The Best Restaurants in South Carolina

Carolina cuisine can mean many things, from mustard-based whole-hog BBQ in the Piedmont to bountiful seafood along the coast. Thanks to Charleston’s rising star in the international culinary realm, the state is now a foodie destination, attracting talented chefs from around the world who are experimenting and discovering new ways to use the rich soil’s year-round harvests.

FIG
232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
It’s a big deal when a chef wins a James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast.” It’s an even bigger deal when that chef’s successor wins the same award a few years later, but that’s exactly what happened at this downtown hot spot. Overseen by Mike Lata and helmed by Jason Stanhope, FIG is one of the hallmark restaurants that put Charleston’s dining scene on the map. Seasonal veggies are an important part of the menu, which is inventive and thoughtful without feeling fussy. (Anthony Bourdain raved when he dined at FIG—he had the asparagus salad with fromage blanc, quinoa, green garlic, and carrots—during a 2017 episode of Parts Unknown.) For local, creative food in the Lowcountry, FIG is the model.
302 Carteret Street
Half market, half restaurant, this brightly colored kitchen proudly serves exemplary shrimp and grits and crab cake sandwiches, among a menu of locally sourced sandwiches and salads. After enjoying breakfast or lunch, take home a jar of pickled okra or fresh preserves. There’s a sister location on Hilton Head, and a farmstand on the way out of Beaufort, in case you forgot to pick up a taste of the South for your family back home.
2063 Middle Street
Chef Jacques Larson operates on the fringes, creating destination restaurants far off the Charleston peninsula, first with his Johns Island trattoria, Wild Olive, and now with this seafood-and-pizza-focused outpost on Sullivan’s Island. His signature ricotta gnocchi with short-rib ragù and horseradish gremolata sets tastebuds salivating and inspires frequent return drives to the beach, as do pizzas like “Old Danger,” featuring pancetta, black pepper, and a farm egg over melted mozzarella and parmesan. Weekend brunch is in especially high demand, but the well-designed, nautical-but-not-kitsch dining room and wraparound raw bar stay packed for lunch and dinner every day of the week. Downstairs, there’s an in-house coffee-and-gelato shop, BeardCat’s, that doles out breakfast sandwiches and lattes in the morning and 20 flavors of house made icy goodness all afternoon and evening.
76 Queen St, Charleston SC
At this Charleston hit, James Beard Award–winning chef Sean Brock reinterprets traditional Southern dishes with a steadfast commitment to local and regional ingredients—the restaurant even has its own garden. Constantly changing, the menu is filled with inventive new takes on Southern cuisine, such as pig’s ear lettuce wraps done up “buffalo” or “Kentukyaki” style.

Don’t miss the Carolina Grouper—it’s one of the most beautiful dishes at this establishment, and a regional classic you have to try while visiting Charleston.

Note that the restaurant also has locations in Nashville, TN and Savannah, GA.
920 Gervais Street
Set in a historic brick building that once sold engine supplies, this Columbia stalwart helped pioneer the state’s local food movement. The daily menu draws from meats butchered in-house, fresh seafood, and handmade pasta. There’s also a popular Sunday brunch and an award-winning wine list.
544 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
A two-story dining room with an always-packed raw bar, The Ordinary serves some of the South’s best seafood. Here, chef Mike Lata dishes up must-try options like a seafood tower, crab toast, fish chowder, and triggerfish with fingerling potatoes. While the lobster roll is only on the menu as a Tuesday special, you can ask for it any day of the week and the chef will happily make you an order. Also worth requesting is the barbecue shrimp, which Lata poaches in a creamy sauce infused with Worcestershire and sets atop charred sourdough. Just be sure to book a table early. Groups should request the downstairs booths, while solo diners without reservations should order a cocktail and wait for a seat at the raw bar.
1081 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
This cavernous brewpub has a wide-open kitchen, a long bar, tall communal tables, and a patio shaded by live oaks. If you can, grab a seat at the chef’s counter and watch the team spread creamy aïoli on locally made rye bread, topping it with pickled shrimp, vegetables, fresh herbs, and chervil leaves. The beer selection is unparalleled in Charleston, with the restaurant’s own brews ranking among the city’s finest local offerings.

They also now have a second location at 1505 King St. #115, Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. & Taproom, which is a casual restaurant and the location of their brewing facilities.
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