Neighborhood Favorites 

167 Raw

Downtown - Seafood

Jonathan Boncek

Lobster Roll

Since opening, 167 has gained a loyal following, and they’ve got a lot of regulars to prove it. And the tiny East Bay space continues to grow. The latest addition is an outdoor rosé garden, or brosé garden as co-owner Kyle Norton jokingly calls it. The new space pairs perfectly with 167 Raw's killer menu. They’ve got an assortment of fresh oysters, clams, fish, and shrimp for purchase to-go, but it’s hard to stop in there without devouring the signature lobster roll or a heavenly scallop po’ boy. With Chef Sean Rieflin at the helm, we can always expect some killer tacos or a fresh catch of the day sandwich that’ll surely surpass expectations. And with a happy hour full of hefty deals on oysters and drinks, it’s no wonder this place is the talk of the town. It may be small, but 167 Raw plays a big role in the Charleston food scene. —Kinsey Gidick Dish, Summer 2016

Ali Baba Mediterranean Food

Mt. Pleasant - Mediterranean

This Ali Baba — not to be confused with the similarly named deli on Daniel Island — is a sit-down Mediterranean restaurant in Mt. Pleasant’s Village Pointe Shopping Center. Chef Ismail Araj serves an array of Middle Eastern classics varied enough to satisfy 40 thieves. They include savory shish kebab (lamb) and shish tawook (chicken), crisp kibby, and tender, aromatic kofta. Get things started with creamy hummus, lemon-tinged tabouli, and comforting lentil soup, or treat yourself to the Ali Baba Dinner for Two, a sampling of 10 dishes fit for a sheik. For dessert, the sweet pistachio- and cinnamon-laden baklava is perfectly delicate and not to be missed. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

The Alley

Downtown - American

Jonathan Boncek

The Alley's green salad of shredded fennel, cabbage, celery leaves, jalapeños, and cilantro tossed in lemon vinaigrette.

The Alley’s got everything you need for an adult game night — cold beers on tap, wings in five flavors (check out hot honey habanero), and eight bowling lanes. Yes, you can have your drinks delivered lane-side. With a solid selection of arcade games, too, The Alley is downtown’s best spot to fill up and play on. With heart-attack friendly classics like loaded tots (trust us, get them), chili nachos, and the chicken and waffles slider, there’s plenty of grub to keep you going through a night’s worth of games. They’ve got fancier foods too, like tuna spring rolls, fried goat cheese salad, and pan bagnat sandwich. That’s French for soaked bread. And that’s as good as it sounds. —Connelly Hardaway Dish (Summer 2015)

The Americano

Mt. Pleasant - Cuban

New to the dining scene, The Americano brings Latin fare to the heart of Coleman Boulevard. It’s a chic and vibrant space with a South Beach feel. There are tacos, tortas, and plates with influences from Cuba, Mexico, and beyond. Start off with the yellowfin tuna tower with avocado and mango salsa or the crisp beef empanadas and then dive into crispy oyster tacos or the slow-roasted and grilled mojo chicken. Whether you’re in the mood for a full-on meal or a few quick bites, The Americano will be sure to satisfy. And with a cocktail program designed by Brent Sweatman, it’s only a matter of time before the indoor/outdoor bar becomes the place to be in Mt. P. Try the hibiscus paloma. We bet you can’t have just one. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Angel Oak Restaurant

Johns Island - Modern American

Katie Gandy

Salmon and mashed potatoes

Angel Oak Restaurant is just seven miles away from the amazing Angel Oak tree, and it’s bringing life to a part of Johns Island that has few dining options. The primary focus of the menu is familiar comfort food, and the use of local ingredients is apparent: beef from Legare Farms, bread from Saffron bakery, grits from Geechie Boy, and fresh fruit and vegetables from Limehouse produce. For three bucks, the snacks are a steal. We like the thick and creamy pimento cheese with grilled toast points. A generous portion of macaroni might share a bowl with barbecue pulled pork, gruyere, and parmesan — a sinful dish, one that will send you praying for forgiveness. Entrees include hearty staples like buttermilk fried chicken, meatloaf, and shrimp carbonara. The crowd-pleasing country-fried steak is made with beef from Legare Farms and served with whipped mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. It’s a homey little place serving up food that will make you feel all warm inside. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2014)

Artisan Meat Share

Downtown - Local Foods

Jonathan Boncek

Bun mi

Artisan Meat Share had one of the biggest openings of 2014. Expectations were high since Cypress Chef Craig Deihl and his charcuterie program already had a big following, and they were clearly met. Deihl and Chef de Cuisine Bob Cook have expanded the charcuterie program by opening a shop on Spring Street that offers an array of sinful sandwiches for dine-in and take out. There’s a delectable porchetta with ’nduja and pork cracklins, a tuna nicoise on ciabattta, and even an enormous $50 Italian sub. There are charcuterie boards and sides like a pea and peanut salad and house-made chips with fish and vinegar sauce. And don’t forget the $50 mother board with cheese. There’s really no way to go wrong, but if there’s one sandwich we might suggest, it’s the house-made sausage with fried egg, American cheese, bacon, mayo, and watercress, on a sesame bun — a breakfast done right. —Eric Doksa Dish, Summer 2016

Bambu

Mt. Pleasant - Asian Fusion

Bambu is still chic, with a large, tropical patio, including water fountains, palm trees, and a tiki bar. The menu has received a notable facelift. Yellowtail carpaccio with yuzu and truffle soy and accented with serrano chilies, cilantro, and Hawaiian red salt shouldn't be missed. From the land, try the Kobe steak with balsamic-soy glaze and kimchi fried rice or the rosemary-teriyaki seared duck breast with mango chutney and seasonal vegetables. The sushi is presented in an elegant fashion. The Chirasa, 15 pieces of sashimi served over sushi rice, is a nice sampler. —Eric Doksa

Barsa Tapas Lounge & Bar

Downtown - Tapas Bar

Barsa’s Spanish-inspired menu has made it a favorite among locals. A hearty selection of meats includes an 18-month Serrano ham, six-month chorizo, and Alto Adige speck. Barsa offers a solid list of Old and New World wines, well-prepared cocktails, and attentive service. Daily croquettes, fried manchego cheese, and pork ribs are perfect dishes to enjoy with a fruit-forward glass of tempranillo. When time isn’t an issue, order one of the three paella options — they’re discounted during happy hour — and make sure to check out the daily specials, particularly sangria night on Thursdays. —Eric Doksa Dish (Summer 2015)

Básico

North Charleston - Mexican

Jonathan Boncek

Paella

The poolside setting at Mixson Bath and Racquet Club pairs perfectly with Básico’s fresh and spicy Mexican-infused fare. Now under the leadership of Executive Chef Bryan Cates, the menu still includes taco platters with nine different options from brisket to buttermilk fried chicken. But Cates is showcasing his talent honed at Hot and Hot Fish Club with items like baby octopus confit, paella, and one of the best hanger steaks in the city with chimichurri and Hen of the Woods mushrooms. The enchiladas are on point as is the mole sauce, but what we can’ get enough of is the happy hour. There’s nothing like kicking back with a margarita ($5) and the supremely awesome nachos, which are doused in queso but never soupy and each bite has the perfect bean to salsa ratio. End on a sweet note with churros for a post-swim chocolate chile bite, and for the niños, there is of course chicken tenders and popcorn shrimp. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Winter 2015)

Bay Street Biergarten

Downtown - Pubs + Taverns

Jonathan Boncek

Pig wings

The transformation of the Rice Market into Bay Street Biergarten was quite impressive. The space is huge, boasting an absurd amount of beers on tap and TVs everywhere. Huge booths, community high tops with built-in tap systems, and an additional bar outside make it a popular destination for sports fans and beer lovers alike. Here, you have the option of ordering from a select list of beers from a server or adding money to a card so you can help yourself to the wall of taps and pay by the ounce. The menu screams American bar food with options like wings, and tots, but we always find ourselves going with German fare, like the spaetzle with smoked cheese, and bacon. If there’s one reason you should go to Bay Street right now, it’s to order the jumbo pretzel. It’s big and doughy with a nice crisp exterior and pays homage to Bavaria. Take our advice and order a side of beer cheese for dipping. You won’t regret it. —Eric Doksa Dish (Summer 2015)

Bertha's Kitchen

Downtown - Soul Food

Okra Soup

Head up Meeting Street until you see a two-story robin’s egg blue building with purple trim, and a line stretching out the door. The Southern soul food platters here are so tasty, generous, and inexpensive, that the line starts forming well before they open for lunch. Businessmen, laborers, and far-flung tourists alike shuffle through the quick cafeteria-style service counter loaded with a smorgasbord of meat and threes, such as fried pork chops, fish specials, yams, stewed greens, home-style mac-&-cheese, limas nestled with smoked turkey necks, dark roux okra soup, moist cornbread, and fried chicken better than anyone’s Grandma ever made, all served on no frills Styrofoam plates. Chow down as the open kitchen clatters and the line continues to grow. —Allston McCrady Dish, Summer 2016

Bessinger's Barbeque

West Ashley - Barbecue

Bessinger’s Barbeque is a lasting legacy of the Bessinger family, which brought its distinctive mustard-based style down from Orangeburg County just after World War II. The original downtown Piggy Park drive-in is long gone, but three of the brothers (Thomas, Melvin, and Robert) fanned out to open outposts around town. Thomas’ restaurant on Savannah Highway is now run by his sons Tommy and Michael, and it’s been through several incarnations over the years. It now boasts a dual format, with a country buffet on one side of the building offering everything from fried catfish to teriyaki chicken, and a sandwich shop on the other side, which serves barbecue and burgers the way they did back in the ’60s. You can sample Bessinger’s oak- and hickory-smoked pork on a Big Joe Sandwich or a hefty pork platter, and both come topped with a massive golden-brown onion ring. The savory hash and rice is perhaps the city’s best example of the classic South Carolina barbecue side, and Bessinger’s signature yellow mustard sauce is one of the best around, too. You might not expect it from a barbecue joint, but the cheeseburger basket is the insider’s pick for one of the best old-school burgers in town. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2014)

Big Gun Burger Shop

Downtown - Burgers

Heather McRae

The Spaniard

Chef Austin Kirkland took it up a notch when he opened his retro-dive burger joint, Big Gun Burger Shop in 2011. Styled with old hub-caps and playing classic tunes, not only does he serve artisan burgers like the Frenchman with mushrooms, bacon, caramelized onions, and brie cheese or the Southern Hospitality with fried green tomatoes, bacon, pimento cheese and chow chow on the perfect bun and the best pimento cheese you’ve ever tasted (yes you can take it home with you in 12 oz. containers), he also makes you jealous of the “non-burgers.” There’s the Dirty Gardner vegetable burger with eggplant tomato jam and fried kale and the Big Gnar, beer braised pork, bacon, smoked ham, apple jam, and spicy mustard. The meat is ground in-house with 25 percent of it brisket and the accompanying fries are freshly cut and seasoned with Old Bay and other spices. Just want to indulge in a classic cocktail or microbrew? The bar plate offerings are the perfect accompaniment with BBQ Duck with roasted corn grits, fried Brussels sprouts and the mac-and-cheese fritters with gouda mornay dipping sauce. — Katherine Connor Dish (Summer 2015)

Bombay Indian Restaurant

North Charleston - Indian

Bowens Island Restaurant

James Island - Seafood

You’ve heard about Bowens Island Restaurant, we know you have. If you haven’t, get some hungry buds and plan your trip now. Don’t expect white tablecloth and maitre’d service. It’s famously no frills, but it’s worth it. The nightly crowds are a testament to the family fish camp. Robert Barber is the second generation to run the Bowens Island oyster room, hidden between Folly and James Island. Over time, it’s grown from a grimy, albeit quaint, cinderblock outpost to a pluff-mud pantheon that offers up damn good fried seafood, hushpuppies, and cold local beer in its upstairs dining room. Follow your nose downstairs and elbow-out yourself a space at the all-you-can-eat oyster tables and slurp down tasty local oysters by the shovelful that were likely pulled off the marsh that day. Oyster season or not, we have a hard time passing up the Frogmore Stew, a pot full of potatoes, sausage, corn on the cob, and shrimp steamed together as God intended it. —Sam Spence Dish, Summer 2016

Butcher & Bee

Downtown - Delis + Sandwiches

Sam Spence

Formerly a late night and brunch destination, Butcher & Bee has grown into a fully-fledged dinner focused restaurant. Moving from a dark, tiny space on Upper King Street to a bright, sunny building on Morrison Drive has made a world of a difference and has elevated the restaurant from hipster hangout to dining destination. The menu features a larger range of dishes with everything from falafel to a pork chop porterhouse. An excellent feature present on the menu for brunch, lunch, and dinner is B&B's Mezze selection, a collection of small plates with a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influence. It’s safe to say that pretty much anything you order from here will be incredibly creative. One of our favorites was the kale slaw, a fresh and crunchy starter with a tiny hint of Asian inspiration. Dinner is the true star of the new B&B. The Bee’s Knees section is aptly named, with some of the best small plates in the city. Mushrooms are succulent and unctuous and the lamb ribs are simultaneously weird and insanely tasty, served with a molasses and pomegranate glaze. Local fish is given the royal treatment, seared with the skin on served with savory grits and grilled shishito peppers. B&B seems to have a bright future and is likely going to get more popular with time. Go now while you can still get in. —Suzanne Cohen Dish, Summer 2016

Carmen y Juan's

Mt. Pleasant - Mexican

Jonathan Boncek

Carmen y Juan’s Homestyle Mexican Food is a refreshing break from the countless cookie cutter Tex-Mex joints that blanket the Lowcountry. Instead of numbered combinations with endless permutations, the menu is slim, and everything on it is made from fresh ingredients using homestyle recipes. From the thick, fragrant mole rojo to the fluffy and filling tamales, everything is a little bit better than you might expect. The carnitas are marinated in fresh orange and pineapple juices, and the thick chunks of pork pull into beautiful long strands. There’s always a daily special, too, like a home-style bean soup, pozole, and even menudo, the traditional Mexican soup made from beef stomach. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Caviar & Bananas

Downtown - Cafés

We’ve often thought the owners of Caviar & Bananas just might be the smartest proprietors in Charleston. Located in the midst of 10,500 hungry undergrads on George Street, the to-go gourmet shop was a great idea from the beginning. But what’s kept C&B humming is their reliable quality. From fresh salads to sushi, pre-made mac ‘n’ cheese to specialty products like Jack Rudy Tonic, this tony market is the easy solution for a quick bite when shopping downtown, heading to a Spoleto show, or en route to class. Plus, they have Saturday and Sunday brunch, a must for any college-friendly locale. And when you have a busy work day ahead, you can pop by the restaurant as early as 8 a.m. to grab a salad and an iced latte on the go. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Summer 2015)

Caviar & Bananas

Downtown - Cafés

Duck Confit Sandwich

We’ve often thought the owners of Caviar & Bananas just might be the smartest proprietors in Charleston. Located in the midst of 10,500 hungry undergrads on George Street, the to-go gourmet shop was a great idea from the beginning. But what’s kept C&B humming is their reliable quality. From fresh salads to sushi, pre-made mac ‘n’ cheese to specialty products like Jack Rudy Tonic, this tony market is the easy solution for a quick bite when shopping downtown, heading to a Spoleto show, or en route to class. Plus, they have Saturday and Sunday brunch, a must for any college-friendly locale. And when you have a busy work day ahead, you can pop by the restaurant as early as 8 a.m. to grab a salad and an iced latte on the go. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Summer 2015)

Charleston's Cafe

Mt. Pleasant - Cafés

On weekends, it’s not unusual to find a crowd of diners waiting on the sidewalk outside of Charleston’s Café — it’s an in-demand spot for a big hearty brunch. They’re lining up for waffles, pancakes, and French toast piled high with fruit and dusted with powdered sugar, or to build their own omelets from a choice of two dozen ingredients. The Café’s signature potato casseroles start with a layer of fried potato “chippers” that get loaded down with a pile of tempting toppings. The names are taken from local islands, like the Wadmalaw, with broccoli, tomatoes, and squash or the Kiawah, with a thick blanket of cheddar cheese and sausage gravy. At lunch, the fare shifts to salads and sandwiches with interesting twists, like a blackened salmon BLT and turkey panini with a zippy horseradish cranberry sauce. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

CO

Downtown - Thai + Vietnamese

Jonathan Boncek

Located in the heart of the King Street shopping district, CO takes Vietnamese street food uptown and serves it at prices that are extremely reasonable considering the highly valued downtown strip. The two-story restaurant has a sleek, ultra-mod vibe, and the full bar mixes up an ambitious slate of East-meets-West fusion cocktails — Bloody Mary with srirachi and cucumber sake, a cool sip that will go down smooth and soothing in the hot summer months. The apps include the requisite summer rolls (both of the tofu and shrimp variety) and pork belly buns — think sliders with hoisin sauce, pork belly, and pickled veggies. You’ll also find four varieties of bánh mì sandwiches ranging from five spice pork belly to braised Korean short rib with spicy kimchi, and a host of noodle dishes, from pho to pad thai and drunken thai noodles. Since it’s a little too hot for pho at the moment, go with the bun xao salad with caramel pork (vermicelli, lettuce, pickled carrots, bean sprouts, pork and crab spring roll, cilantro, nuoc cham dressing). Like so many Vietnamese dishes — and Co’s in particular — it’s crisp, cool, and refreshing. However, it’s worth noting that many of the dishes at Co are a touch sweeter than what you might find at a more traditional mom-and-pop Vietnamese joint, a nod perhaps to the South’s taste for the saccharine. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

The Cocktail Club

Downtown - Cocktail Bar

Jonathan Boncek

Cocktail Club's Tropical Heat

The Cocktail Club occupies the second floor above its sister restaurant, the Macintosh. Taking a touch of inspiration from the old speakeasy days, the big room has an appealing blend of the rustic and the sophisticated, invoking a nightclub improvised in a Prohibition-era warehouse. But there are no bathtub gin martinis here. The cocktails have plenty of contemporary farm-to-shaker influences, employing beet juice and sweet potato puree along with an array of liquors infused with everything from black and red peppercorns to blueberries and thyme. Spicy, floral, creamy, smoky: the flavors are always fresh and inventive, making this a club very worth joining. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Coleman Public House

Mt. Pleasant - Bar

Asian-Glazed Ribs

The go-to spot for Mt. Pleasant beer geeks, Coleman Public House has a big “On Tap” chalkboard with an ever-rotating list of American craft beers and Belgian brews that might include a Blanche de Bruxelles White next to a Westbrook Pacific Jade or a Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour beside a Smutty Nose IPA. The food is equal to the brews. The half-pound Angus burgers are a big draw, and the dinner menu blends hearty pub fare like fish and chips with more ambitious plates like encrusted yellowfin tuna and braised beef short ribs with potato gratin. Creative munchies like mini lamb burgers, crab and corn fritters, and Asian-glazed baby back ribs make for fine bar snacks, and on weekends the brunch menu stacks up pancakes alongside big plates of huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, and steak and eggs. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Craftsmen Kitchen and Tap House

Downtown - Pubs + Taverns

Jonathan Boncek

This sleek sports bar with dark wood paneling, large scale booths, and a separate bourbon tasting bar is the perfect hide away on the downtown peninsula to drink a good cocktail or a craft beer and nosh on smoked chicken wings with Alabama white sauce. Any sporting event is empty without the proper culinary accroutrement so step up the game with their Benton’s Country Ham spread for the table. The delectable smoked meats at Cumberland — pork or chicken — have the hint of hickory and the right balance of juicy tenderness with crispy end pieces scorched by the fire. In addition to the meat, save room for the decadent loaded fries topped with pulled chicken or pork, smoked cheddar cheese, bacon, white barbecue sauce and jalapenos or keep it kosher with the barbecue duck fat fries that include a large basket of perfectly crisped fries in a sweet and salty barbecue seasoning, no ketchup needed. Don’t miss the special of the day — as it’s usually one of the best items on the menu — and their highly regarded ribs, showcased on the weekends, are worth the trip. —Katherine Connor Dish (Summer 2015)

The Daily

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek file photo

The Daily serves up fresh juice

Sometimes you just need a kale salad in a hurry. That’s what The Daily — the sister property to Butcher & Bee — has taught us. Since this coffee shop/meets grocery/meets bakery opened last year, it’s become our go-to for quick bites and caffeine hits. While we tend to stop by in the morning for a latte and a roast beef, steak and olive, or amberjack sandwich to go, a visit after work is just as smart. Then you can grab all the fixings for a proper dinner at home. For instance, on the Fourth of July the restaurant sold burger kits. We were able to grab Mibek Farms beef patties, Butcher & Bee buns, cheddar cheese, and Stiegl Radler to wash it all down. And for you super food nerds, The Daily now carries Lucky Peach so you can really geek out over your morning coffee. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Summer 2015)

The Dog & Duck

Mt. Pleasant - Bar

The Park West location features a regular weekend jump-castle, while the Long Point one has a chest brimming with kids toys. Both have a full slate of good beers on tap, too, which means fun for the whole family. The fare is firmly in the wings-and-sandwiches pub fare genre, but the execution is better than most, and broader too. With more than two dozen sandwiches, the selection includes basic Philly cheesesteaks and reubens along with double-dog dares like the Hillbilly Cheeseburger, which tops fried bologna with spicy pepperjack cheese, and the Mahindeburger, a grilled mahi filet rubbed with enough hot blackening spice to set your eyebrows afire. Big waffle fries are a reliable side dish, and the potato salad, creamy and infused with smoky bacon, is on the shortlist of the best in town. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

The Dog & Duck

Mt. Pleasant - Bar

The Park West location features a regular weekend jump-castle, while the Long Point one has a chest brimming with kids toys. Both have a full slate of good beers on tap, too, which means fun for the whole family. The fare is firmly in the wings-and-sandwiches pub fare genre, but the execution is better than most, and broader too. With more than two dozen sandwiches, the selection includes basic Philly cheesesteaks and reubens along with double-dog dares like the Hillbilly Cheeseburger, which tops fried bologna with spicy pepperjack cheese, and the Mahindeburger, a grilled mahi filet rubbed with enough hot blackening spice to set your eyebrows afire. Big waffle fries are a reliable side dish, and the potato salad, creamy and infused with smoky bacon, is on the shortlist of the best in town. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Early Bird Diner

West Ashley - American

Adam Chandler

Chicken and waffles

It’s hard not to be charmed by the West Ashley greasy spoon Early Bird Diner. Local art lines the walls of this casual, seat-yourself spot out on Highway 17, and indie music softly hums in the background. Treat yourself to the fried chicken, delicately crisp on the outside and insanely moist; it comes with a wonderful lavender honey for dipping bits of chicken skin. The Patty Melt is also a favorite, as are most of the side dishes, like their fried green tomatoes or macaroni and cheese. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to leave without studying the dessert menu. Their varied selection of pies, cakes, and ice creams will make you wish that your dinner hadn’t vanished so quickly, but if you have some room for dessert, try the buttermilk pie. —Angela Hanyak Dish (Winter 2014)

Edmund's Oast

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Pickled shrimp on rye

Owner Scott Schor, the genius behind the Beer Exchange stores in downtown Charleston and Greenville, struck upon an equally smart business plan: approachable upscale food and craft beers served in a building that’s an interior designer’s dream. Creative and eats abound at both dinner and brunch where everything from cornbread to kale is worth ordering. The focus is clearly on Edmund's charcuterie program where diners have the option of sharing a modest small plate to gorging on a “go big or go home” large selection. Meats run the gamut from summer sausages to pate to rabbit confit. A no-miss is the house special pickled shrimp toast served on crusty rye bread, replete with a vinegary bite and a creamy yogurt finish. Yes, the burger is delicious and always perfectly cooked but it’s the fish and chips that’s the real dark horse of the menu. The dish pays serious homage to both American and English roots by boldly serving both tartar sauce and malt vinegar alongside beer-battered cod and fresh crispy chips. After all this food, you’ll probably want to wash it down with a tasty adult beverage. Edmund’s features beer, local soda, cocktails and cider all on tap. —Suzanne Cohen Dish, Summer 2016

EVO

North Charleston - Pizza

Jonathan Boncek

A recent daily pizza special sums up the seasonal approach at EVO

At EVO, the use of fresh, local ingredients is key, and they've been keeping it local from the very beginning, back when they were a mobile wood-fired oven serving pizza at the farmers market in Marion Square. Large chalkboards decorate the walls, listing local ingredients from various farms, along with daily specials. Executive Chef Blake McCormick flexes her culinary creativity with the daily specials. Housemade sausages, fresh arugula, and duck crostini have popped up on the specials board, but we’re partial to the pizza. The crust is thin and slightly charred, and the mozzarella is made fresh and pulled in-house twice a day. The pistachio pesto pie was named one of the best pizzas in the country by Food Network Magazine, and the sinful Pork Trifecta keeps customers coming back. Check out the beer list for what’s on tap, and you’ll find plenty of local brews to keep your inner beer snob happy. —Kinsey Gidick Dish, Summer 2016

Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ

Sullivan's Island - Bar

Jonathan Boncek

Pitmaster Aaron Siegel is steadily building a Lowcountry barbecue empire. At the original West Ashley location, you can munch on tender ribs, chicken, and pork while listening to blues and roots rock-centric live music, while out at the Sullivan’s Island the slightly larger menu includes smoked turkey and barbecue shrimp. Siegel now has a third location in the works for Williman Street, just around the corner from the City Paper. Home Team also serves up a yummy Texas-style salt-and-pepper brisket. The result of a gut-busting R&D tour through the Lone Star State, it is arguably the best brisket being served in the Carolinas today. The fat quite literally melts in your mouth, and the beef itself is seasoned to oh-boy perfection. Note: Be sure to take your blood pressure meds beforehand — it’s aggressively salted. Siegel’s ribs have been singled out for particular praise, too, being voted Most Life-Changing Rib by Esquire readers and earning Home Team the designation Best Rib-Sticking Joint in America by Southern Living magazine. However, if it’s your first time at Home Team, you have to order Siegel’s smoked chicken wings paired with the mayonnaise-based Alabama-style barbecue sauce. Cool, creamy, and tangy, it’s the perfect match for the smoky chicken and arguably the best barbecue sauce in town. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ

West Ashley - Barbecue

Jonathan Boncek

Pitmaster Aaron Siegel is steadily building a barbecue empire. At his original Home Team West Ashley location, you can munch on tender ribs, chicken, and pork while listening to live blues and roots rock-centric music. Meanwhile on Sullivan’s Island, his slightly larger menu includes smoked turkey and barbecue shrimp. The newest location is downtown and features more haute cuisine-inspired dishes like tomato and burrata salad tucked among robust barbecue offerings. Home Team is well known famous for its Texas-style salt-and-pepper brisket and with the first bite it’s easy to see why. The result of a gut-busting R&D tour through the Lone Star State, it's some of the best brisket being served in the city today. The fat quite literally melts in your mouth, and the beef itself is seasoned to oh-boy perfection. Siegel’s ribs have also been singled out for particular praise, too, being voted Most Life-Changing Rib by Esquire readers and earning Home Team the designation Best Rib-Sticking Joint in America by Southern Living magazine. However, if it’s your first time at Home Team, you have to order Siegel’s smoked chicken wings paired with the mayonnaise-based Alabama-style barbecue sauce. Cool, creamy, and tangy, it’s the perfect match for the smoky chicken and arguably the best barbecue sauce in town. —Suzanne Cohen Dish, Summer 2016

Five Loaves Cafe

Mt. Pleasant - Cafés

Jonathan Boncek

Five Loaves' BLT

Five Loaves Cafe has mastered the fine art of the soup-and-sandwich combo, and that’s why there’s usually a line out the door at lunchtime. The rotating selection of half a dozen soups are made daily with fresh ingredients in a sparkling array of flavors. A thick cheddar and potato puree has a subtle, smoky heat from chipotle peppers, while there’s a sweet spiciness to the carrot, ginger, and cilantro. Perhaps my favorite is the creamy asparagus and bacon soup, which has sublime bits of semi-melted blue cheese hidden away inside. You can pair the soups with one of a dozen sandwiches such as a hot ham and brie with green tomato jam or grilled pork loin with spicy blue cheese spread, all served on your choice of bread. At night, the menu expands to include a range of hearty pasta dishes like shrimp gnocchi and butternut squash ravioli, plus tasty comfort fare like honey mustard-glazed salmon and curried chicken over jasmine rice. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Five Loaves Cafe

Downtown - Cafés

Five Loaves Cafe has mastered the fine art of the soup-and-sandwich combo, and that’s why there’s usually a line out the door at lunchtime. The rotating selection of half a dozen soups are made daily with fresh ingredients in a sparkling array of flavors. A thick cheddar and potato puree has a subtle, smoky heat from chipotle peppers, while there’s a sweet spiciness to the carrot, ginger, and cilantro. Perhaps my favorite is the creamy asparagus and bacon soup, which has sublime bits of semi-melted blue cheese hidden away inside. You can pair the soups with one of a dozen sandwiches such as a hot ham and brie with green tomato jam or grilled pork loin with spicy blue cheese spread, all served on your choice of bread. At night, the menu expands to include a range of hearty pasta dishes like shrimp gnocchi and butternut squash ravioli, plus tasty comfort fare like honey mustard-glazed salmon and curried chicken over jasmine rice. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Fuel

Downtown - Caribbean

A funky Caribbean-themed restaurant in a former gas station, Fuel has great food, an ultra-laid-back atmosphere, and a fantastic outdoor patio with plenty of shade. The food is fresh and vibrant — think fish tacos, pineapple salsa, and sweet plantain fritters — it’s so good that Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives stopped in to try the braised pork tacos and enormous grilled jerk chicken sandwich. The must-order Ho-Cakes are crispy corn fritters loaded with onions, garlic, jalapeños, and roasted corn and topped with pepper jack, creme fraiche, and tomato chutney. The drinks won’t empty the wallet either, with Fuel Lager available for only two bucks a pour. Oh, and don’t miss the island-style Sunday brunch, with its killer huevos rancheros and mouth-watering Southern fried chicken and waffles. The sprawling back patio is the perfect place to suck down a couple of brews and enjoy the sunshine on a nice day. —Eric Doksa Dish (Summer 2015)

Gathering Café

West Ashley - Cafés

The former Sweetsmith Bakery on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard is now home to a comfortable spot to get healthy, satisfying, made-from-scratch food. Chef/owner Chef Nathan Conkle has put forth a farm-to-table menu that's packed with hearty, modern fare, like cornmeal-crusted rainbow trout with caramlized sweet potatoes, haricot verts, carrots, and remoulade. The Gathering features daily specials, often including locally sourced fish. Conkle has a passion for keeping both his menu and ingredients as seasonal and local as possible. This is a comfortable, well-priced spot to enjoy a lunch or dinner focused on what’s good right now. —Aaron Richard Dish (Winter 2014)

The Glass Onion

West Ashley - New Southern

Sarah's Pimento Cheese with Crackers

The Glass Onion takes its farm-to-table seriously (in fact, the last time I saw Chef Chris Stewart, he was cooking up Jimmy Red heirloom grits in the middle of a corn field to feed a volunteer crop mob). The eclectic menu trumpets the day’s freshest finds. I could live out the rest of my days eating GO’s butterbean falafel over chunks of watermelon sprinkled with salty feta and shredded mint. You might feel more carnivorous and choose the chicken and andouille gumbo, fried pig ear po-boy, corned beef tongue, or GO’s famous Tuesday first-come first-served fried chicken (so popular you must reserve in advance). Southern classics like deviled eggs, shrimp & grits, fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese, seasonal cobblers, and custardy bread pudding are beloved staples, but you never really know what offerings will appear on the hand written chalkboard. All this, combined with the fact the restaurant was named after a song on The Beatles’ White Album, makes this a funky, scrumptious, and essential neighborhood eatery. —Allston McCrady Dish, Summer 2016

G&M/Fast and French

Downtown - French

The first thing any G+M veteran will tell you about the place is that there’s nothing else like it in Charleston, and they’re right. The unmistakably French dishes — croissants for breakfast, croque-monsieur for lunch, straight through to fondue specials for dinner ­— have been coming out of the tiny Broad Street kitchen for three decades now, and they show no signs of letting up. Hot and cold sandwiches, soups, and daily specials are the name of the game during lunch. Choose from “something very French” a little later in the day, like smoked ham, butter, and cornichons or the cheese of the day; you really can’t go wrong. Follow the G+M team on social media for the inside scoop on rotating specials — peaches with goat cheese and prosciutto, anyone? —Sam Spence Dish (Summer 2015)

Harold's Cabin

Downtown - American

Jonathan Boncek

The quirkiness is strong at Harold's Cabin — if the Jackalope painted on the wall didn't give that away, you can't miss the wackiness on the menu. The team behind Harold's — John Schumacher, Mike Veeck, and Bill Murray — have broken the menu into Kickshaw, Vittles, Nectar & Regale. What does that mean? Don't worry about it. Just order. As critic Vanessa Wolf wrote in her review, "The experimental menu at Harold's Cabin is one of the most exciting in the city." A dish called Corn is actually golfball-size hush puppies paired with spicy chili sauce. Carrot isn't a lone orange root veggie at all. Rather, it's a carrot and wheatberries casserole with a small chicken-fried rabbit foreleg. The playfulness carries over to the dish execution and the results are remarkable. Chef Justin Pfau knows what he's doing. Don't let the whimsy scare you off. —Kinsey Gidick Dish, Summer 2016

Jamaican Me Hungry

Downtown - Caribbean

Jonathan Boncek

Don’t be fooled by the punny name: this funky Jamaican restaurant is the real deal. Owner Saviya Smith is a native of Jamaica, and her slow-cooked island specialties are handmade from scratch and as authentic as they get. Jerk chicken and shrimp swim in fragrant bowls of broth laced with the warm peppery heat, while oxtails and curried goat are slow-simmered until tender and flavorful. Generous portions of rice and peas (black beans), grilled plantains, and savory steamed cabbage accompany every meal, and you can choose from a slate of imported Jamaican juices and sodas. The restaurant is a little tucked away down State Street just off the market, but it’s worth seeking out for a taste of genuine Caribbean fare. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q

North Charleston - Barbecue

Birmingham-based Jim ‘N Nick’s is not your typical barbecue restaurant chain. They don’t have a walk-in freezer, and everything on the menu — from the crust on the pies to the croutons atop the salad — is handmade from scratch. The King Street location, known simply as “Nick’s,” is a quick-service joint where you order at the counter, but it still offers a broad slate of barbecue that includes traditional pulled pork and beef brisket along with newer innovations like smoked wings and riblets. The Jim ‘N Nick’s out at Tanger outlet mall has even broader offerings, plus a full-service, sit-down format. Beyond barbecue, the wide-ranging fare includes fried catfish, shrimp, and ribeyes. The pulled pork and chicken are pretty good, but the smoked pork hot links and the sliced Angus beef brisket are the real winners. Owner Nick Pihakis is seriously committed to fair pay for his employees and supporting sustainable agriculture, too, including an ongoing initiative called the Fatback Pig Project, which aims to return pastured pork to mass-scale production. Those sorts of efforts — and the scrumptious mini cheese biscuits — are the kind of barbecue innovations we can get behind. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q

Downtown - Barbecue

Cheese Biscuits

Birmingham-based Jim ‘N Nick’s is not your typical barbecue restaurant chain. They don’t have a walk-in freezer, and everything on the menu — from the crust on the pies to the croutons atop the salad — is handmade from scratch. The King Street location, known simply as “Nick’s,” is a quick-service joint where you order at the counter, but it still offers a broad slate of barbecue that includes traditional pulled pork and beef brisket along with newer innovations like smoked wings and riblets. The Jim ‘N Nick’s out at Tanger outlet mall has even broader offerings, plus a full-service, sit-down format. Beyond barbecue, the wide-ranging fare includes fried catfish, shrimp, and ribeyes. The pulled pork and chicken are pretty good, but the smoked pork hot links and the sliced Angus beef brisket are the real winners. Owner Nick Pihakis is seriously committed to fair pay for his employees and supporting sustainable agriculture, too, including an ongoing initiative called the Fatback Pig Project, which aims to return pastured pork to mass-scale production. Those sorts of efforts — and the scrumptious mini cheese biscuits — are the kind of barbecue innovations we can get behind. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Kanpai Japanese Restaurant

Mt. Pleasant - Sushi + Japanese

Jonathan Boncek

The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi plays on a loop in this humble little suburban eatery, owned and operated by Chef Sean Park, who made a name for himself at O-Ku downtown. In 2010, Esquire’s John Mariani praised the chef by saying, “Sean Park turns out beautiful, fanciful sushi,” and tagged O-Ku as one of the best new restaurants of the year. In 2012, Park took over the kitchen at Bambu and successfully revamped a menu that desperately needed help. Two years ago year, Park purchased Kanpai, which he runs with his family. His work is art. He creates vibrant sushi platters and aromatic bulgogi. His gazpacho is as beautiful as it gets, and you’ll find little gems on the menu, like steamed buns and miso ramen, that are worth trying if you’re not in the mood for sushi. We suggest going on a sensory journey by ordering the chef’s tasting menu. Make sure you give him advance notice and chat with him about your preferences because his omakase is tailored to each diner. You won’t regret it. —Eric Doksa Dish, Summer 2016

La Pizzeria

Mt. Pleasant - Pizza

Adam Chandler

Clams

La Pizzeria is one of those hidden local gems, offering a touch of Boston’s North End in the heart of Mt. Pleasant. The walls of the small dining room are painted to resemble old stone blocks adorned with twisting vines, and an ancient-looking pressed tin ceiling adds a hint of noble age. Owner Laura Zanotti is Milanese, and she brings a piece of her home to each dish. There’s hearty lasagna bolognese, veal saltimbocca, and delicious chicken ravioli dressed with sharp basil-pecan pesto. Clammer Dave’s local clams are transformed into spaghetti vongole with a big twirl of pasta and a light white wine and garlic sauce. The pizza is the big draw, though, and its thin, taut crust and genuine Italian ingredients have won over a legion of local fans who look at La Pizzeria as an oasis of good pie in a Southern pizza desert. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

La Tabella

James Island - Italian

Before we knew anything about crudo and sformatino, Italian food meant piccata, marsala, and saltimbocca, and that's the kind of classic Italian-American fare that La Tabella specializes in. The menu is stocked with the aforementioned standards, which are done well, but there's still enough creativity in the preparations to satisfy the family food snob. While the kids slurp down spaghetti and meatballs, you can fork into a tender pork osso bucco, which is actually the whole shank, gently braised, slathered in sauce, and served atop a beautifully prepared mushroom risotto. Or you can opt for a fresh version of seafood fra diavalo or linguine and clams and be just as satisfied. —Jeff Allen

Laura Alberts Tasteful Options

Daniel Island - Cafés

Daniel Island professionals like Laura Alberts’ lunches for their mix of sandwiches, salads, and specialities, like shrimp baba ganoush or the tarragon shallot salmon couscous. And if you don’t have to head back to the office try one of their beer or wine suggested pairings. And they’ve got a lot of suds and wine to offer since much of the space is dedicated to selling the sweet nectar. Laura Alberts even has a growler station. Plus if you want to grab and go, the cafe sells picnic lunches and a la carte for you to go explore the perfectly manicured lawns of the island. —Melissa Tunstall Dish (Winter 2015)

Lee Lee's Hot Kitchen

Downtown - Chinese

Jonathan Boncek

Salt and pepper shrimp

At Lee Lee’s, you won’t’ find a humongous menu that requires at least four folds to manage, and Chinese horoscopes are non-existent. What you will find is a menu that features a selection of Chinese-American favorites like kung pao chicken, black pepper beef, and General Tso’s chicken. Lee Lee’s amps up the traditional Asian carry-out by adding a fun, energetic environment. It’s a small, colorful place with popping red walls and vibrant yellow accents. It’s the work of Lily Lei and long-time friend Karalee Nielsen Fallert, who opened up successful joints like Poe’s Tavern, Taco Boy, Monza, and Closed for Business. We recommend starting with a Shanghai Shandy and chicken lettuce wraps, and working your way to the hong sho ro, a sinful specialty consisting of caramelized pork belly in a sweet and savory five-spice sauce. And don’t forget the salt and pepper shrimp — they’re addictive. —Eric Doksa Dish (Summer 2015)

Leon's Oyster Shop

Downtown - Seafood

Jonathan Boncek

Chargrilled Oysters

Leon’s combines old Southern classics with fine-dining flourishes in a funky neighborhood chicken and oyster joint. The big oyster bar turns out fresh-shucked oysters on the half-shell, and the char-grilled versions topped with parsley, butter, and sharp parmesan are a new local favorite. The juicy fried chicken has a dark brown pepper-laced batter finished with honey and hot sauce, and the offering is rounded out by fried fish sandwiches and shrimp rolls along with unexpectedly delicious “smaller” plates, like black-eyed pea salad and old-school scalloped potatoes. It’s all set in an old building that once housed a paint and body shop, with rough-hewn rafters, walls lined with retro knickknacks, and angling natural light from tall windows — a stylish blend of old and new that has made Leon’s one of the hottest dining spots on Upper King. —Robert Moss Dish, Summer 2016

Lewis Barbecue

Downtown - Barbecue

Sam Spence

The rumors of pitmaster John Lewis opening a Texas barbecue joint in Charleston started circulating a couple of years ago after a few sightings and guest appearances in the Holy City. And this summer it happened. After a few delays, the doors finally opened to the new place in late June in the increasingly hip North Morrison neighborhood. Lewis' building houses four custom built smokers and a sausage smoker that can cook 1,600 links at a time, all hand built by Lewis and his father. Wait times were long the first week but have since settled down. But if you’re waiting, visit the screened-in outside bar that serves up beverage director R.H. Weaver’s agua frescas and more. Chill down with a rum, coconut, and cinnamon Horchata, a refreshing tequila and watermelon Sandia, the cool and citrusy gin, cucumber, lemon and lemongrass Pepino, or grab a local draught beer or the Lewis Michelada. Once inside you’ll queue up to have meat hand-sliced by one of two meat-cutters stationed behind a long counter directing you to opposite ends. Lewis’ “life changing” beef brisket is definitely the star. The infinitely tender meat has a salty, peppery crust and shines with melted fat. But there’s also juicy smoked turkey, pulled pork, pork ribs and Texas sausage called “hot guts” available and priced by the pound (or hot guts by the link). After your tray is filled with your order of meats, choose your sides from mustardy potato salad, lemon slaw, cowboy beans, and rich green chile corn pudding. If you come to Lewis’ on Saturdays, Flinstone-sque beef ribs can be had. Meaty with dark crust and glistening fat they’re an impressive sight. A huge chunk of meat surrounding a smoke blackened bone that brings back time hidden evolutionary memories of caveman feasts. Bring a friend, they are car toppling huge. Try the El Sancho, a sandwich with pork or brisket and topped with hot guts and pickled red onion. Or, if you’re feeling crazy, make it “Loco” and get all three proteins. When you’re done, find a cool couch and ride out the meat sweats. —Robert Donovan Dish, Summer 2016

Liberty Tap Room & Grill

Mt. Pleasant - American

On pleasant days when they roll up the big windows in the front bar at Liberty Tap Room, you can enjoy a fat, juicy burger and a pint of craft beer while watching the ducks and turtles swim in the pond below. Over the past few years, the selection of draft beers available on the bar’s 38 taps has gotten better and better, with beers from some of the country’s best craft breweries joining the house’s own Liberty line of microbrews. The smoky wood-grilled wings and chewy soft pretzels make for superior bar munchies, and for dinner there’s a full selection of steaks, ribs, chicken, and pasta, plus pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. Perhaps best of all are the burgers. Liberty grinds its own beef and makes its brioche buns in house, and the Freedom Burger — a half-pound of beef topped with bacon, cheddar, onion straws, and a fried egg — is a thing of beauty that any red-blooded American can appreciate. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Long Point Grill

Mt. Pleasant - American

Long Point Grill has become quite the Mt. Pleasant lunchtime institution, offering hearty fare with a few upscale wrinkles thrown in. Proven standards like the boneless buttermilk fried chicken breast over whipped potatoes and the LPG burger with garlic aioli and smoked gouda keep the parking lot and small dining room packed at noontime. The small whiteboard of daily specials, which your server brings right to your table, always includes a few creative twists. At night, a dozen more large plates join the already lengthy selection, adding substantial entrees, like gorgonzola-walnut stuffed chicken, lobster ravioli, and a bone-in porterhouse pork chop. The restaurant is tucked away down at the west end of Long Point Road, almost to the Wando terminal, and you’ll have to wend your way through a maze of container trucks to get there, but it’s well worth the effort for a solid meal at a reasonable price. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Lost Dog Cafe

Folly Beach - Breakfast

You don’t have to love dogs to love this shady little place on Folly. But you do have to love hearty, well-prepared breakfast and lunch fare. And hippies. It always helps to love hippies when you’re dining on Folly, but that’s beside the point. Lost Dog’s large shaded patio invites a lazy, late breakfast, one that you can enjoy in the company of your favorite pooch. While Fido scarfs the free doggie biscuits, you can savor their huevos rancheros or oversized pancakes with maple syrup. Open from 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m., there are few better places to enjoy a leisurely brunch or down a few hangover-curing mimosas, but come early on the weekends — Lost Dog is always bustling. Menu favorites include chicken salad croissants and the “fresh fish thing,” which cheekily relies on “what the cat caught today.” —Stephanie Barna DISH (Summer 2013)

The Lot

James Island - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

The Farmer's Pick Plate

The Lot has gone through a few changes over the last year facing the departures of two chefs and entrance of new chef Andy McLeod. The restaurant still offers a focused menu of a dozen or so dishes featuring ingredients from local farms. The menu changes daily but you are sure to find things like a two-inch-thick pork chop that could feed easily two or a crispy chicken leg served over local Carolina Gold rice with Iberia peppers, blistered cherry tomatoes and pickled shitakes. If you time it right, a perfectly cooked filet or ribeye from a whole grass-fed cow they procured from local farm Anchorage Cattle Company might be on the menu. Plates like blistered summer peppers and grilled shrimp with whipped ricotta and a grilled watermelon salad reflect their adherence to the seasonal farm to table mantra. If you aren’t in a food coma afterwards, hop next door to the Pour House for some live music and beer. —Robert Donovan Dish, Summer 2016

Lowcountry Bistro

Downtown - Southern

Jonathan Boncek

Southern-style mussels

Say hello to one of our favorite rustic, brick-walled dining ventures on Market Street. Steve Kish, a long-time restaurateur in Charleston and owner of 82 Queen, opened Lowcountry Bistro in the heart of Charleston’s historic Market district. LB takes on traditional Southern cuisine with a few modern twists and a dash of Creole and French thrown in the mix. Frogmore stew, shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and Carolina crab cakes exist alongside the Market Burger, cioppino, and jambalaya, which ensures there’s something for everyone. The setting is simple and casual, with a large second floor balcony, which is perfect for people-watching while enjoying a refreshing peach cooler. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Madra Rua

North Charleston - English + Irish

Madra Rua is a great spot for a friendly chat over a pint of Guinness, thanks to the bar’s several walled-off nooks. These little cubbyholes give imbibers a chance to maintain a wee bit of privacy and also help to keep down the often boisterous sounds coming from the rest of the bar. Madra Rua offers up more than pints of Samuel Jackson (Guinness and Sam Adams), Black Magic (Guinness and Magic Hat No. 9), and Darkling (Guinness and Yuengling). You’ll also find a handful of Irish faves like shepherd’s pie, fish and chips (a pleasingly breaded, piping hot little number), and the Fisherman’s Pie, a gut-busting classic packed with shrimp, fish, and mashed potatoes and topped with cheese. You’ll also find American bar classics, from the Madra Rua Burger (served with hand-cut fries and secret sauce) to the Wicklow Wings, the joint’s tasty take on buffalo wings. The pub also features one of the area’s cheaper — and heartier — brunches, with omelets, benedicts, and the Lowcountry’s fave, shrimp and grits. Order any of these and you won’t have to eat for the rest of the day. —Chris Haire DISH (Summer 2013)

Madra Rua

Summerville - English + Irish

Madra Rua is one of the best places in town to have a friendly chat over a pint of Guinness, thanks to the bar’s several walled-off nooks. These little cubbyholes give imbibers a chance to maintain a wee bit of privacy and also help to keep down the often boisterous sounds coming from the rest of the bar. And now that they’ve gone totally smoke-free it’s even more friendly. Of course, Madra Rua offers up more than pints of Samuel Jackson (Guinness and Sam Adams), Black Magic (Guinness and Magic Hat No. 9), and Darkling (Guinness and Yuengling). You’ll also find a handful of Irish faves like shepherd’s pie, fish and chips (a pleasingly breaded, piping hot little number), and the Fisherman’s Pie, a gut-busting classic packed with shrimp, fish, and mashed potatoes and topped with cheese. It’ll keep you warm on a cold winter’s day. You’ll also find American bar classics, from the Madra Rua Burger (served with hand-cut fries and secret sauce) to the Wicklow Wings, the joint’s tasty take on buffalo wings. The pub also features one of the area’s cheaper — and heartier — brunches, with omelets, benedicts, and the Lowcountry’s fave, shrimp and grits. Order any of these and you won’t have to eat for the rest of the day. —Chris Haire, Dish (Winter 2013)

Mama Kim's

Downtown - Korean

When it comes to hospitality, few restaurateurs can make you feel more welcome and at home than Mama Kim Brown. Order the bibimbap, and she will come to your table and demonstrate the proper technique for stirring the fried egg into the rice and vegetables. She won’t stop until she’s satisfied that you understand what to do. If kids are at the table, she will take the time to make sure they are eating well, and if you’ve got a baby with you, well, just hand it over. She’ll take it while you enjoy your dinner. And you will enjoy your dinner. The bright lights won’t dim your enthusiasm for the food here. The sushi is good, and the Japanese choices are numerous, but we prefer the Korean specialties of the house, which come with the requisite spread of Korean side dishes. We love the pickled daikon, the crunchy black beans, and the spicy kimchi. And we love Mama Kim too. She makes dining out on King Street a hell of a lot of fun since she insists on rocking out with her wok out. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Winter 2015)

Manny's Neighborhood Grille

West Ashley - Greek

Manny’s puts out family-friendly fare with a Greek accent. They recently opened on George Street downtown, and at the old West Ashley standby they have a great neighborhood vibe that we still appreciate. They stay true to the Stavrinakis family’s culinary heritage with authentic fare like roast Greek chicken, moussaka, and the signature Greek-style lamb shank. It’s what a local place should be all about: cold beer, good times, and satisfying grub. From fat burgers to the Greek specialties of the house, the rib-sticking platters keep this place a regular stop. —Jeff Allen, Dish (Winter 2013)

Maybank Public House

James Island - Pubs + Taverns

Jonathan Boncek

The sister property to Coleman Public House, this pub offers a huge list of beers as well as an excellent burger.

Mellow Mushroom

Mt. Pleasant - Pizza

There’s plenty of good pizza in Charleston, from the large, crisp Neapolitan-style to the thicker variety. Some places focus on traditional toppings, while others get creative. Mellow Mushroom offers enough variety to make just about anyone happy. The chewy pizza crust and wide-ranging toppings have earned Mellow the Charleston City Paper’s Readers’ Pick as Best Gourmet Pizza 12 years straight. We’re talking andouille and artichokes, tempeh and tofu, along with the more traditional pepperoni and sausage. The same ingredients can be incorporated into dozens of salads, hoagies, and calzones, and they’ve also got gluten-free crust and vegan cheese as options, too. Each of the Lowcountry locations has its own unique look and menu items. In Avondale, an old theater was converted into a huge pizza palace with a psychedelic black-and-white swirl paint job, bright red booths, and very high ceilings. The Mt. P location is built around a giant mushroom with a colorful dining room and adjacent patio, and down on King Street, there’s a rooftop patio with a vibrant mural of fireworks and hot air balloons. The newest of the bunch is the Summerville location with a setting straight out of a fairy tale. We’re a fan of the Mellow Beer Club, which allows diners to work their way through a wide range of respectable craft brews, earning perks throughout the whole process. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Mellow Mushroom

Downtown - Pizza

Eggy & Leggy Pizza

There’s plenty of good pizza in Charleston, from the large, crisp Neapolitan-style to the thicker variety. Some places focus on traditional toppings, while others get creative. Mellow Mushroom offers enough variety to make just about anyone happy. The chewy pizza crust and wide-ranging toppings have earned Mellow the Charleston City Paper’s Readers’ Pick as Best Gourmet Pizza 12 years straight. We’re talking andouille and artichokes, tempeh and tofu, along with the more traditional pepperoni and sausage. The same ingredients can be incorporated into dozens of salads, hoagies, and calzones, and they’ve also got gluten-free crust and vegan cheese as options, too. Each of the Lowcountry locations has its own unique look and menu items. In Avondale, an old theater was converted into a huge pizza palace with a psychedelic black-and-white swirl paint job, bright red booths, and very high ceilings. The Mt. P location is built around a giant mushroom with a colorful dining room and adjacent patio, and down on King Street, there’s a rooftop patio with a vibrant mural of fireworks and hot air balloons. The newest of the bunch is the Summerville location with a setting straight out of a fairy tale. We’re a fan of the Mellow Beer Club, which allows diners to work their way through a wide range of respectable craft brews, earning perks throughout the whole process. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Mellow Mushroom

Summerville - Pizza

There’s plenty of good pizza in Charleston, from the large, crisp Neapolitan-style to the thicker variety. Some places focus on traditional toppings, while others get creative. Mellow Mushroom offers enough variety to make just about anyone happy. The chewy pizza crust and wide-ranging toppings have earned Mellow the Charleston City Paper’s Readers’ Pick as Best Gourmet Pizza 12 years straight. We’re talking andouille and artichokes, tempeh and tofu, along with the more traditional pepperoni and sausage. The same ingredients can be incorporated into dozens of salads, hoagies, and calzones, and they’ve also got gluten-free crust and vegan cheese as options, too. Each of the Lowcountry locations has its own unique look and menu items. In Avondale, an old theater was converted into a huge pizza palace with a psychedelic black-and-white swirl paint job, bright red booths, and very high ceilings. The Mt. P location is built around a giant mushroom with a colorful dining room and adjacent patio, and down on King Street, there’s a rooftop patio with a vibrant mural of fireworks and hot air balloons. The newest of the bunch is the Summerville location with a setting straight out of a fairy tale. We’re a fan of the Mellow Beer Club, which allows diners to work their way through a wide range of respectable craft brews, earning perks throughout the whole process. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Mellow Mushroom

West Ashley - Pizza

There’s plenty of good pizza in Charleston, from the large, crisp Neapolitan-style to the thicker variety. Some places focus on traditional toppings, while others get creative. Mellow Mushroom offers enough variety to make just about anyone happy. The chewy pizza crust and wide-ranging toppings have earned Mellow the Charleston City Paper’s Readers’ Pick as Best Gourmet Pizza 12 years straight. We’re talking andouille and artichokes, tempeh and tofu, along with the more traditional pepperoni and sausage. The same ingredients can be incorporated into dozens of salads, hoagies, and calzones, and they’ve also got gluten-free crust and vegan cheese as options, too. Each of the Lowcountry locations has its own unique look and menu items. In Avondale, an old theater was converted into a huge pizza palace with a psychedelic black-and-white swirl paint job, bright red booths, and very high ceilings. The Mt. P location is built around a giant mushroom with a colorful dining room and adjacent patio, and down on King Street, there’s a rooftop patio with a vibrant mural of fireworks and hot air balloons. The newest of the bunch is the Summerville location with a setting straight out of a fairy tale. We’re a fan of the Mellow Beer Club, which allows diners to work their way through a wide range of respectable craft brews, earning perks throughout the whole process. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Mi Xao

Mt. Pleasant - Thai + Vietnamese

Jonathan Boncek

London broil pho

A takeout-centric restaurant from chef/owner Anh Toan Ho, Mì Xào brings traditional Vietnamese cooking to the northern edge of Mt. Pleasant. The compact menu includes noodle soups, rice dishes, and salads along with cool summer rolls and tender steamed dumplings. The beef pho brims with savory spices while the tom yum kung presents big, flavorful shrimp in a lime-tinged sweet and sour broth. Daily specials offer a sampling of classic dishes from across Asia, too, like pad thai, pancit, and Korean barbecue. For the northern ’burbs, it’s a much-needed infusion of fresh, interesting flavors and a great option for a quick, affordable meal. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Mondo's

James Island - Italian

Mondo’s has spent more than a decade proving to James Islanders that good food doesn’t have to come with a big price tag. Back in the early days, they were an outpost in a barren land, serving crusty panini, tasty salads, and incredibly affordable bowls of pasta in a stark strip mall setting to a growing crowd of locals. Today, they’ve got more company and they’ve grown up a bit, expanding and improving their dining room, but they have remained a reliable source for reasonably priced Italian fare. The specials board is always full of creative dishes, but we have a hard time not ordering the eggplant parmigiana every time we go. It’s so very delicious. —Stephanie Barna DISH (Summer 2013)

Monza

Downtown - Pizza

Now a staple of the King Street scene, Monza continues to impress thanks to artisanal pies that come with farm fresh ingredients. With a nod to great Formula 1 racers, each pie comes with a racer’s moniker, like the Volpini — fresh tomato sauce, prosciutto, arugula, and pecorino romano — or the more classic Count Louis with roasted mushrooms and Italian pepperoni. Daily specials like the occasional gnocchi or roast pork with almond pesto and fresh tomatoes keep things interesting. But we always return to the pizzas, specifically the Ronnie Peterson, a perfectly crisp pie layered with oven-roasted chicken breast, artichokes, arugula, pesto, ricotta, mozzarella and garlic. That with a glass of Prosecco enjoyed on Monza’s hidden back patio and you may start to believe you’re really in Naples. Evviva! —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Winter 2015)

Ms. Rose's

West Ashley - American

Jonathan Boncek

Fresh swordfish from Cherry Point with butternut squash puree, brussels sprouts, pecan vinaigrette, and puffed rice

The Original Ms. Rose’s Fine Food and Cocktails has a fresh and seasonal menu that’s been attracting the locals. Take the housemade smoked brat, for example. The fat and juicy sausage comes with delicate sour onions, pickles, and mustard on a fresh pretzel bun. The burgers, smoked meatloaf, and fresh catch of the day are all well executed. The inviting bar has 16 taps of mostly craft beer, and the killer cocktail menu has real treats like the refreshing carrot colada. Every dish is worth a try, but the single best bite we had was the fried chicken. It’s got a zesty crust and juicy meat inside, without any saturated sogginess. It’s fried chicken done right. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2014)

The Mustard Seed

Mt. Pleasant - Fusion + Eclectic

In the early 1990s, the Mustard Seed was a small bistro in a Mt. Pleasant shopping plaza with a vegetarian-friendly menu and cute wine list. Now the Mt. Pleasant location is situated in a handsome stand-alone building with a casual wine bar atmosphere. Two Mustard Seed locations with similar decor and ambiance have sprouted up on James Island and in Summerville. They’re all part of the Dine With Sal group, and they’ve all earned loyal clienteles by offering fresh ingredients, homemade soups and desserts, and more than a few exotic twists on Lowcountry and Southern fare. Each location offers healthy vegan and vegetarian dishes, too. —T. Ballard Lesemann, Dish (Winter 2013)

New Moon Pizzeria & Pub

Johns Island - Pizza

The crackery crust of the pizza at New Moon is a pleasant surprise, even for those of us who appreciate a gloppy, sloppy slice of New York-style. A crisp crust that shatters in your mouth has a place in the pizza world, but you gotta eat it quick or it'll get soggy. The specialty choices at this neighborhood joint on Johns Island range from inspired (the Godfather: meatballs, ham, pepperoni, sausage, Genoa salami) to downright weird (the Hurricane: mustard-based sauce covered with cheese, grilled chicken, bacon, and topped after baking with diced tomato, yellow pepper, jalapeños, pineapple, and buttermilk ranch drizzle). On the pub side of the menu, they've got a list of burgers and sandwiches, which come with some seriously addictive housemade potato chips. —Stephanie Barna

Nirlep Indian Restaurant

West Ashley - Indian

Like all Indian restaurants, this West Ashley haunt has a fair share of vegetarian and meat dishes. On the veggie end, the saag paneer (a stewy, gooey batch of spinachy goodness) and the chana masala (an onion and tomato curry dish) are two standouts, but the meat dishes are where our hearts lie. From the creamy lamb kora to the curry chicken to the tangree kebab (ultra-spicy pieces of chicken leg marinated in dark spices like black pepper, cloves, and black cumin, then tandoor-roasted) to the butter chicken (an ultra creamy blast of spicy nirvana). Of course, you’ll need something to cool your mouth off after all of those dishes. May we recommend the rice pudding. Yum. —Chris Haire Dish (Winter 2014)

On Forty-One

Mt. Pleasant - Southern

Restaurateur, consultant, and chef Brannon Florie does not disappoint with his latest venture, an upscale iteration of Southern classics made with the freshest ingredients. Located up Highway 17, just past Boone Hall Farms at the fork of Highway 41 (thus the name), this sleek space includes a comfy back deck with a lively outdoor bar surrounded by picnic tables under tall pines. Start with the velvety crab chowder, then dig into fried oysters or beer-braised barbecue shrimp. Signature dishes like lobster and grits (starring Geechee Boy Greg Johnsman’s stoneground heirloom deliciousness), crispy fried chicken, and pork chop with maple-apple gastrique and skillet mac and cheese will satisfy any appetite, while lighter eaters can enjoy a kale salad or grilled salmon over leek and corn risotto. This place is definitely worth the trek into Pleasantville. —Allston McCrady Dish (Summer 2016)

Opa Café

Summerville - Greek

The blue-and-white Aegean sparkles through in this most unlikely of strip mall joints. Tucked in the culinary hinterlands of Summerville, they serve solid Greek-American food at a good price, including the best gyros in the greater metropolitan area. The tzatziki is homemade, as is the fresh horiatiki salad, a menagerie of tomato, onion, and cucumber that hits full stride during the height of the summer harvest. They’ve replaced the old jambox with a new speaker system, but the bouzouki music that spills out all day long will have you jonesing for the whitewashed cliffs of the Greek isles. —Jeff Allen DISH (Summer 2013)

The Park Cafe

Downtown - Cafés

Jonathan Boncek

Vegetables with pate

Karalee Fallert Nielsen’s latest venture, catty-corner from Hampton Park, was intended as a neighborhood go-to (her own neighborhood, in fact) but quickly attracted those far beyond the ’hood. This is no ordinary breakfast, lunch, or dinner spot. The approachable menu is fresh and sophisticated, as is the sleek, sunny, comfy interior. From mushroom and walnut pate, to roasted cauliflower with hazelnuts to housemade ricotta with a depth charge of preserved lemon oil to the daily pasta or daily catch, each bite is an epiphany. Chef John Amato sharpened his skills at FIG and the Foodie Truck. He could easily be Charleston’s next big thing, but instead he shuns the spotlight, focusing on his craft (no music allowed in his kitchen, so as not to distract his staff), and mentoring younger chefs. With provisions to go, special wine dinners, and opportunities for guests to hit up the “secret wine stash” at a discount, this is a place I recommend to anyone for any meal of the day. —Allston McCrady Dish (Winter 2015)

Parson Jack's Café

West Ashley - Cafés

Parson Jack’s comes in somewhere between a country roadhouse bar and grill and a suburban Hooters location. The waitresses are decked out in school-girl outfits, the seats are church pews, and dogs are encouraged on the patio (free treats, folks). It’s seriously the best bar burger in that part of town. The beefy patties come topped with fried onions and your choice of a smorgasbord of toppings. It’s also a great old-school suds tap, crowded with locals and backed by several flat screens with the game on. And on Sunday mornings, they have a hot, self-service waffle iron and bottomless mimosas. If that’s not enough, order the Reuben. They cure their own brisket weekly, in-house. Nobody beats that. —Jeff Allen Dish (Winter 2013)

Pearlz

Downtown - Seafood

Whether you’re looking for a vibrant hotspot to take out-of-town guests for dinner or a few spots at the bar to grab a late bite, Pearlz has you covered. As you’d expect, it’s all about the oysters. You can get them steamed, but we recommend them served fresh on the half shell — don’t be shy. After you slurp down the first batch, ask your server for a round of oyster shooters — Absolut Peppar, spicy horseradish, black pepper, lemon, and, of course, a raw oyster. Just do it, trust us. Not in the mood for shellfish? Opt for an angus burger or crab cake sandwich. And don’t forget to check the bar menu for local craft brews on tap and cheap beer and wine specials. —Sam Spence Dish (Winter 2015)

Pearlz

West Ashley - Seafood

Jonathan Boncek

Oyster Roast

Whether you’re looking for a vibrant hotspot to take out-of-town guests for dinner or a few spots at the bar to grab a late bite, Pearlz has you covered. As you’d expect, it’s all about the oysters. You can get them steamed, but we recommend them served fresh on the half shell — don’t be shy. After you slurp down the first batch, ask your server for a round of oyster shooters — Absolut Peppar, spicy horseradish, black pepper, lemon, and, of course, a raw oyster. Just do it, trust us. Not in the mood for shellfish? Opt for an angus burger or crab cake sandwich. And don’t forget to check the bar menu for local craft brews on tap and cheap beer and wine specials. —Sam Spence Dish (Winter 2015)

Phuong Restaurant

North Charleston - Thai + Vietnamese

Jonathan Boncek

The former home of Raul’s Taqueria has been turned into Phuong. Aside from the removal of the Dias de los Muertos theme, the space hasn’t changed much. But instead of serving tongue tacos and hot tamales, Phoung offers classic Vietnamese fare. We aren’t talking about the ever popular bánh mì or creative Asian-fusion noodle bowls. Here, you’ll find traditional pho with tripe, meatballs, and rare beef or cool Vietnamese spring rolls wrapped in rice paper with peanut dipping sauce. —Eric Doksa DISH (Summer 2013)

Pick Thai

James Island - Thai + Vietnamese

Katie Gandy

Pick Thai, a small and not-very-fancy Thai restaurant, sits at the corner of a strip mall on Folly Road. It looks pretty much just like the pizza joint it replaced but with a fresh coat of paint. However, it’s what the kitchen sends out that’s worth stopping in for. The traditional Thai menu — pad Thai, prik king, green curry — is prepared using locally sourced ingredients. We particularly like the red curry duck basil fried rice and the wonton soup, which is easily the best in town. This is the perfect place to get food for a lazy, let’s-order-in-and-watch-a-movie kind of night. —Eric Doksa DISH (Summer 2013)

Poe's Tavern

Sullivan's Island - Pubs + Taverns

Big, sloppy, house-ground cheeseburgers draw the crowds to Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island. By day, it’s a bustling beach lunch spot, by night a raucous bar and grill. The rustic walls are hung with Edgar Allan Poe memorabilia, and all the burgers are named after his tales. The basic Gold Bug has a mundane slice of cheese, while the fearsome Tell-Tale Heart is topped with fried egg, bacon, and cheddar cheese. For my money, though, the Hop Frog with barbecue sauce, bacon, and Monterey Jack is the real masterpiece, especially when combined with a side of thin, crispy hand-cut fries and a local draft beer. Poe’s fish tacos are rumored to be pretty good, too, but with those big, beefy burgers demanding attention, we’re not sure how anyone would find that out. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

The Rarebit

Downtown - American

Jonathan Boncek

With a long marble-topped bar, fresh seafoam green paint, and green-and-black plaid seats on the booths, this retro-styled King Street diner captures the feel of the pre-Hippie ’60s. The menu looks backward too, with classic, no-frills fare ranging from tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches to big plates of fish and chips and chicken and waffles. The double track burger has two thin-pressed patties topped with ketchup, mustard, and pickles on a soft Cuban bun. The breakfast menu’s steak and eggs, huevos rancheros, and French toast are served all day, offering something substantial to line your stomach even late at night. Brent Sweatman heads the bar, and his cocktails recreate old classics like the Sazerac and the Corpse Reviver, while his house-made ginger beer tops off the bar’s signature Moscow Mules served in snazzy copper mugs. It all comes together to create a rare bit of nostalgia that doesn’t feel dated at all. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Red Orchids

West Ashley - Chinese

Tony and Kelly Chu opened Red Orchids China Bistro 10 years ago, spinning off from Kelly’s parents’ place, Joy Luck China, which was a favorite for takeout. From the very beginning, the couple was determined to deliver high-quality Chinese food, not the typical gloppy-sauced bland fare you’d find at the buffet table. And they’ve succeeded in doing just that. We love many things about Red Orchids, like the black bean flounder and the crispy fried red snapper. And we love when new dishes pop up on the menu. We love talking to Tony about wine and rum and indulging in a shot of ice cream, which Kelly makes in a rainbow of flavors, like black sesame seed, lavender, lychee, and ginger. And, ultimately, we just love Red Orchids. Period. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Winter 2014)

Red's Ice House

Mt. Pleasant - Seafood

Red’s Ice House boasts a terrific view of Shem Creek. There’s a cozy bar inside, but most of the action takes place on the multi-level decks. Open for lunch and dinner, it’s a popular, high-energy hangout for tan, fun-loving locals and tourists of all ages. Accessible by boat. Featuring the dog-friendly “Yappy Hour” once a month.

Riso Noodle House

West Ashley - Asian Fusion

Honeycomb tripe, fried pork intestine, and soybean pork feet are just a few dishes that stand out at the Riso Noodle House in West Ashley. Hidden in a strip mall on Sam Rittenberg, it’s not a flashy joint, but the food is cheap, and it’s darned good, too. They’ve got everything from bento boxes filled with crispy chicken and mongolian beef to big bowls of coconut curry and rice. We recommend the aromatic bowl of Singapore rice noodles with mild curry sauce, but if you’re feeling frisky, order off the authentic Chinese menu. The Hong Kong sirloin and noodle stew is as good as it gets. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2014)

Rita's Seaside Grille

Folly Beach - Burgers

Located right across the street from the Folly Beach fishing pier, Rita’s is perfectly situated for a midday break from the sand and sun. When the weather’s nice, the big windows are flung open, giving the whole place an outdoor feel. There’s a big covered patio as well, perfect for sipping a margarita while listening to live music and enjoying the sea breeze. The menu focuses on standard American fare, like barbecue sandwiches, gourmet burgers, and a selection of salads. If you’re in the mood for seafood (we always are at the beach), go for the fried seafood basket with oysters, shrimp, and flounder, or get the blackened tuna nachos with watermelon pico de gallo. Weekend brunch has fried chicken biscuits and shrimp ‘n’ grits, and be sure to check out the specials — every now and then they’ll cook up a batch of their Cap’n Crunch French Toast. —Erica Jackson Curran DISH (Summer 2013)

Runaway Bay Restaurant

North Charleston - Caribbean

At North Charleston’s Riverfront Park, you’ll find a Jamaican restaurant hidden among the Army Wives sets and the annual sculpture installation, where Runaway Bay has a waterside view that does much to conjure up the feel of the Caribbean. The view from the restaurant’s expansive second-story windows is unique, as is Runaway Bay’s adherence to Jamaican culinary tradition. The menu features traditional dishes like jerk chicken and pork, curry goat, and oxtail and butterbeans, plus there’s a hearty brunch on Sundays. With its serene, almost remote location, it’s a great way to take a tropical vacation without leaving the tri-county area. —Susan Cohen Dish (Winter 2013)

Rutledge Cab Co.

Downtown - American

Jonathan Boncek

Rutledge Cab Co. has answered the call of upper peninsula residents looking for an all-American joint where they can eat a couple times a week. The restaurant is slinging burgers, pickling veggies, and shaking up cocktails, and at a low price point, too. Though the menu has recently changed, the food is comforting but a little more uptown — think chicken liver mousse, lobster rolls, and Moroccan chicken served tagine-style. The space has a modern, yet unpretentious vibe, with a huge welcoming patio. The burger is one of the best values in town, and we recommend starting off with the pu pu platter, featuring crab and leek rangoons, charred barbecue wings, teriyaki beef skewers, and tuna satays. Did we mention they serve breakfast all day? —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Winter 2015)

Saint Alban

Downtown - Breakfast

Brooks Reitz and Tim Mink have serious panache when it comes to launching hip new hot spots. Quick on the heels of popular Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop, just a block north, this combination coffee shop, grab-n-go breakfast, light lunch café, afternoon tea spot is a basic all-around go-to neighborhood hangout feeds the soul all day long. Whether you’ve come to admire the funky repurposed furniture or original artwork (we love the Douglas Balentine nude above the fireplace), groove to Reitz curated soul/funk playlist, or dig the vintage mismatched plates and silverware, it’s tempting to Instagram the hell out of this place, but don’t overlook the excellence of the food. The menu is tight but focused. Fresh sandwiches and salads pack hidden surprises like the heat of chile oil or the exotic dusting of Middle Eastern spices. Whether you’re swinging through for a baguette and cappuccino, lunching on a hard-boiled egg brioche, pairing your afternoon steeped tea with a walnut pesto mint tartinette, or sipping wine with cheese and charcuterie, this vibrant and eclectic spot with its intimate European café vibe speaks to the inner Parisian-wannabe in us all.—Allston McCrady Dish (Winter 2015)

Santi's

Downtown - Mexican

The promise of margaritas just minutes from our office alway suck us in, but it’s the dishes that keep us coming back for more. Vuelue a la Vida. Guisado de puerca. Tampiquena Camarones a la diabla. The choice items come from Santi’s hometown of Puerto Vallarta. Chunks of richly braised pork swimming in a spicy red sauce next to some refried beans and Mexican rice are the perfect foil to the tart margaritas. The enchiladas verdes and chicken mole are solid choices too. The former Huddle House restaurant has morphed over the years into an oasis with a comfortable dining room, a lush patio, and outdoor dining. Granted, you’re looking at Morrison Drive, but diners are happy to ignore that fact as they enjoy their bargain-basement-priced authentic Mexican food. We can’t say we’ve made it out to the Mt. Pleasant location, but we eat at the Santi’s downtown regularly. Get a pitcher of margaritas, pair it with some chips and salsa, and you’ll be starting your night off right. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Winter 2015)

Santi's

Mt. Pleasant - Mexican

The promise of margaritas just minutes from our office alway suck us in, but it’s the dishes that keep us coming back for more. Vuelue a la Vida. Guisado de puerca. Tampiquena Camarones a la diabla. The choice items come from Santi’s hometown of Puerto Vallarta. Chunks of richly braised pork swimming in a spicy red sauce next to some refried beans and Mexican rice are the perfect foil to the tart margaritas. The enchiladas verdes and chicken mole are solid choices too. The former Huddle House restaurant has morphed over the years into an oasis with a comfortable dining room, a lush patio, and outdoor dining. Granted, you’re looking at Morrison Drive, but diners are happy to ignore that fact as they enjoy their bargain-basement-priced authentic Mexican food. We can’t say we’ve made it out to the Mt. Pleasant location, but we eat at the Santi’s downtown regularly. Get a pitcher of margaritas, pair it with some chips and salsa, and you’ll be starting your night off right. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Winter 2015)

Seanachai Social Club

Johns Island - Cocktail Bar

This is a members-only bar on Johns Island that’s happy to let you check it out a time or two before you pony up for membership. It’s owned and operated by one of the coolest Irishmen in town, Gerry Kieran, a longtime bartender who is much-loved by his clientele, and for good reason. The specialty drinks use artisanal bitters, cherries pickled in-house, and plenty of true Irish whiskey. Gerry has a small barrel of the Dublin, his version of the Manhattan, which features Irish whiskey, Benedictine, sweet vermouth, and maple bitters. He also has what must be the best Irish whiskey list in town from blended whiskeys to single malt and a handful of single pot still whiskeys, like Middleton Very Rare from Cork that’s aged 25-27 years. It’s a true neighborhood watering hole, with no TVs, a low volume conducive to conversation, food trucks on Friday, and good live music from local groups like the Flat Foot Floozies, which should have you doing a happy Irish jig. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Winter 2013)

Sermet's Courtyard

Daniel Island - Mediterranean

Sermet’s Courtyard is the Daniel Island outpost of long-time Charleston restaurateur and painter Sermet Aslan, offering an eclectic Mediterranean fusion in a relaxed setting beneath the big live oaks. The appetizers and entrées combine multiple layers of fresh and exotic flavors. Grilled portabella mushrooms are stuffed with crab and spiked with the zip of chorizo, while a grilled skirt steak is enlivened with a zesty chimichurri. Shrimp couscous, lamb and beef meatballs, and chicken sautéed with prosciutto, sun-dried tomato, and fennel blend bright and savory flavors, while rich, fresh-made desserts and daily wine specials round out the meal. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Shi Ki

Downtown - Sushi + Japanese

The next time you get a sushi craving and don’t want to break the bank, head to this little hole-in-the-wall next to the Rite Aid on East Bay. This mom-and-pop establishment, now in its thirteenth year, is a hidden neighborhood secret with loyal patrons who seek high-quality, affordable, Japanese food and sushi off the beaten path. Fill up on a Dynamite Roll (soft shell crab, smelt roe, and scallops), Super Crunch Roll (shrimp tempura and Asian pear), romantic Sushi Boat for Two, or a steaming bowl of udon noodle soup packed with seafood swimming in a dashi broth. They’ve got some of the best lunch deals in town. —Allston McCrady Dish (Winter 2015)

Smoky Oak Taproom

James Island - Barbecue

If the wind is blowing just right, you can smell the wood smokers all across James Island. And that smoked ’cue they churn out is just one reason that Smoky Oak has become the most popular bar on James Island. Another is the 40 or so beer taps that are dedicated to a respectable slate of craft brews. Smoky Oak is a man for all seasons, a restaurant that offers a laid-back gathering place for a group of friends looking to watch the game, a great weeknight dinner out for the family, and a perfect lunch stop for workers in the area. The pulled pork, chicken, beef brisket, pork ribs, and pork sausage are slow-cooked over red oak and hickory, and they’re tender and smoky enough to please any barbecue fan. Throw in a dozen tasty sides ranging from tangy collards to hand-cut fries and a full lineup of burgers and wings, and you’ve got more big-eating options than you can shake a hickory stick at. Sugar Magnolia, their sweet shop next door, adds ice cream, milkshakes, and sundaes to the family-friendly offerings. —Stephanie Barna DISH (Summer 2013)

Stack's Coastal Kitchen

Mt. Pleasant - American

Jonathan Boncek

Pan-roasted porkchop plate

Stack's has somewhat of a dual personality. On one side is a great little lunch place with dishes like seared tuna salad, muffaletta, and mini tuna burgers. Right next door is Stack's Evening Eats, which serves — you guessed it ­— dinner in a more bistro setting. Over on that side, you can start off with fresh pulled mozzarella, country paté, and a glass of wine. For the main course try the cornflake fried flounder or the grilled rib-eye with smoked gouda mac and cheese and green beans. Both sides are worth checking out, depending on what time you find yourself in the area. —Eric Doksa

Stereo 8

James Island - American

Jonathan Boncek

Tuna tartare

With music as the restaurant’s driving inspiration, Stereo 8 could have half-assed its food and served only burgers and brews, but it didn’t. A long, varied, and affordable menu keeps regulars coming back for more than just the creative playlists, live tunes and DJs on the back deck. Flights of sake go nicely with the pork belly steamed bun, the lobster and crab coconut curry over jasmine rice, or the whole Thai crispy fried fish. An Argentine Malbec balances the duck confit black fried rice bowl, and a Holy City Pluff Mud Porter on tap will help you wash down a steaming hot bowl of ramen. Sunday brunch rocks the Latin flavors, weaving spicy poblanos and chorizo into various egg dishes buffered by masa grits. There’s something for everyone, families included, at this inventive and sprawling venue. —Allston McCrady (Winter 2016)

Sticky Fingers

Downtown - Barbecue

For more than two decades, Sticky Fingers has been dishing up Memphis-style barbecue for hungry Lowcountry residents. It’s now a chain with 16 locations spanning five states, but the Mt. Pleasant location is the one that started it all. The barbecue includes pulled pork, smoked turkey, and beef brisket, but the dry-rubbed ribs are the star of the show. A blend of full-service family restaurant and barbecue shack, Sticky Fingers has a full bar and a broad menu with plenty of options like fried catfish and cheeseburgers, too, for those heathens who don’t like hickory-smoked pork. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Sticky Fingers

Summerville - Barbecue

For more than two decades, Sticky Fingers has been dishing up Memphis-style barbecue for hungry Lowcountry residents. It’s now a chain with 16 locations spanning five states, but the Mt. Pleasant location is the one that started it all. The barbecue includes pulled pork, smoked turkey, and beef brisket, but the dry-rubbed ribs are the star of the show. A blend of full-service family restaurant and barbecue shack, Sticky Fingers has a full bar and a broad menu with plenty of options like fried catfish, fried shrimp, and cheeseburgers, too, for those heathens who don’t like hickory-smoked pork. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Sticky Fingers

Mt. Pleasant - Barbecue

For more than two decades, Sticky Fingers has been dishing up Memphis-style barbecue for hungry Lowcountry residents. It’s now a chain with 16 locations spanning five states, but the Mt. Pleasant location is the one that started it all. The barbecue includes pulled pork, smoked turkey, and beef brisket, but the dry-rubbed ribs are the star of the show. A blend of full-service family restaurant and barbecue shack, Sticky Fingers has a full bar and a broad menu with plenty of options like fried catfish, fried shrimp, and cheeseburgers, too, for those heathens who don’t like hickory-smoked pork. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Surf Bar

Folly Beach - Bar

This Folly Beach stalwart is still trucking along and thriving. With mismatched chairs, dark wood walls and floors, and Christmas lights strung around the bar, Surf Bar has a charmingly ramshackle feel, while surfboards on the ceilings and surf videos on the big screen (when there’s not a big game on) help to place it right on Folly. The menu has remained largely the same, with finger-lickin’ Lizano wings, Philly cheesesteaks, and black bean burgers, not to mention their famously potent Painkiller cocktail, complete with nutmeg shavings on top. Their breezy covered deck is a great place to hear jammy local and national acts perform. —Erica Jackson Curran DISH (Summer 2013)

Tabbuli Grill

Downtown - Mediterranean

Jonathan Boncek

Tabbuli Grill is one of the first places tourists walk by after disgorging from the cruise ships. It’s sitting at a prime location at the tip of Market Street, and it catches passing diners with its open-air patio and picture-perfect palm trees swaying in the breeze. But it’s not just for tourists. Locals will find this a pleasant place to spend a great happy hour with its creative mix of cocktails and tasty Mediterranean nibbles like hummus, baba ghanoush, and falafel. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2013)

Taco Boy

Folly Beach - Mexican

Jonathan Boncek

The infectiously upbeat trumpets of mariachi music blasts as you enter the doors of Taco Boy, instantly setting a festive mood. As far as “concept” restaurants go, this place nails it, with its yellow ochre and burnt sienna hued walls hung with painted Oaxacan masks, stripped wooden ceilings, oversized colored Christmas lights, and rusty chandeliers. Even its bathroom walls are lined with vintage Mexican movie posters. None of this eye for detail would matter if the food weren’t as good as it is. Fresh guacamole makes a great start, and taco choices are endless, such as chipotle marinated grilled Mahi Mahi, kimchi beef with sesame seeds and Korean BBQ sauce, or the Al Pastor with thinly shaved spit fire pork and roasted pineapple salsa, all served in your choice of corn or flour tacos, or Bibb lettuce wraps for the virtuous. With taps flowing, margaritas galore, and a boozy, creamy Tres Leches dessert to finish off your meal, you’ll be bowing reverently to our Lady of Guadalupe as you exit. —Allston McCrady Dish (Winter 2015)

Taco Boy

Downtown - Mexican

Jonathan Boncek

The infectiously upbeat trumpets of mariachi music blasts as you enter the doors of Taco Boy, instantly setting a festive mood. As far as “concept” restaurants go, this place nails it, with its yellow ochre and burnt sienna hued walls hung with painted Oaxacan masks, stripped wooden ceilings, oversized colored Christmas lights, and rusty chandeliers. Even its bathroom walls are lined with vintage Mexican movie posters. None of this eye for detail would matter if the food weren’t as good as it is. Fresh guacamole makes a great start, and taco choices are endless, such as chipotle marinated grilled Mahi Mahi, kimchi beef with sesame seeds and Korean BBQ sauce, or the Al Pastor with thinly shaved spit fire pork and roasted pineapple salsa, all served in your choice of corn or flour tacos, or Bibb lettuce wraps for the virtuous. With taps flowing, margaritas galore, and a boozy, creamy Tres Leches dessert to finish off your meal, you’ll be bowing reverently to our Lady of Guadalupe as you exit. —Allston McCrady Dish (Winter 2015)

Taco Mamacita

Sullivan's Island - Mexican

This low-key Mexican spot out on Sullivan’s Island offers a selection of 14 made-from-scratch tacos with creative fillings like jerk chicken, barbecue pork, gyro meat, and sloppy joe beef, and there’s a selection of enchiladas, soups, and salads. The two real stars of the show are the Taco Royale and the Peruvian chicken. The first uses mashed black beans to cement a hard corn shell inside a flour tortilla, then fills it with roasted chicken, chorizo, and chipotle cream. The latter is half a bird rubbed with lime and spices and slow-roasted till the meat is tender and the skin superbly crispy. With either you get your choice of sides, and you are well advised to get the butter-and-cheese-doused street corn. To wash it down, the bar offers good margaritas, a respectable lineup of crafts beers on tap, and an impressive tequila selection. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Taste of India

West Ashley - Indian

While it’s difficult to resist Taste of India’s curries — the chicken korma is a sweet and spicy fave — the tandoori chicken is sure to delight fans of backyard barbecues. Cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor, the chicken comes out a burning bright red that lets you know right off the bat that you’re going to get a little spicy kick. If grilled meats are your thing, you’ll probably like their kebabs — chicken ginger, boti (hunks of lamb), and seekh (minced lamb). There are also plenty of vegetarian options, from the chana masala (chickpeas cooked with tomato and onion) to the mutter paneer (peas and cheese in a curry sauce) and bhindi masala (okra with tomatoes, onions, and ginger). Taste of Indian also serves up a mighty fine lunch buffet. —Chris Haire Dish (Winter 2014)

Tasty Thai & Sushi

Downtown - Thai + Vietnamese

Tasty Thai on King Street puts forth a solid effort of both innovative and traditional fare. They do sushi, but the real finds are in the traditional Thai dishes — stuff like the aromatic tom yum soup filled with seafood and a yum yai salad. Big bowls of jasmine rice accompany house specials like the three-flavor fish and the innovative Crying Tiger — a marinated ribeye, grilled and topped with shrimp, asparagus, and a ginger lime sauce. So now you know. At night, the back rooms turn into a DJ-infused party scene. All the more reason to get there early and eat up. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Winter 2015)

Tattooed Moose, JI

Johns Island - Delis + Sandwiches

Hunter McRae

Duck Club

Long before there were oasts and flagships on Morrison Drive, there was the Tattooed Moose. A neighborhood dive bar festooned with stuffed critters, including its namesake, the Moose hit paydirt a few years ago as one of the first places in town to be featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. To their credit, aside from the crowds (deservedly) getting a little bigger, the fame hasn’t gone to their antlers. The Moose is known for its cold beer, killer sandwiches, and its duck fat fries. Oh, the fries. Served three ways, you can get your fries straight-up, with roasted garlic and blue cheese or with a side of gravy. For your main dish, try their famous duck confit club sandwich, a Thanksgiving sandwich, or the Lucky No. 1, with pork belly with kimchi, tomatoes, cucumbers, fried onions, spicy wasabi mayo, and sweet red chili sauce. It’s hard to go wrong with Sunday brunch at the Moose, with local favorites like their sweet take on a monte cristo or peanut butter and banana french toast. Stop by for happy hour and you’ll find 50-cent wings, $2 PBR pint cans, and $2 fries. —Sam Spence Dish (Winter 2015)

Ted's Butcherblock

Downtown - Cafés

Not just a full-service butcher shop, Ted’s Butcherblock is also a fabulous lunch spot, a great source for good wines, and a regular destination for food-loving beer geeks. Owner Ted Dombrowski stocks the coolers with high-quality gourmet ingredients, from Kobe beef and stinky cheese to artisanal bacon and smoked duck. They recently added a seafood counter where you can find high-quality, locally caught fish. Each month, the sandwich and panini menu explores a different cuisine, guaranteeing regulars won’t ever get bored. And out back you can now grab breakfast from their food truck Tuesdays through Saturdays until 10:30 am. Think breakfast sandwiches, but with artisanal bacon, housemade chorizo, Taylor ham, or house-smoked salmon. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Winter 2015)

Three Little Birds

West Ashley - Cafés

Three Little Birds is our favorite hidden little cafe. Though the vine-covered building is easy to miss, it always appears to be packed. The walls of the space are covered in local art, while tables are set with mismatched dishes and mason jars. It’s a tiny place, but the attached patio adds additional seating for outdoor dining. The extensive menu is filled with plenty of sandwich options like a Greek chicken gyro and a grouper BLT on a Challah bun, but we’re happy that breakfast is served all day. Sweet potato benedict, huevos rancheros, and an array of omelets might fulfill your cravings. We’re big fans of the challah French toast with nutella, peanut butter, and bananas with a side of bacon — savory and sweet. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2014)

Triangle Char and Bar

Mt. Pleasant - Burgers

Big burgers, a generous craft beer selection, and the deep Sunday brunch menu keep the outdoor patios packed at both Triangle Char & Bar locations. The menu offers a substantial line-up of tacos and salads, but it’s the grass-fed beef burgers and their daring toppings that get the most attention. Sprinkled among them are some clever munchies, like a selection of egg rolls ($8.50 each) filled with shrimp and grits or pulled pork and collards and a bowl of popcorn ($4) tossed with sea salt, white truffle oil, and fine wisps of parmesan cheese. With their firmer texture and stronger flavor, those grass-fed burgers have sparked heated debate among diners, but the funky, open environment and creative menu bring ’em back for more.—Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2014)

Triangle Char and Bar

West Ashley - Burgers

Jonathan Boncek

Big burgers, a generous craft beer selection, and the deep Sunday brunch menu keep the outdoor patios packed at both Triangle Char & Bar locations. The menu offers a substantial line-up of tacos and salads, but it’s the grass-fed beef burgers and their daring toppings that get the most attention. Sprinkled among them are some clever munchies, like a selection of egg rolls ($8.50 each) filled with shrimp and grits or pulled pork and collards and a bowl of popcorn ($4) tossed with sea salt, white truffle oil, and fine wisps of parmesan cheese. With their firmer texture and stronger flavor, those grass-fed burgers have sparked heated debate among diners, but the funky, open environment and creative menu bring ’em back for more.—Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2014)

Vespa Pizzeria

Daniel Island - Pizza

Jonathan Boncek

At Vespa Pizzeria, they bake their hand-tossed Neapolitan pies in a big Italian Mugiani wood-fired oven until the thin crust is crisp and slightly charred. The BLT tops that delicious crust with Benton’s bacon, arugula, and sliced tomatoes, while the Athenian loads on shrimp, feta, kalamata olives, and artichokes. For starters, there are bowls of mussels in three flavors (basil, bacon, or diavolo) and crisp arancini (rice balls) filled with mozzarella and prosciutto and fried a dark golden brown. There’s Peroni and the house’s Vespa IPA on tap and a small slate of salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes, too. Like the motorcycle that inspired its name, Vespa mixes classic style with a retro-futuristic vibe. Add to it a focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients and you’ve got a recipe for some pretty impressive pizza. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Vickery's Bar and Grill

Mt. Pleasant - American

For large parties or if kids are in tow, Vickery’s, which overlooks picturesque Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, is just the spot for some good grub and good times. The big menu starts with wings and bourbon butter shrimp that are perfect for sharing. Large salads will satisfy the veggie lovers while the meat eaters will head straight for the Southern fried chicken. Us? Our go-to is the jerk chicken breast sandwich topped with raspberry sauce, black beans, and rice. The bonus? A side of fried plantains. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Winter 2015)

Warehouse

Downtown - American

Jonathan Boncek

Farmer's Plate

Warehouse isn’t what you think it is. The only thing it has in common with a warehouse is the big open space. And it’s certainly not a sit-down, formal dining hall. It’s a bar, and a good one at that. Lively and energetic, this gathering place has bubbles, wine, artisan cocktails, and a worthy selection of craft beers. Chef Emily Hahn keeps the offerings elevated by serving upscale bar food. Bar nuts, olives, and deviled eggs make for great snacks and fancified sandwiches, like smoked shrimp BLT or flounder po’ boy, always hits the spot. A steady line-up of small plates includes sinful confit wings, fried cauliflower, and house ravioli. For something sweet, just say the word empanada. They don’t call Hahn the Empanada Mama for nothing. —Eric Doksa Dish, Summer 2016

Wasabi

Downtown - Sushi + Japanese

Part sleek sushi spot, part hopping night club, somehow Wasabi has mastered both genres. For the post-work crowd, the large bar area offers a relaxing spot to sip sake. For dinner, head to the back room for hibachi or stay seated and order off the solid sushi menu. Hang out long enough and you best be ready to dance as DJs take over the dimly lit dining room. Hot tip: order ahead for lunch and grab one of Wasabi’s bento box specials. The super deal includes a four-piece California roll, soup, salad, and a choice of hibachi, sashimi, or tempura veggies. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Winter 2015)

Wasabi - Summerville

Summerville - Sushi + Japanese

Part sleek sushi spot, part hopping night club, somehow Wasabi has mastered both genres. For the post-work crowd, the large bar area offers a relaxing spot to sip sake. For dinner, head to the back room for hibachi or stay seated and order off the solid sushi menu. Hang out long enough and you best be ready to dance as DJs take over the dimly lit dining room. Hot tip: order ahead for lunch and grab one of Wasabi’s bento box specials. The super deal includes a four-piece California roll, soup, salad, and a choice of hibachi, sashimi, or tempura veggies. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Winter 2015)

Wasabi - Daniel Island

Daniel Island - Sushi + Japanese

The Daniel Island incarnation of Wasabi has hibachi favorites alongside upscale sushi offerings with plenty of extravagant flourishes. On pleasant evenings, roll-up doors convert the big bar in the front corner into an open-air happy-hour spot, and the white leather booths and elaborate lighting fixtures set a bold, stylish tone. The hibachi grill turns out a reliable selection of chicken, steak, and seafood, and the sushi bar sends out a parade of creative rolls, like the Diablo with its spicy tuna and cucumber topped with jalapeño and kimchi sauce. The specialty sushi selection is where the real action is, presenting beautiful, delicate plates like kanpachi carpaccio dressed with prickly yuzu tobikko and sharp white truffle or Japanese snapper graced with yuzu and 250-million-year-old Himalayan pink salt. You can even get real freshly ground wasabi root to go alongside. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene

Mt. Pleasant - Seafood

Jonathan Boncek

Fried fish and shrimp

The Wreck is one of those places that locals either love or hate, but in my book it remains the quintessential Shem Creek seafood shack. Just know what you’re getting into up front: it’s a low-key, bare-bones joint with an “our way or the highway” aesthetic. There’s no air-conditioning in the screened-in dining room, just a bunch of ceiling fans overhead trying to whip up a breeze. It’s open just a handful of hours each day, and the meals are served on paper plates with iced tea in clear plastic cups, soda in cans, and beer in bottles. No reservations taken, no kids menu provided, and no checks split. What you do get are paper plates filled with fresh local seafood, including grilled or fried fish, shrimp, and scallops along with fried oysters, deviled crab, and stone crab claws. The smoky, fried hominy squares are delightful, and the dense, dark-fried hushpuppies even better. Once a cash-only business, the Wreck in recent years started accepting credit cards, but that’s the only visible concession to modern convenience. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Xiao Bao Biscuit

Downtown - Chinese

Jonathan Boncek

Okonomiyaki

Charleston’s eater intelligentsia worships at the altar of this hipster-filled Asian fusion restaurant in a converted gas station. What started as a pop-up with a devout following eventually found a dedicated shrine much to the delight of all who crave a wide swath of Asian flavors (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Taiwanese) interpreted with fresh Lowcountry ingredients. The dishes are not for the meek or unadventurous; each packs escalating levels of heat. On the gentler scale is the popular Okonomiyaki, a Japanese cabbage pancake criss-crossed with drizzles of sriracha and Japanese mayo, then topped with a runny-yolk egg. On the spicy end of the scale is the Mapo Dofu, whose cubes of tofu incinerate your taste buds with swirls of chili oil, leaving heat seekers crying through tears of gratitude as they lick their plates clean. Cool your palate with a coconut milk or a (nonalcoholic) lemongrass ginger beer. Or just ride out on a blaze of fiery glory with a peppercorn craft cocktail like the Sichuan Sting. Either way, you are sure to become a devotee of the cult of Xiao Bao. —Allston McCrady Dish, Summer 2016

Zen Asian Fusion

West Ashley - Asian Fusion

The operative word here is fusion. Think neon techno bar with innovative cocktails. Expect over-the-top sushi towers with birds carved from carrots and scallop shells holding sea urchin roe on a bed of finely crushed ice. Get some sesame chicken for the kids. Balance the whole with a flaming Scorpion Bowl, topped with rum so strong they can light it on fire. It probably belongs onboard a cruise ship, so get two if it’s been a long day. Zen is an anomaly, a Kung-Fu Panda funhouse that delivers a quality culinary experience in a fashion that the entire family can afford. They cover the entire Asian spectrum from an American point of view, from steamed dumplings to teriyaki beef. —Jeff Allen Dish (Winter 2014)
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