A friend from Europe is travleing to Charleston, and has asked for recommendations high brow and low. Any takers on this one?
Charleston is full of both!
Here's a stab at some of them. As there are many choices, these are partial lists -- but include our favorites. Unless otherwise noted, all are downtown.
On the high, or higher, end:
Al Di La (W. Ashley)
Rue de Jean
Atlanticville (Sullivan's Island)
On the middle/lower end:
The Anchor Line (out towards Folly Beach)
Marina Variety Store
Fast & French
Mr. B's BBQ (Mt. Pleasant)
Boulevard Diner (Mt. Pleasant)
The high and low are meant to reflect prices, not quality. All are great!
I'm finally glad to see someone else mention Charleston Grill. It seems to get overlooked in favor of the Peninsula Grill. I had one of the best meals I have ever eaten at CG. It was absolutely incredible. I mean, we definitely paid ALOT for it, but it was sooooo worth it. Aside from the food, the service was excellent. And it didn't have a stuffy feel to it.
Chef Waggoner came out to greet customers, and when he found out my interest in cooking, he took us on a tour of his kitchen. It was a wonderful evening. We plan on going every time we are in the area.
I also want to mention the little French restaurant Mistral. Great food, nice atmosphere.
If adventure is your game and you want fresh oysters, Bowens is the place. Some people are probably taken back by the rustic-ness of Bowens. I was and I'm local.
When oysters are in season, they pour fresh oysters on an steel plate over an open oakwood fire. When the oysters are ready, your server will scoop them up and put them on your table.
It's as close to open fire backyard on-the-hood-of-an-old-57-chevy oyster roast as you can get out of a restaurant.
I mentioned another "hole in the wall" seafood place near Folly Beach a few weeks back. It is called The Anchor Line and is wonderful for simple fried and grilled seafood - oysters, shrimp, fish, etc. It is one of the best places we ate in the Charleston area for just plain ole seafood. Not at all fancy, paper plates and foam cups, but not near as rustic as Bowens Island.
I was in Charleston in early 2001, and here are the places I jotted stuff down about then. Keep in mind the info is nearly two years old so I don't know if all these places are still in business or if hours I listed are still accurate.
82 Queen, 82 Queen St, 843-722-4428. L daily 11:30-2:30; lite lunch 2:30-5; Su Br 11:30-2:30. D Su-Th 6-10; F&Sa 6-10:30. Fabulous traditional southern/nouvelle lowcountry. To avoid dinner prices, I went for lunch (not the lite lunch), as there were very interesting foods on the lunch menu, unlike some places. Pleasant dining rooms inc reasonably romantic outdoor courtyard. I had some sort of fish with the fried green tomatoes and a delicious peach cobbler dessert concoction. Local people do not seem to like this place and implied it was pretentious. I thought it was marvelous, my favorite place in Charleston, and not pretentious at all! Maybe it's only good for lunch?
Hank's, 10 Hayne near city market, dinner Mon-Sat 5:30-11. Sun brunch 11:30-3, Sun dinner 5-9. Seafood, popular bar, same owners as Peninsula Grill. I was somewhat disappointed in this place, which came highly recommended, esp by locals. I guess I just don't like fried seafood with this seasoning? It tasted like Shake and Bake to me. Eating at the high tables was fun for meeting others, so maybe if I'd ordered something else I'd have liked the place more. The prices were not particularly low.
High Cotton, 199 E Bay St, 843-724-3815; www.high-cotton.net. Popular; open for lunch; same owners as Slightly North of Broad (SNOB). Pretty good food but seemed like something of a youth hangout. Still, I found the mint iced tea soothing.
Joseph's, 129 Meeting St, 843-958-8500. Had been open daily for breakfast & lunch only from 7AM; Sun brunch from 10, but I think they were beginning to do dinner too around when I was there. Very pleasant, friendly place with delicious sweet potato pancakes for breakfast. Liked them so much was there twice.
Magnolia's, 185 E Bay St, (843) 577-7771. Lunch & dinner Sun-Thurs 11:30-10; Fri-Sat 11:30-11. Very good nouvelle American/lowcountry, with reasonable and interesting lunches if you want to avoid dinner prices. My second favorite restaurant in Charleston. I had some sort of chicken concoction, very tasty. It was quite busy for lunch; you may want to reserve or go at odd hours, like after 2.
East Bay Crab Shack, 205 East Bay St, 853-8600, L & D 7 days. Inexpensive very simple seafood restaurant in converted 18C warehouse, on site of Charleston's historic wharfs & orig steamed seafood house. Southern seafood inc. very nice she-crab soup. Good L place, good place to go with kids.
I also ate in an inexpensive place called Jesteen's (I think; I have forgotten the spelling) on Market St that came highly recommended by some local folk but that I didn't like much at all (except for the interesting newspaper clippings). It was supposed to have really authentic southern cooking but I found the food soggy and bland and frankly had as good southern food in my college cafeteria! Maybe it was the chef's night off?
I agree completely about Jestine's, although I didn't get any recommendations from locals, which should have told me something. I thought it was the worst home cooked southern food I've ever eaten. Maybe to someone who didn't grow up with the real thing might think this is it... what a shame. It was terrible! What a shame it is that people line up outside this place to eat here. If they only knew!!!!