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Feb 13, 2009 05:44 PM

Where do local foodies eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Charleston, SC

We are going to Charleston later this month (FEB09) and are looking for great food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What are the best places?

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  1. For cheap lunch or dinner, I recommend Sesame. It's in the old section of North Charleston. They do burgers and beer mostly, but mostly everything is made from scratch, down to the ketchup and mayo. They grind their own meat, so you can have your burger cooked to your liking. They also have excellent bean burgers if that's your persuasion. Definitely get the sweet potato fries if you go. My personal favorites are the New Zealand Burger and the South Carolina Burger. But check out their specials---there's always something seasonal and one of a kind.

    Here's the link to their menu:

    Hope you enjoy Charleston!

    1 Reply
    1. re: jsdeman

      I have to say pretty nice looking menu for a burger joint.I think I will try it next time I am in that area.

    2. Try Cru Cafe on Pinckney, they take resos for lunch and that's how the locals get in! They also have great dinner. Five Loaves on Cannon is all homemade soups, sammies and salads, you might have to wait but they have a community table. Trattoria Lucca is a new place over on Bogard (dinner only), yumm. Pearlz on E. Bay is a raw bar with lots of great seafood, small plates, and a great lobster sandwich. If you head up to Park Circle ( where Sesame is) there is a great place called EVO. They have great neopolitan style pizza with homemade/local ingredients, but call first their lunch and dinner hours are sometimes odd. Also, if you want to make the trip over to West Ashley (12 min from dtown) you should try Glass Onion. Again, they use local ingredients. These are all places that are open for lunch and dinner and frequented by locals. Enjoy your stay!

      1. Gaulart & Maliclet Fast & French
        98 Broad St
        Charleston, SC 29401
        (843) 577-9797‎

        We ate here by accident. We were strolling down Broad and stopped to look at the menu outside at lunch time, when locals, as we found out later, were all telling us to come in that this was the best place in Charleston. We found out because you share space at the winding counter. The lunch was pretty amazing and cheap - they throw in a decent glass of wine with the sandwich and soup that I had. We came back later that night and had a so-so dinner - cheap though! We did have interesting conversations with the friendly people of Charleston. I recommend going at lunch.

        Hyman's Seafood Co.
        213 Meeting St
        Charleston, SC 29401
        (843) 723-6000‎

        Reasonable prices gets crowded so come early or late.
        We ate here twice and I didn't have to twist the wife's arm - she suggested it. This is my favorite seafood restaurant anywhere. A very friendly place and the food is super good varied and oh so reasonable. Also, had a bottle of Woodbridge Cabernet for $15.
        My ideal day in Charleston would have me going to Fast and French for lunch and Hyman's for dinner.

        17 Replies
        1. re: FrugalDanny

          No FrugalDanny, locals do NOT eat at Hyman's. I promise.

          1. re: penny35

            Agree with penny. Locals do NOT eat at Hyman's. It's a tourist trap extraordinaire.

            1. re: Suzy Q

              forgot when i threw hymans in with fast & french that the thread's theme is to tell tourists where locals eat....
              As a non-local i recommend it to locals and tourists....go at a time when you can avoid those tourists yuck! and just eat and get out without buying anything a tourist might

              1. re: FrugalDanny

                I wouldn't recommend it because I think the food's awful, not because it's a tourist trap. There are much better places for seafood in Charleston.

                1. re: Suzy Q

                  one man's crispy flounder oysters and scallops are another woman's poison.. (:-D)

                  ps was good talking with eli - us tourists got to experience All Y'all and despite it being a tourist place some of that charleston charm and hospitality..

                  1. re: Suzy Q

                    Getting my list together for the weekend... So what are the better places for seafood? Lunch? Dinner?

                    1. re: foodieinraleigh

                      I like the Wreck and Bowens Island. Neither is fancy in the least, but the seafood is fresh and well-prepared.

                      I don't believe Bowen's has reopened yet (someone local may be able to chime in on the progress) but here's a great recent article:


                      1. re: Suzy Q

                        I will second the rec for Bowen's Island. Unless Bowen's closed to build the new building, they have reopened since the fire.

                        1. re: Suzy Q

                          This must not be the Bowen's Island, I went to this fall. It was NASTY, Dirty.
                          The guy who took our order was rude, did not appear to even be interested in taking an order. The oysters were not good and I am an oyster lover. The group I was with love eating in establishments off beaten path and had gone to a great deal of trouble to get there. What a disappointment. I cannot believe the health department even lets it operate.

                          1. re: SammieQ

                            If your visit was during the fall of 2008, then obviously it wasn't the same restaurant. According to the article, Bowen's Island burned down in 2006, and is scheduled to reopen this summer.

                            1. re: carolinadawg

                              Yes it could have been the same restaurant. The original building of Bowen's Island burned down and they reopened maybe a month later. They had tables on an open aired but covered dock, and they had a screened in area complete with heat lamps. In that article, they are talking about their new building opening not the restaurant.

                              As for BI being dirty, well you should have seen the place before the fire. I have never thought of it as dirty, but I think rustic would be an apt description. As for someone being rude, I have never had that experience at BI. The restaurant has been owned by the Barber family for decades, and usually the person taking the order is the owner himself and he has never been anything but pleasant.

                              1. re: lizzy

                                Bowen's Island closed for maybe a few months, right after the fire. They've been open ever since, and the place is delightful. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it is the quintessential beach experience. Highly, highly recommended to the discerning beach bum.

                      2. re: Suzy Q

                        Another Hyman's Hater! As someone who used to work at Hyman's, I gotta tell you it's not that bad. People love to hate on it and say the food is awful but if you expect basic, fried seafood, you won't be disappointed. It is not all local seafood and not all fresh but neither is any other popular seafood place downtown. I ate there almost every day for about 3 years. The friend scallops and buffalo shrimp, I still miss. Unfortunately, despite the abundance of local, delicious seafood I still have trouble finding a GOOD seafood restaurant in Charleston so I just cook it myself. At the very least, Hyman's is not a chain so at least you are supporting a truly local establishment. This subject is one of my pet peeves as it is almost always perpetuated by local people who say NOTHING about the Mall Import Restaurants dominating the downtown area lately.

                        1. re: Jessica Laurel

                          We thought the best thing about The Wreck was the atmosphere.

                          1. re: Jessica Laurel

                            I am a transplanted local to Charleston, having been here now for about 25 years. I've eaten at Hyman's once, about 10 years ago, and I will never eat there again. I ordered a plate of steamed shrimp and was down to the last few and bit into one, chewing it, only to discover that it was rotten. It was one of the most disgusting taste ever, and one that I will never forget. It was several years before I could eat another shrimp. The owner, at least that is who I assumed it was, was making his rounds visiting customers at the tables shortly after, and when he stopped at our table, I told him in a very low, non-threatening, matter-of-fact manner, about the shrimp. His reaction is the foremost reason why I will never eat there again. He gave me the impression that he thought that I was lying to him to get a free meal (the waitress had already removed the plates from our table, where I had placed the partially chewed shrimp); his accusatory comment to me was that he could not give me a meal for free since he didn't see the shrimp. but he could give me a free dessert. I told him, "no thanks, I could not eat a dessert as my appetite was lost". I told him that I wasn't looking to get a free meal - that I was bringing what had happened to his attention. Getting the free meal was not even on my mind and I was truly insulted by his suggestion and his accusatory manner. He explained to me that occasionally a loose shrimp will get lodged in the boat where they may stay unnoticed for a few days before being collected up with the newly caught shrimp. That was his solution to the problem - just explaining how it happens. In hindsight I wish now that I had kept the shrimp - not to show him, but to report the restaurant to the Department of Health.

                            1. re: Jessica Laurel

                              Hyman's is better than any of the seafood places on the Market. It's not as bad as the locals say it is, but it is no Hank's or The Wreck. Everyone loves to hate Hyman's, but if you want cheap seafood, it is the best option downtown.

                              1. re: tennreb

                                I have to agree that Hyman's is not that bad. It's one of the few places I've ever been able to order just a huge platter of boiled blue crabs.

                                However, Charleston is so full of places that are so much better than "not that bad", I can't see any reason to eat there, especially not stand in line to eat there. unless they have blue crabs that day!

                  2. When you say "best places" are you looking for one blowout, spare no expense meal after the other? Or, are you looking for the places off the beaten path known only by locals?

                    The good news is that it's hard to find bad places in Charleston. Just stay away from a few of the tourist trap areas around the old market.

                    If you're looking for a blowout meal consider McCradys, the Woodlands (in Summerville, a 20 min drive away), or Charleston Grill (although the chef just left, but his team remains). Peninsula Grill is also pretty good.

                    For cheaper (a bit) options, try SNOB and FIG. Another poster mentioned Cru. I haven't been but I've heard good things. I've also enjoyed Al di La for Italian (casual) in West Ashley. I recommend either Hominy Grill for low country cooking (given all the publicity they get it seems trite to recommend, but if you haven't been it's worth the trip) or Lanas across the street for Mediterranean influenced food (had a really nice lunch here recently). Also in West Ashley is the Fat Hen, headed up by a good chef, and still seems to be only on locals' radar.

                    Gaulart is a cute little place, but I wouldn't bother unless you're looking for a quick lunch and happen to be right there. There's a lot of better options. Hyman's will be packed with tourists, sometimes lined up out the door.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: dinersaurus

                      We are looking for great food. Would prefer reasonably price, but that is really not the final consideration. I have seen on several other threads comments on High Cotton and Hank's. Any thoughts? Sounds like we should include Peninsula Grill and Woodlands on our list.

                      1. re: foodieinraleigh

                        Cypress, located on East Bay is nice. It's a modern, sleek place with a menu to please any palate. Most of the restaurants on EB have visable sidewalk menus to view. Definitley try SNOB, and give Pearlz a go, it's gotten better since it's initial opening.

                      2. re: dinersaurus

                        My wife and I had the tasting menu at McCrady's last weekend. It was truly very, very good, but you need to be open to some things that are out of the ordinary (foams, emulsions, etc.). While expensive, I felt it was pretty reasonable for what they served. The wine pairings were well chosen and, again, fairly priced for what was served. The service was perfect.

                        I haven't eaten from their a la carte menu, but it looked very good as well.

                        1. re: JPAub

                          I had the tasting menu at McCrady's, and the food was absolutely amazing. The wine pairings were excellent as well. However, I left hungry, sober, and $120 less rich. Portions are very small.

                        2. re: dinersaurus

                          It's rare that I agree with every comment that someone makes in a post but this is definitely one of them. Great recommendations all around.

                          A bit sorry I missed out on this thread while it was relevant.

                          To be fair, a lot of people like Hyman's because they're from different regions and don't know what really good, fresh seafood tastes like. Before I came to Charleston for school, my family came down from Ohio for vacations when I was a kid. We ate at Hyman's because of the "Voted Best Seafood in SC!" sign in the airport and thought it was pretty good. Then again, what did we know? Lake Erie isn't exactly a world class source of fish. Once I moved down here full time a few years ago I understood that I was horribly mistaken. Mediocre fried seafood is mediocre fried seafood. Hyman's isn't any worse than any of the other places down on the Market, but it's certainly not good.

                          It wasn't until I tried the grouper and snapper at FIG that I really understood how great fresh fish can be.

                        3. Charleston's Cafe, aka the Bookstore Cafe, in Mt Pleasant for breakfast/brunch/lunch...