Welcome to restaurant city. Charleston residents can rightly boast both a deep home-cooking heritage, and a love affair with eating out. Sometimes only the finest cuisine will do, but if you’d prefer to spare your wallet, there are plenty of quality, budget-friendly restaurants in town. Nightly specials and one-price event dinners are becoming more popular, and under $10 offerings can be found at many popular local lunch spots. In recent years, the street food scene has exploded with trucks now serving everything from barbecue to crepes to tacos. Or, step it up with multi-course theme or guest-chef dinners that don’t break the bank at hometown favorites like Glass Onion or Butcher & Bee. Everyone has his or her picks for budget nights out, but know that you can spend less cash and still eat well in Charleston. Local farmers’ markets and James Beard Award-winning kitchens have raised the bar for all eateries here—especially if you have a hankering for pizza, sandwiches, or fried chicken and seafood.
Two words: pizza and fire. This restaurant features in-season ingredients, and makes great dough, pies, and salads, all while cooking and baking with a wood-fired oven. Families love it—it’s added a brunch, and now there’s a bakery out back, too. EVO is in Park Circle in North Charleston, not Charleston proper, but is an easy drive from downtown, Daniel Island, or Mount Pleasant.
This menu of dishes named for Italian race cars is built around Neapolitan pizza and salads too, but when you’re talking local ingredients and nice prices on bottles of wine and pitchers of Peroni, it’s a happy scene in the heart of Upper King Street. The butter bean salad with local shrimp is a personal favorite.
The Glass Onion
Home of Tuesday night fried chicken dinners, 75-cent deviled eggs, half-price wine nights, annual birthday dinners for Julia Child, and other prix-fixe menus for holidays major and minor, the Glass O is a West Ashley favorite. For lunch and dinner, the menu is Southern, pickled, sauced, and interesting. Leave room for dessert—they’ll box up some just-baked pound cake or blueberry buckle to take home.
Butcher & Bee
De-licious sandwiches are the bread and butter (or grilled squash or roast beef or local fish or whatever else they’re serving) at this lunch hangout in the warehouse district of Upper King Street. It’s a rare late-night kitchen, too, open 11 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. At special BYOB dinners you’ll save on corkage and bottle mark-ups.
You won’t mistake this place for a chain. Before opening this year as a restaurant with tables and take-out, the Roadside Seafood food truck earned a following for she-crab soup and oyster po-boys. The local catch determines the menu, including Black Tip Shark Nuggets, Mr. Crabs crabcake sandwich, and Bam-Bam Shrimp (the bam is from the spicy sauce).