Upscale Dining 

82 Queen

Downtown - New Southern

Katie Gandy

At 82 Queen, the light and zesty crab cakes come with purloo, prosciutto green beans, and a smear of remoulade

82 Queen, a downtown bastion of Lowcountry staples like shrimp and grits and Frogmore stew, has steadily been building a menu of forward-thinking dishes. Now with new Executive Chef Nick Ingram at the helm, they plan to continue down that path. Of course, the classics remain. Locals and visitors alike continue to head to the Queen for fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, and Lowcountry chicken bog. But don’t let tradition prevent you from trying the Niman Ranch osso bucco served with saffron grits. —Sam Spence Dish (Winter 2015)

Charleston Grill

Downtown - Modern American

Amid ever-shifting culinary fashions, Charleston Grill has remained one of the city’s crown jewels by delivering a consistently flawless dining experience. Executive Chef Michelle Weaver’s dishes can be decadently lush, like her beef tenderloin with bourguignon sauce or seared foie gras with an apple hand pie topped with whipped mascarpone crème fraîche. The dishes are balanced, ingredient-centric creations, like a delicately bright salad of octopus tossed with heirloom cherry tomatoes, lemon, and parsley, while contemporary spins on Southern cuisine — fried catfish with shrimp creole and rice grits or a braised pork shank with Sea Island red peas and smoked jowl jus — are bold and satisfying. The best way to experience the full sweep of the cuisine is with Weaver’s six-course tasting menu, which may well be the most impressive in town. Sommelier Rick Rubel’s extensive wine list provides spot-on pairings for such impressive food, and Mickey Bakst’s reliably attentive front-of-the-house team ensures a luxurious experience from start to finish. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Circa 1886

Downtown - Modern American

Pork Ton Toro and Peekytoe Crab Cake

The Wentworth Mansion, with its Southern grandeur and 21 luxurious rooms, is a Charleston gem. Circa 1886 is located in the old carriage house, but you don’t have stay at the historic mansion to dine there. The building retains much of the original architecture and includes a few intimate rooms that exemplify quiet elegance. Executive Chef Marc Collins focuses on high-quality local ingredients to create light and vibrant dishes. Traditional Lowcountry specialties often appear on the menu, but Collins takes a more modernized approach, resulting in food that is both comforting and elegant. He changes the menu regularly to reflect the seasons, with wintry dishes like cast iron pork shoulder with coconut Carolina gold rice porridge, and maple-glazed salmon with root vegetables, cured salmon hash, and spicy mustard greens. Our only complaint? Each carefully thought-out dish sounds so good that it’s hard to choose what to order. Maybe that’s a good problem to have. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Cypress Lowcountry Grille

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Cypress is a most interesting hybrid: a large-format restaurant serving fine-dining classics alongside some of the most inventive farm-to-table cuisine in town. The menu offers old standards like steak Diane and a chateaubriand for two, but there’s also vermillion snapper with cabbage and rice purloo and a duo of fennel-roasted pork belly and loin with kale and farro. Executive Chef Craig Deihl has earned a national reputation as a master of handcrafted charcuterie and house-cured meats and hams, and it’s essential to start off a meal with a platter of his artisanal meats. It might hold anything from rillettes and saucisson to spreadable fennel salami and thinly sliced house-cured ham with spicy mustard. Follow that up with the briny and spicy bites of the sashimi tuna and oysters before moving onto the entrées. The regular menu includes solid pleasers like smoked salmon Wellington and a filet with Boursin cheese, but the best option is usually whatever heritage pork special they’re offering that day. Cypress’s swanky dining room with its Vegas-like three-story glass wine wall is a welcome dose of old-school luxury in this era of staged rusticity, but if you’re in the mood for something more low-key, head upstairs to the bar and order some of Deihl’s innovative bar snacks, like crispy pork belly with kimchi fritters or the chili cheese dog on an “everything” bun. Monday is $5 burger night at the bar. We’re talking a wood-grilled burger on a fresh yeast roll: hands-down one of the best dining deals in town. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Eli's Table

Downtown - American

Eli’s Table is a hybrid of sorts: a large-portion, comfort-food sort of place by day and an upscale bistro at night. Fans of the old Joseph’s Restaurant, whose beloved Meeting Street location Eli’s inherited, can still find their old breakfast and lunch favorites. The morning line-up includes eggs benedict loaded with filet mignon, gigantic powdered sugar-dusted pancakes, and omelets stuffed with everything from spinach and mushrooms to crab and ricotta. At lunch, there are generous salads and hearty sandwiches like Black Forest ham and brie, a fried shrimp po’boy, and a salmon BLT. At night, out come the white tablecloths and long-stemmed wine glasses, and the menu shifts to more fine-dining fare. For appetizers, chai-spiced shrimp and sweet potato pancakes are topped with mango slaw and pecan butter, while a crostada is filled with roasted butternut squash and boursin cheese. The entrées offer unexpected twists, like red chili pierogies accompanying a seared pork chop or the salmon, flavored with spiced pecans and served over sweet potato hash. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty, casual breakfast or a more upscale yet comfortable meal, Eli’s has a table for you. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Fulton Five

Downtown - Italian

Kaitlyn Iserman

Fulton Five sits in a charming, vine-covered building just a half block from King Street. Its cozy dining room, complete with banquette seating and white tablecloths, is perfect for an intimate candlelit dinner. The Northern Italian menu features handmade pasta like tagliatelle bolognese and ravioli stuffed with caramelized onions and braised beef short rib with hearty trattoria fare like seared duck breast and leg confit, a chocolate espresso-rubbed filet, and a grilled bone-in veal chop with green peppercorn marsala mushroom jus. For starters, we particularly liked the salad of shrimp, lobster, and lump crab meat with roasted tomato and lemon mayo. The upstairs terrace provides some of the most pleasant al fresco dining in town. Not suprisingly, Fulton Five has won the City Paper Readers’ Pick for Charleston’s most romantic restaurant for 17 years running. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Grill 225

Downtown - Steakhouse

They have the largest menus in town, a good two feet tall. The topside cocktail bar on the roof is worth a trip by itself, and the oversized chops leave little to be desired. Few who can afford a trip will leave disappointed. From foie gras and five-pound lobsters cracked tableside to escargot and the favorite tuna tower, almost everything about Grill 225 is fancy and over the top: the white-jacketed service, the beautifully private booth seating that encircles your whole crowd, and the signature Prime steaks that come crisply seared from a super-heated broiler specially constructed for the job. —Jeff Allen

Halls Chophouse

Downtown - Steakhouse

Kaitlyn Iserman

The dry-aged new york steak is the star of the show at this high-end steakhouse.

Guests often leave this upscale steakhouse feeling like part of the family. The Halls — Bill, Jeanne, Tommy, and Billy — go out of their way to ensure everyone is having a good time. On the menu, you’ll find some of the best cuts in town, including the gigantic 34-oz. long bone tomahawk ribeye and a 22-oz. dry-aged Kansas City bone-in New York strip. Sit at the lively bar for a glass of champagne and fried green tomatoes, or get a table in the upstairs dining room for a bit more ambiance. Alongside the steaks, Executive Chef Matthew Niessner is putting out some quality dishes like Maple Leaf Farm braised duck and seared scallops with roasted tomato and vegetable risotto. Stop in on Sunday and listen to some live gospel music while enjoying French toast or the crab cake eggs benedict, a one-of-a-kind brunch experience. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

High Cotton

Downtown - New Southern

Jonathan Boncek

Rabbit loin with sausage and bacon

Both seafood lovers and serious carnivores can find much to love at High Cotton. Steak Oscar and N.Y. strips anchor the selection of steaks and chops, and a range of game dishes offer more adventurous treats. Thin slices of cool antelope carpaccio are drizzled with sharply smoked paprika aioli, while a thick elk shank is braised osso bucco-style and served in a skillet with pearl pasta, green peas, and a hearty brown gravy. They’re balanced by fresh local seafood like pan roasted grouper and grilled swordfish with sweet potato, celery root and tasso hash. The atmosphere is clubby but elegant, and the weekend brunch — long a local favorite — features live jazz by local musicians and hearty plates of crab cake eggs benedict, fried oysters florentine, and andouille-laced shrimp and grits. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Indaco

Downtown - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Casonei quail foie gras chanterelles

Since taking over as executive chef, Michael Perez has proven he knows how to make an excellent bowl of pasta. The tender braised beef short ribs get plated with roasted root vegetables and beet-pecorino fonduta, while whipped herb ricotta and the slightest hint of orange offer a refreshing take on pappardelle and pork sugo. Pizza, meat, and veggies get a smoky char from the wood-fire oven, and the service never skips a beat. Any single dish will surely satisfy, but if you want to maximize your experience, we recommend filling the table with dishes and letting the sharing commence. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Langdon's Restaurant & Wine Bar

Mt. Pleasant - Modern American

Langdon’s in Mt. Pleasant has long been the reliable place to turn for a big night out east of the Cooper. The offerings from chef/owner Patrick Owens blends Lowcountry cuisine with a range of international influences, resulting in tempting combinations like gnocchi made from local goat cheese and curried duck and mint spring rolls with a jalapeño-coconut dipping sauce. The entrees are rich and elegant with a few unexpected twists. The catch of the day is served over leek and sweet corn risotto, while a rack of lamb is paired with homemade duck sausage and kumquat-mint marmalade. A hefty dry-aged, 18-oz. bone-in ribeye is the anchor of the upscale menu, and the food-friendly wine list, which received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, offers options ranging from big value to big spender. From the food to the atmosphere to the service, Langdon’s doesn’t cut any corners, and that makes all the difference. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

The Library Restaurant at Vendue Inn

Downtown - New Southern

Kaitlyn Iserman

Magnolias

Downtown - New Southern

Jonathan Boncek

Down South roll

Magnolias has been serving Charleston indulgent, quality Southern fare for longer than almost anyone else in town, but even after all this time, the East Bay Street staple still deserves a spot on your to-do list. Down-South standards like buttermilk fried chicken with biscuits and gravy are must-haves, but dishes like the sweet chili-rubbed ahi with habañero hummus and pepper jack spring rolls make sure there’s something for everyone on Executive Chef Don Drake’s menu. Magnolias’ staying-power is a testament to its innovative twists on classic Southern flavors, like the fried green tomato appetizer with white cheddar and caramelized onion grits, country ham, and tomato chutney. Around lunchtime visitors can expect plenty of wallet-friendly soups, salads, and sandwiches under $15. —Sam Spence Dish (Winter 2015)

McCrady's

Downtown - Modern American

Adam Chandler

McCrady’s is a must visit for anyone seeking out the most innovative cooking techniques, a wide range of unusual and new ingredients, and carefully cultivated heirloom products. Executive Chef Sean Brock and Chef de Cuisine Daniel Heinze orchestrate a tasting menu that will undoubtedly be engraved in your mind for months to come, or at least until your next visit. Each and every dish benefits from the creativity and dedication that goes on in the kitchen. Colors, aroma, and texture all play a big role. You never know if celeriac will be turned into custard or if butternut squash will be shaved thin and artistically presented as a bed of flowers. Duck may cook slowly over a bed of glowing embers, or trout might be seared until the skin is crispy. Twigs, leaves, vibrant vinegars, and oils paint pictures you’d never imagine would be edible. The possibilities are endless. We suggest the optional wine pairings as each sip and bite takes your palate on a whimsical adventure. Alternatively, there’s an amazing snack menu, classic and creative cocktails, and a stellar wine selection at the bar, making it an attraction on its own. Exceptional service and an intimate setting only seal the deal. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Oak Steakhouse

Downtown - Steakhouse

Fried Lobster

Oak has matured into a classic big-night-out institution, and it serves as the flagship of the growing Indigo Road fleet of restaurants, which includes O-Ku, The Macintosh, Indaco, and The Cocktail Club. Executive Chef Jeremiah Bacon applies his contemporary farm-to-table sensibility to the traditional steakhouse format, producing pan-seared foie gras with local pears and pecans and “Lowcountry-style” prime Angus strips topped with shrimp compound butter. Pan-seared local chicken with a stone-ground grit cake and daily seafood specials like pristinely fresh swordfish liven up the offerings, but the specialties of the house are still the over-the-top extravaganzas: a 24-oz. dry-aged, bone-in ribeye, and a whole-fried lobster that’s butterflied down the middle and splayed over a bed of butter-laden herb-whipped potatoes.

The Oak burger — complete with Bibb lettuce, fontina, and hand-cut truffled fries — headlines the most luxurious bar menu in town (and it’s only $10 during happy hour). The food is matched by a deep wine list and professional, attentive service, all within the stunning setting of an immaculately restored 150-year-old bank. When you’re looking to impress with a big night on the town, Oak remains one of the best bets in the city. —Robert Moss

Dish (Winter 2015)

The Ocean Room

Kiawah - Steakhouse

Jonathan Boncek

The 130-degree filet mignon with crispy new potatoes, balsamic glazed sweet onions, and horseradish crème fraîche

The preeminent place for indulgence in the Lowcountry, The Ocean Room's gorgeous oceanside dining room, exquisite food, and discerning service, will swaddle you in luxury. Executive Chef Brendon Bashfor maintains deep connections to the surrounding farm community, bringing in the best local vegetables to pair with S.C.-grown beef filets. This is the place to go for a special occasion. The menu typically offers five cuts of beef and four to five additional entrees, and the 1,000-bottle wine list is exceptional. In the lounge, there’s a sushi menu for those who want a lighter meal without breaking the bank, but we heartily recommend dressing up, getting a table in the dining room, and going all out. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Peninsula Grill

Downtown - New Southern

Adam Chandler

Gorgeous plates and sumptuous food remain the order of the day at Peninsula Grill

Under the direction of Executive Chef Graham Dailey, the Peninsula Grill has remained at the head of Charleston fine-dining pack, carrying forward a tradition of consistent high-quality and unapologetic luxury. The “champagne bar menu” still offers a dazzling selection of oysters, caviar, and steak tartare along with titillatingly sensuous creations like the lobster “3 way,” with chunks of buttery lobster sautéed, tempura fried, and tucked inside ravioli. Hearty grilled ribeyes topped with foie gras truffle butter and pan-roasted scallops in thick buttery sauces laced with bits of lobster deliver every bit of the rich decadence promised by the big-ticket prices. Peninsula’s coconut cake is world famous for its layers of white cake saturated with simple syrup and a gooey coconut filling, which make each soft, sweet bite a perfect little morsel of sin. With flawless service and an elegant setting, Peninsula Grills delivers one of downtown’s premier dining experiences. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Stars Restaurant Rooftop and Grill Room

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Joe DiMaio mans The Grates of Hell (a beast of a grill) at Stars, a monster of a restaurant with a 1930’s-esque vibe. It’s local but with a New York state of mind. Just about everything on the menu pays a visit to the fire-breathing cooker that’s outfitted with a six-spit rotisserie, an Argentine-style grill, a plancha, and a firewall for direct ember cooking. Steaks are delivered seasoned with the perfect sear. Their seasonal menu has wood-grilled tuna, black garlic baby back ribs, kale salad, whole trout, and a butternut squash risotto. A loud and lively bar hosts more than 15 artisan wines on tap, available by the glass, 500 ml., or 1 liter, and six, mostly local, craft beers are on tap at all times. Early for dinner? No problem. Take the elevator up to the rooftop and enjoy a stunning 360-degree view of downtown Charleston. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)
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