Casual Fine Dining 

39 Rue De Jean

Downtown - French

39 Rue de Jean looks like it’s been at 39 John St. forever and in Upper King’s recent restaurant history, it has. For almost two decades the brasserie has kept regulars returning thanks to French classics and then some, like the nicoise salad, brimming with tuna, green beans, eggs, and a toothsome vinaigrette, or the big plates, like the braised short ribs (with butter!), the burger (one of the best in town maybe?), and the six preparations of mussels. A bowl for $11.99 with a side of frites and a glass of Prosecco will do you up right. If all this have you dreaming of Paris, head down John Street. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

Acme Lowcountry Kitchen

Isle of Palms - Seafood

On weekends, Acme Lowcountry Kitchen is one of the most visited brunch locations around, and it’s no surprise as they’ve got a menu with over 60 options, including nine different benedicts — New York strip, crab cakes, fried chicken livers with kale, and sweet onion demiglace to name a few. But they’re also serving lunch and dinner with everything from American staples like burgers and wings to Lowcountry classics, a la fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits. Acme also serves one of the best fried shrimp baskets in town — medium-sized shrimp are covered in a powdery breading that’s fried extra crispy, and each bite reveals a crunch and a whole lot of flavor. Oh, and you can’t beat the fact that it’s just a short walk from the ocean. Beach nap, anyone? —Eric Doksa (Dish, Summer 2018)

Al di La

West Ashley - Italian

Seasonally inspired Northern Italian fare is served in Al Di La’s bright, contemporary dining room. The West Ashley restaurant has a cheerful, expansive outdoor patio from which you can tuck into a plate of the duck confit tagliatelle with cremini mushrooms and crème fraiche. The risotto del giorno is made with cherry tomatoes, arugula, and a spicy saffron seafood broth then topped with pan-fried shrimp in a symphony of carb-y delights. Additional standby favorites include the pillowy soft ricotta gnocchi and classic tiramisu with a shot of Limoncello. In the corner there’s a cheerful wine bar offering a wide array of varietals. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar

Downtown - Seafood

Kaitlyn Iserman

Located on the corner of East Bay Street in the heart of the tourist-center action, Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar serves up fresh, sustainable seafood in a historic yet stylish space. Exposed brick walls and amazing oyster shell chandeliers give the place a sleek look without all the cheesy tourist flair. The seafaring menu reveals Lowcountry classics like shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and bowls of pirlau. Chef Adam Miller, an Art Institute of Charleston grad who formerly worked as sous chef at Stars Rooftop Bar and Grill Room, brings his love of local ingredients and sustainable seafood to the table to create fresh, modern dishes like fried flounder with Geechie Boy grits, stewed tomatoes, and St. Jude’s combahee clams. Stop by the raw bar for a fresh selection of oysters from the day’s suppliers. In the colder months, you might find bivalves from New Jersey, Massachusetts, and South Carolina — feel free to sample one of each. Paired with one of the many wines on tap, it’s the perfect way to start a night. —Eric Doksa Dish (Summer 2015)

Bacco Italian Restaurant

Mt. Pleasant - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Mt. Pleasant’s Bacco is as close to pulling off the idea of that fabled “neighborhood Italian place” you hear about in other cities: small, friendly service with straightforward Southern Italian food that creates regulars out of customers. Start your meal with the fire-roasted olives, warm multi-varietal and multi textured olives straight out of the wood burning oven. Tossed with orange, rosemary, and fragrant olive oil, the large plate doesn’t last long. The insalata di polpo, tender braised and grilled octopus, is a highlight of the antipasti. The Italian focused cocktail menu is no slouch with a barrel-aged negroni and the Ficcho Bello, a fizzy drink with fig infused vodka with rosemary and cherry bitters. The Primi course is where Chef Michael Scognamiglio shines. The Gnocchi Bolognese are little airy pillows tossed in meaty Bolognese and the Risi e Bisi is a buttery parmesan packed risotto with peas and pancetta. If you’ve made it this far the secondi course serves up dishes like beefy tomato and red wine braised meatballs with polenta, an Italian take on chicken cordon bleu and sausage and peppers that would make your Nona proud. With Bacco’s reasonably priced lunch menu of sandwiches, antipasta, pizza, and pasta it’s time to add crossing the bridge to Bacco to your lunch rotation. —Robert Donovan (Dish, Summer 2018)

Basil

Mt. Pleasant - Thai + Vietnamese

Jonathan Boncek

A lot has changed in the Charleston dining world since brothers Henry and Chai Eang opened their original Basil on King Street. Back then, the staple flavors of Thailand — lime, basil, garlic, lemongrass — were a revelation to local diners who queued up to wait for a table. A decade later, Basil’s flavors have gone mainstream, but the pad Thai, crispy red curry duck, fried whole flounder, and the long-standing no-reservations policy keeps customers lined up on the sidewalk. A sleek, stylish second location in Mt. Pleasant offers the same piping-hot soups and cool basil-tinged summer rolls that Charlestonians have long enjoyed. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Basil

Downtown - Thai + Vietnamese

Jonathan Boncek

A lot has changed in the Charleston dining world since brothers Henry and Chai Eang opened their original Basil on King Street. Back then, the staple flavors of Thailand — lime, basil, garlic, lemongrass — were a revelation to local diners who queued up to wait for a table. A decade later, Basil’s flavors have gone mainstream, but the pad Thai, crispy red curry duck, fried whole flounder, and the long-standing no-reservations policy keeps customers lined up on the sidewalk. A sleek, stylish second location in Mt. Pleasant offers the same piping-hot soups and cool basil-tinged summer rolls that Charlestonians have long enjoyed. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Bin 152

Downtown - Wine Bar

Brys Stephens

There is beauty in simplicity. Bin 152 is essentially a wine and cheese bar. Yet the offerings are anything but simple. Cosmopolitan husband-and-wife team Patrick and Fanny Panella (who have since opened the inimitable restaurant Chez Nous) are fanatical about their selections. Patrick, who once owned a wine bar in San Francisco, serves only wines that excite his palate. Fanny, who is French, is very particular about her cheeses. Bin 152 is therefore an extension of the Panellas and their combined F&B experience in New York, San Francisco, Paris, and Nice. You feel as if you’re walking into their personal hangout — artistic, comfortable, dimly lit, vibrant, chic but approachable. It’s the perfect spot to sip cava and nibble on triple cream fromage served with thinly sliced, fresh baked baguettes before heading to dinner or a show. Or to enjoy a late-night drink to wind down your evening. Or to spend a rainy late afternoon retreat sharing a bottle of wine and charcuterie board with friends. Don’t be intimidated by the formidable wine list or cheese menu. Patrick or Fanny will help steer you towards marvelous choices. You might wind up skipping dinner altogether. —Allston McCrady (Dish, Summer 2018)

Blu Restaurant & Bar

Folly Beach - Seafood

Oceanfront dining is a rare commodity around here, but BLU serves it up all day long. BLU offers beachgoers seafood that bucks the traditional seaside trend of fried and fast. In fact, BLU Restaurant & Bar has garnered a Platinum Certification through the S.C. Aquarium’s Good Catch initiative. That should give any diner peace of mind as you tackle the restaurant’s tasty shrimp and crab pasta, roasted half chicken, or the daily fresh catch. BLU plates local veggies as much as possible and that means you get not only fresh fish, but the taste of the Lowcountry, and all with an exceptional view. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Summer 2018)

The Boathouse at Breach Inlet

Isle of Palms - Seafood

Kaitlyn Iserman

Pan-roasted sea scallops come atop parmesan risotto with prosciutto, asparagus, and a lemon rosemary vinaigrette

The Boathouse boasts one of the best dining views in the Lowcountry thanks to its perch at the edge of Breach Inlet on the Isle of Palms. Since 1997, its broad menu of fresh, local seafood has been drawing crowds of locals and vacationers alike. The daily “Fish Board” highlights a rotating selection of fresh, local catches, which you can have grilled, blackened, fried, or roasted, and there’s a generous array of house specialties, like crab cakes, pecan encrusted fried chicken, and a sirloin paired with a butter-poached lobster tail. On weekends, hearty eggs benedict, jalapeño and sweet hush puppies, and po’ boys provide brunch options that are almost as satisfying as the marsh view from the big rooftop deck. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2018)

Bougnat Restaurant

Mt. Pleasant - French

Tucked into a quiet strip mall you'll find this cozy cafe serving Auvergne-inspired French cuisine from chef Bernard Vard.

Cannon Green

Downtown - Mediterranean

Jonathan Boncek

Sheepshead

Sitting in Cannon Green’s dining room feels like dining on someone’s backyard patio, surrounded by green plants and lit by candlelight. The prominent wooden frontage to the original building, including entrance stairs and windows that dominate the space, adds to that outdoor atmosphere. While they’re undergoing renovations through October, Cannon Green tells us that they remain open for Chef’s Table reservations, private dining opportunities, weddings, and event bookings. —Robert Donovan, Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

Chez Fish

Johns Island - Seafood

Reese Moore

Bouillabaisse

Head down the lonely road to Seabrook and Kiawah islands and the little blue-and-white building housing Chez Fish is one of the first signs of civilization you’ll see for miles. Inside and out, it’s simple and unassuming, but the restaurant has become known for its well-prepared food. You’ll find a cooler filled with fresh seafood, a bar, and a few tables in the front room and a colorful, cozy dining room to the side. Chef and owner René Constantin has created a small but solid menu with dishes like a curried shrimp and scallop medley, tortilla encrusted tilapia with a Mexican butter sauce, and linguini with white clam bolognese. Be sure to check out the daily specials on the chalkboard. —Erica Jackson Curran Dish (Summer 2013)

Chez Nous

Downtown - French

Jonathan Boncek

Lamb salad with arugula and oranges

Chez Nous is a small, somewhat eccentric, and thoroughly charming downtown restaurant. It occupies a small two-story cottage on Payne Court, a narrow alley off Coming Street, and has just a handful of spartan tables on each floor. Executive Chef Jill Matthias writes out the tiny menu by hand each day in a highly stylized script. The six items — two appetizers, two entrées, and two desserts — change each and every day, and they never seem to repeat. A duck confit salad with walnuts on Tuesday might be followed by marinated sardines over onions and radishes on Wednesday. A delicate pan-seared snapper with baby carrots and mushrooms might be succeeded by a pork shank with potatoes and kale. The lineup is in constant flux, but one thing is reliably consistent: bold, fresh flavors in simple but elegant preparations, a winning formula for a wonderful meal. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2018)

Coast

Downtown - Seafood

Ceviche

Just to the left of 39 Rue de Jean, down a narrow alley lined with ivy covered brick, look for the bright neon sign beckoning diners into this friendly, boisterous seafood venue. Inside, a towering ceiling caps this historic warehouse bustling with diners. An open kitchen flanks the lively bar area as classic rock tunes and rustic décor (we dig the red blowfish lamps) contribute to the “island lounge” vibe. Weather permitting, grab an open table along the alley and imagine you’re in a coastal European town, that is, until your heaping plate of shrimp and stoneground grits plants you squarely in the Lowcountry. —Allston McCrady (Dish, Summer 2018)

Coda del Pesce

Isle of Palms - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Crudo di pesce

With Coda del Pesce, chef/owner Ken Vedrinski of downtown’s Trattoria Lucca, headed out to the Isle of Palms to create a beachside Italian seafood restaurant. The beautiful second-story dining room has brick walls, reclaimed wood floors, and, in a rarity for the Lowcountry, floor-to-ceiling windows offering a lovely view of the Atlantic. It’s an ideal setting for Vedrinski’s signature high-end Italian fare, which offers plenty of bright flavors and unexpected twists. Grilled octopus is paired with peanut potatoes and nduja while chilled oysters are served with a barolo mignonette. Masterful pasta anchors the primi selection, which includes tagliolini tossed with wild ramps, burrata, capicola, and brown butter. The secondi highlight fresh local fish like scamp grouper and there’s a little heavier fare, too, like raised veal loin. Pair any of these with an Italian wine from the impressive list, and you’ll have one splendid fish tale to share with friends. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2018)

Crave Kitchen & Cocktails

Mt. Pleasant - Fusion + Eclectic

Crave Kitchens and Cocktails has become a Mt. Pleasant standby for casual fine dining in the evenings and satisfying weekend brunches, too. The dinner menu features cedar plank salmon, buttermilk fried chicken, and lobster farfalle. Chef Landen Ganstrom’s she crab soup, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and a drizzle of chili oil plus a generous lump of crab meat skimming the surface atop a crouton raft, may well be the best local interpretation of Charleston’s signature soup. On Saturdays and Sundays, the brunch features a “rustic skillet” of taters and country ham, omelets stuffed with your choice of toppings, plus massive plates of pancakes and 2-for-$5 mimosas and Bloody Marys. And that’s enough to leave the good people of Mt. P craving more. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Cru Cafe

Downtown - Fusion + Eclectic

Tucked in a cozy Charleston single house on Pinckney Street, just a stone’s throw away from the busy City Market, chef and owner John Zucker has been serving wandering visitors and in-the-know locals for more than a decade now. Between his downtown dining room and its original namesake, Cru Catering, chances are you’ve had their crowd-favorite four-cheese mac, their shrimp and grits, or their other small bites. But you owe it to yourself to visit the cafe again. Stop in and be seated at tables lining the old living room and porch — you’ll feel right at home. Expect satisfying plates ranging from their famous Thai seafood risotto for dinner to generous salads and sandwiches. —Sam Spence (Dish, Summer 2018)

Cumberland Smokehouse

Downtown - Barbecue

Jonathan Boncek

Pulled pork platter

This sleek sports bar with dark wood paneling, large scale booths, and a separate bourbon tasting bar is the perfect hideaway on the downtown peninsula to drink a good cocktail or a craft beer and nosh on smoked chicken wings with Alabama white sauce. 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 2018)

Fat Hen

Johns Island - French

Seared duck

Folks in the know, especially those from Kiawah, pack this adorable cottage on Johns Island nightly for sumptuous dinners, but the real stampede of bucket-listers come here for Sunday brunch, eager to sample Chef Neuville’s signature take on Lowcountry staples with a French-country flare. Order a $10 carafe of mimosas or the spiked Lowcountry Lemonade made with Firefly Sweet Tea vodka, then dive into the crème brulee French toast slathered with strawberries soaked in Grand Marnier. The hyper-local dinner menu includes favorites like fried green tomatoes with pimento goat cheese, the shrimp and crab with spicy hoppin’ John, the coq au vin half-chicken, and the braised short rib with veal broth, red wine, mashed potatoes, and spinach. End with a pluff mud pie, passion fruit creme brulee, or local seasonal ice cream, then treat your food coma to a peaceful moment beneath the nearby ancient Angel Oak, said to be the oldest living tree east of the Mississippi. —Allston McCrady (Dish, Summer 2018)

Fleet Landing

Downtown - Seafood

Stuffed Hush Puppies

Water water everywhere, but not a place to see it, at least as far as Charleston restaurants are concerned. Luckily we have one downtown spot with a most distinctive maritime setting and best waterfront view in town — Fleet Landing. Seated in a refurbished Naval house set over a reinforced pier, you’ll be counting dolphins and sailboats while you dine on classic southern seafood fare. A fried green tomato stack layered with tarragon crab salad and creamy shellfish sauce? Yes, please. Order southern seafood standards and you won’t be disappointed: Carolina lump crab cake with pickled corn relish; shrimp and grits; she-crab soup with blue crab roe and sherry; a Lowcountry boil full of shrimp, sausage, corn, and red bliss potatoes; and crispy whole fried flounder with apricot glaze. This family friendly setting is always popular so be sure to make a reservation before you go. —Katherine Connor (Dish, Summer 2018)

Félix Cocktails et Cuisine

Downtown - French

If I had to name the one place I’d like to be on a rainy spring night in Charleston, Félix would be it. The nearly floor-to-ceiling window-framed dining room is the perfect place to sit and sip and stare out the window pretending the Holy City is a bigger metropolis than it is. Making the scenario even better is Chef Elizabeth Schultenover’s French-inspired small plate menu, an ideal accompaniment to the restaurant’s cocktail menu. The Gnocchi à la Grand-Mère is a must with its decadent chicken confit, brown butter, and chestnut honey. The shaved chilled vegetables in the Salade Lafayette is a smart start with its whipped chili-chèvre, citrus, crispy carrots, and tomato-fig compote. My drink of choice, the Kir Royale, is a classic providing light bubbles appropriate for a fancy night out or Thursday splurge. And don’t forget to drink your dessert. The cognac milkshake may not scream Paris, but it is on point. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Winter 2018)

The Granary

Mt. Pleasant - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Smoked pork chop

The Granary on Coleman Blvd. is spacious and contemporary. The upscale comfort food fare will fill you up, so come hungry, and wear your loosest pants. If you don’t want to be too much of a hedonist, go with the butcher board a generous display of house-made charcuterie. The fennel-infused Finocchiona salami, super spicy coppa, and country pâté are excellent, as are the accompanying bread and butter pickles. Pair your weeknight bites with a refreshing happy hour special like the Mt. Pleasant Margarita — silver tequila, pura vida naranja, lime, coconut water, and lavender. Otherwise, show up for a truly decadent Sunday brunch, with menu items like a blueberry cream cheese French Toast plated atop a lemon curd and covered with blueberries, strawberries, and bourbon maple syrup. Unabashedly sweet, it’s certain to satisfy the cravings of anyone hoping to start the day with a sugar rush. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

Graze

Mt. Pleasant - Modern American

Kaitlyn Gandy

Spicy tuna tataki

Quietly and confidently, Graze continues to serve up a creative and eclectic menu. Chef/owner Michael Karkut offers a unique blend of down-home favorites — lobster mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, and cornflake-crusted catfish with butterbeans, sweet corn, and hominy succotash — with more creative dishes like cinnamon-chili-dusted sea scallops with a sweet potato and brown butter pancake, sauteed green beans, and apple, onion, and pancetta compote. There’s some Asian flair too. As is the case with the spicy tuna tatiki with “firecracker” mayo and the Korean beef bulgogi. The lunch menu brings about a New England lobster roll and a duck confit B.L.T., and brunch shouldn’t be missed. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

The Grocery

Downtown - Modern American

Adam Chandler

Golden tilefish

Occupying a space that is at once industrial and inviting, Chef/Owner Kevin Johnson’s menus are seasonally inspired and passionately local. Utilizing a mix of fresh farmed, fished, and foraged ingredients, The Grocery exemplifies farm-to-table dining. The Southern/Mediterranean offerings have included such highlights as fried oysters with deviled egg sauce and bread and butter pickles, as well as lamb meatballs with chickpeas, olives, and feta. Year-round standbys include the generous portions of Lowcountry seafood pilau and the changing varieties of roasted whole fish, cooked in the restaurant’s massive wood-burning oven. Along with a celebrated Sunday brunch, The Grocery’s innovative cocktail program features standouts like the dirty green tomato, a martini made with pickled green tomato juice. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

Hank's Seafood Restaurant

Downtown - Seafood

Ceviche

At Hank’s, waiters in white jackets and black ties serve historic local dishes like she-crab soup, Bouillabaisse, and Seafood a la Wando, a blend of shrimp, scallops, and fish in a rich sherry cream. The “Fried” section of the menu features five different selections of heaping Southern seafood platters, all served with fried sweet potatoes and classic coleslaw. And of course you’ll find Hank’s seafood tower or seafood castle — gleaming silver ice-filled pans bearing chilled shrimp, oysters, mussels, lobster, and stone crab claws. Add it all up, and you’ve got flashy, big-ticket seafood dining that can please even the most sophisticated palate. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

High Cotton

Downtown - New Southern

Jonathan Boncek

Rabbit loin with sausage and bacon

High Cotton may now be under the umbrella of Halls Management Group (owner of Halls Chophouse), but the same easy going Southern hospitality remains. Shawn Kelly helms the kitchen and offers up your standard fare — crab cakes and filet mignon, scallops and shrimp and grits. But the key is to go on a night when he’s working his magic on the specials. A recent visit featured a beautifully plated triggerfish with some of the best smoked clams we’ve ever had. A green pea risotto added a fresh pairing made even better with a crisp glass of Albariño. Don’t forget to consider the sides. Those gruyere potatoes au gratin make a perfect match if you do just want a steak. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

High Thyme

Sullivan's Island - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Seared scallops

High Thyme is one of Sullivan’s Island’s best kept secrets. The dining room is small and quaint, and the menu is as simple as it gets: think hummus, seared tuna, and crab cakes. But simple is no problem, as the dishes are presented with a glimpse of elegance and the flavors that follow are quite good — consistency and execution at its finest. For dinner, order the grilled pork tenderloin cooked medium rare and start with the seared sea scallops with country ham and brandy cream. Head to the patio early Sunday morning and enjoy one of the best brunches in town. Start off with a mimosa and a basket of warm biscuits before diving into a plate of corned beef hash with two sunny side up eggs. It’s delightful. —Eric Doksa (Dish, Summer 2018)

Hominy Grill

Downtown - New Southern

Jonathan Boncek

Hominy chef Robert Stehling

When Chef/Owner Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2008, it marked a shift in the Southern dining world. He didn’t win it with highfalutin French-inspired techniques or white tablecloth service but rather by serving classic Southern cooking — including breakfast — in a neighborhood restaurant setting. Though the chef has recently nixed dinner, his reputation in the local scene remains strong. That means hearty country breakfasts with pancakes, eggs, and house-made sausage. The Charleston Nasty is a massive fried chicken breast and a cascade of sausage gravy (go all-in with the addition of bacon), and it wows the brunch crowds. The tourists still queue up on the weekends for their big Southern brunches, but there’s a reason that so many people are waiting in line. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

Husk Restaurant

Downtown - New Southern

Cornbread

James Beard award-winning Chef Sean Brock’s Husk has outposts in Nashville, Greenville, and Savannah, but this location — housed in a white mansion on Queen Street — is the original. Here, Executive Chef Travis Grimes carries out the vision of innovative, modern farm-to-table perfection. With a policy that absolutely everything must be sourced in the South, the kitchen creates such must-try marvels as Southern fried chicken skins, ‘Kentuckyaki’ pigs ear lettuce wraps or the hulking Carolina heritage pork chop, while dessert offerings include such innovations as the savory-sweet cornbread pudding with blueberry coriander ice cream. There’s a welcoming, rustic atmosphere indoors, but if weather permits, sit out on the upstairs porch and enjoy what is, without hesitation, Southern food at its best. In a former ruin adjacent to the restaurant is The Bar at Husk, which features an inventive line of historic and modern cocktails, along with artisanal microbrews and a wine list sorted by terroir and soil type. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

Little Jack's Tavern

Downtown - Bar

Jonathan Boncek

Tomato and peach salad

Owners Tim Mink and Brooks Reitz created a unique concept when they came up with Little Jack's. Like the favorite checked tablecloth joint of the Rat Pack's, Little Jack’s feels like it's of another time. The restaurant serves chef-driven cuisine featuring everything from crudités to a shrimp burger. The starters are uniformly creative and the best of them are their delicious salads. Their chopped salad, which changes seasonally, is a celebration of the Lowcountry’s vegetables. The sandwiches help bridge the gap between lunch and dinner and feature an odd but somehow delicious shrimp burger that is an odd spin off of a typical fish sandwich. The familiar taste of Old Bay keeps the sandwich from being unapproachable. For dinner entrees, we recommend going with the steak; prepared medium-rare and with a good crack of salt, it’s one of the best meat dishes you can get in the neighborhood. While you’re there, try a vintage cocktail, listen to Frank Sinatra crooning from the speakers, and you’ll be transported back to the ’40s. —Suzanne Cohen (Dish, Summer 2018)

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)

The Macintosh

Downtown - Modern American

Adam Chandler

Fish

There are a few regular favorites on The Macintosh’s menu: the intensely flavorful 7-oz. grilled ribeye deckle, the extravagantly rich bone marrow bread pudding, and the 8-oz. house-ground Mac burger with aged cheddar, Nueske’s bacon, and pecorino truffle fries. But the real delight of Executive Chef Jeremiah Bacon’s ever-shifting menu is wondering what he will come up with next. Bacon combines a passionate farm-to-table aesthetic with flawless high-end technique. You might find thin-sliced beef tongue tossed with red lunchbox peppers, shaved cotija cheese, and an array of herbs or two delicate lamb-filled ravioli served over a creamy onion soubise with savory lamb jus. The most reliable bet on the menu is the local catch, like grilled local swordfish with butter beans, sunchokes, and whey dashi or a crisp-seared red snapper laid out on a bed of lentils and spinach and accented with preserved Meyer lemon and cherry tomatoes. It’s all served in a stylish environment that walks the line between upscale and casual. For an affordable weekday treat, duck in for the Bacon Happy Hour with $5 plates like pork lettuce wraps paired with $5 specialty cocktails. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2018)

Minero

Downtown - Mexican

Jonathan Boncek

Green chorizo tacos

Sean Brock has also parted ways with Minero, but you can still feast on expertly crafted Mexican street food on East Bay. Even with exposed brick walls, wood-slatted banquettes, and servers in T-shirts and khakis, they’re still serious about the food. The Brock-trained crew makes their tortillas from scratch, nixtamalizing and grinding landrace heirloom corn into masa and pressing them two times a day. They top them with traditional fillings, like green chorizo, potato, and grilled onion, as well as Southern fusions — think fried catfish with pickled green tomato tartare. Servers douse charcoal-grilled chicken wings with Valentina hot sauce and shake them tableside in brown paper bags. The menu’s cultural mash-ups include shrimp and masa grits, Carolina Gold arroz rojo, and a burrito filled with hoppin’ john, avocado, poblano, and queso de Oaxaca. The appealing bar selection includes 16-oz. cans of Tecate, dozens of artisan mescals, and an array of cocktails named for lucha libre wrestlers. It’s a whole new vibe for tony East Bay Street, bringing the vivid flavors of the Mexican streets to the heart of Charleston’s old restaurant row. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2018)

Muse

Downtown - Mediterranean

Shawn Weismiller

Some things at Muse never change, like the crispy sea bass, a whole deboned fish that’s lightly fried until the skin is crisp and golden. Or the grilled duck breast rubbed with tart sumac and the merguez sausage with red peppers, fennel, and radish. But the catch of the day — grouper, golden tilefish, wreckfish — keeps things moving forward, combining the freshest local fish with bright Mediterranean accents. The bouillabaise steeps shrimp, mussels, scallops, and fish in a rich saffron and wine sauce, while heartier plates pair grilled lamb chops with dried figs and lemon puree and a 13-ounce ribeye with fennel gratin. With dozens of good selections by the glass, Muse’s wine list is among the most comprehensive in town. Whether you snag an outdoor table in the small courtyard, a cozy seat in one of the small dining rooms, or a stool at the wine bar in the front room, you’re bound to have a pleasant Mediterranean journey. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

NICO

Mt. Pleasant - French

After leaving his near decade-long post at Fish, Chef Nico Romo started his own venture in Mt. Pleasant, Nico Oysters + Seafood. The renovated space is stylish and welcoming with covered outdoor seating and brick walls, wood tables, and large farmhouse chandeliers inside. A small bar area wraps around the partially open kitchen and the vibe is at once convivial and chic. As the name implies, the restaurant shines when it comes to raw seafood. NICO offers up to 12 daily varieties of oysters, as well as caviar, periwinkles, and even a Scotch Oyster which involves a glass of Bowmore 12, a single oyster du jour, and four-part instructions. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

The Obstinate Daughter

Sullivan's Island - Seafood

Jonathan Boncek

Ricotta Gnocci

At The Obstinate Daughter, Executive Chef Jacques Larson’s big, open kitchen has a plancha and a wood-fired oven, and he uses it to create a beguiling array of pizza, pastas, and small plates. The pizzas bear tempting toppings, like clams and roasted fennel or pork meatballs and red peppers. The dishes on the rotating “plates” menu range in size from “Geechie frites” (long strips of fried polenta) up to a crispy duck with with farro verde, spring vegetable, and roasted tomato vinaigrette. Fluffy ricotta gnocchi are topped with an intensely flavorful short rib ragu with tender strands of beef in a pool of reddish orange tomato-tinged jus. All this is served in an airy, open dining room with light-gray weathered planks accented by lots of pale-blue details. It’s a cheery, casual environment for enjoying Larson’s impressive parade of delicate but flavorful dishes. And that makes The Obstinate Daughter one of the best upscale dining destinations not just out on the beaches but anywhere in town. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2018)

O-Ku

Downtown - Sushi + Japanese

Yellowtail Carpaccio

You pretty much can’t go wrong with O-Ku. With the sushi chefs turning out half-price rolls and the well-appointed bar staff slinging marked-down cocktails during happy hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (not a typo!), the King Street hotspot has something for the California roll lover and the nigiri expert alike. To be honest, we rarely stray from the sushi. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like O-Ku’s twist on the venerable potato roll (shrimp tempura, avocado, shoe-string potatoes, eel sauce, and mango remoulade). Our favorites are the tuna tataki roll (seared tuna, tempura shrimp, avocado, eel sauce, spicy aioli) and the dapper snapper roll (red snapper, spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber, pickled red onion, sweet chili vinaigrette). From the bar, the crisp lemongrass gin and tonic and the sweet Saigon sunset always hit the spot. If you stick around after the lights go down, don’t be surprised if it feels more like a nightclub than a restaurant. —Sam Spence (Dish, Summer 2018)

Old Village Post House

Mt. Pleasant - New Southern

Housed in a restored 19th century general store on charming Pitt Street, the Old Village Post House retains much of the allure that has made it a popular Mt. Pleasant outpost for downtown and East Cooper diners alike. The white beadboard walls and dark pine floors of the dining room make an elegant but cozy setting, while the tavern room, with its brown leather chairs, is a comfortable spot for casual cocktails. The seasonal menu emphasizes fresh and locally available ingredients, including crab stuffed flounder served alongside Lowcountry shrimp and yellow squash flavored with herb butter or a peach salad with spinach, radishes, goat cheese, sherry honey vinaigrette, and pecans. Intriguing combinations on the vegetable plate (jumbo asparagus, sweet corn, okra, green beans, grilled tomato), and excellent versions of Lowcountry favorites, like crab cakes and shrimp and grits, round out an impressive dining offering. —Sam Spence (Dish, Summer 2018)

Opal

Mt. Pleasant - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Cavatelli

This gem of a restaurant offers some of Mount Pleasant’s most romantic dining. The Californian-slash-Mediterranean-inspired menu starts with an extensive cheese and charcuterie selection and mussels prepared three ways, our favorite being the Berkshire sausage, tomatoes, and chiles variety. While you can’t go wrong with Chef Patrick Owen’s papparedelle with wild mushrooms and black truffles, make sure someone in your party orders the grilled bone-in pork rib chop with gnocchi, spinach, smoked duck ham, and apple-citrus pan sauce so you can snag a bite (or two). There’s also a comprehensive wine list and a rotating selection of desserts. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

The Ordinary

Downtown - Seafood

Jonathan Boncek

The Ordinary has become a must-visit Charleston destination for pristine shellfish and exceptional seafood plates. It’s the sister restaurant to the much-lauded FIG, and James Beard Award-winning Chef Mike Lata and his partner Adam Nemirow draw upon a well-groomed network of local purveyors and farm-to-table techniques to put a contemporary fine-dining spin on the classic oyster house format. The refurbished bank building has 22-foot ceilings and high, round-topped windows, and it creates a setting that’s sparkling, stylish, and full of energy. The gleaming white tile raw bar serves impressive towers of oysters and clams on the half-shell from boutique producers, including local delicacies like Capers Blades and Otter Islands during the colder months. The “hot” and “cold” selections offer an array of small plates designed for sharing, and a few items have become regular fixtures, like savory pickled shrimp and the most insanely delicious fried oyster sliders on the planet. Most of the menu changes daily, though, offering a few large plate options like delicately fried triggerfish schnitzel and grilled snapper with citrus vierge. And now you’re able to dine al fresco. The Ordinary’s patio boasts a handful of green and gold tables, potted plants, and charming string lights. Bold, ambitious, and fanatical about quality, The Ordinary showcases high-end Charleston seafood at its very best. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2018)

Pane e Vino

Downtown - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Mixed seafood grill

Surrounded by a vine-laden fence that shelters you from the street, the patio at Pane e Vino is where it’s at. Inside, the small dining room has its own cozy ambiance and the menu is stocked with traditional Italian dishes, like big bowls of spaghetti, cioppino, and potato gnocchi. They’ve also got fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and olive oil, and lasagna with ground beef, fontina, and mushrooms. It’s simple but hearty food that keeps the locals coming back for more. Al fresco dining at its best. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Pavilion Bar

Downtown - Cocktail Bar

While its view is killer and its menu indulgent, the Pavilion Bar isn't somewhere that you're going to just pop into on a Tuesday for drinks. Instead, keep this place in your back pocket for special occasions. The mojitos are made with Cruzan rum and fruit purées (strawberry and kiwi, blueberry, raspberry), and the martinis with Hendrick's, Grey Goose, and other high-quality liquor. The food is equally elegant, offering filet mignon kebab, lobster thermidor and portabella pizza, and a Kobe beef burger. Most of the appetizers are more expensive than the more meal-like parts of the menu (like the sandwiches, which come with a side of waffle fries). At $19, the Duck Confit Nachos seem excessively priced, but it's also excessively portioned. Don't order it unless you're with a large group, otherwise you may have trouble finishing it. —Susan Cohen

Prohibition

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Lamb chops

The entrees are dazzling and change seasonally; summer offerings include an Anson Mills farro risotto, brimming with seasonal greens, wild mushrooms, and fresh peas, or a burger crammed with maple-bourbon bacon jam, garlic aioli, crisped onion and cheddar cheese, and the requisite “local catch” which changes with more frequency. Those prone to the decision making paralysis that often comes along with such a robust entree menu should take note of the hidden gem of the menu: more than a half-dozen artfully crafted appetizer and shareable plates born out of a love of local produce, much of it sourced from Ambrose Farms. Stand-out offerings include an heirloom tomato salad drizzled with cucumber sumac and Lowcountry Creamery yogurt, dotted with Sea Island red pea falafel; Brussels sprouts tenderly crisped in a chili-lime sauce, tossed with pickled carrots; and warm Diver scallops brushed with brown butter and citrus. —Sarah Reynolds (Dish, Summer 2018)

R. Kitchen

Downtown - American

There’s something special about texting a restaurant and asking for a reservation, giving the anonymous user on the other end your name and any food allergies you may have. What’s even more special is showing up to R Kitchen ­— either downtown or in West Ashley, both spots are unassuming buildings you’d otherwise pass without looking up, so look up — and walking into what feels like a good friend’s kitchen. Cliche as that sounds, some of the best parts of your R Kitchen meal are the tidbits of conversation you’ll hear from other guests and the back story the personable chefs offer regarding their carefully crafted dishes. Pass bottles of wine around the bar or patio — we’re all family here — and bite into a light piece of wahoo to start. Or perhaps your night starts with fresh tomatoes, drizzled with the lightest touch of spices and oil, relishing in their own seasonal goodness. The menu changes every night at R Kitchen, depending on what the chefs can get their hands on, and the surprise is part of the fun. We’ve tucked into creamy pasta, fresh corn salad, and closed-eye-pure ecstasy creme brulee. You get the idea. This place isn’t really a hidden gem anymore (reservations should be made weeks, if not months in advance), but that doesn’t make it any less special to us. —Connelly Hardaway (Dish, Summer 2018)

Rappahannock Oyster Bar

Downtown - Seafood

Ruta Elvikyte

Chez Nous is a small, somewhat eccentric, and thoroughly charming downtown restaurant. It occupies a small two-story cottage on Payne Court, a narrow alley off Coming Street, and has just a handful of spartan tables on each floor. Executive Chef Jill Matthias writes out the tiny menu by hand each day in a highly stylized script. The six items — two appetizers, two entrées, and two desserts — change each and every day, and they never seem to repeat. A duck confit salad with walnuts on Tuesday might be followed by marinated sardines over onions and radishes on Wednesday. A delicate pan-seared snapper with baby carrots and mushrooms might be succeeded by a pork shank with potatoes and kale. The lineup is in constant flux, but one thing is reliably consistent: bold, fresh flavors in simple but elegant preparations, a winning formula for a wonderful meal. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2018)

Red Drum

Mt. Pleasant - Fusion + Eclectic

Jonathan Boncek

Red Drum’s menu reads like a mash-up of a traditional steak house, Lowcountry bistro, and an elevated Tex-Mex joint. Coming from the mind of owner Texan Ben Berryhill, Red drum takes Tex-Mex standards like tortilla soup, enchiladas, and crab meat tostaditas and runs them alongside ubiquitous Lowcountry favorites like shrimp and grits. The wood grilled Joyce Farms chicken breast comes with Mexican melting cheese, garlic cream, crisp tortilla strips, avocado relish, and asparagus. The wood grilled quail and Texas venison sausage is a must try. Their steak menu offers four cuts with six different sauces along with six Tex-Mex influenced a la carte sides. If you come during happy hour expect standing room only at the full service bar, but there is a good chance you will meet your next date. If you’re looking of course. —Robert Donovan (Dish, Summer 2018)

Rosebank Farms Cafe

Seabrook Island - Southern

Rosebank Farms Café has been doing local since before it was a catchphrase. Led by new chef Graham Parris, the casual restaurant sources fresh food from the fields of owner Julie Limehouse’s farms and the waters surrounding the sea islands. Parris revamped the menu by putting an inventive spin on Southern classic staples, though many longtime menu items remain due to popular demand. The lunchtime blue plate special is a great way to sample the restaurant’s fare: order a meat (like fried oysters or pulled pork) and two sides (like Geechie Boy white cheddar grits or fried green tomatoes) for $10.75. Or go with our favorite: the honey and buttermilk fried chicken breast with sweet potato fries. Things get even more Southern at supper, when you can order one of four plays on shrimp and grits or the peach tea brined pork tenderloin with Big Bees Honey sweet mashed potatoes and collards topped with peach glaze. And whatever you do, don’t skip dessert. —Erica Jackson Curran Dish (Summer 2013)

Slightly North of Broad

Downtown - New Southern

Slightly North of Broad is a marvel among restaurants in downtown Charleston. Despite the fact that countless bars and eateries have come and gone right alongside it, S.N.O.B. has been a steadfast tent pole in the Lowcountry food scene for over 20 years. Though purchased by the Hall Management Group in 2015, the upscale bistro continues to delight locals and tourists alike in their eclectic dining room. Featuring a seasonally rotating menu ensures that patrons will get to enjoy meat and produce at their freshest and most ripe. One of the best items is a grilled peach salad that’s complemented by prosciutto, goat cheese, and pecans. Steamed local clams make a welcome departure from the typical staple of mussels; these bivalves are served with a French accent of parsley and garlic cream sauce. An item that might cause a revolt if ever removed from S.N.O.B.’s rotation is their signature barbecue tuna. Seared to rare perfection, the fish is topped with fried oysters and drizzled with house-made mustard barbecue sauce. While the tuna is a winner, the duck breast is a photo-finish for second. Even if you don’t usually save room for dessert, it’s so worth it at S.N.O.B. Sour cream apple pie is akin to a delicious German strudel and the banana cream pie is better than your sweet Southern grandma used to make. If it’s been years since you visited or if you’re just in town for the weekend S.N.O.B. is not just relevant, it’s a tried and true classic that deserves to be included in your catalogue of the best restaurants in Charleston. —Suzanne Cohen (Dish, Summer 2018)

Swig & Swine

West Ashley - Barbecue

Jonathan Boncek

If you follow pitmaster and co-owner Anthony DiBernardo on social media, you’ll see that the man doesn’t sleep. He’s stoking his custom-built smokers at 2 a.m., tirelessly perfecting the art of wood-smoked barbecue, sometimes with his son in tow. The man is clearly passionate about his craft, and the rest of us get to reap the benefits. Pull up a stool at the meat counter at this popular eatery, and DiBernardo himself might break from tending the fires to offer you a taste while you’re waiting for your order, be it tender pulled pork, sausage, turkey, wings, pork belly, or brisket. All come with your choice of four house-made sauces (an amalgam of southern barbecue styles), plus a bonus jalapeño sauce for heat seekers. Sides are plentiful and service swift and friendly. Wash it all down with a sweet tea if you so choose, but the swig list here might tempt you to hang out long after you’ve taken your last bite. Creative craft cocktails incorporate moonshine, absinthe, muddled fruits, and herbs, and the craft beer list goes on for pages. With whiskeys, swanky bourbons, wines, and even hard ciders, it’s clear this contemporary roadside eatery takes its swig as seriously as its swine. —Allston McCrady (Dish, Summer 2018)

Tavern & Table

Mt. Pleasant - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Deviled egg trio

This waterfront venue combines the best of many worlds. With multiple interior dining areas, indoor and outdoor bars, a covered deck, and couch-lined dockside patio, diners can choose the seat that best suits their mood. That could be enjoying crsipy dynamite shrimp with Calabrian chile honey and pickled banana peppers beneath handcrafted chandeliers inside, or biting into luscious pretzel pull-aparts on the outdoor patio while watching pelicans skim the water. The house-made charcuterie board is a must, and so are the brick oven flatbreads (we love the glazed fig and prosciutto with fontina cheese and wild arugula). Enjoy a wide selection of adult beverages to help wash it all down with gorgeous sunsets over Shem Creek to boot. —Allston McCrady (Dish, Summer 2018)

The Islander

Daniel Island - Seafood

Tucked into an office park right off I-526, the folks at Holy City Hospitality have created a tasty tropical oasis for Daniel Islanders. Grab a seat at the outdoor bar where misting fans and calypso music lull you into vacation mode as you savor grilled jerk chicken, velvety truffled potato soup, or a roasted kale salad balanced with garlic, fennel, oranges, bacon, and avocado. By day, the chipotle shrimp and avocado salad with toasted cumin and yogurt dressing is a big hit with workforce regulars, as are mahi mahi tacos and conch chowder, while evening brings substantial entrees such as cassava crusted grouper over a luscious succotash of local butterbeans and shiitakes. Just be sure to leave room for the white chocolate banana bread pudding (it’s foodgasmic). With rum drinks galore, local brews, fresh daily specials, “lunch express” options, and happy hour promotions, this island escape aims to please. —Allston McCrady Dish (Winter 2015)

Trattoria Lucca

Downtown - Italian

Adam Chandler

Crudo

Ken Vedrinksi knows pasta and he knows it well. At Lucca, he makes fresh pasta and serves elevated Italian cuisine using the finest seafood, produce, and meats from nearby purveyors. He makes it a point to continuously venture back to Italy to procure some of the best olive oils, cheeses, cured meats, and marvelous wines too. The quaint charm of Lucca acts as the perfect setting for us to be awed by Vedrinski’s work. The ever-changing menu gives us every reason to go back as often as possible. In the warmer months, you might find a local doormat flounder with rye crust, cider, bacon, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Vedrinski is a master of the craft, and Lucca should be on everyone’s must-eat list. It’s an experience that will wow each and every time. —Eric Doksa (Dish, Summer 2018)

Vincent Chicco's

Downtown - Italian

The entrance of Vincent Chicco’s with a spiral staircase, antique mirrors, and a vintage wooden bar makes one feel as though they’ve entered a European café. This newest addition of the Holy City Hospitality Group, which includes Coast, Virginia’s on King, 39 Rue de Jean and it’s neighboring sister restaurants, Victor’s Social Club and Michael’s on the Alley, offers southern Italian cuisine with homemade pastas in an elegant setting. Antipasti selections include house-made burrata. Traditional Tuscan Italian pasta offerings not to be missed include the succulent lamb sugo, a slow cooked lamb shoulder made into a Bolognese-style sauce over tagliatelle pasta with housemade ricotta and finished with lavender mint. Not into carbs? Then try the veal marsala with braised mushrooms and sundried tomatoes. You can even order these dishes while having cocktails at their neighboring, Victor’s Social Club, giving you multiple venues to enjoy these Italian delica cies. —Katherine Connor (Dish, Summer 2018)

Virginia's on King

Downtown - Southern

Situated on King Street just a block north of Marion Square, Virginia’s serves up classic home-style Southern fare — think chicken and dumplings, brown sugar-glazed ham, and fried chicken with all the fixin’s, like Hoppin’ John, Carolina Gold Rice, and baked sweet potatoes. The dark wooden tables, exposed brick walls, and old paintings and portraits with gold trim make you feel like you’re dining in a grand South of Broad home. The dessert menu features classics like pecan pie and key lime pie with raspberry coulis. And whether you’re there for dinner or supper, don’t miss put on the okra soup, tomato pie, and Lowcountry boil. —Eric Doksa 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, Summer 2018)

Wild Olive

Johns Island - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Downtown isn’t the only place to find great Italian cuisine. Right off Maybank Highway sits Wild Olive, Chef Jacques Larson’s haven for exquisite Italian fare. And it continues to be a welcoming table nine years after opening. A comfortable bar greets those looking for a casual bite but don’t let that relaxed atmosphere deceive you. Larson’s food is anything but. Incredible (and decadent!) risotto fritters stuffed with sausage, spinach, Parmesan, and mozzarella are a great way to start. And always ask about the specials, of which there are plenty. A recent pappardelle included proscuitto, pork, and escarole and was possibly the best thing I’ve eaten all year. Larson is a firm believer in local and his conviction permeates everything on the plate. That’s probably why we keep coming back all these years later. We’ve never been disappointed. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

Zero Restaurant + Bar

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Hamachi collar

Chef Vincent Petrillo preps around the clock, quite literally, in a tiny open kitchen set into the old carriage house of this historic venue. Greet him as you enter, then take a seat in the cozy, romantic dining room (seats are limited, so reservations are key), or on the enclosed garden patio in warmer weather. With its proximity to the new Gaillard Center, Zero George is ideal for pre-theater cocktails, exotic appetizers (Petrillo’s signature octopus dish won him “Best Young Chef” at an international cooking competition in Milan), or post-theater nightcaps. But don’t stop there. Dinner is a must for foodies, especially if you can plop down change for a tasting menu with pairings. Petrillo’s molecular gastronomy wizardry keeps you guessing as to how on earth he pulls off little touches like puffed anchovy crisps, citrus infusions, perfectly coddled three-minute duck eggs, crushed lobster shell broth, or a “nest” of dehydrated veal, all mere accents to well balanced dishes. The menu changes weekly. Some diners may recognize Petrillo from his success on Food Network’s Chopped!, but here in Charleston, the chef makes his streamlined boutique kitchen center stage. Ballin’ on a budget? Zero has recently rolled out a new Wine and Cheese happy hour. Every day from 5 to 6 p.m. order a cheese board and two glasses of wine for $25. —Allston McCrady (Dish, Summer 2018)

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