8 Downtown Charleston Restaurants You Must Try | Best Places to Dine in Downtown Charleston, SC

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Elegant, captivating, and lovely. These are just a handful of the adjectives that we often use to characterize Charleston, South Carolina.

Despite earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and Yankee bombardments, Charleston remains one of America’s Old South’s best-preserved and most gorgeous cities. Simply stated, this Lowcountry town exudes Southern charm. It greets tourists with a warm, inviting hug from the time they arrive, which is particularly visible at many of the outstanding downtown Charleston restaurants.

Traveling to Charleston is always worthwhile, even if just for the cuisine. The city is home to award-winning chefs who create dinners that are a harmonic combination of French, Spanish, African, Caribbean, and traditional Southern culinary influences.

Menus are dominated by words like customized, sustainable, heirloom, and grass-fed. Yet, Charleston stays faithful to its Lowcountry roots, with tried-and-true favorites we like.

It’s no wonder that Charleston routinely ranks as one of the greatest gourmet cities in the United States, according to many surveys. These are some of our favorite restaurants in the heart of downtown’s historic area.

Not in the mood to dine out tonight? Click here to have Grubhub deliver right to your door from the greatest restaurants in town.

Visiting other places in South Carolina? Check out our other tasty guides:

  • Seven Lowcountry Summerville SC Restaurants
  • 9 Best Florence SC Restaurants
  • 6 Best Things To Do In Florence SC
  • 7 Must-Try Greenville Restaurants
  • The 7 Best Restaurants In Downtown Greenville SC
  • 7 Best Rooftop Bars in Charleston

When in Charleston, don’t miss out on the following activities that will help you immerse yourself in the city (get them while they’re hot!):

  • Downtown Charleston Food Tour
  • Highlights of Charleston Guided Walking Tour
  • The Best of Charleston: History, Culture & Architecture Tour
  • Charleston: Daytime or Sunset Historic Harbor Cruise
  • Fort Sumter: National Monument Entry Ticket & Ferry
  • Charleston: Historical Walking Tour
  • Charleston: 1-Hour Carriage Tour of the Historic District
  • Charleston: Small Group Food Tour – Savor the Flavors

The Top 8 Restaurants in Downtown Charleston


N. Market Street (843) 996-496632C N. Market Street

This new kid on the block diner was named the #1 Best Restaurant in the Nation in 2021 by USA Today. We have no doubt that Tempest got this coveted award after eating here.

Tempest (named after a Shakespeare work) is located in the old historic Harriott Pinkney Home for Sailors and serves hyper-local sustainable seafood on a seasonal selected menu. The scenery is breathtaking. The ceiling is the most stunning, with over 100,000 mosaic stained-glass pieces created by local artist Honey McCrary.

We followed our server’s suggestions since it was our first time eating here, and we ordered three shared small dishes.

The daily catch (in this case, Mahi) is served in a blood orange vinaigrette with citrus zest. It was a beautiful merging of flavors, light and refreshing with well-balanced acidity. The charcoal-grilled oysters are a must, as are the Umami Tuna Bombs with tuna, truffle, and avocado.

Staff goes above and beyond to ensure that guests have the best eating experience possible. And what about the surprise at the conclusion of the meal? A tray was handed to all guests with cigars, a long-stemmed red rose, and cognacall on the house. Tempest is one of the greatest restaurants in downtown Charleston for exquisite dining in a traditional setting.

Restaurant Husk

577-250076 Queen Street (843) 577-250076

Husk Restaurant opened its doors ten years ago, much to the joy of residents and guests. This restaurant was one of the first in historic downtown Charleston to reinvent Southern cuisine. Its regularly changing cuisine is defined by local ingredients and heritage goods.

With its intriguing, imaginative food, Husk has earned all of the distinctions it has received over the years (including the title of #1 new restaurant). What’s on their brunch and supper menus? Everything!

Smoked Sea Island Red Pea Hop-n-John over Carolina gold ricea classic Southern winner is one of our faves. The Glazed Pigs Ears Lettuce Wraps with sweet vinegar marinated cucumber and red onion, as well as the Skillet Corn Bread prepared with locally sourced cornmeal and Bentons bacon, were our favorites.

Sweets are often seasonal (and sometimes weekly). If your stomach can handle it, go for it. From pecan stack and peanut butter pies to peach cheesecake and cinnamon bread pudding, they’re all delectably superb.

This is the place to go in downtown Charleston for innovative spins on country Southern food.

Fish & Raw Bar on Amen Street

843-255-8600205 East Bay Street

This is one of our favorite restaurants in Charleston. The raw bar is very popular and constantly crowded, and with good reason.

The main reason we come here is for the Amen Streets She-Crab Soup. It’s a Charleston classic, and I feel this is the greatest in the downtown historic district. It’s so wonderful, you’ll want to lick the bowl. It’s rich, thick, packed with crab meat, and topped with dry sherry to accentuate the tastes.

Fried Green Tomatoes, another Lowcountry specialty, are served with spicy and sour pickled okra and a dish of pimento cheese. It’s fantastic.

Oysters are always a pleasure here, whether served raw, fried, or baked. On our most recent visit, we tried the baked. These were delicious, stuffed with spinach, covered with tasso Rockefeller sauce, then topped with Parmesan.

Amen, which is open for lunch and supper, always has a variety of unique salads, sandwiches, and other seafood delicacies. We’ll try them one of these days, but we can never get beyond the fantastic starting choices!

When we say this is one of the greatest places to eat in Charleston, we anticipate a resounding Hallelujah!


Meeting Street (843) 805-5900232 Meeting Street

FIG (Food is Good) opened its doors in 2003 with a simple philosophy: provide honest, local food with knowledgeable service in a friendly atmosphere. This cozy and cherished neighborhood cafe has developed into one of the Southeast’s finest culinary attractions, as well as one of our absolute favorite downtown Charleston restaurants.

The food here isn’t just delicious; it’s incredible. The dinner-only restaurant’s cuisine honors local, sustainable products and the freshest catches from Lowcountry waterways.

Since the menu is limited and varies with the seasons, we recommend the Brick Pressed Chicken. But be warned: this chicken will destroy your appetite for ordering out chicken in the future. This delicious, delectable entree is served over a Frise Salad with spring garlic and shiitake conserva.

The Sherry Glazed Triggerfish with pepita, raisin, and Red cabbage tantalizes the taste buds. This is a must-visit restaurant in downtown Charleston.

Porch Poogans

557-233772 Queen Street

We lived in Charleston in the 1980s, when Poogans Porch was a fresh addition to the old downtown eating scene. We returned 30 years later and were still amazed that it had retained its position as one of the greatest restaurants in downtown Charleston.

Every day, meals are served inside or outside in a wonderfully preserved 1891 yellow Victorian mansion. The eatery acquired its name from a local dog that was left at the house when the previous owners moved out. Poogan became a fixture and protector of the property, welcoming customers on the restaurant’s front porch.

Pan Seared Scallops with butterbean and field pea succotash, tasso ham, Frisee, and bacon aioli are fantastic here.

A Sweet Tea Glazed Fish served over Carolina Gold Middlins Rice with lemon, herbs, and asparagus couldn’t be more Southern.

To add to the intrigue, this quaint old restaurant home is one of Charleston’s famed haunted spots. And one of its phantom visitors happens to be Poogan. So there you have it.

Rue De Jean 39

722-888139 John Street (843) 722-888139

This lovely French dining restaurant, reminiscent of a late 1800s brasserie, has both indoor and outdoor seating, and it’s tough to pick. Both provide a romantic atmosphere with plenty of candlelight and ambiance.

The menu is well-thought-out, and even the hors d’oeuvres area provides a plethora of options. We started with Escargots in cognac, garlic, and parsley butter.

Moules en Six Préparations (mussels) offers a fantastic chance to choose from basic Marinire to more creative mussel options such as Red Curry, Bacon Blue Cheese, or Cauliflower Cream and Wine sauce.

Coq Au Vin, a traditional French meal, was a delectable combination of braised chicken in red wine with bacon lardons, pearl onions, and mushrooms. Everything was delicious.

Make a point of visiting one of downtown Charleston’s great eateries for a flavor of the continent.

The Commonplace

King Street (843) 414-7060544

This seafood hall and oyster bar, housed in a historic bank, is everything from conventional. This southern culinary treasure celebrates all things related to the sea. The restaurant, which is open for lunch and supper on weekends and evening exclusively during the week, serves a variety of cold and hot seafood meals ranging from oyster raw bar to complete menu items.

The cuisine here is very exceptional, with stunning presentation. The cold local Wahoo with plumcot, wasabi, and Thai basil was delicious. The Zucchini Carpaccio, an unique meal with pine nuts, mint, basil, and Parmesan, will delight vegetarians (and non-vegetarians).

Remember to leave space for dessert. They vary seasonally, and we oohed and aahed over the creamy, delicious Fig Tart on our most recent visit. Plenty to share (if you really want to).

Try one of Charleston’s greatest seafood restaurants for a taste of history and out-of-the-ordinary cuisine.

Charleston Church No. 5

The phone number is (843) 937-866632B North Market Street.

Charleston is known as the Holy City because of its abundance of churches. 5 Church is a 100-year-old ancient red brick church that has been converted into a restaurant. With arching rafters and large multicolored stained-glass windows, the interior is stunning.

We opted to eat breakfast here on our final day in Charleston, however the restaurant also offers lunch and supper. Locals there advised us that we must have the Holy Shi* Brunch (yes, thats really its name).

This massive plate includes fried chicken, Fili-West Farms eggs, bacon, house-made doughnuts, biscuits, house-made jam, and your choice of Mimosa or Bloody Mary. It serves two people, is incredibly satisfying, and you won’t need to eat again for the rest of the day! Try 5 Church for the tastiest brunch in downtown Charleston without saying a prayer.

The greatest way to put it is on a sign in a boutique store in old Charleston. When life sends you lemons, put them in your sweet tea. Indeed, this charming Southern city has it all, including some of the greatest cuisines in the South.

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