Charleston is practically oozing with charm, thanks to cobblestoned streets, pastel-colored houses and genteel, moss-covered live oaks. But let’s be honest, the real reason to visit is the grub. From fresh-caught seafood to smoky barbecue to the new crop of locally-sourced, innovative restaurants, Charleston has some damn good eats. Here’s what you have to order when you’re there.
1. A CHEESEBURGER AT HUSK
Warning: This hand-ground bacon-and-brisket mix will ruin you for all other cheeseburgers. But it’s sooo worth it.
2. STEAMED OYSTERS AT BOWENS ISLAND
Instructions: Go at sunset. Grab a table outside, overlooking the creek. Order beer and enormous piles of fresh steamed oysters and fried shrimp. Repeat, ad infinitum.
3. THE DUCK CONFIT CLUB WITH A SIDE OF DUCK FAT FRIES AT THE TATTOOED MOOSE
OK, so your arteries are not going to thank us. But your taste buds definitely will.
4. A STICKY BUN AT WILD FLOUR
These caramel-drenched monstrosities are available only on Sundays, from 8 a.m. until whenever they run out (ergo, get there early).
5. SMOKED CHICKEN WINGS AT HOME TEAM BBQ
Everything is great at this beachside spot on Sullivan’s Island, but we especially love the smoked chicken wings (and the utterly addictive Alabama white sauce for dipping).
6. WARM CAULIFLOWER SFORMATINO AT TRATTORIA LUCCA
This dish is constructed in front of you at your table, but honestly, it’s still a giant mystery–we have no idea how cauliflower and egg could possibly taste so good.
RELATED: Our 7 Favorite Cauliflower Recipes
7. NOODLE BOWL AT TWO BOROUGHS LARDER
The menu changes daily at this locally-sourced eatery, but one staple is the take on ramen–best with pork confit, kimchi, pickled mushrooms and a perfect soft-cooked egg.
8. CHICKEN AND WAFFLES AT EARLY BIRD DINER
There are no frills at this down home diner, but it certainly does comfort food right.
9. BEEF TARTARE AT MCCRADY’S
Anchovy butter and crispy onion rings elevate this classic dish at Sean Brock’s ode to Southern fine dining.
10. RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH LAMB BOLOGNESE AT FIG
Like little pillows from heaven…
11. OYSTER SLIDERS AT THE ORDINARY
These briny tempura-battered oysters on sweet Hawaiian rolls are, dare we say, EXTRAordinary?
12. THE FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH AT LEON’S OYSTER SHOP
With tangy slaw, crunchy bread and butter pickles and a swipe of Duke’s mayo, this might just be the world’s best fried chicken sandwich. The chargrilled oysters, with Parmesan and lemon-parsley butter, are nothing to sneeze at either.
13. SHRIMP & GRITS AT HOMINY GRILL
It might as well be a law: You can’t leave Charleston without at least one bowl of shrimp and grits.
14. OKONOMIYAKI AT XIAO BAO BISCUIT
There aren’t actually any biscuits at Xiao Bao Biscuit. But there are a variety of exciting pan-Asian favorites, like this umami-bomb of a vegetable pancake.
15. PORK TRIFECTA AT EVO
Pizza? In South Carolina? Really? Yes, really. And you’re definitely going to want one of these, made with house-made sausage, pepperoni and ham.
16. A ROAST BEEF SANDWICH AT BUTCHER & BEE
With chimichurri, onion jam, miso mayo and roasted tomatoes, this is not just any old deli sandwich.
17. COLLARD GREENS AT BERTHA’S KITCHEN
Before all the hipsters moved in, Charleston was about soul food, and Bertha’s is still serving up some of the best.
18. PICKLED SHRIMP ON RYE AT EDMUND’S OAST
Pair with the gastropub’s signature peanut butter-and-jelly beer (yes we’re serious).
19. CATFISH TACOS AT MINERO
And make sure to get a side of the tongue-tingling benne seed salsa to drizzle on top.
20. LADY BALTIMORE CUPCAKE AT SUGAR
A miniature take on the famous cake with sherry-soaked figs and raisins on a light almond cake. Only available Thursdays, or by special order.