Shrimp and Grits At Husk

The James Beard Award-winning restaurant Husk specializes in the Gullah Geechee culture's traditional shrimp and grits dish, blending fresh, locally caught flavors with creamy grits and aromatic spices.

The Vibe

Husk's rustic ambiance in a beautifully restored Victorian-era home transports diners to a bygone era while showcasing some of the best Charleston foods.

Why It's Good

Husk's shrimp and grits exemplify the restaurant's commitment to using only the finest locally sourced ingredients, resulting in a dish that bursts with authentic flavors and pays homage to Charleston's food heritage.

Husk | 76 Queen St., Charleston, SC 29401 | $$$

Shrimp and grits are a classic Charleston food
via Husk

2. Oysters at Bowen's Island

Nestled on a remote island just a short drive from downtown Charleston, Bowen's Island Restaurant has been a beloved institution, serving some of the best Charleston foods, for over 70 years. Renowned for its legendary oyster roasts, this quintessential Lowcountry experience is a must for anyone visiting the Holy City.

The Vibe

Bowen's Island exudes a rustic charm, with picnic tables scattered across the grounds, creating a laid-back atmosphere perfect for savoring the fresh catch of the day. This spot is a great place to try out Charleston food whether you are a local or a visitor.

Why It's Good

Bowen's Island is known for its fresh oysters; roasted over a fire, their smoky flavor makes for excellent Charleston cuisine. It's no wonder it has a reputation for serving some of the best of Charleston's foods.

Bowen's Island Restaurant | 1870 Bowens Island Road, Charleston, SC 29412 | $$

3. Roasted Chicken Farci at Maison

A chic French brasserie nestled in Charleston's heart, Maison offers authentic Charleston food and a modern take on classic French cuisine. One of its standout dishes is the roasted chicken Faci, a hearty and flavorful dish featuring tender chicken braised in a rich sauce.

The Vibe

Maison's sleek and sophisticated interior, adorned with warm wood tones and plush banquettes, creates an inviting ambiance to dine and try the most delicious Charleston foods. It is the perfect spot for a romantic evening or a celebratory gathering.

Why It's Good

Maison's roasted chicken is a testament to the restaurant's commitment to traditional French cooking techniques, resulting in a dish that is both comforting and deeply satisfying, with each bite revealing layers of complex flavors.

Maison | 708 King St., Charleston, SC 29403 | $$$

Roasted chicken served with sauce and adorned with flowers
via Maison

4. Fried Chicken Sandwich at Boxcar Betty's

A beloved local eatery that has garnered a cult following for its mouthwatering fried chicken sandwiches is Boxcar Betty's. Featuring a perfectly crispy exterior and juicy, tender meat, this sandwich is a prime example of Charleston comfort food.

The Vibe

Boxcar Betty's radiates a casual, laid-back vibe, with its retro-inspired décor and friendly staff, making it a beloved hangout for locals and visitors to relax and enjoy some of Charleston's food offerings.

Why It's Good

Boxcar Betty's fried chicken sandwich is a must-try for Charleston food lovers, featuring a crispy coating, seasoned chicken, soft bun and tangy slaw for a delightful contrast.

Boxcar Betty's | Multiple Locations | $

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5. Gnocchi at Melfi's

One of Charleston’s favorite Italian eateries is Melfi's, which has garnered a reputation for serving up some of the finest gnocchi in the city. This classic dish is a true celebration of the city's love for authentic, handcrafted fare.

The Vibe

Melfi's oozes a warm, inviting vibe with its cozy interior and attentive service, creating the perfect setting for indulging in a truly memorable dining experience.

Why It's Good

Melfi's gnocchi is a delectable, handmade dumpling dish made with the finest ingredients, served with a variety of seasonal sauces and accompaniments.

Melfi's | 721 King St., Charleston, SC 29403 | $$$

Melfi's gnocchi is a staple Charleston food
via Melfi's

6. Pimento Cheese at Magnolias

One of Charleston’s institutions since 1990 is Magnolias, renowned for its elevated take on Southern classics, including the beloved pimento cheese. This creamy, tangy spread is a staple Charleston food in the Lowcountry and Magnolias' version is a must-try for any visitor.

The Vibe

At Magnolias, you'll find a blend of refined décor and genuine hospitality, setting the scene for an unforgettable experience of Southern charm and mouthwatering Charleston food.

Why It's Good

Magnolias' pimento cheese is a blissfully prepared Charleston food made with a blend of sharp cheddar, creamy mayonnaise and pimentos, making a rich, tangy, velvety spread.

Magnolias | 185 E. Bay St., Charleston, SC 29401 | $$$

7. Brisket at Lewis Barbecue

Helmed by pitmaster John Lewis, Lewis Barbecue has quickly become an institution to find the best of Charleston's food, especially its renowned mouthwatering brisket. This Texas-style barbeque joint has garnered a loyal following for its commitment to slow-smoked perfection.

The Vibe

Lewis Barbecue evokes a rustic, no-frills vibe, with its industrial-chic décor and lively atmosphere, perfect for savoring some of the best Charleston food from the barbeque.

Why It's Good

Lewis Barbecue's brisket is a labor of love, meticulously smoked over oak and hickory for hours, resulting in tender, juicy and flavorful meat.

Lewis Barbecue | 464 N. Nassau St., Charleston, SC 29403 | $$

Brisket served with onions and pickles
via Lewis Barbecue

8. Okra Soup at Bertha's Kitchen

Located in Charleston's historic North Central neighborhood, Bertha's Kitchen is renowned for its authentic Gullah Geechee cuisine, including the iconic okra soup. This hearty, flavorful dish is a true taste of Charleston's rich food heritage.

The Vibe

Bertha's Kitchen envelops guests in a comforting atmosphere, crafting an ideal backdrop for relishing the soulful flavors of Charleston's foods and home-cooked cuisine.

Why It's Good

Bertha's Kitchen's okra soup is a hearty, flavorful and satisfying meal made with fresh okra, smoked turkey and aromatic spices, a true beloved Charleston food.

Bertha's Kitchen | 2332 Meeting St. Road, Charleston, SC 29405 | $

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9. Biscuits at Callie's Hot Little Biscuit

Renowned for biscuits that have garnered national acclaim, Callie's Hot Little Biscuit has become a Charleston food staple. Whether you're craving a savory breakfast sandwich or a sweet treat, these biscuits are sure to satisfy you.

The Vibe

Callie's Hot Little Biscuit conveys a laid-back ambiance, where the warm interior and welcoming staff set the stage for savoring the quintessential flavors of Charleston's comfort food scene.

Why It's Good

Callie's Hot Little Biscuit is a top Charleston food choice, renowned for its light, flaky and rich buttery biscuits made with the finest ingredients.

Callie's Hot Little Biscuit | Multiple Locations | $

Callie's Hot Little Biscuit is one of the best Charleston foods
via Callie's Hot Little Biscuit

10. Charcuterie at Chez Nous

One charming neighborhood bistro that has garnered a reputation for serving some of the most renowned Charleston food menus is Chez Nous, boasting the finest charcuterie boards in town. This culinary experience is a true showcase of the city's commitment to locally sourced, artisanal products.

The Vibe

Chez Nous is a great spot if you’re looking for romantic date ideas in Charleston thanks to its cozy and intimate vibe, perfect for leisurely dining on the finest Charleston food.

Why It's Good

Chez Nous' charcuterie boards showcase a diverse selection of locally sourced Charleston food, expertly curated to delight even the most discerning palate.

Chez Nous | 6 Payne Court, Charleston, SC 29401 | $$$

11. Gumbo at The Ordinary

A celebrated seafood hall in the heart of Charleston's food scene, The Ordinary is renowned for its fresh, locally sourced seafood dishes, including the iconic Creole seafood gumbo. This Lowcountry classic is a true taste of the region's coastal bounty.

The Vibe

The Ordinary emits a convivial ambiance with its bustling dining room and lively bar. It’s the perfect spot for indulging in fresh, flavorful Charleston food, especially seafood dishes.

Why It's Good

The Creole Seafood Gumbo at The Ordinary is a true celebration of Lowcountry's seafood heritage and one of the best Charleston foods, featuring white shrimp, oysters, Carolina gold rice and benne, all simmered in a rich, flavorful broth that will transport you to the shores of Charleston.

The Ordinary | 544 King St., Charleston, SC 29403 | $$$

The Creole Seafood Gumbo is a tasty Charleston food
via The Ordinary

12. Sushi at Kanpai

From expertly crafted rolls to delicate nigiri, Kanpai is an innovative Japanese spot offering a true taste of the East Coast's finest sushi. It gives Charleston food a great reputation, with international cuisine made in the best way.

The Vibe

Kanpai has a sleek, modern vibe with minimalist décor and an intimate dining room. It’s a refined, yet approachable dining experience offering some of the best Charleston food.

Why It's Good

Kanpai's sushi is a fresh, well-seasoned dish prepared using top-quality ingredients, attracting both sushi enthusiasts and newcomers to Charleston's food scene.

Kanpai | 1035 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., Ste. B9, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464 | $$$

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13. Fried Green Tomatoes at Poogan's Porch

Since opening in 1976, Poogan’s Porch has been a favorite of well-known celebrities, tourists and locals alike who rave about its elevated Southern take on Charleston food. Its fried green tomatoes are a standout dish, showcasing its commitment to providing an unforgettable experience.

The Vibe

Poogan's Porch invites you to step into a bygone era of Southern charm and hospitality, where each visit promises a timeless experience amidst the classic flavors of Charleston food.

Why It's Good

The fried green tomatoes at Poogan's Porch are a true revelation, featuring perfectly crispy, cornmeal-crusted slices of tart green tomatoes, served with a Gulf Coast spicy shrimp remoulade that perfectly complements the flavors and textures of this popular Charleston food.

Poogan's Porch | 72 Queen St., Charleston, SC 29401 | $$$

Fried green tomatoes served with shrimp remoulade
via Poogan's Porch

14. Baklava at Malika Sweets

A local bakery renowned for serving up some of the finest baklava in Charleston is Malika Sweets. This classic Middle Eastern pastry is a true celebration of this multi-cultural city.

The Vibe

At Malika Sweets, you'll find a cozy haven, where the friendly staff and intimate interior create an inviting atmosphere, perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth cravings.

Why It's Good

Malika Sweets' baklava is a masterpiece, featuring flaky phyllo dough layers and a rich, nutty filling infused with honey and spices, creating a harmonious balance you are sure to enjoy.

Malika Sweets | 1333 Theater Drive, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464 | $

15. Mussels at Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar

Some of the finest mussels in Charleston are served by Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar, a chic and popular seafood eatery. This delicious offering is a true testament to the commitment to excellence that defines Charleston food.

The Vibe

Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar is where trendy décor meets cozy dining, providing a laid-back yet stylish setting to savor the most exquisite Charleston food.

Why It's Good

The mussels at Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar are sautéed in white wine, butter, tomato reduction and garlic. They’re served with grilled bread, enhancing the delicate flavor of this Charleston food delicacy.

Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar | 205 E. Bay St., Charleston, SC 29401 | $$$$

Mussels are a delicious Charleston food
via Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar

16. Tacos at Malagón

Known for serving some of the finest tacos in Charleston, Malagón is a beloved Mexican eatery that celebrates bold, flavorful cuisine.

The Vibe

At Malagón, vibrant hues and an energetic bar create an atmosphere brimming with warmth. It’s an ideal setting for a festive dining experience.

Why It's Good

The tacos at Malagón feature fresh, handmade tortillas with carefully crafted fillings, from slow-cooked meats to vibrant vegetarian options, all expertly seasoned and garnished with fresh toppings.

Malagón | 33 Spring St., Charleston, SC 29403 | $$

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17. Chicken and Waffles at Early Bird Diner

Indulge in the culinary delight of Early Bird Diner's renowned chicken and waffles, a cherished favorite among locals and acclaimed for its exceptional flavor and quality in the vibrant Charleston food scene.

The Vibe

Early Bird Diner has a casual, laid-back vibe, with retro-inspired décor and friendly staff, perfect for hearty, satisfying fare.

Why It's Good

The chicken and waffles at Early Bird Diner feature crispy, juicy fried chicken atop light, fluffy waffles, balancing sweet and savory flavors.

Early Bird Diner | 1644 Savannah Highway, Charleston, SC 29407 | $$

Chicken and waffles are a classic Charleston food
via Early Bird Diner

18. Crab Cakes at 167 Raw

When looking for some of the finest crab cakes in Charleston’s food scene, 167 Raw is the spot. This classic dish is a true celebration of the city's coastal bounty.

The Vibe

167 Raw reflects a laid-back coastal atmosphere, where the cozy interiors and vibrant bar set the stage for savoring authentic Charleston seafood dishes bursting with freshness and flavor.

Why It's Good

The crab cakes at 167 Raw are a true testament to the restaurant's commitment to using only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients. Packed with tender, sweet lump crabmeat and expertly seasoned, these crab cakes are a true taste of the Charleston Lowcountry’s coastal food heritage.

167 Raw | 193 King St., Charleston, SC 29401 | $$$

19. Smoked Wings at The Royal American

Serving quality food and drink since 2011, The Royal American is known for consistently dishing up some of the area’s best smoked wings, serving them alongside regular entertainment with original live music.

The Vibe

Feel the pulse of Charleston's arts and music scene mingle with the laid-back charm of Southern hospitality as you step into The Royal American's vibrant atmosphere

Why It's Good

The Crispy Magic Wings have hints of lime and spiciness deriving from Szechuan peppercorns. It's a truly deep flavor that leaves you craving more.

The Royal American | 970 Morrison Drive, Charleston, SC 29403 | $$

Smoked wings served with scallions and lime
via The Royal American

20. Shrimp Rolls at The Darling Oyster Bar

Known for its exceptional shrimp rolls, The Darling Oyster Bar is a testament to Charleston food and the coastal heritage that helps define it.

The Vibe

Feel the lively energy at The Darling Oyster Bar, where the bustling dining room and vibrant bar set the stage for delectable seafood dishes.

Why It's Good

The Darling Oyster Bar's shrimp rolls are a sumptuous blend of tender, tangy remoulade sauce and a buttery, toasted roll, transporting diners to Charleston's shores.

The Darling Oyster Bar | 513 King St., Charleston, SC 29403 | $$

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21. Barbecue Nachos at Home Team BBQ

Savor the culinary delights of Home Team BBQ, a true gem of Charleston foods celebrated for its mouthwatering barbeque creations, such as the iconic barbecue nachos — a delicious homage to the city's rich love affair with smoky, savory flavors.

The Vibe

Home Team BBQ emanates a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere, providing an ideal backdrop for enjoying hearty, comforting dishes in a casual setting.

Why It's Good

The barbecue nachos at Home Team BBQ are a true indulgence, featuring crispy tortilla chips piled high with tender, smoky pulled pork, melted cheese, tangy barbeque sauce and a variety of tasty toppings, creating a satisfying and utterly crave-able Charleston food.

Home Team BBQ | Multiple Locations | $$

BBQ Nachos are a savory Charleston food
via Home Team BBQ

22. Chicken Liver Pâté at FIG

Delight in FIG's chicken liver pâté, a culinary masterpiece from this cherished Charleston food institution. This decadent dish stands as a testament to the restaurant's culinary excellence and commitment to flavor.

The Vibe

At FIG, bask in a welcoming ambiance, where the cozy, rustic décor and attentive service set the stage for mouthwatering dishes that pay homage to authentic Charleston food traditions.

Why It's Good

The FIG's chicken liver pâté is a delectable dish with a silky texture and rich flavor, showcasing its commitment to elevating classic Southern flavors.

FIG | 232 Meeting St., Charleston, SC 29403 | $$$

23. Burgers at Little Jack's Tavern

A cherished local spot known for crafting some of Charleston's best burgers is Little Jack's Tavern. This timeless dish embodies the city's affection for comforting classics.

The Vibe

Little Jack's Tavern sets the stage for a casual yet vibrant experience, where nostalgic décor and warm hospitality come together to create an inviting atmosphere, perfect for enjoying hearty and satisfying cuisine.

Why It's Good

Little Jack's Tavern's burgers are a culinary masterpiece, featuring a blend of high-quality beef, fresh ingredients and soft buns for a satisfying experience.

Little Jack's Tavern | 710 King St., Charleston, SC 29403 | $$

Double cheeseburger served on a plate
via Little Jack's Tavern

24. Ramen at Jack of Cups

Renowned for its mastery of Japanese comfort food, the acclaimed ramen at Jack of Cups offers a delightful departure from Charleston's traditional Southern fare, delivering a flavorful explosion of umami goodness and comforting warmth.

The Vibe

Jack of Cups invites you into its laid-back, bohemian haven, where colorful décor and a vibrant atmosphere converge to offer a cherished retreat for both locals and visitors alike to experience tasty Charleston food.

Why It's Good

The ramen at Jack of Cups is a labor of love, with each bowl featuring a rich, deeply flavored broth, perfectly cooked noodles and a myriad of fresh toppings that elevate the dish to new heights, gaining its reputation as one of the best Charleston comfort foods.

Jack of Cups Saloon | 34 Center St., Folly Beach, SC 29439 | $$

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25. Gelato at Paolo's Gelato & Gourmet

A beloved dessert destination known for crafting some of Charleston's most delectable gelato Paolo's Gelato & Gourmet. Here, this creamy delight stands as a testament to the best Charleston food, making it a must-try for food enthusiasts.

The Vibe

At Paolo's Gelato & Gourmet, you can indulge your sweet tooth in a relaxed setting, making every visit a delightful experience.

Why It's Good

Paolo's Gelato & Gourmet offers handcrafted gelato with a variety of flavors, using only the finest ingredients and techniques, ensuring a harmonious balance and a satisfying experience.

Paolo's Gelato & Gourmet | 41 John St., Charleston, SC 29403 | $$

Gelato is the best sweet Charleston food
via Canva

That wraps up our culinary journey for now! Whether you're indulging in time-honored traditions or discovering innovative interpretations, Charleston's food scene is a true celebration of its cultural blend and influences. 

As you continue to explore Charleston's food, be sure to savor each bite, allowing the flavors to transport you to the heart of the city's rich culinary heritage. You’ll quickly discover what sets the Holy City apart from others in the country, and take it from us, it won’t be long before you head back for more.

For even more ways to explore Charleston and beyond, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal.