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Jan 12, 2010 04:03 PM

Charleston's Best Restaurants for NYC Foodies?

I've read through lots and lots of posts, but am not coming up with any definitive answers...

Here's the situation:
My husband and I are coming to Charleston this weekend (3 days, 3 nights) - atleast 50% of the reason for our visit is to try out the famous culinery scene in Charleston.
We will be staying at either the Charleston Plance, Market Pavillion, Planters Inn, or Wentworth Mansion (any opinions?).
We will be celebrating our wedding anniversary during our stay.

We are looking for the best that Charleston has to offer for lunch and dinner - upscale, casual, down'n'dirty, whatever... As long it is has amazing food.
We would also love to eat in the type of places (or the type of cuisine) we can't get here in nyc.

All recommendations will be most gratefully received!

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  1. The only food I can think of that you can find in Charleston that you can't find in NYC is Sweatman's BBQ, altough its trechnically not in Charleston. if you're interested in trying real SC BBQ, and are willing to drive 30 to 45 minutes, then I highly recommend it. As far as Charleston proper, I'm surprised you're having trouble finding suggestions by searching. My recommendations would be SNOB, Cru Cafe, Hominy Grill for dinner and Jestine's.

    1. When I hear "foodie" + "Charleston" , I immediately think of McCrady's. My husband and I have an anniversary tradition of dinner at the Peninsula Grill....our anniversary wouldn't be complete without Robert Carter's fabulous coconut cake! Hominy Grill is good for homestyle, Southern cooking. Bowen's Island is a place that you definitely would not find in NYC (since you said you are up for "down-n-dirty") and it's oyster season and a good time to visit what is (in my opinion) the best seafood place in the area.

      11 Replies
        1. re: monab

          Personnally, I would avoid McCrady's, because that's exactly the kind of thing you can find in new york (multi-course, mollecular gastronomy) and possibly a lot better. My usual recs stand, except I wouldn't do Italian here either. I'd go w/ FIG (make sure you get the vegetable sides...even if you have to skip an app in order to have room) and Cru Cafe and Hominy Grill.

          Will you have a car? I have yet to try Bowen's Island, but it certainly sounds like it fits your needs. In general, avoid restaurants on Shem Creek (tourist rest row).

          Charleston Place is a grand hotel w/ frou-frou shops on the first floor. It is VERY centrally located right on King Street, the prime shopping street, and close to lots of good restaurants. When I went to the spa at Wentworth Mansion recently, I moved the car from King Street, although it would be walking distance in reasonable weather w/ decent shoes. I've never noticed a cab in Charleston. WM was a GORGEOUS place and I understand the restaurant there is decent but I've never been.

          1. re: danna

            Charleston has a fleet of black cabs - like the ones in London - that are based out of Charleston Place. We love staying there - you park the car and don't have to move it again until you go home.

            I'd echo a lot of the recos here already - Hominy Grill, Bowen's Island, and the coconut cake at Peninsula are all fantastic.

            1. re: Suzy Q


              That was one of the best parts of the trip. The only time I had to get the car was when I was headed out to Kiawah for golf. Aside from that we walked everywhere.

              I have to say after 1 visit Charleston is one of my favorite cities and I can't wait to go back next year.

              1. re: Suzy Q

                Actually, BC is no longer based out of the CP. Besides, they are really expensive and hard to get. You are better off with Green Taxi's flat rate or having the CP drive you in one of their own town cars. Also, skip Hominy. It's way overrated.

                1. re: penny35

                  penny, I've never had a problem getting one of the black cabs, but then I usually make it a point to get an individual driver's name and number and use him for my entire visit.

                  You're also just about the only person I've ever heard say anything negative about Hominy Grill. What makes you say "overrated"? Just curious - that's one of the few places in Charleston that's pretty universally enjoyed.

                  1. re: Suzy Q

                    Yeah, I actually think it's underrated for dinner. I could see why you might not think the brunch is worth the wait (because the wait is quite long on weekends) but that's one of my favorites for dinner. I tell everyone to go there, if you have a car.

                    1. re: Suzy Q

                      Overrated because I don't think making home cooked food that I can find in any Junior League Cook book is worthy of a James Beard award. Squash casserole and biscuits and gravy?
                      Really? The service is unfriendly but adequate. And there is no where to wait because they won't seat you until everyone arrives. Yes, it's probably universally enjoyed. Who doesn't like a home cooked lunch?

                      1. re: penny35

                        I agree with the overrated comment 100%. If you live in Charleston, you hear that often...for some reason, though, the tourists love it. Don't get me wrong..I like Hominy Grill, but a James Beard award? That was just silly.

                        Hominy Grill
                        207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

                        1. re: lowcountryfoodie

                          Here's why one tourist loved Hominy Grill on her lone visit in 2007. I ate shrimp and grits three times and grits as a side dish once during a four-day visit to Charleston. Specifically, I ate Shrimp and Grits at Magnolia, Hominy Grill, and Middleton Place Restaurant. I was served grits as a side dish at either SNOB or High Cotton. (I can't remember which.)

                          The shrimp and grits at Hominy Grill decimated the competition. Hominy's shrimp was perfectly cooked and the grits were creamy without being overwhelmed by the addition of too much flavor-masking cream and cheese. In contrast, the shrimp were overcooked in the Middleton Plantation. The Magnolia version masked the entire dish in a tomato chutney that tasted like Chinese Duck sauce. I was so turned off by this sweet-vinegary liquid contaminating every square inch that I asked for a new version without the chutney. The new version had the benefit of being brought to the table quickly after cooking so the shrimp were better cooked. The grits were delicious but essentially the grits were an excuse to eat gobs of cream and melted cheese. (Incidentally, I looked at the Magnolia menu just now and the tomato chutney only shows up as an element on the Fried Green Tomatoes. The current version of Shrimp and Grits replaces the shrimp with mixed seafood, but still keeps the tendency to over-elaborate with a lobster-butter sauce.)

                          The side dish of grits was plated beneath a piece of fish, and the whole dish was liberally sauced.

                          So if you're wondering why tourists love a restaurant that locals dismiss as home cooking, it's because that restaurant gets the homecooking right!

                          1. re: Indy 67

                            I think you may have nailed it. I like HG, I eat there sometimes, I recommend it sometimes, but I still think it's over-rated. I'm sure good Southern cooking a little less overwrought than places like Magnolia IS pretty amazing to non-southerners.

                            I'm TOTALLY with you on the nasty, globby, creamy, tomato-gravy, etc. messes that restaurants tend to put on shrimp and grits. it's not called shrimp,grits, and cream sauce, now is it!?!?

          2. Don't take my word for it. Look up for his review of McCrady's.

            1 Reply
            1. re: DaleJ

              thanks for the link...those were some spectacular photos. I think I'm going to have to forget about my mediocre experience in the wine bar a couple of years ago and give the place a try.

            2. Peninsula Grill is about as good as it gets. Chef Carter is at the top of his game.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ashevillejunkie

                I just stayed at Charleston Place last month and loved it. I HIGHLY recommend dining at the Charleston Grill and specifically ordering the chef's tasting menu.

                Also, if you can afford to do it, I'd also highly recommend upgrading to the Concierge level. The complimentary drinks and food make it very well worth it.

                Just as a reply to Danna and in case you are looking for some time in the spa, my wife thoroghly enjoyed the spa at Charleston Place.

                Have a great time.

              2. Something you most likely can't get in NY is gullah. If you have a vehicle, try Gullah Cuisine on Rt. 17 in Mt. Pleasant but do lunch instead of dinner and get their buffet.

                5 Replies
                  1. re: monab

                    Sorry that wasn't clear. Gullah are African Americans who live in the Low Country areas of coastal South Carolina and upper coastal Georgia. They are usually direct descendants of the slave population, and arguably retain more of their truly African traditions than most other communities in the US. They speak a distinctive dialect, also called Gullah. Their cuisine uses local ingredients as would have been easily obtainable along the coast here.

                    1. re: birgator

                      Thanks for the explanation!
                      Sounds delicious. I wasn't thinking of renting a car, and on googlemaps, mount pleasant dosen't look very far - it there any other way of getting to Gullah (or Bowen's island) with public transport or by taxi?

                      1. re: monab

                        I'm not a Charleston native, but I'm 98% certain that the answer is no. If there is a way to go by bus, it's probably not going to be worth the hassle (and, I'm normally very pro-public transportation) and a taxi would be pretty pricey to get you far off the Penninsula. Come to think of it, I've never seen one outside of the Penninsula. I would just rent the car. That way, you'll have the convenience of a car, but more importantly, the opportunity to enjoy some of the marshlands around the Low Country. They are beautiful. As a Charleston outsider, the marshes are one of my favorite things about the area.

                      2. re: birgator

                        Current Gullah food is a joke. Traditionally the slaves were given the leftover parts of the animal after the slaughter so along with abundant seafood, as much rice as the slaves wanted, and pig brains, intenstines, feet, etc made up the Gullah diet. Chitlins smell vile when cooking.

                        Gullah Cuisine is a marketing ploy to get people to think they are eating something unique when all it is is a southern meat and three.

                        Jestine's Kitchen has better fried chicken.

                        Jestine's Kitchen
                        251 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401