Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Jan 6, 2009 01:24 PM

Charleston as a Resort Town and its Dress Code [split from South]

(Note: This thread was split from the South board at: -- The Chowhound Team).

You CAN wear just about anything to most of the restaurants here, but do you WANT to? There are plenty of great restaurants named above for which jeans and a polo shirt are appropriate and welcomed. There are others that may tolerate but not appreciate it..

I am all for wearing jeans as much as possible, but there are some places that dressing a bit better makes the whole experience more special for both you and the other diners -- whether or not the managment would let you in.

I hate sounding like such a grinch, but there you go... fodder for the board.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Personally, I agree. I dress to go out at night. I enjoy it. It makes me happy, and improves my overall experience. I have learned, though, that there are plenty of people in the world who don't share that opinion, in fact, feel more or less the opposite.

    As for the other diners...I think anybody whose dining experience is affect by what other people are wearing...need to get out more. That said, if you discover yourself eating in a place where most of the males are wearing knee length madras shorts, calf-length socks and "dressy" Rockport tennis shoes (this is my Dad), you may be eating at Shem Creek .

    there you go...more fodder ;-)

    4 Replies
    1. re: danna

      I think my view is colored by living in downtown Charleston. You described Charleston as a "resort town," which I don't agree with. Charleston is an incredibly historic and beautiful place, which is a tourist destination and there are resorts in the vicinity -- but that does not make it a resort town. The majority of people who live here are not involved with tourism. Having someone come into one of the better restaurants wearing shorts and sandals is just as annoying (well almost) as being stuck behind a tourist driving at 3 MPH to look at the homes -- totally ignoring the people who are trying to get to work, home, schools, etc. Charleston is not Disneyland. I appreciate the tourists who come here and why they do, but I think it is they who should be more mindful of the residents than vice versa.

      Inappropriately dressed people do not affect the taste or presentation of the great food -- they do diminish the quality of the experience (if it is fancy restaurant). It is a bit like having graffiti on a beautiful building -- it doesn't stop the building from performing its function, but it sure makes it less attractive.

      How's that? :)

      1. re: DavidA

        I agree. This is Charleston, not Vegas. Restaurants in New Orleans wouldn't let half these tourists near the front door. I don't think there is a single restaurant in Charleston that requires a jacket, though many should. Be respectful of your environment. If you have small children or don't want to dress up, then eat at an appropriate establishment or order out.

        1. re: tennreb

          DavidA, being in Charleston right now, I totally agree with you. I would say resort town is stretching things, and it is a place where everyday people greatly outnumber tourists, and it should be treated that way. We do our best to stay out of the way, hopefully that shows. And there are some nights when a great meal deserves the effort of a fantastic outfit. We were just looking for a compromise on this trip since we are relaxing and taking our first trip away while our daughter stays with my wife's folks. :)

          Tennreb, I don't know if you meant that we were off with the restaurants we were wanting to go to were out of our dress code, but we have felt comfortable in all of the settings. We realized that going for the CG or McCrady's was just not an option for us this time around. A lot of the time, I am more of the opinion that your actions display respect much more than your attire. I have been in some fantastic restaurants complying with stricter dress codes and have seen some appalling behavior from the best-dressed guests. In that same vein, small children can behave very well if raised properly. That said, I totally realize that I brought all this on by asking for opinions.

          So far, we really enjoyed dining at Blossom, Hank's and SNOB, with Hank's easily being the highlight. I could have eaten the Oyster Stew for app., main and dessert. It was outstanding. The scallops were great as well, placed on top of a perfect roasted garlic-lemon emulsion. My wife has their seared tuna with goat cheese and she was in love. We are booked for FIG tonight, but Hank's was so great that I think we are going to just do a return visit.

        2. re: DavidA


          I agree that Charleston is no Disneyland and I can empathize about your beef with the tourists. I grew up in New Orleans and lived there until Katrina and sometimes had to endure the sightseers while trying to get to work.

          I definitely agree that Charleston is not a resort town, which is probably why I fell in love with the city the first time I visited (on my honeymoon). We're actually headed back there next weekend (the 17th-19th), so we may utilize some of these ideas on our next trip.

          We're taking a look at FIG, McRady's, Charleston Grill or something nice along those lines for dinner on Saturday. Probably do 39 RDJ for Sunday dinner and still have our lunhes on Sat and Mon up in the air (Hominy grill for brunch on Sun).

          On our last trip, we really enjoyed Coast (dinner), Magnolia's (lunch), Taco Boy, Blossom (mid-day snack at the bar), Hominy Grill (brunch) and 39 Rue De Jean (dinner).

          We weren't particularly impressed with 82 Queen for dinner.


      2. Easy, kids. I'm not advising people to wear flip-flops to Charleston Grill. But all classy restaurants in Charleston are okay with guys wearing jeans and a nice shirt, and, frankly, you'd have to go out of your way to look out of place in jeans and a nice shirt anywhere in the world days, as long as you're a guy and in reasonably good shape.

        And for the record, Charleston is NOT a resort town. It is one of the classiest and most beautiful and most incomparably historic of ALL American cities. If you find yourself lucky enough to dine in that wonderful town, dress the part and show some class. But a suit is just not necessary. Leave the tennis shoes and t-shirts at home, and enjoy yourself in the comfort of your best pair of jeans, a nice button-down shirt and some good dress shoes.

        Of course, I'm a guy, and you ladies might have different priorities. My wife always makes me look better than I otherwise would, what with her little black dresses ands such, but we don't need to get into the social/sexual inequities of dinner attire right here, right now...

        9 Replies
        1. re: uptown jimmy

          I would like to just mention too that my whole point of this thread was asking where I could go without looking out of place. It wasn't really an argument that anyone can wear anything all the time everywhere.

          And another factor we have found this week is that the season matters as well. Most of the restaurants we have hit this week have been pretty slow overall, so it's not as large of a factor.

          1. re: uptown jimmy

            "Resort Town" must have a bad connotation I'm not really aware of. How, then, would one describe a town that , if you go out at night in the summer, the majority of people on the street appear to be tourists, and a significant number are speaking a foreign language? Further, a town where (again , in the summer) lots of people spend the day on the beach before heading out to dinner? Further, a town where it may still be 90 degrees and the air hangs like a sponge at 6 pm? This is a town where suit and (god forbid) tie just aren't de riguer.

            Oh, come on, let me talk about sexual inequities! I find it ironic that women, who tend to be more cold-natured, become more and more bare as the occasion becomes more formal, where as men are the opposite.

            I used to be a lot less inclined to play devil's advocate for those who prefer to dress up the minimum required. But after a LONG dinner in at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, where there was no a/c during an unexpected heat wave in May, and watching my husband LITERALLY drip sweat from his head onto his $400 dinner while wearing a suit and tie, and I was still uncomfortable, but less so in a strapless lbd....I now feel his pain a lot more sympathetically.

            1. re: danna

              Let me just dip my flip flop adorned foot in the water for a minute. Danna, imo "resort town" says to me that a town has an off season, and I think Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head might be examples of this. Charleston, I think, doesn't have an off season, we have a slower season, but not an off season. However, this could also be six of one half a dozen of another.

              On every other point, I agree with you, including sexual inequities. I would also say we are lucky if during the summer the temperature is only 90 plus humidity. I think sometimes as locals we need to remember not everyone has acclimated to the heat and humidity like we have. I don't mind that restaurants do not require a jacket, and I really don't care what other people are wearing. I find it more annoying when walking to work in the morning I have to side step tourists that stop in the middle of the sidewalk to figure out where they are going.

              If I want to dress up I dress up, if my bf wants to dress up he dresses up. I have NEVER felt out of place for being dressed up in a restaurant in Charleston when no one else is on the dressier side. I guess I just don't understand why people are focused on others when out to dinner. I went out to Fat Hen Monday night, but I couldn't tell you what anyone else in the place was wearing.

              Jmikes, have a great time in Charleston, and please post when you get back home.

              1. re: lizzy

                Hi Lizzy! Fat Hen: how was it? I went there for Sunday brunch last month and I thought the creme brulee french toast was remarkable. I got it just as a side item and I wished I had ordered it as my entree (hell, I wish we'd been at an all you can eat buffet!)

                But my shrimp crepe I wasn't too happy was "goopy" with cream sauce and cheese...i tasted fat and not much else. BUT (speaking of fat) those french fries were awesome! I was wondering aloud if they were cooked in goose fat when I saw my vegetarian friend's eyes go wide and I had to change the subject. She had already sent back the grits that came w/ unannounced bacon ;-)

                1. re: danna

                  Hey Danna! I like Fat Hen, and I've been many times including for brunch. I like their brunch, although I've only been once. The creme brulee french toast is very good, I wish I could remember what else we had that morning. I have had the fries, and I did ask. I originally thought duck fat, but I was told peanut oil. This was about 8 months ago so it is possible things could have changed.

                  I have also been for dinner a few times. This last time we started with the pate, very good but I wish there was more of it. I had the lamb shank with wild mushroom and truffled grits & a cherry compote. The lamb was tender, I don't think I used my knife, and very flavorful and moist. The grits were good, I wish the wild mushrooms were in bigger pieces and the taste of truffles were stronger but it was still good. The cherries were perfect, they were just big enough to have with a piece of lamb but not over power it either. My bf had salmon bearnaise, with mashed pot. and garlic spinach, I am not a big fan of salmon but it was cooked perfectly. For dessert we shared the warm flourless chocolate cake with spiced pear. The cake was just as flourless cake should be and the spiced pear was cooker bf said he thought the spiced pear tasted like soap, but I obviously disagree. The bonus of the evening was, and something we did not know going in, Mon is half priced wine night. I think you might like it for dinner, maybe you can work it in on one of your next visits.

              2. re: danna

                I've spent a lot of time in Charleston, and I've found that Charlestonians tend to dress sharp. They may have been to the beach that afternoon, but they've cleaned up to go out that night. It may be as hot and sticky as a sauna, but that doesn't stop the town's gentlemen from sporting jackets (seersucker is common) and bow ties. Tuxes are not unusual for neighborhood parties.

                You can get away with jeans at a number of restaurants, but I would make sure they're not your yard work jeans and stick with something stylish. And, I would dress them up with a casual jacket.

                Looking sharp is part of the fun of Charleston.

                1. re: dinersaurus


                  Remember: have fun! Charleston is a beautiful town, honor and enjoy it. Dressing up is always worth it in a such a classy pace.

                  1. re: dinersaurus

                    Couldn't agree more, dinersaurus. I'm a native Charlestonian and have roots that go back several generations, and while I no longer live there, we still dress for dinner when visiting family and friends in town. I remember my great aunt even making me wear gloves when we went out for dinner when I was a girl, and that wasn't too many years ago (70's). While I'm all for people dressing comfortably, I'll admit that I think it enhances a nicer dining experience when patrons dress appropriately. I'm not talking about suits and ties everywhere, but let's be honest - shorts and flip flops at Peninsula Grill would be a little jarring.

                  2. re: danna

                    "How, then, would one describe a town that , if you go out at night in the summer, the majority of people on the street appear to be tourists, and a significant number are speaking a foreign language? Further, a town where (again , in the summer) lots of people spend the day on the beach before heading out to dinner? Further, a town where it may still be 90 degrees and the air hangs like a sponge at 6 pm? This is a town where suit and (god forbid) tie just aren't de riguer."

                    That would include many places in the United States where residents have the common sense not to be out and about under such conditions. As well as the western half of Europe (sans such humidity) in the month of August....

                2. I never understand why anyone would have a problem with a man wearing a Docker-style pant with a nice shirt. Depending on the restaurant, that might be a golf shirt, a half-sleeve or a long sleeve shirt. And for a woman, what's the big deal with a nice pair of pants or a simple skirt and shirt? Does it ruin my meal when people are under-dressed? No. Do I notice it and wish they'd dressed otherwise? Yes.