SEAFOOD 

Blossom Cafe
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 171 East Bay St. 722-9200
Lunch and Dinner
Blossom has undergone a real renaissance in its menu and food. Many of the dishes still include grits and seafood, but the flavors are bright and beautiful, and the subtly redecorated dining room manages to bring back the energy of the old Blossom without radically changing its feel. The pommes frites plates with truffle oil or blue cheese are unapologetically decadent, and the daily specials are reliably delicious.

The Boathouse At Breach Inlet
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
Isle of Palms. 101 Palm Blvd. 886-8000
Dinner and Sunday Brunch
The Boathouses -- both of them -- are popular spots and offer something more than a reliable seafood menu that will make those in search of simple fried shrimp as happy as those whoprefer a more sophisticated approach. The IOP location's perk is a view that won't quit on the top floor, with a cozy bar and plenty of seats. It's actually possible, while sipping a cocktail or icy cold beer at the rooftop bar, to feel like you are on the deck of your own Intracoastal Waterway home. It's a nice illusion and worth the trip.

The Boathouse On East Bay
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 549 E. Bay St. 577-7171
Dinner and Sunday Brunch
The citified sister to IOP's Boathouse takes a slightly different approach to atmosphere, with a lovely covered porch that's heated in winter and offers live entertainment year-round. The interior sushi bar and 'see and be seen' happy hour offer friendly, competent bartenders, a reliable selection of raw and steamed oysters, sushi, wine, cocktails, and weekly specials that can't be beat, including a Wednesday night bucket of local steamed clusters that encourage visit after visit.

Bowens Island Restaurant
Seafood
Entrées $10-$15
Folly Beach. 1870 Bowens Island Road. 795-2757
Lunch and Dinner
Any local who wants to give a visitor a very intense dose of pure, undistilled Lowcountry should take the hapless soul straight to Bowens Island. Robbie Barber's legendary shack throws out endless sheetpans of roasted oysters, fried shrimp, fish, hushpuppies, and French fries on request. The beer is cheap and always cold; there's occasionally a random bottle of wine around, and the view of the Folly River is unparalleled. The shack itself is a rich scrapbook of drunken joyousness, and the decks all around provide plenty of space for shucking steamers and sucking down cold longnecks. There's no shame in anything and pretension of any sort cannot survive. Bloody knuckles and hangovers are a given, and for us, Bowens never fails to provide a moment of affirmation as to why we live here.

The Crab Pot
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
McClellanville. 10024 Hwy 17. 887-3156
Lunch and Dinner
Bossy-like-your-mama waitresses serve up big piles of perfectly fried seafood at this restaurant in McClellanville. It's no nonsense, no frills, and delicious. Styrofoam plates, vinyl tablecloths, and a fairly blank dining room are the underpinnings for the crispy shrimp, scallops, oysters, fish, and hushpuppies. It's best that way -- there's nothing to distract from the glory of the golden-brown friedness. Go in a big group, make a little noise, and share, share, share. Then take a leisurely stroll through the Old Village of McClellanville to get away from it all for a while. It's under new ownership, so we'll be watching closely to make sure they don't get too fancy.

Crab Shack
Seafood
Entrées $10-$15
Downtown. 205 East Bay St. 853-8600; Folly Beach. 26 Center St. 588-3080; West Ashley. 1901 Ashley River Road. 763-4494; N. Charleston. 8484 Dorchester Road. 552-7171
Lunch and Dinner
If you want to throw yourself into being a tourist in your own town, the Crab Shack is the place to do it. Big steamer dishes of crab legs, oysters, corn, shrimp, sausage, and potatoes are the most fun way to go, but when local oysters are in season, they can also be found here. Naturally, the menu offers plenty of fried and grilled options, but we like the messy stuff that requires a little work and danger. Cold beer and cocktails are abundant as well, and the bartenders at the downtown location know how to entertain visitors and treat the locals right at the same time.

Fish
Seafood
Entrées $10-$15
Downtown. 442 King St. 722-FISH
Lunch and Dinner
The dining room at Fish manages to combine the old South elegance of a single house with striking sculpture and simple accoutrements that create an interesting, yet comforting atmosphere. A flexible 'combine your own' approach to different fresh fish, sauces, and preparations make it possible for diners to participate in their own dining experiences. The upstairs porch is a particularly pleasant place to enjoy the restaurant and our Holy City at the same time.

click to enlarge Jim Epper shows off a dish of barbecue oysters at Fleet Landing
  • Jim Epper shows off a dish of barbecue oysters at Fleet Landing

Fleet Landing
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 186 Concord St. 722-8100
Lunch and Dinner
The old concrete building that served the Navy in the '40s has been retooled by Tradd and Weesie Newton into Fleet Landing, a seafood restaurant on the water, just behind the Custom House off Market Street. The menu, conceived by Jim Epper, formerly of 101 Pitt Street, offers new twists on old seafood favorites like calamari and fried oysters. There's the workhorse Caesar salad, great crabcakes and fried platters, and that rare and wonderful thing for downtown -- a great view of the water, good food, and a parking lot all in one place.

Hank's Seafood Restaurant
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 10 Hayne St. 723-FISH
Dinner
Hank's community table on Hayne Street is the center of a bustling restaurant that caters to upscale tourists and locals alike. The seafood tower appetizer offers a great selection of icy chilled crab claws, oysters, shrimp, and other delicacies, all in an impressive foot-and-a-half high serving tower. The entrées and other appetizers are just about as good as seafood gets on the peninsula, and while it's not a bargain, Hank's food lives up to the snazzy dining room and tourist-center menu prices.

R.B's
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
Mt. Pleasant. 97 Church St. 881-0466
Lunch and Dinner
The reincarnated R.B.'s Seafood was such a surprise that it earned mention here. The fried seafood platters are very tasty, the rest of the menu competent, and there's a crabmeat cocktail that is impressive in its simple luxuriousness. The dining room is way over the top with its nautical, touristy decor, but many of the materials are of such good quality that it manages to look reasonably tasteful anyway.

Red's Ice House
Seafood
Entrées $10-$15
Mt. Pleasant. 98 Church St. 388-0003
Lunch and Dinner
The bar at Red's Ice House gets special points for competent service, ice-cold beer, and a spot of shade at sunset on Shem Creek. It's a perfect vacation spot, with plenty of fried seafood, steamed oysters, and pub grub. Some chips and a dish of cheesy artichoke dip along with fried scallops don't make for a fancy dinner, but it's satisfying to nosh on them and watch the million-dollar chartered fishing boats navigate slowly into the creek.

The River Cafe at The Sandbar
Seafood
Entrées $10-$15
Folly Beach. 88 Sandbar Lane. 588-2255
Dinner
The River Cafe at the Sandbar on Folly doesn't promise much in the way of atmosphere, but then you could eat in a cardboard box while looking at the water and still be happy. Their food is sophisticated and naturally seafood centered, and the serious dose of Folly funkiness is always a good time.

Water's Edge
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
Mt. Pleasant. 1407 Shrimp Boat Lane. 884-4074
Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Brunch
Water's Edge offers fresh seafood dishes and a brunch that will definitely make you happy, all in one of the prettiest spots in town. The cabana bar outside is a hot spot for happy hour, with plenty of good-looking people drinking cocktails and snacking on the bar menu. They'll even serve you in your boat if you park at the dock, and you'll be glad they did -- the wait staff does a great job balancing accuracy with attitude, which is important when dealing with folks in the party mood that comes with a pretty day at the Water's Edge.


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