Restaurants in Charleston

One of those surprises-in-a-plaza places, Bacco serves octopus and clams, just-baked breads, pizza, and other delicious Mediterranean fare from their wood-burning oven. While chef Michael Scognamiglio cooks, his father, Luigi, is often the host.

Mustard-based sauce on the BBQ, that’s Melvin’s speciatly. Fast service, too, and southern sides including collard greens and fried okra. A granddaddy of the local BBQ scene dating back to the 1930s, the restaurant’s “secret-recipe” draws crowds.

Get this—a fried egg, pimento cheese, grilled okra, fresh tomato, pineapple, Sriacha mayo, Canadian bacon—the toppings for BBQ sandwiches and tacos here are like nowhere else in Charleston.

In a James Island neighborhood near the center of the island, Smoky Oak Taproom has dozens of beers on tap and cooks most anything over fire, including pulled pork, beef brisket, and beer can chicken.

Sure, the first of dozens of locations opened in Alabama in the 1980s, but Charleston thinks of this place as one of its own. I love to walk in off King Street and smell the hickory smoke.

The founding pitmaster at Fiery Ron’s is a chef with big restaurant experience, and he’s featured live music since day one.

The bartender recommends the fresh charcuterie (they also have a cured option), and we think the catfish rillettes are smoky-incredible. Another sure thing, I think, is the lamb meatball dish in a light broth, along with saison-style beer.

Brighter, lighter, and beach-ier than his wildly popular Wild Olive on John’s Island, Chef Jacques Larson’s Obstinate Daughter is drawing even more crowds—if that‘s possible—to the restaurant scene on Sullivan’s Island.

Chef Frank McMahon already has a following for his fish cookery at Hank’s Seafood nearby, but this place goes Parisian—with tile floors and café chairs and smoked (on purpose) mirrors.

Char-grilled oysters in a former auto body shop, that’s what we come here for. Garage bay open, this is comfort-food-central, serving up scalloped potatoes (layered like tarte tatin), black-eyed pea salad, and fried chicken (mmm, is that Old Bay seasoning?).

Oops, we stayed more than two hours for lunch (again), ordered three courses, and drank coppery-colored rosé. I just don’t want to leave this one-room-wide house on an alley—or the trout in butter sauce or squash blossom beignets.

An expert shucker hired away from New Orleans helps Leon’s keep up with oyster orders—you can get them char-grilled or raw with a mignonette and cocktail sauce. Order a cheap or fancy beer, too.

Several times, I have been lucky enough to be at the table when one of Chef Frank McMahon’s icy towers of seafood arrives. It feels like everyone in the dining room notices when one of these stacked trays of oysters, shrimp, and stone crab claws arrives.

Brasserie Gigi opened in 2014 and is already earning buzz for its Parisian style and flowing French Champagne, but not many people have discovered the gleaming, white-tiled upstairs raw bar yet—where fruits de mer are arranged on icy trays.

I used to bank here. Truthfully, this was a bank branch before the FIG owners did a revamp and made it into a cool palace of seafood where beautiful people (is it the lighting?) share plates of gorgeous seafood.