There may be no other city in the U.S., aside from New York and Los Angeles, that has gotten as much media attention in the food world as Charleston. It’s where chefs become stars, and where stars go to prove that they can actually cook. This hotbed of cuisine, now with influences from all over the world, can take months to explore, but I’ve highlighted five of the best restaurants for anyone planning a long weekend in the Holy City. Needless to say, there’s a place for every personality and a visit should absolutely find a spot on any self-proclaimed foodie’s travel bucket list.
City Classic: S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad)
Celebrating 20 years in business, S.N.O.B. offers quintessential Southern dishes among a classic, brick-heavy space with contrasting textiles and chandeliers galore. Beyond its location in tourist-heavy downtown, its success is ultimately derived from the food. I ordered the fried chicken livers, a signature dish, that was both tender and sans the metallic taste you find in most Southern establishments. It’s the perfect first meal lunch spot to set the tone when you get into town.
Most Instagrammable: The Macintosh
The Macintosh is home to the dishes that inspire you to take out your camera and snap photos. And when it comes to their modernized, albeit approachable Southern menu, I have four words for you: bone marrow bread pudding. It’s the perfect rich dish to start your day, though I highly recommend walking it all off later. (Perhaps at Middleton Place, a plantation and national landmark with gorgeous landscaped gardens and historical tours. You’ll want to get married there.)
Hidden Gem: Pounce Cat Cafe
Bust out the Zyrtec, because you’re going to spend an entire afternoon (or at least an hour) sipping wine and craft beer while playing with adoptable cats. This spot wasn’t on our itinerary, but what does one do when they see adorable felines in the window? Stop and pet them, of course.
Sweet Spot: Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
What started as a tiny shop on King Street has now developed a citywide cult following, with lines constantly out the door at each of its four brick and mortar locations. I am placing this under “Sweet Spot” because their cinnamon sugar, blackberry jelly, and shortcake varieties were three of our favorites, all juggling that harmonious balance between savory and sweet that you crave during breakfast.
Healthy Recharge: The Ordinary
The Ordinary showcases some of the best seafood in Charleston. Period. Aside from an abundance of daily oysters, FIG’s sister restaurant serves up a delicious array of tartares, crudos, and other raw fish dishes for a light and refreshing dinner to counter a weekend full of butter and carbs. I also highly suggest asking the server what’s fresh on that evening’s menu. During our visit, a snapper ceviche was recommended that I wouldn’t have ordered otherwise. It turned out being my favorite of the bunch.
Where to Stay: Hotel Bennett
This place deserves every one of its five stars, and then some. The room, entombed in white marble, felt like it belonged in a castle…and that I was its prince retreating after a long day of, well, eating and drinking excessively. Guests will also appreciate the rooftop pool and bar, as well as the lobby seating area with a grand piano and unparalleled views of Marian Square. There is absolutely nothing to dislike about this hotel other than the strict no-hat policy (because when I don’t have time to tame the beast, a backwards cap is my go-to).
Looking to get out of downtown? You may want to consider a night at Wild Dunes Resort. While the rooms themselves are in need of an update, their restaurant Coastal Provisions cooked up another memorable meal on the trip. The chef and staff share a keen attention to detail through food that ranges from the best of land (tomahawk prime short rib) to sea (tuna poke and she crab soup). Be sure to end the night with one of their signature desserts, the strawberry shortcake being my favorite.