Discover Charleston's famous food scene—on a budget.
Finding a dining deal in one of the buzziest food capitals in the country can be as tough as snagging a last-minute reservation on a Friday night. Instead of sticking with happy hour deals at perennial favorite restaurants, however, we suggest you head to one of these lesser-known (and ridiculously affordable) Charleston spots.
While the old adage might say "good food isn't cheap and cheap food isn't good," these Charleston pizzerias, bistros, and biscuit shops defy practical advice. From green papaya salad to pork cracklins, it's easy to feast in the Holy City if you're willing to go off the beaten path.
You can walk by CO on King Street and easily miss the small window, though it's deceptively roomy inside. Sit at the bar for a quick lunch, or bring a group and snag an upstairs table, where you can enjoy green papaya salad, Korean short rib banh mi, or curry laksa while still having enough cash to get a beer and keep the bill under $20.
Related: Restaurants in Charleston
On Upper King Street, Barsa's variety of tapas keeps things affordable (none are more than $11). Standout plates include pan seared fish and marinated olives, though it's the restaurant's consistently good paella that keeps the crowds coming back. Just invite a few friends along so you can split the bill over this made-to-share dish.
It's true that pizza might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Charleston cuisine, but if you do get the urge for a pie, this Elliotborough spot is the place to go. A true neighborhood favorite, you'll be among locals and plenty of college students who live in that area of town, all enjoying draft beer and creative pies. Check out the Supreme, which is heaped with pepperoni and sausage, or the OM, topped with balsamic tempeh and peppadew peppers. Vegetarians will rejoice over the extensive plant-friendly menu.
However you meander your way through this menu—though we recommend starting with your staple chips and salsa—you'll love this Mexican feast by star chef Sean Brock of Husk fame. Mix and match dishes under $10, including Southern-influenced fried catfish tacos on house-charred tortillas made daily. Beans here are heirloom, not refried, and the bag of churros at the end of the meal is enough to share. Spend a little more for an excellent mezcal cocktail, or enjoy a glass of Minero's Rosé Sangria for only $6.
Fast & French
Officially known as Gaulart & Maliclet, this Parisian cafe serves breakfast all day, excellent French press coffee, and nightly specials under $20. Throughout the day, Fast & French serves snacks served on rye toast (think: smoked ham with cornichons or black olive and goat cheese).
Home Team BBQ
It's easy to get full at Home Team, and each of their three Charleston area locations has its own vibe and a slightly varied menu. The smoked wings are a go-to for many regulars (and all those takeout orders during football season), and we suggest an order of pork cracklins with seasoning and lime for a table to share. Almost everything on the menu is under $15, and the portions are generous.
Callie's Hot Little Biscuit
Don't be fooled by the size of these petite biscuits—they may be small, but they're packed full of cheese, black pepper bacon, even fried chicken. Open until 2 p.m. and then late night Friday and Saturday, this is the place to satisfy your biscuit cravings. Best of all, a side of grits topped with bacon and a blackberry biscuit for only $10 is the ultimate cure (and wallet saver) after a night out sipping fancy cocktails.