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Heading to Charleston

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I'm heading to Charleston next week for four nights. Here is a list of some of the places I'm thinking about eating. What am I missing? What should I forget? As you can see from my list, I'm more interested in casual than fine dining. I'm looking for local flavor (not ethnic cuisines that I can get in Philly, where I live). I'll have a car for a day or two so I can head out of town if need be. I've also noticed that many places aren't open on Sundays, so I'll need a Sunday plan. Thanks!

Coast
High Cotton
The Wreck
Hominy Grill
Boulevard Dinner
Reds at Shem Creek
AW Shucks
Hanks
Jestine's --despite what people say.

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  1. My trips to Kiawah Island Resort always included dinners in Charleston at:

    SNOB Slightly North of Broad
    Magnolia's

    Recommended dishes:

    SNOB......Maverick Grits

    Magnolia's........Filet of Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Gravy

    1. Local here, avoid Hymans despite what the polls say in magazines. While some folks way up the coast have had disparaging remarks about Gilligans, for fresh local caught shrimp, it is the best. For chic dining, we favor Tristan. For downhome island cooking try the brunch buffet at Gullah Cuisine in Mt. Pleasant on Sunday

      1 Reply
      1. re: MomComfort

        Thanks, mom. Yes, Gullah is also on my list. Don't worry, I will not go to Hyman's.

      2. I'd go to Hymans before I would go to AW Shucks. Cross that one off your list.

        Don't miss Fig, especially if you want local ingredients and good fish.

        I don't know about the Charleston branch, but High Cotton in Greenville is mediocre but expensive.

        1. Definitely don't go to AW Shucks OR Hyman's! High Cotton is considered excellent by many people, but I have never particularly enjoyed it - just a personal preference. On Sundays, many places have brunch - Rue de Jean, The Boathouse, Fat Hen, etc.

          2 Replies
          1. re: RDfoodie

            consider them crossed out. thanks

            1. re: hungry100

              one more thing...your picks The Wreck and Hanks - both awesome for seafood! Last time I went (it's been awhile) to the wreck it was cash only...just something to consider

          2. I have Sunday Brunch at Jestines just about every other week and have been eating there since they opened. I think that it is excellent. The meatloaf and coca-cola cake are my favorites along with the fried chicken.

            1. I would also cross Coast off my list if I were you. It has been awhile since I have had a good meal or good service there. However, if you really want to try it I am pretty sure they are open on Sundays.

              If you are planning to eat at Red's, then I would also take Red's off the list. I would instead suggest going to Red's to watch the sunset on the balcony with a few drinks, and then head over to The Wreck. They are not within walking distance of each other but by car they are only a few minutes away from each other.

              I can recommend Hominy Grill, Blvd Diner, Hanks and Jestine's, but I have never been to High Cotton. Although I will say that I personally do not know any locals who have eaten there.

              4 Replies
              1. re: lizzy

                Thanks, Lizzy. I gather The Wreck is in Mt. Pleasant? How far is that from Charleston. The Wreck sounds totally up my alley. I'm also interested in SeeWee -- any thoughts on that? And where is Shem Creek?

                1. re: hungry100

                  Yes, The Wreck is in Mt. Pleasant, and so is Shem Creek. From historic Charleston, Mt. Pleasant is on the other side of the Cooper River just over the Ravenal Bridge.

                  I love SeeWee, it is in Awendaw which is about 5-10 miles North of Mt. Pleasant. Personally, I think SeeWee is better than The Wreck. They have better sides and desserts, but you have to get there early in order to have a good selection of desserts. Which ever one you choose, keep in mind neither take reservations and the wait can be long for both. I would also call both to find out their hours and if they take credit cards.

                  1. re: lizzy

                    SeeWee is one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten at! Think of it of a seafood meat-and-three.

                    I have rolled out of there on more than one occaision.

                2. re: lizzy

                  Coast used to have 1/2 priced bottles of wine on Sunday nights (this was sometime last year). It was always a veritable madhouse, but fun. I've also heard from friends still in Charleston that the food there has been mediocre lately.

                3. Bessinger's BBQ. Delicious pulled pork and sides. Not real impressed with the ribs, but I may have gotten some bad ones. I go there every chance I get from Savannah. Enjoy.
                  http://www.bessingersbbq.com

                  1. I would avoid AW Shucks at all costs. If you're interested in Red's, I would rec. RB's, next door. At Red's you get a nightlife, at RB's you get ambience and good food.

                    1. Do miss the wreck! It is such a neat place- screened in patio on the water, candlelight, plastic tables and some excellent fried seafood. We had such a nice meal and time last time we where in charleston- I plan to keep it a stop each time I visit. Bring cash or check- no cards accepted.

                      Not really a big fan of SNOB. Food not very impressive or inventive and way overpriced. Not worth returning.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: charlottecooks

                        SNOB was amazing when we ate there, easily one of the best meals we've ever had. Highly, highly recommended.

                      2. I lived right across the street from the Hominy Grill for three years in the late 90s and have eaten there a million times -- breakfast is best, and be sure to order whatever special breads (pumpkin, zucchini, muffins, scones) they have baked that morning because those are always good. Of the seafood restaurants, the Wreck has the most local charm and I have heard great things about Hanks but have never tried it. I don't know "what people say" about Jestine's but it is always worthwhile -- I have a handful of friends who have lived in Charleston for 15+ years and its one of the places that they still go.

                        Don't rule out "non-southern" cuisine. Il Cortile de Re is a charming Italian restaurant where the owners are incredibly serious about their food, cheese, and wine. Vintage is more of a bistro menu and a haven for foodies. Caveat: it has been a while since I have eaten at most of these places!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: ChowSpaniel

                          Local here, Vintage has actually been closed a few years, sorry. If you want casual try Pearlz (seafood/oysters), Cru Cafe, SNOB (nice lunch), FIG (understated and delish!), la Fourchette (French), Five Loaves on Cannon (homemade soups salads sammys). Monza on King has good Neopolitan style pizza, Basil (Thai) is across the street. Most places on Market are tourist traps, stay away from Shucks, Hymans, Noisy Oyster ...you get the idea. High Cotton is a great steakhouse, but it is a little expensive. BD in Mt P is yummy, Jestines is good, I dont know why so many ppl on this board give a bad rap. These places are all pretty casual, but there is no shortage of fine dining either.

                          1. re: penny35

                            Noisy Oyster is beyond horrible.

                            We ordered the smoked fish dip and the bartender told us not to.

                          2. re: ChowSpaniel

                            If you're a solo diner, you can rule out Il Cortile del Re. When the bar was full, and the tables were mostly too, they wouldn't bother seating lonely me and wasting a valuable two-top for a solo diner.

                            Dejected that night, I thought FIG, being the new spot, would surely look down on me too, but at least I could check out the bar. They insisted I have a nice private table and gave me the best attention.... Not like I wouldn't spend the money anywhere - I could splurge one night on company expense so I went all out, and did pizza and Indian the other two nights to make up for it...

                          3. Thank you all for your great input. I think I've got it pretty well wrapped up for casual dining. GF, however, wants one "nice" place (not that the Wreck isn't nice, but you know what she means). So....I've heard both good and bad things about SNOB, FIG, High Cotton, etc. What do YOU recommend for a splurge (could be brunch, lunch or dinner). Thanks again, you folks are the best!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: hungry100

                              We ate at a place called Charleston Grill. It was one of the most outrageously delicious and inventive meals we ever had, and the service was impeccable. They recently changed their menu, but I think the chef is the same. Highly recommended for a fauncy meal.

                              And SNOB is a must-visit. Really good food in a relaxed. eclectic atmosphere. I'm shocked anyone could speak poorly of this restaurant. The charcuterie plate was moan-inducing.

                              1. re: uptown jimmy

                                Yes, TT can vouch for the Charleston Gril! Great cocktails as well. No cheap, but you get what you pay for.

                                TT

                            2. If the Farmer's market is in season on Saturday, there is always good food to be had there. It is normally from 8 am until 2 pm in Marion Square. There was always this one tent that did omlettes, breakfast sandwiches, and barbecue. The food was always AMAZING. It is run by an Irish guy named Jerry. The guys from EVO (extra virgin oven) are normally out there doing their brick oven pizza thing. They're good, but I'd rather have the breakfast from Jerry.

                              There is a Gelateria/Italian Cafe at 41A George Street. They're called Modica. They make gelato and sorbet from scratch and usually have about 10 flavors in the winter time. They also have amazing coffee - the best I've had in the United States. They do soup, salad and panini. Its a great place for lunch or a light dinner, and the gelato really is to die for. Full disclosure: I loved the place so much that I eventually started working there. I worked there my senior year of college: Spring 06 to Spring 07.

                              If you want to head out towards Isle of Palms/Mount Pleasant, there is a great breakfast/lunch place called The Charleston Cafe. This was formerly the Bookstore Cafe located on King Street until sometime around 2005/2006. They always have super specials. The Island cassaroles are delicious, but very heavy. They're pancakes are always fluffy, but crispy around the edges.

                              Around the West Ashley area in Avondale Station there are a couple of great places. Al Di La is a great Italian restaurant. I went there for my graduation dinner. It is a little pricey but not as much as some of the big names downtown like Peninsula Grill and SNOB. My parents, my aunt and I all ordered different things and everything was excellent except, surprisingly, the pasta. I had a pork tenderloin, someone had rosemary chicken, we had a caprese salad on the table...it was a great meal.

                              Also in Avondale Station is Marie Levaux's. This is a New Orleans themed diner. Its fairly casual. Last time I went they were just gearing up to start opening for dinner (about a year ago). Breafast was always good, except the french toast, which I tried once and was very odd. They have great coffee and the bignets are a nice start if you're looking for something sweet. For lunch the Duck club is oh so tasty. The food is a bit heavy though, so go hungry.

                              Yep...that should get you out and about a bit more.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Antithesisofpop

                                I am sorry to report that Marie Laveau's closed last spring/summer.

                                1. re: lizzy

                                  *Cries*

                              2. Coast/Rue de Jean changed ownership and lost their chef this summer, I haven't been to Coast but I had a really disappointing experience at Rue this summer post the chef change. I have heard many complaints from others about service going downhill. The chef has started a new restaurant on John's Island called Fat Hen that is excellent. It is casual, French bistro fare with southern influences. It is a drive, but definitely worth it, and open on Sundays! For some wonderful Italian I recommend my neighborhood restaurant, Al Di La, for wonderfully prepared classic Italian food. For a more transcendent experience try Sienna on Daniel Island, again, it's a drive, but worth it. I would vote either of those for a splurge (although Al Di La is really reasonable), or you're up for going all out try the Charleston Grill ($$$$).

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: mle17

                                  I haven't actually eaten at Rue de Jean in some time although I have have been there twice since the summer. Both times we recieved very poor service and left right before or right after ordering. In November, with more than 4 empty tables in the dining room, we were told we could only sit outside in the heated tent. They sat us outside in November with no heat and no other patrons around. After 10 minutes of waiting, the host sat another (older) couple outside, the waiter immediately took their drink orders, and we had still not been spoken to. We immediatey left.

                                  I still enjoy Coast and their fish is excellent, also right now is oyster season. I second the recommendation for the Fat Hen. My boyfriend's family and I talk about it constantly and it will definately become our go-to restaurant.

                                  The gelateria on George Street, Modica, is very good. It's right off of King St and next to it is one of my favorite places for lunch, hoagie heaven. Try the Jack Sparrow sandwich or any of their other specials. Cheap and very good, much better than something like Subway. Garibaldi's on Market is a favorite when I'm in that part of downtown, especially the flounder when it's available. Great service and very good Italian food.

                                  1. re: mle17

                                    I just looked at the menu for Fat Hen. YUM!

                                  2. Hi hungry – I’ve been a Charleston resident for almost 10 years and can confirm the negative press for Hymans, Coast and AW Shucks. Some others I haven’t heard mentioned include:
                                    Chai’s – upper King street. Their arancinis are fantastic.
                                    Oak steakhouse – http://www.oaksteakhouserestaurant.com/ - a little pricey, but fantastic tuna (I was a practicing vegetarian when I went
                                    )The Charleston Café in Mount Pleasant – get there early or call ahead for seating. This is an excellent Saturday or Sunday brunch!!! You would be missing out on some fine dining if you left Charleston without visiting!
                                    Jim & Nick’s BBQ on King Street – if you’re up for BBQ, skip Sticky Fingers and head to J&N’s. Phenomenal service and great food.
                                    Mercatos - http://www.mercatocharleston.com/ - decent Italian Dinner

                                    And last – if you go to the Wreck, bring cash. Last I knew, they didn’t accept cards.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: KomiDess

                                      Jim and Nicks cheese biscuits (they're more like muffins, really) are a gift from the cheese gods. I don't know what the secret is, but they're mind-blowing. I could easily make a meal off of the cheese biscuits alone. I was always a fan of the barbecue potato.

                                    2. I had a bad experience at Coast. I ordered grilled red snapper and it arrived at the table overcooked, dried out, and tasting overwhelmingly of charcoal. I'd skip if I were you. I had a pretty good experience in November at Rue de Jean (despite a lengthy wait to be seated). I'd go again, but it didn't wow me.

                                      Skip Hymans and AW Shucks. Never been to Jestine's or the Wreck. I'm not rushing to try Jestine's given the negative buzz around here, but I hope to try the Wreck sometime soon. I'm hoping it'll outshine the other lackluster (putting it kindly) food on Shem Creek.

                                      Never been to High Cotton. Had a wonderful dinner with the family Christmas Eve at Anson. Nothing outrageously creative, but all well-executed. I also ate at Circa 1886 and McCrady's in December. Both were fantastic, but I think I preferred Circa 1886, which I haven't seen much mention of on the boards. McCrady's edged out Circa 1886 in terms of creativity and Circa 1886 had the edge in terms of execution in my opinion. The two other people who ate with me at both places shared my thoughts.

                                      I think Oak is overpriced.

                                      Hanks was good the last time I went, but it's been quite awhile.

                                      And in answer to your question about Shem Creek -- it'll probably take you 10 minutes if you're staying in historic downtown.

                                      1. Hey Charleston Chowhounders, your input has been overwhelming -- thanks for taking the time to fill me in. There's one other place I'm thinking about that no one's mentioned -- Bowen Island Restaurant. I know it burned down and has been rebuilt. What's the story? Do they serve anything besides oysters (not that there's anything wrong with that). It looks like one quirky joint.

                                        Well, I head south Thursday morning. I'll let you know where and what I've eaten upon my return (if not before).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: hungry100

                                          We had a great time there, but it's certainly not the best food in town. They serve steamed oysters, and the oysters are extremely muddy. It's the sort of thing some folks enjoy, but it's a pretty low-rent experience. My wife would never go back with me, that's for sure. I understand there are car washes in the area where folks can put their self-procured oysters in a basket and hose them down. Bowen's doesn't hose their oysters down, from what I can tell. But it was fun for me. I'm a farm boy, and I ain't afraid of a little dirt.

                                          Beautiful views, though.

                                        2. Hi Hungry, We were in Charleston after xmas. We loved the 'Mellow Mushroom', way casual great pizza, calzones and salads. Lots of draft beers and full of locals. Have fun, it's a beautiful city. Next trip hit Savannah, it's AMAZING!!! denisie

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: denisie

                                            I'll second Mellow Mushroom. Very good food, excellent service. The specialty pizza's are outstanding.

                                            1. re: gretske

                                              I've never been to Mellow Mushroom in Charleston, but the ones in Asheville NC and Greenville SC are mediocre to bad.

                                              1. re: danna

                                                Mellow Mushroom is AWFUL! The food is ok, but the service and wait time is horrendous! I've made it a point in all of my nine years to go there only if necessary - about once every two years.

                                                1. re: KomiDess

                                                  I agree. MM in Atlanta was nothing to write home about. It's like Chuck E Cheese's for "grown-ups" and the pizza is Cici's like.

                                                  TT

                                                2. re: danna

                                                  Yeah. We had a Mellow Mushroom in Athens until recently, and it was just bad college town food, not much better than chain delivery pizza.

                                                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                    Mellow Mushroom - Charleston and Mellow Mushroom - Hilton Head are both great. Get the Kosmic Karma pizza or BBQ Chicken. All salads are fresh and wonderful as well. Have fun.

                                                    1. re: pluffmud

                                                      Well, just for the record, there's WAAAAAY too much amazing food in Charleston for us to ever go the local Mellow Mushroom, good as it may be. That is one serious food town, and our occasional visits are more about Al Di La, SNOB, Basil, that sort of thing.

                                                      1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                        I've never had a bad experience at the Mellow Mushroom and I do appreciate their good beer selection but the pizza does not even approach the wonder that is Andolini's. One of my top 5 favorite Charleston lunches is a spinach, feta, and black olive slice...or two.

                                                        1. re: GrillMaster

                                                          "the wonder that is andolini's"?....dirty restaurant, tooth-cracking crust and chintzy toppings...man, are we talking about andolini's v. Mellow Mushroom....no comparison, Mellow hands down. I have hit every pizza place in the lowcountry and by far the best!

                                                          1. re: pizzaworld

                                                            Really? I love Andolinis. It is rather, uh, run down.

                                                            My husband and I were walking by the other day and there was a dilapidated old sofa out front and he deadpanned, "look, Andolini's expanded their seating.".

                                            2. jestine's really is great, but hominy grill was awesome.

                                              1. McCradys is an excellent choice for a nice place for dinner. A little pricey but very innovative cuisine.
                                                Like all the other people here say... no AW Shucks unless you want to eat like a tourist.

                                                1. If you are looking for a truely memorable experience then Robert's of Charleston is the place. Excellant food, ambiance and entertainment make this one special place.

                                                  1. I have to agree - I don't know why anyone would waste calories or tummy space on Mellow Mushroom when visiting Charleston. The Wreck is one of our favorites when in town - very casual but great food. The boiled peanuts are awesome. We've also had really good experiences at SNOB and Magnolia's.

                                                    When I worked downtown, we used to get great sandwiches from Fast & French on Broad Street. The Lakeside Pharmacy was also a cute place to stop and grab a Coke and a pack of Nabs for an afternoon snack.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Suzy Q

                                                      My husband (boyfriend at the time) took me on a trip to Charleston to propose. I gained about 10 lbs! I heartily recommend SNOB, especially the Maverick Grits. That was one of the most decadent, delicious, memorable food experiences of my life! HOWEVER, I also got some kind of Asian small plate thing there that was HORRIBLE -- way over salted, and I like salt. So, I would suggest sticking with the type of food you would expect a Charleston restaurant to do well. We also enjoyed the Charleston Grille, but I think that is more formal than you would like.

                                                    2. So - Hungry - Where did you go, and what did you like???

                                                      1. One of the best meals I've had anywhere was at The Peninsula Grill. Chef Carter was the chef at Richmond Hill before relocating to Charleston. Be sure to save room for the coconut cake. Could be the best made anywhere. Great wine list and I think the best place in Charleston.You can't go wrong with SNOB or Blossoms. I enjoyed McCrady's but felt it was a little over priced.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: ncwino

                                                          Peninsula Grill was one of TT's recommendations. And that coconut cake is exceptional. Glad you liked it.

                                                          TT