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

A downtown bastion of Lowcountry staples like shrimp and grits and Frogmore stew, 82 Queen has steadily been building a menu of forward-thinking dishes. Of course, the proven 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 stand in the way of trying that fried oyster and crawfish gumbo. —Sam Spence (Dish, Summer 2018)

Anson

Downtown - New Southern

Kaitlyn Iserman

Anson serves a surefire mix of upscale seafood, steak, and traditional Lowcountry offerings. While the restaurant’s classic crispy fried flounder enjoys regular accolades, it’s the rich, decadent she-crab soup that cannot be missed. With an elegant interior, high ceilings, and large, inviting wood bar, the noise level can be a bit exuberant, but don’t let that distract you from the upscale elegance and the menu’s other worthwhile offerings like shrimp and grits, fried okra, and a variety of fresh fish and steak options. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

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 four to eight 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, Summer 2018)

Circa 1886

Downtown - Modern American

Pork Ton Toro and Peekytoe Crab Cake

When it comes to romantic fine dining, Circa 1886 at The Wentworth Mansion is about as luxe as you can get. A recent interior design freshened up the restaurant built in the old carriage house space, but the delicate and delightful menu remains. 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. Where else can you order chicken fried lobster? Or Broken Arrow antelope? One of the best parts of a visit is Circa’s always surprising desserts. Peaches and cream ice cream sandwich, anyone? —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

The Darling Oyster Bar

Downtown - Seafood

Jonathan Boncek

With high ceilings, honeycomb tile floors, and oodles of vintage charm, it’s no wonder locals have been streaming into The Darling. However, it’s not just the King Street restaurant’s appearance, but the seafood-focused menu that has made a splash with diners. The menu runs the gamut from ceviche and Creole shrimp to traditional favorites like shrimp and grits, hamburgers, and fry baskets. But the real standouts are the raw offerings. Sit at the glass-enclosed raw bar and people-watch as you dine on fresh, raw local clams and East Coast oysters. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

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 (Summer 2015)

The Establishment

Downtown - American

With something of a Midas touch, everything about The Establishment works: Buzzy, popular, and teeming with energy around the bar, service remains personal and intimate. The space itself feels historic, with high ceilings and portions of artfully exposed brick, yet the large, digital aquarium and chef’s table dining area are fresh and contemporary. Fun meets foundation: There’s undeniable chemistry from the start. Pretty as a picture, the beet-cured mackerel is comprised of a lightly pink, translucent fish, vibrant blood orange slices, toothy fresh potato crisps, and sprigs of feathery dill. The clean, bright citrus notes balance the inherent fishiness of the rich, perfectly cured mackerel. Combined with dill crema, it’s an impeccably balanced bite. As far as entrees go, land and sea are both exemplary. The ribeye is pricey, but served with confit fingerling potatoes, hen-of-the woods mushrooms, and a black garlic butter sauce, it’s worth every penny. The light, perfectly cooked grouper is also heavenly. Where others aim to impress with exuberance, the beauty of restraint is on full display here. Resting atop an unbelievably buttery and entirely craveable dish of white acre peas and topped with a salsa verde of parsley, lemon zest, and olive oil, the local fish is elevated to love sonnet status. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

FIG

Downtown - Modern American

Adam Chandler

FIG has now been around long enough to qualify as a Charleston institution, but it is still wowing diners with its unwavering commitment to high quality food and a flawless dining experience. Chef Mike Lata and his partner Adam Nemirow have built a team that’s as serious about that philosophy as they are, including Executive Chef Jason Stanhope, whose skill and finesse shines through in bright flavors and beautiful dishes. Painstakingly perfected preparations are applied to the rotating ingredients of the day, so layers of Napa cabbage and black trumpet mushrooms might frame slow-baked beeliner snapper one day and sauteed red porgy the next. Some of the best dishes are almost spartan in their simplicity, like a crudite of local root vegetables accompanied by fromage blanc and sesame that let the pure flavor of the ingredients carry the plate. A handful of rich favorites like ricotta gnocchi with lamb bolognese, the warming fish stew in cocotte, and a delicate coddled egg with poached stone crab have become menu staples. The front of the house affably keeps the busy dining room running smoothly — and by busy, we mean hourlong waits just for a seat at the bar on a Monday night. That wait doesn’t seem likely to get shorter any time soon. —Robert Moss (Dish, Summer 2018)

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 carbonara 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 surprisingly, Fulton Five has won the City Paper Readers’ Pick for Charleston’s most romantic restaurant for years. —Eric Doksa (Dish, Summer 2018)

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.

If you’re in the mood for some good old fashioned, red-blooded meat, you can’t do much better than Halls. 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, 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)

Indaco

Downtown - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Casonei quail foie gras chanterelles

The executive chef shuffle at Indaco is hard to keep up with — currently, former sous chef Michael Holler at the helm. The food, though, well we dream about it. The black pepper tagliatelle is drizzled in nature’s sauce — a perfect egg yolk. And the Neapolitan sytle pizzas? The little neck clam pie ($16) with garlic, oregano, lemon, sea beans, and Parm is supposed to be shareable, but you’ll want the whole thing for yourself. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

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 blend 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, Summer 2018)

Le Farfalle

Downtown - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Led by celebrated Chef Michael Toscano, Le Farfalle is certain to delight. The bright, upscale space is generously laid out with an elegant bar suitable for a quick lunch of the agnolotti pasta with duck confit and funghi misti or a relaxed after-dinner conversation over craft cocktails or fine wine. Dinner service starts with a slice from the restaurant’s ginormous wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but matters are then in your own hands. Seasonal appetizer stand outs have include a veal tartare toast served with shoestring fries, and a sublime octopus carpaccio. You can’t go wrong with the housemade pastas, and other memorable dinner selections have included a vibrant whole branzino with pine nuts and a tender fried chicken picatta. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

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. Homestyle standards like buttermilk fried chicken with biscuits and gravy are must-haves, but dishes like the sweet chili rubbed ahi tuna and braised beef short ribs make sure there’s something for everyone on Executive Chef Kelly Franz’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, Summer 2018)

McCrady's Restaurant

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Virginia oyster

High ceilings, exposed stone walls, and copper-topped tables fill a warm, elegant space where innovative farm-to-table offerings are the norm. Square up your shoulders and order the escargot-stuffed marrow bone with grilled bread and parsley. It’s earthy, rich, bright perfection and your mouth will thank you. Same goes for the beet au poivre, crispy veal blanquette, and sublime broiled flounder with confit of eggplant and tomato. One long wall of the restaurant is occupied by the stately bar. With its focus on craft cocktails and brown spirits, there’s sure to be something to lift your mood. Beer and wine enthusiasts will also find themselves well tended-to, with a varied choice of by-the-glass and canned/bottled options to please any palate. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

McCrady's Tavern

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Steak frites

High ceilings, exposed stone walls, and copper-topped tables fill a warm, elegant space where innovative farm-to-table offerings are the norm.

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 Mark Keiser 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, Summer 2016

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. 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, Summer 2018)

Peninsula Grill

Downtown - New Southern

Adam Chandler

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

There are milestones in life that require a fancy steak. Or at least the kind of place where one can get a fancy steak. If you’re in the midst of such an occasion, Peninsula Grill has got you covered. Even after 21 years, Peninsula Grill continues to impress with its luxurious fare. Take, for instance, the seared foie gras ($25). The dish is deserving of a modeling contract, with the perfectly cooked slice of delicate liver resting atop artful smears of cinnamon-infused strawberry coulis and aged balsamic reduction. Backed by a vibrant fence of fresh strawberry slices and a crisp arugula salad, this is about as good as foie gras gets. Similarly, the grilled bone-in pork chop ($36) is expertly prepared. The gigantic tomahawk is plated on two swirls of airy sweet potato puree and garlicky whole grain mustard jus. The puree has light spice notes reminiscent of garam masala, and pairs nicely with the unctuous savoy cabbage and butterbeans. Rich with actual butter, the combined flavors mix magically with the thick, juicy chop in a truly masterful manner. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

Purlieu

Downtown - French

Jonathan Boncek

Frog leg tarte

Stepping into this intimate, relaxed Westside bistro is almost like being transported to a Parisian neighborhood. Chef John Zucker’s seasonal menu offers traditional French dishes like frog leg tarte and rabbit rillet, plus reimagined classics such as mache salad with duck prosciutto or a refined bouillabaisse filled with local seafood. The warm, cozy space is filled with reclaimed wood ceilings and tile walls, providing a distinctly European ambiance. The carefully chosen wine list only adds to the experience. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2018)

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)

Tu

Downtown - Fusion + Eclectic

Robert Donovan

Tu defies definition. The second project from Xiao Boa Biscuit partners Joey Ryan, Joshua Walker, and Duolan Li, Tu is serving easily the most creative and avant garde menu in town. For instance, guava, habanero, cheese ice is the first offering and it’s as incredible as the name is befuddling. Imagine a cold, salty, cube of ice? Does that make sense? Does it have to? I suppose that’s the question Chef Walker is toying with. How far can he push diners in his search for new, unique flavors? When it comes to the lamb he plays it safe with harissa and pine nut-topped tartar, but then he goes wild on pastrami served on a sauerkraut scallion pancake. Just when your brain thinks it may have gotten a handle on all the flavors, Walker hits ya with one more wild dish — rose shaved iced. Looking like a cryogenically frozen camellia, this delicate dessert is like a sweet kiss to finish the meal. Oh, and now you can enjoy the inexplicably cool interior of Tu while the sun is shining. Cafe Tu is open Mon.-Sat. from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m with inventive coffee offerings and snacks like cherry pie and bubble waffles from Chloe Davis King. —Kinsey Gidick (Dish, Summer 2018)

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