Charleston City Guide: All My Favorite Spots and Recommendations

June 20, 2021

We pretty much planned our latest trip to Charleston around eating and drinking, and I'm happy to say that in that sense, it was a rousing success. This was our third visit to Charleston and we've gotten to see the city in three different seasons. We loved our visit each time (hence the multiple visits). Visiting in the summer was not my favorite weather-wise (very hot; be prepared to take multiple showers per day and dodge the sudden summer downpours!), but it was excellent for enjoying fresh food, packing light, and perching on patios.

Here are my top spots I'd recommend to a friend if they were visiting Charleston, in case it's helpful. I also recommend that you look at the recs of content creators who actually live there, like Grace Atwood or Venita Aspen. Instagram is also honestly such a great resource -- I honestly found most spots by looking at "related" accounts from spots I like.

*= I haven't been yet but it's on my list.

Eat

  1. Babas on Cannon: Such a great spot for lunch with a well-designed outdoor patio area. I got the shrimp salad, C got the turkey club, and both were delicious. Not to mention the cocktails.
  2. Chubby Fish: A+ fresh seafood, paired with great hospitality. This is probably my new favorite dinner spot in Charleston. We went adventurous and ordered the poached sea robin, and have no regrets - the flavor profile was truly unique. Sea-salty, brothy, with bits of zing from the the horseradish. Go early if you can because it's a small space.
  3. Melfi's: Amazing Italian food and wood fired pizzas with the thinnest crusts ever. Don't skip the appetizers! The crab cake bruschetta was really good.
  4. Rodney Scott's BBQ: Have you seen his Netflix special on Chef's Table? The food was so deliciously comforting, and I loved that you can try all the different sauces. Having grown up in NC, I'm partial to vinegar-based BBQ's so this was just so good and made me nostalgic. Get extra sides if you can; the baked beans were a sleeper hit for me.
  5. Darling Oyster: Another well-designed and posh spot for cocktails and a snack before dinner. I've never actually had a full meal here so can't speak to that, but overall it's a fun and lively spot. It gets very crowded though so go early or make a plan.
  6. Leon's: A spacious spot for drinks and oysters. People rave about the fried chicken but we've actually never had it! One day...
  7. Xiao Bao Biscuit: We went here on our last trip and it was solid. A nice way to break up all the seafood and BBQ, hah.
  8. Miller's All Day: We've been here twice for breakfast. In my opinion it's a solid choice if you're looking for some classics like pancakes, waffles, biscuits, fried chicken, etc. Very satisfying :)
  9. Chez Nous*: Haven't been here but have gotten so many recs for a cozy date night here.
  10. The Obstinate Daughter*: We never made it to Sullivan's Island but this has been on my list forever.

Drink

  1. Felix: If I were meeting a friend for drinks, I'd probably go here. It's very spacious, the bar is comfortable to sit at, and it's a lively atmosphere that's a mix of casual and sophisticated. Also good for people watching, haha.
  2. Frannie & Fox: This was the restaurant/bar in our hotel, Emeline. It was quite the scene! This would be nice for a group of friends. You can grab a drink at the bar and make your way out to the courtyard/patio which is really spacious and features a fireplace and big, comfy couches and rocking chairs.
  3. The Bar at Husk*: I know it's practically sacrilegious to say, but I thought Husk the restaurant was overrated. Go downstairs to this tucked away, rough-hewn spot for a whiskey cocktail instead.
  4. Little Palm*: On the rooftop of a hotel and by a pool.
  5. Little Jack's Tavern*

Caffeinate

Not much to say about these other than that they're really well-designed spaces that would be great for a quick spot of caffeine, or a spot to perch and do some work. The coffee is good too. :)

  1. Second State
  2. Sightsee Shop
  3. Clerks
  4. Harbinger*

Stay

  1. Hotel Emeline: Favorite place we've stayed so far. The staff was nice, the design details were all A+, and it was located in a very walkable part of town.
  2. Hotel Ryder*: I think I want to try staying here next. They just opened and they have a rooftop pool and bar.
  3. Zero George*: I first heard about this luxury boutique hotel through Claire & Erica ages ago and it's always been on my list...but each time we visit, it's booked up way in advance. So if you want to go this route, be sure to plan ahead.

For us, Charleston has been a quick trip and an easy spot to visit for great food, friendly people, beautiful warm weather, and a more laid-back vacation. I love that each time we visit, there are new restaurants to check out and the city itself seems to be growing so fast. Of course it's not a perfect city and I feel like I have to mention this; Charleston has clear markers of gentrification in certain neighborhoods, grapples with its past as a major port of the slave trade + plantation economy, and the city could be a lot more diverse than it is. It's also very clearly a tourist-centric city in certain areas. Putting these aside though (while educating yourself on the full context of the city's history of course...and really doing that for any vacation spot where tourism is a big part of the economy), Charleston can make for a beautiful and relaxing destination. Let me know if you have any favorite spots I've missed!