Where To Eat (& Drink) In Charleston, SC: 15+ Of The Best Spots For Foodies
It’s no secret that my stomach tends to drive my travel itineraries, so I was stoked to (FINALLY!) head to Charleston. The beautiful, historic Southern city has been known as a foodie destination for years, and I did it up right.
So I wanted to share my recommendations for where to eat in Charleston…and, of course, not leaving out my beloved cocktails and coffee.
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I made it my mission to find the best places to eat in Charleston, and though I’ll acknowledge that I just scratched the surface, you’ll see below that we had quite a lot of success for only being there two days!
Where to stay in Charleston: I’ve written a separate post on where to stay in Charleston…we were visiting the weekend after 4th of July and prices were WHOA (and things were pretty booked up ahead). We stayed in the Mills House Charleston, and absolutely loved the gorgeous decor and many conveniences (coffee shop, restaurant, bar, pool, etc.). It was central and walkable as well.
The other hotels on our shortlist were The Restoration, Hotel Emeline, The Palmetto, 86 Cannon, The Pinch, and The Spectator. You’re spoiled for choice with beautiful, central hotels in Charleston, though they do come with a price tag. Mostly it came down to overall availability and the types of rooms available (and I loved having a pool).
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15+ of the best spots to eat & drink in Charleston
Before we dive in, a couple quick observations. First, this is definitely a reservations town. Not that you can’t ever get in without one (we did in a few cases), but if there’s a place you want to go I do recommend reservations (or finding an off-time, if they don’t accept them).
One other thing we ran into is that most restaurants close from 3:00-5:00pm, so if you don’t plan your day right you may find yourself stranded looking for a late lunch option. Just good to be aware of.
I’ll shout out something that I really love but wasn’t able to work into my itinerary this time, and that’s a food tour. Charleston is a great city for food tours, so if you want to sample a lot within a short time (and learn history and culture on the side), you should check them out (I’d recommend looking here and here).
I’ll go in a vaguely-recognizable order of morning to night below, but it gets a bit muddled in the middle. But we’ll definitely start with coffee shops!
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Harken welcomed me to the city, as I got some work done while waiting for my friend to arrive. It’s an adorable coffee shop that also serves some baked goods and light breakfast and lunch. One thing to note is they don’t have wifi (which makes working there difficult, I just used my personal hotspot).
It was right around the corner from our hotel so I made a couple stops here during our Charleston weekend. Their iced spiced vanilla latte was delicious, and I became absolutely OBSESSED with their oat cake with bourbon cherries and goat cheese frosting (I’m dying to recreate it).
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The Black Door
The Black Door coffee shop was located in the lobby of our hotel, so was super convenient for us. They have a few convenience items as well, like waters, juices, seltzers, bottles of wine, snacks, and alcoholic ready-to-drinks.
They make a good vanilla latte, but my hands-down favorite was one of their seasonal drinks, a strawberry honey latte (which I got iced, with about half the sweetness). YUM.
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Bitty & Beau’s
I definitely was on a mission (as always) to sample as many Charleston coffee shops as possible, and was excited to stop by Bitty & Beau’s.
They have a few locations throughout the South, dedicated to their mission of employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to allow them to be more accepted and included in the community. Note, they don’t offer seating, so it’s more of a coffee takeaway option.
It’s a great cause and I had a delicious vanilla iced latte!
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Clerks Coffee (located in Hotel Emeline)
This was a super fast stop for us because it was closeby to where we had brunch reservations and we were running a few minutes early. I wish we’d had more time to spend, though, because Clerks is super cute!
I got one of their seasonal special drinks, a pistachio rose latte (again, with less syrup than recommended), and it was shockingly good! Rose is one of those flavors that can really overwhelm and end up tasting like soap, but the balance of the flavors was perfect.
They do have a few food items (like avocado toast and breakfast sandwiches) as well as baked goods on their menu, but we didn’t have a chance to try them.
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We made the trek out to Glazed Donuts (also trying to get to Jeni’s for some ice cream, but they were weirdly closed that day). It’s just past the Marion Square area, and has a lot of food options around it.
They are known for their creative flavors, but by the time we got there they were starting to run a bit low, and their flavor selection that day didn’t quite hit for me (a lot of bacon, which we can’t eat, and then some overly-sweet/rich options which aren’t to my taste).
I can’t remember the flavors we got, but they were definitely delish! I think I went more simple, like the lemon old fashioned donut.
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Handy & Hot
Moving out of straight-up coffee shops and adding in some CARBS. While Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit (rightly) gets the shout-outs for delicious Southern biscuit goodness, many people will tell you that Handy & Hot deserves a mention as well. So we headed over to check it out.
We split a couple of their biscuits, one with berries and goat cheese (they were out of Brie, which it was supposed to have), and goat cheese and roasted veggies. Gotta love a sweet-n-savory combo. The biscuits themselves (texturally and flavor-wise) were not as good as Callie’s.
But the blueberry iced chai latte I had was AMAZING. I’m trying to figure out how to recreate it. They had a rosemary vanilla latte on the menu that also sounded great. So I’d say this is first and foremost an interesting, delicious coffee shop AND they have biscuity goodness that’s pretty good (if not exceptional).
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Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Speaking of exceptional biscuits…rumor had that this was the best biscuit in town, and I feel like it delivered. They have two locations, one on Upper King Street and one in the Charleston City Market. I believe you can order ahead for both, and that’s always recommended as it can get a bit crazy.
Thankfully I was going at off hours both time I visited, so didn’t have a long wait. The Charleston City Market was only a couple blocks from our hotel, so was a really convenient option. I got the pimento cheese biscuit (A+, no notes) and a seasonal special tomato sandwich (good), along with some cold brew. We also got the cinnamin honey butter one and a fried chicken one.
Just…NOM. Not much else to say.
Miller’s All Day
This cute, retro diner serves breakfast “all day”, along with great lunch entrees, drinks, and more. I’d put it on the short list for best brunch in Charleston (though probably not the very top spot).
The wait for brunch can be a couple hours at times, but we got there early and were able to grab two spots at the bar.
I really wanted hot coffee but was already sweating so much that I got an iced chai latte instead. My friend and I split the hot honey chicken donut sandwich (one of the best things we ate all weekend) and the banana caramel waffles (good, but a bit sickly sweet, needed something bright/tart in it).
This is a must-try in my opinion!
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I guess we’re headed into a weird cocktails/day drinking interlude before getting to real lunch and dinner restaurants. When I was planning our trip, I solicited recos from friends on social, and got multiple versions of (and it really was all-caps) “FROSÉ AT THE CO-OP!!!”
Lol. So it was definitely on my short list of must-do spots. The Co-Op is located on Sullivan’s Island, so you’ll need a car or to take an Uber over to that area. We paired it with a chance to see the beach briefly and then our dinner plans which were in that area.
And wow, the frosé is so good!!! The all-caps were warranted. They also had live music going, so it was just a cool, really chill vibe.
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The Watch Rooftop Kitchen & Spirits
One of the first things you’ll hear about Charleston is that it’s all about that rooftop patio life. So that was priority #1 once we got settled into our hotel…it was mid/late afternoon but neither of us had really had lunch, so we headed up to The Watch for some food and cocktails.
And man, I wish we’d had more time to spend here. The food and drinks were both delicious. Because we had dinner reservations in a few hours we didn’t want to go crazy on food. We split the pimento cheese and chicken nachos as well as the fish tacos, and devoured both while enjoying the great views—from inside, because an intense pop-up thunderstorm rolled through.
From a cocktails standpoint I had the Vice City (coconut fat-washed gin, pineapple, charred strawberry syrup, and lemon juice), and then the Strawberry Blonde (strawberry-infused rum, amaro, falernum, lime, and pineapple). Both were phenomenal.
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Charleston Farmer’s Market at Marion Square
This isn’t only a food and drink reco, but also just a cool thing to do. The farmer’s market is located in Marion Square on Saturdays from 8:00am to 2:00pm, and has a handful of food trucks/stands as well as some drink options.
We didn’t end up actually eating anything here since we were still full from brunch, but they had some good stuff. They also have fresh produce and local goods (I got a beautiful little souvenir).
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Tavern & Table
While we had two beautiful sunrises, our sunsets in Charleston were pretty much a wash. But in our trip planning we’d wanted to find one waterfront dinner option and ultimately decided on a reservation at Tavern & Table. While the view is nice enough but not spectacular, the food is BOMB.
We got the burnt ends mac & cheese (AMAZEBALLS), cornbread, and the burger. I also sipped on a gin & jam cocktail while my friend had the grapefruit collins, and both were delicious. Everything we had here was excellent, highly recommend! And I do recommend reservations.
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Port of Call food hall
This wasn’t on our list ahead of the trip, but we stumbled on it while exploring the Charleston City Market. Port of Call has both an outdoor seating area with live music as well as an indoor food hall with several different restaurant options.
There are eight restaurants to choose from, from seafood to tacos to Greek to charcuterie. The vibe here is great, we didn’t end up eating but got a cocktail and sat and listened to music for a while.
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Church & Union
We didn’t get around to making many reservations during our trip (always a challenge for me to commit to timing), but this was one of them…to be fair, we made the reservation the day before. We wanted to try Church & Union, and already had evening plans so decided on brunch.
The restaurant is gorgeous, housed inside a 100-year-old Gothic church building with stained glass windows and soaring ceilings, with a modern and cozy decor. The service was great as well, and this may just be the best brunch in Charleston.
Their brunch menu was a bit limited for our pig-free dietary restrictions, but everything we had was fabulous. The praline french toast was amazing (I’m often disappointed by french toast but not this time), and my lamb burger was delicious. The breakfast potatoes/home fries were great as well, with a sweet-and-salty coating.
One thing to note is that there are no liquor sales on Sundays until 10:00am, so you can’t order a cocktail but you can have a mimosa. Alcohol laws are so weird.
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Located in a cute Victorian townhouse and serving up Southern cuisine, Poogan’s Porch is a Charleston institution. It was right across the street from our hotel but we kept catching their mid-afternoon closing times weirdly. We did manage to catch a very quick early lunch on our last day.
We weren’t very hungry so ordered a handful of odd things, and that may have contributed to our kind of “just okay” experience. We got pimento fritters (delicious) and fried green tomatoes, then salads, a cocktail, and some juice. And our bill was insane. Not sure if we got overcharged or what, we were in a rush to make a sailing excursion.
Maybe if we’d ordered a real meal we would have had amazing food, but our experience was just a bit more “eh”.
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Ritual Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge
We were supposed to do a sunset sail on Saturday night so hadn’t made dinner plans, but when thunderstorms rolled through and canceled our sail we had to adjust on the fly.
We tried to get into Citrus Club at the Dewberry but it was a super long wait. Instead we rode the elevator up to Ritual Rooftop, which has a super cool kind of Mayan jungle vibe. Though it was early in the evening, it was already crazy…that’s part bachelorette parties, and also because Patron was doing an activation.
We nabbed spots at the bar and I had an absolutely amazing Mayan Sour cocktail, made with banana-infused bourbon (which I will absolutely be recreating myself). It was so crazy we decided not to try to eat here.
Sadly because of the rain we weren’t able to enjoy the outside patio, but it has a great view and is definitely worth a visit for sunset or day drinking.
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Carmella’s Cafe & Dessert Bar
After Ritual we were trying to figure out a plan. I can’t remember for sure but think we got takeout for dinner and then we wanted something sweet to end the night. And wow, Carmella’s is apparently the place to be for drinks and dessert! It was a madhouse when we got there, filled to bursting.
We weren’t trying to get a table, so stood in line for takeaway, and the line moves pretty fast. The desserts are INSANE giant. We got the carrot cake and lemon blueberry cheesecake…both were good but didn’t blow our minds. I would have loved to try the boozy milkshakes or their cocktails, but wasn’t in the mood at the time.
Saffron Restaurant & Bakery
Speaking of sweets, we had a mid-afternoon sweets craving one day, so headed to check out Saffron Bakery. They specialize in Middle Eastern food and baked goods, and have a huge selection…kind of overwhelming to be honest.
There’s a ton of seating though not a ton of ambiance. Between the two of us we ordered three things, and I didn’t enjoy any of them. I think I may have ordered badly, because everything looks great and people rave about it. I will say that the service was really good.
I can’t wait to return to Charleston sometime in the future and explore the foodie scene even more, but for now this is my take on the best places to eat in Charleston…and where to get your caffeine or cocktail fix!
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