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Charleston restaurant recommendations

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I'll be in Charleston in October (yes, it's way, way too early to even be thinking about restaurants, but it's my favorite part of a vacation!), and I'd love some comments on the following:

Anson's (I've read only raves)
Hominy Grill (again, only raves)
Louis's (haven't heard too much of this, but I know the chef is well known; does he have a web site?)
Circa 1886
Alice's Fine Foods
Charleston Grill
Peninsula Grill

Other suggestions would be greatly appreciated as well!

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  1. I can highly recommend Poogan's porch in downtown Charleston. If you are adventurous, seek out Sweatman's bbq in Eutawville (about 30 minutes outside of Charleston). They are only open Friday and Saturday, but a true south carolina experience.

    1. I am just back from my first visit to Charleston. I can't comment on most of your choices, but we did hit the Charleston Grill and Mistral (a French bistro).

      The Charleston Grill is quite formal. While our food was outstanding, the service was WAY too attentive. I couldn't scatch my nose without a waiter running over to see what is the matter. It bugged me. That and the wine prices were on the verge of robbery. Overall, I am glad I went because I had heard a lot about it, but I wouldn't go back.

      Mistral was a great surprise. It is a block from the Charleston Grill, across the street from the Peninsula Grill. It is a traditional French Bistro (my meal was escargots, spinach salad, and rabbit in mustard sauce). Food prices are realistic and the wine list is better than it needs to be. The food isn't Southern in any way, but we enjoyed every bite (for half of what we spent at the CG).

      Have a great trip!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jeff

        Thank you both!

        That's interesting about the Charleston Grill. I normally splurge on one restaurant when I go away, but maybe I'll make it 2 this time: either CG, Peninsula Grill or Circa 1886. Fortunately, I don't drink wine, so the price isn't a problem. I probably wouldn't have a problem with being paid too much attention to: I'll likely be solo, and usually, solo diners are relatively ignored.....:)

        I've heard some good things about Mistral. It might make a very nice change of pace after so much delicious "southern" food!!

      2. Of the choices you've listed I can definitely recommend Jestine's, especially for lunch; it was excellent. We also tried Alice's but found it disappointing, OK but not worth a recommendation.

        I have seen so many good reviews of Hominey Grill that I would like to try it on my next visit.

        Was somewhat disappointed in Magnolia's (owned by the same folks that own SNOB's as I understand it).

        I thoroughly enjoyed Hank's, an upscale place which implicitly pays hommage to the dearly departed Henry's (a long time Charleston institution).

        Poogan's Porch was quite good when I last ate there a number of years ago and it continues to enjoy a good reputation.

        For something offbeat, consider a trip to the Bowen's Island Oyster Bar just outside of Charleston; it's a ramshackle seafood joint that's something of a local legend and I suspect you can find some reviews on this site if you do a search (I know HollyEats.com has a review). The one time I had convinced my wife to go the weather turned awful and washed out my plans - the evening was not a total loss, but that's a subject for another forum!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Gator

          Thanks for the tips, Gator!

          I've heard mixed reviews on Magnolias, and good reviews on Hanks. If I can, I'll try and get to Bowen's Island. I wish I were in Charleston now!

          1. re: Gator

            I too shall be in Charleston in 3 weeks. i wish comments on Antons McCready's and Hominy

          2. I have only eaten at one on your list but Louis'is a very fine dining restaurant. It is very pricey, we spent 150-200 for a dinner for 2. It was very good food and service. It's atomsphere is more formal than many of the area restaurants and its decor is not low country.

            1. Alice's is not to be missed. Really good down home/soul food. The mix of people is wonderful also...tow truck drivers, local politicos, lawyers (or bankers...hard to tell from the dress), families, and so on. Very inexpensive. Jestine's is wonderful, too. We also liked a place whose nickname is "Fast and French." Can't remember the name...surely another Chowhound can help out.

              1. I would add the following restaurants to your list:

                McCrady's (continental, on E. Bay Street, near the Market) $$$1/2
                Water's Edge (seafood, on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant) $$$
                Boathouse (seafood, in Charleston and the Isle of Palms, at Breech Inlet) $$$
                Coco's (French, in Mt. Pleasant) $$1/2
                Sermet's (eclectic, at King and Wentworth Streets) $$1/2
                Mondo's Delight (Italian, on James Island) $$

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ed Barron

                  I was priveleged to enjoy lunch at the Water's Edge restaurant on Shem Creek this past Memorial Day. It was delicious and the atmosphere was even better. I would have loved to have seen the full dinner menu!

                2. I love Jestine's! Wish I were there today! The buttermilk mashed potatoes are great--I started making mine with buttermilk after we returned, but I can't match Jestine's.

                  We had an excellent Italian meal at Fulton Five. That was in the summer of 2000, so I don't know if it's still there.

                  For more casual fare, there's a funky pizzeria on Whitworth near the College of Charleston--can't remember the name--the only size they have is HUGE--too much for two people!

                  Just avoid Hyman's. The long wait, huge crowds, rude service, and pedestrian food are definitely not worth it.

                  Have fun!! Charleston is great!!

                  1. I took my son and daughter-in-law to Jestine's and SNOB a couple of weeks ago when I was in town. Wonderful lunch at Jestine's...their fried chix is second to none. I had a tenderloin/crabcake combination at Slightly north of Broad. It was marvelously put together...nice presentation and wonderful flavors. I went to Alice's last year and really loved it. The food seemed authentic soul/southern, and the mix of patrons at lunch was worth the visit....power-broker politicos, tourists, blue collar workers, and a delightful preacher who recommended the sweet potato pie, which was excellent.

                    1. By far, the BEST restaurant in Charleston, SC is Magnolia's. It is upscale "Soul Food" with a fusion twist!! Wonderful...my favorite restaurant in the WORLD. Try the "Down South Eggrollls" or the shrimp and grits. Bonus...a great southern artist across the street...Gordon Wheeler's studio.

                      1. Circa 1886 is wonderful. Try the osyter fondue (not really a fondue).

                        I also second both Charleston Grill and Peninsula Grill, and you MUST go to the latter if only for the coconut cake (which now comes as a cocktail as well). Even if you hate coconut, you'll love that!

                        Or, for seafood, try Peninsula's sister restaurant Hank's.


                        1. If you go to just one restaurant, I recommend it be the Charleston Grill. The cuisine is fantastic there (best I've had anywhere in the Southeast), and in my opinion, the service is the best I've experienced in any restaurant in this country. Service strikes the perfect balance of exceptionally attentive without (at least in my experience) being distracting at all. It is seamless yet seemingly invisible.

                          I've dined many times at the five star restaurants Gary Danko and Ritz Carlton in SF, Woodlands Resort in Summerville SC, and the four star restaurants Jardiniere, Michael Mina, and Village Pub in SF, and service at all of these has never equaled my experiences at Charleston Grill. Quite extraordinary.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mikeh

                            I will say the service was memorable . . . in a good way (after a while, it all tends to blur). Oh, and I think this was where I first had a caperberry martini! Good stuff!


                          2. I am late to this thread but sadly I report the passing of Alice's Fine Food's on Upper King Street several years ago. Not only was it the best Soul Food Restaurant in the area but on Sundays they added the wonderful voice of Ann Caldwell. Ms. Caldwell is still singing in the area. A good resourse in the local is the free arts and entertainment paper The City Paper that can be found in restaurants and clubs.

                            For a recommendation for BBQ in Mt. Pleasant on Coleman Blvd. is Mama Brown's BBQ which is a Vinegar and Pepper Sauce pulled pork BBQ buffet. In a state as small as SC it is interesting to have as many distinctive BBQ sauces. PeeDee-Coastal is V+P, Midlands is Mustard and Piedmont is a tomato tinged sauce. All good just different.