The Atlantic Ocean, Charleston Harbor, the Intracoastal Waterway, creeks, marshes, islands, beaches, and the Ashley, Cooper, Stono, and Wando Rivers; we’re always near water in Charleston, going over it on bridges, or simply keeping blue in sight (or more likely, a greenish, pluff-mud tinted shade). With tides flowing all around us, you’d think we’d be flush with places to eat with an ocean view, but waterfront restaurants are a surprisingly rare breed in Charleston. Mount Pleasant’s Shem Creek is a hotspot for seafood by the creek, and each of the nearby islands has seaside options. But in Charleston proper, on the peninsula, there are only a few. Just thinking about any of these places makes me hungry for a salty breeze, glass of wine or beer (maybe from Westbrook, Holy City, Palmetto, Coast or another of the Charleston breweries), and some seafood from that water we all love to see.
Coda del Pesce
In a line-up of beach bars, condos, and ice cream shops on the front beach of Isle of Palms, Coda del Pesce is an outlier, serving octopus, snapper, triggerfish, and other frutti di mare in simple, Adriatic-style preparations. Chef Ken Vedrinski works his magic with fresh pasta both here and at his Trattoria Lucca downtown.
I love to order the Lowcountry gumbo at Fleet and sit on the outside deck. Right downtown and literally on pilings above the water and marsh grass, it’s a popular spot for business lunches, or to watch the harbor for dolphins. Views are terrific—well, when there’s not a huge cruise ship at the dock.
The Boathouse at Breach Inlet
At this Breach Inlet spot, vintage wooden boats hang from the rafters, there’s a rooftop deck, and guests can come by land or by water. Built in the late-’90s on the site of an old bait shop, the seafood and easy, breezy views of the waterway between Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms are the draw.
When owner Robert Barber accepted a James Beard Award in New York City for his family’s super-rustic oyster and fish house, he was wearing white rubber shrimpers’ boots. Bowen’s is the opposite of fancy, and people love it. I’d suggest arriving early to avoid long lines, then stay late for the incredible sunset views.
Red’s Ice House
This tin and wooden building reminds me of a Caribbean beach bar. It doesn’t look like much from the outside—the original Red’s really was a dock for shrimp packing and ice—but the cold bottles of beer and plates of seafood come with views of paddleboarders and fishermen of Mount Pleasant.