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ISO Upscale great restaurants in Charleston

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My sister and I are visiting Charleston at the end of April. We''re looking for some recommendations for upscale great restaurants. We won't have a car, so restaurants in the suburbs would be very difficult to reach. Thanks for your help.

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  1. I've been to Charleston only a few times...however I've had some great meals. The Peninsula Grill had to be one of the greatest full dining experiences I've ever had. I will praise this place to anyone who is willing to listen. Excellent service, first class food from a James Beard awarded chef, and cocktails to die for. Their sister restaurant Hank's is also fantastic...seafood oriented. After that....head to High Cotton for drinks and great music.

    4 Replies
    1. re: GreaseFire

      Ditto, all these are good bets. Penninsula Grill is also a fun place to go for seafood and bubbles in their champaign bar if you're in need of afternoon refreshment. They have some nice outdoor seating, April would be perfect for it.

      Charleston Grill is also top-notch. The Woodlands in Summerville - if you don't mind a 20 min drive - is also terrific.

      If you want to stay on the Penninsula in the historic district though, my vote is McCrady's. Gorgeous space. And my persnickity foodie connections in town tell me this is the best kitchen in town right now.

      I would put Hank's and High Cotton on a lower tier than Penninsula, McCrady's and the Woodlands. But, all good. Also recommend SNOB, FIG, Cru, Fulton Five, Rue de Jean, and I'm sure there's others I'm just forgetting. Such a great food town.

      1. re: dinersaurus

        Has Charleston Grill missed any beats since star chef Bob Waggoner left a few weeks ago? His longtime sous chef Michelle Weaver took the helm, and I'm wondering whether it's still worth going. Waggoner was an icon.

        Same question about Woodlands. Chef Tarver King left back last fall for Hilltoppers at Goodstone in Virginia just outside of D.C.

        A restaurant is only as good as the person cooking the food, so when a chef changes somewhere, it's almost like you're talking about an entirely new restaurant. So...any recent reviews of these places?

        1. re: mikeh

          Haven't been to Charleston Grill since Waggoner left. I've heard that the cooking isn't quite as bright, but is still good. People have told me that the Woodlands have actually gotten better. The new chef, while young, worked under King for some time and has a impressive resume that includes Le Bernardin.

      2. re: GreaseFire

        I have to echo the intense Peninsula Grill sentiment expressed above. After years of looking to be wowed in Charleston, Peninsula Grill totally delivered last November. It was so exceptional an evening (inclusive of service, food and Chef Bob Carter's adroit hospitality) that we went three nights in a row.

        I love finally having a slam-dunk "go to" place in Charleston.

      3. Hands down, its McCrady's. Take a look at a website called chuckeats. This guy dines all over the world and calls Sean Brock "one of a handfull of great chefs in the US". Bring money.

        3 Replies
        1. re: DaleJ

          A few warnings about McCrady's:

          1) He approaches cuisine from the "molecular gastronomy" school of thought. Think a lot of sous vide and jars of pectin and liquid nitrogen and oxygen masks in his kitchen (I'm serious - read his blog). Thus, if you're looking for something more "comforting," any of the other choices in this thread will do you well.

          2) I don't recommend you fall into group 1) because I love this movement in food and I think it adds to the experience of eating. That said, I have experienced Sean Brock's work on a number of different occasions and have always come away disappointed. Although he's using fresh, local ingredients more and more, the end flavors of his dishes come across to me as too "cold" - too "science experiment" where there is frankly something wrong with the flavors.

          In fact, I find a number of regional "molecular gastronomy" chefs to do better than Brock (a few in Virginia like Town House Grill in Chilhowie, VA according to someone who has been to both, and Red Hen in Lexington, VA according to myself). That said, those same chefs extol the virtues of Brock, so I'm not sure where the disconnect is.

          1. re: mikeh

            I do enjoy the "molecular" approach because I can't do it at home. I've been to Alinea and WD-50 and had great fun. Admittedly, I've only eaten at McCrady's a couple of times, but its always on my list when in Charleston.

            1. re: mikeh

              I have to echo these warnings...I am not a big fan of the food at McCrady's anymore...they've lost their "soul" and have strayed pretty far from a local feel...you won't find many natives there at night. Do still love the bar, though, and the restaurant is one of the most ensearing spaces in Charleston.

          2. Cru Cafe was AMAZING. Everyone in our party of 4 loved their meals. I ordered the shrimp and grits special and it was like eating a piece of heaven. Adorable, intimate building as well.

            1. Try Cypress, it's a beautiful modern locale with a great menu. Ask to sit near the wine wall, you won't be disappointed. My husband loves their salmon wellington. Their steaks are also wonderful. Their cocktails are tasty and worth the price. Let us know where you and your sister went, report back, ellenost!!

              1. Thanks everyone for your posts. I'll report back after our trip.