HOME > Chowhound > General South Archive >


Visiting Charleston, SC in September

Staying at the Wentworth Mansion - will not have a car. I already have my reservation at Peninsula Grill.

Would love to find some off-the-beaten path place for lunch or dinner. Someplace the locals love, but like keeping secret (I won't tell a soul!)

Thanks from New York!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. i'll kill two birds with one stone here.

      Here are the places that some will inevitably suggest, but will get slammed by most locals:

      jestine's, poogan's porch, hyman's.

      Here are the off-the-beaten-path places that will inevitably get suggested:

      bowen's island (folly beach), the wreck (mount pleasant), al di la (local food critic favorite in west ashley, damn near impossible to get a reservation at), Fat Hen (John's Island). bowen's island and the wreck are paper plate fried seafood places with great views. Al Di La is great if you can get in. Fat Hen is awesome too, but like most of these places would be a pain to get to without a car. Someone will also mention Sal Parco's restaurants, Mustard Seed and Boulevard Diner. Both of which have adequate to solid food at very reasonable prices, but aren't anything that will blow you away. Cru Cafe on Pinckney street is always recommended for lunch and i would second that as well. it's a few blocks from the market. hominy grill on cannon/rutledge is good and their chef just won a james beard award, but a lot of locals don't agree that they deserve all the national hype and getting in will be difficult.

      Places that might not get mentioned, but I'd also recommend:

      If you're going to be at Wentworth Mansion already, you have to eat dinner at Circa 1886. their chef is great and i've heard nothing but good things. FIG is tremendous, their chef was also nominated for a James Beard award. Lana (right across the street from Hominy) is a rising star in the area. Pane e vino, a tiny italian restaurant near the college of charleston campus gets a lot of love from the local critics as well.

      hope that helps!
      - DH
      http://dhisgood.blogspot.com - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

      4 Replies
      1. re: dhisgood

        A lot of the places you mentioned are great, but since AlwaysUpperWest won't have a car they really are a moot point. I also have to disagree with your Lana recommendation. I had the single worst meal I have had in the past year here, it was a real disappointment. I don't think I will be going back anytime soon.

        I will agree on your rec for Cru Cafe, and AUW this used to be the secret place but I think the secret is out. However, I wouldn't only recommend it for lunch, I also love Cru for dinner, and either way definitely make a reservation.

        I also think Circa 1886 is a fine choice, I haven't eaten there personally but I have heard nothing but good things. I think this is also more of a locals only place, I wouldn't be surprised if the tourists that are there were guests at the WM.

        I think FIG is wonderful, a real focus on local and fresh, and I have never gone wrong ordering one of the specials. McCrady's also has a focus on local & fresh, including their own farm. I haven't had the pleasure yet, but I hear the tasting menu is fabulous.

        A great place for seafood is in the historic district is Hank's. This is more of an upscale place, but you can get seafood anyway you want it and they have fantastic raw oysters. Another good seafood place is Fish on upper King, they are doing some renovations at the moment but they are supposed to be done by 9/1. This might count as a secret, it really is a neighborhood type place. Local seafood with an Asian twist, although I am not sure if they are changing the menu for when they reopen.

        Have a good time, and let us know if you need anymore help.

        1. re: lizzy

          I'd kinda/sorta agree with the Hank's recommendation. They still do some things very well (the Grouper is still awesome and the seared rare tuna is always very good), but their prices and portion sizes have both started going in the wrong direction in the past couple years, and I don't know if it's worth the expense.

          - DH
          http://dhisgood.blogspot.com - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

          1. re: lizzy

            As much as anything is a secret downtown, I would second the Fish rec. Another under-the-radar place I like is Muse. Other non-touristy spots include La Fourchette (French), Raval (tapas), Basil (Thai) and Basil's sister restaurant Chai (pan-Asian tapas). This isn't to say that these aren't popular. Basil in particular draws quite a crowd.

            I also second the Circa 1886 rec, especially since you'll be staying at WM. Another fine dining option, much storied and far from a secret but off the typical tourist path at least, is Carolina's on Exchange Street.

            1. re: Low Country Jon

              I had a wonderful meal at La Fourchette last week for my birthday. The food, service and wine were all wonderful. One of the best restaurant experiences I've had in Charleston. Definitely add it to your list.

        2. I think one place that has not been mentioned is Slightly North of Broad. Frank Lee's spot is an institution in both great food and utilization of local products. Try the Barbeque tuna with country ham and fried oysters. Even after working there for a few years, it is still one of my favorites.


          1. A place not mentioned in the Charleston threads but should be is Tristan in the French Quarter Inn @ 55 S. Market St., a couple of doors south of the Market. Was there two weeks ago for lunch and it was excellent. They have a three course lunch deal for $20.00 which lets you order from the main menu. I had a sweetbreads app which was terrific. I also had a dessert of three sorbets which was also excellent. Was there for the Sunday Jazz Brunch last year which was also memorable.

            1. Definitely go to Slightly North of Broad if you love seafood! Truly outstanding!

              1. I'm a local and I regulary eat at Poogans (brunch on the weekend) and Jestine's Kitchen.

                Circa 1886 is my favorite restaurant on the peninsula.

                Also love SNOB.

                1. Save yourself a huge disappointment and don't go to Poogan's Porch, the food is overprice, tourist crap. Sure, the biscuits are good, but they don't make up for the awfulness of everything else. Our first and last time eating there a few months ago (for brunch), I sent everything I ordered, including my beverage, back. As for the endorsement by the local below, I'm skeptical. Our waiter remarked to us at one point - "Oh, your locals!? I never wait on locals!" Unfortunately we were too far in to walk out at that point.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mle17

                    I've never had as bad an experience as you've had, but I agree that it is overpriced and touristy...they draw so much of their business from the ghost tour crowd that that's inevitable though...

                    The one thing that I thought was above average there was the she-crab soup, but if you're in charleston and can't make a decent rendition of that then you have no business running a restaurant.

                    1. re: mle17

                      Although I wouldn't put Poogan's in the same category as Penninsula, McCrady's, SNOB, etc. I certainly think it has its place. Granted the only meal I've had there in a long time is brunch but it remains one of my go to spots when I'm in town (I'm not local anymore but was for a long time and get back often enough to keep track of the food scene). I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think it is one of the best food bargains downtown and I think there's generally a pretty good mix of tour-ons and locals. Put it on the list for brunch.

                      1. re: GrillMaster

                        I totally agree.

                        As to the waiter saying he never waits on locals, a lot of my peninsula relatives eat there on a regular basis, i.e. old school Charlestonians. So for a tourist to say it is a tourist trap is kind of weird.

                    2. 82 Queen. Lunch or dinner, you will not be disappointed. Sorry you don't have a car. Melvin's in Mount Pleasant is as local as you can get and food is all true Southern. Plus, you get to go over the beautiful new bridge and the view is awesome.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Mollie1

                        Lordy mercy. 82 Queen is a disgrace. Major tourist trap, and easily one of the worst meals of our lives. It would have been funny, really, how bad the food and service were, but we wasted time, money, and an opportunity to eat somewhere else in what is truly a great food city.

                      2. Definitely try FIG (stands for Food Is Good) which it is!!! Great apps and all the food is local/fresh. It's on the corner of Meeting & Hasell.

                        Another fun spot is Muse, on Society between King and Meeting. Mediterranian Tapas and fun wine bar. Excellent marinated grilled squid and lamb tartare!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: carriea

                          I'll vote in this poll :-)

                          FIG - Yes!
                          82 Queen - No
                          Poogan's Porch - for breakfast/brunch only
                          La Fourchette and Cru - Yes
                          Hanks - yes, probably

                        2. Thanks everyone for replies - heading down this weekend. Really looking forward to it - and I'll let you know where we end up!

                          1. If you're looking for something completely different than the upscale eateries in downtown or the paper plate quirky seafood joints, check out Gullah Cuisine on Hwy 17 on the Sullivan's Island side of town. Probably the best buffet I've eaten, and a la carte menu, too. Look for fish head stew, yams, roast pork, okra and lots more delicious country fare. Be sure and order some Gullah rice, a mahogany rice with sausage, shrimp and more goodies. And learn more about Gullah while you're there.