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May 13, 2008 04:06 AM

Charleston Cheap Eats

I'm moving to Charleston and very excited to explore this wonderful culinary territory. Much is discussed about high dollar restaurants on this board, but what about cheap eats? Focus on downtown, but mention truly exceptional cheap eats off the peninsula. Thanks everyone.

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  1. Blind Tiger Pub on Broad St. has phenomenal hand-pattied burgers and frites. The menu is limited as it is a pub, but it's a dark, wood-paneled place with good beer and good food.

    Also, a friend recommended Burbage's Grocery @ 157 Broad St. is an old grocer/convenience store and purportedly has some of the best pimento cheese to be found south of the mason-dixon line.

    7 Replies
    1. re: lynnlato

      Some of my favorite lower cost restaurants include G&M Fast and French on Broad St., Hominy Grill on Rutledge, and the Boulevard Diner in Mt. Pleasant. You can get a good meal for anywhere from $8-$15, depending on if it's lunch or dinner. That might not be cheap in the truest sense, but it's definitely better than $25-$30 per entree!

      1. re: BetsyinKY

        I ate breakfast at Hominy Grill, and I found it to be over twice the price for a similar breakfast at any one of about 200 good breakfast places all over Mississippi. The food was very good but overpriced. I guess you have to pay extra because of all the press it has received. I'll try it again for lunch and dinner, but I'll only go back for breakfast to take out-of-town guests.

        1. re: BetsyinKY

          I agree that Hominy Grill isn't cheap.

          I like Jack's Cosmic Dogs in Awendaw.

          King Street Grille
          Andolini's Pizza

          You'll find a bunch of good cheap eats around the College of Charleston.

          1. re: BlueHerons

            Hmm....well, maybe my idea of "cheap" is more expensive than I realized, but the most expensive item on the Hominy Grill breakfast menu is only $7.95 and that is shrimp and grits. I have had it before and it is a huge serving and reasonable price for the quality and quantity. Their lunch menu is several dollars per item cheaper than the King Street Grille.

            Another place that I just thought of is Our Place, now in Mt. Pleasant. Excellent burgers and reasonable prices.

            1. re: BetsyinKY

              I think the breakfast prices are high because everything is a-la-carte. You have to purchase biscuits, bacon, etc seperately, and those items are pricey. Even the tea is like $2.50. Yes, you could go have an omlette and water and get out of there for cheap, but to have a true Southern breakfast spread, you have to spend some money.

              1. re: BetsyinKY

                Love their shrimp n' grits! Beautiful biscuits too. I had their soft shell crabs recently and they were mind-blowing good. The only thing I don't like about that place is the cramped quarters and those enormous, heavy wooden chairs. The patio is lovely tho.

          2. Kickin' Chicken and Five Loaves Cafe downtown (Five Loaves used to be on Cannon Street but I think is now in a bookstore off Meeting St), and Boulevard Diner in Mt. Pleasant.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Chocolate Toe

              Five Loaves is still on Cannon, it is great. Moe's Tavern has great food and local vibe (crosstown and downtown locations). Nirlep on 17 has a yummy lunch buffet for $8 (Indian). Woody's Pizza on Folly Beach. EVO in park circle, I have never thought King St Grille was good, its a sports bar full of tourists. Jim n Nick's BBQ a few doors down is way better and the service is great. There is a new Pearlz on 17 at Avondale and I heard the food is great, only been open a few days. The Daily Dose on Folly Rd is fresh, lots of veggies, huge shrimp or turkey wraps and they have beer bingo at night. These are mostly places locals eat/hang out, good if you are moving to town. They are also spread out, not just on the peninsula. And you have to try the Glass Onion on 17. The menu is kind of creole with fresh/local ingredients and homemade meat and two. You can do way better than Hominy.

              1. re: penny35

                I tried the Glass Onion yesterday, and it was excellent. The meatballs on the meatball poboy were soft and full of flavor, and the house-made mozzarella made it a truly great sandwich. The shrimp poboy was a little pricey at $11 but well worth it. The local shrimp were very fresh and the batter was just right. Being from Louisiana, I have very high standards for poboys, and this was up there with some of the better places in New Orleans. They used New Orleans-style french bread, which is a must for a good poboy. The collards were good but lacked the meat flavoring needed to make them great. The turnip salad was something new to me, but it tasted very similar to slaw. The fries were excellent, but I preferred dipping them in ketchup to the provided bernaise. Bottom line: great food and low prices in an unpretentious atmosphere. I'll make this one part of my regular rotation.

                1. re: tennreb

                  Second on the Boulevard Diner. Fast and French in town

                  1. re: jlwnc

                    What happened to Bookstore Cafe (I think it was called - with the homemade chips) that was on King near the Francis Marion hotel? Didn't it move somewhere? It was great.

                    1. re: Chocolate Toe

                      The Bookstore Cafe moved to Mt. Pleasant in the Anna Knapp Shopping Center (right off Hwy 17) and renamed itself "Charleston's Cafe." The menu is essentially the same.

                2. re: penny35

                  I'll throw a vote in here for a couple of these places as well. The Daily Dose is awesome, especially if you're a vegetarian (which I'm not). They have a wrap with baked mahi-mahi, pineapple salsa, and a spicy sauce that is killer. I've only been to the Glass Onion once, but I'm planning to go back. I had the pork belly and was pretty impressed. Both of these places have a great vibe.

                  Moe's Tavern has great bar food and the Tuesday night half price burgers deal is so popular that it makes going to the Crosstown location nearly impossible unless you want to wait an hour. Jim 'N Nicks was good on my only visit there, but is a welcome alternative to Sticky Fingers. On a side note, can anybody fill me in on why the City Paper and P&C insist on giving Sticky Fingers such good reviews? The chain may have started here, but it really just strikes me as Chili's caliber mediocre.

                  I have yet to try EVO, but I've heard great things.

                  1. re: dhisgood

                    A couple more recommendations:

                    If it's a Tuesday night and you're looking for a cheap burger but don't feel like waiting in line at Moe's, you have to try Sesame Burgers & Beer up in North Charleston on Spruill Ave. They grind their meat fresh every day so you can safely order it as rare as you want it. They also make their own condiments in house. I usually go with a friend of mine and we've talked on numerous occasions about sneaking the ketchup bottle out in her purse. I wrote a full review on my blog a few months back for anyone who's interested:

                    Also, if you're looking for super cheap, authentic (not La Hacienda) Mexican food, there are a bunch of great places in North Charleston along Ashley Phosphate (just make a left at the top of the exit if you're heading away from downtown). My personal favorite is La Nortena. Everything is cheap, most notably their $1.50 tacos, and anything with their "al pastor" meat is amazing. Just brush up on your espanol before you go or get used to pointing at what you want on the menu. I wrote a review on this one too, you can read that here:

                3. re: Chocolate Toe

                  Boulevard Diner is a solid place; you can always count on the food. The proprietor is an absolute jerk (I worked there for a hot minute), a real nightmare to work for (though he can really work a crowd), but I can attest to the freshness of the ingredients and to the excellent handling of the food. It's nice to know that the food in any given place is clean, fresh, and properly handled. (I wish I could say that for all the restaurants I've worked; waiting tables makes me think twice about visiting certain places - I know the signs.)

                  The vegetables are phenomenal. Some of the best truly Southern veggies you'll find in the Charleston area. I saw the chef toss a lot of produce that wasn't screamingly fresh. Always a good thing, that.

                  1. re: peppermynt

                    Agree that Boulevard Diner is a reliable choice. Love their boneless fried chicken with green tomato chutney and their tomato pie. I enjoyed a great local swordfish special there a week or so ago.

                    It's funny that my wife and I have been frequenting BD for over 4 years now and their food has stayed consistently good, but you never hear anything about their chef(s). It may be that all of Sal Parco's chefs live in his shadow more or less.

                    Speaking of which, your comments about SP are interesting. When we've spoken to him, he's always seemed very nice, but then again, we were customers, not employees. I always like to hear insiders' perspectives on local restaurants, so please continue to share, peppermynt!

                    1. re: Low Country Jon

                      i agree with Blvd. Diner with one exception...they changed (and not for the better) thier country fried steak recipe... have been lobbying for about a year to get them to bring back thier old recipe. Boo hiss... the new one, just doesn't cut the mustard.