Where to Find the Best Chicken in Charleston

No matter how you like your poultry prepared—chicken wings, roast chicken, fried chicken either shellacked and crispy with Sichuan spices, or simply crunchy drumsticks cooked from a traditional Southern recipe—we’re divulging our favorite chicken joints in Charleston.

698 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
Restaurateur Brooks Reitz built his name with this chicken-and-oyster joint that feels old-school despite its carefully crafted ambiance. On a first visit, it’s sinful not to order the perfectly salted, crispy/juicy fried chicken amalgam shellacked with a glaze of Old Bay and cayenne suspended in melted lard. That necessitates a second visit to gorge on the poached char-grilled lobster and sausage, or the Leon’s Fish Fry, a platter of shrimp, oysters and catfish. Leon’s was the first to open way-Upper King, now the restaurant hotbed, and it’s held onto its cool status thanks to its thoughtful buildout in a restored auto body shop, retaining the exposed rafters and a rollup garage door that opens to a patio out front.
2332 Meeting Street Rd, Charleston, SC 29405, USA
Albertha Grant never set out to win a James Beard Foundation award and win the adoration of international magazines and patrons—she simply cooked good food and served it to people in her North Charleston neighborhood. But amidst the last decade’s gold rush around Charleston cuisine, Bertha’s shines in both its authenticity and flavor. It’s a classic soul food joint, with daily meat-and-three specials like fall-off-the-bone fried chicken, sumptuous pork chops, and collard greens that perfectly balance savory and sweet (there’s plenty sweet in the ice tea for everyone). The neighborhood is predominately African-American, and locals still line up here for lunch along with out-of-towners and Peninsula-based workers seeking Southern food done right. The late namesake’s daughters and granddaughters run the counter-service place now, efficiently taking orders to keep the line moving on busy weekdays.
251 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Cane’s chef and owner Paul Yellin grew up on Barbados, and he drew on this experience while putting together this bar and restaurant: the menu is full of Caribbean dishes, and the space is decked out with palms, corrugated metal, and bamboo. Another Barbados-inspired touch? The heavy presence of rum at Cane. The bar houses bottles from across the wold, and the drinks menu serves classic rum-centric cocktails like Zombies and Painkillers alongside more creative concoctions.
1977 Maybank Hwy, Charleston, SC 29412, USA
Just through the heavy wooden doors of this Sichuan pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar is the Pour House, an always-busy music venue where early evening soundchecks often fill the dining room with drum and bass noise. Even louder are the explosive flavors on the plate—the kitchen is unrepentant about not toning down the spice on the Sichuan beef and Yu Xiang pork slivers. For the full lip-numbing cocaine-face experience, start with the dry-rubbed Shaoxing chicken wings, which balance sweet, salty, savory, and spice with plenty of crunch. A few noodle bowls are adaptable for the more spice averse, but this is a place for adventurous fire hounds. On Sundays, brunch offers one of Charleston’s only dim sum experiences, including plenty of dumplings, scallion pancakes, and turnip cakes. After a meal, head to the Pour House deck for free daily concerts by local bands, before bigger-name bands take the indoor stage at night.
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