As any food lover knows, Charleston, South Carolina is a hotbed of delicious Southern eats.
Whether you’re eating something off the rotating menu at Husk, savoring the tasting menu at McCrady’s or devouring the best biscuit you’ve ever had at Hominy Grill, Chucktown is the go-to city for delicious Southern food. The fact that it’s nestled among some of the most beautiful nature in all of the low country is just an added bonus.
But heading to the “Holy City” isn’t just about getting into McCrady’s or eating at Husk. It’s about the eternal search for the best sweet tea in Charleston, figuring out how to eat shrimp and grits smothered in pimento cheese every day and getting an invitation to a coveted low country boil.
We reached out to locals to get the best recommendations about everything you need to eat and drink on your next trip to Charleston.
1. Brunch at the Angel Oak Cafe is probably best kept secret in Charleston (but don’t tell).
You can’t go wrong ordering the chicken and biscuits, country fried steak and eggs, house-made beignets or the low country Benedict (made with crab cakes!). But the bang-bang shrimp and grits ― smothered in pimento cheese ― are worth going back for again and again.
2. Everyone knows the most iconic Charleston biscuit is at Hominy Grill. Hands down.
Three words for you: Charleston. Nasty. Biscuit. It’s got fried chicken, cheddar cheese and sausage gravy. Need we say more?
3. If you’re in the mood for more carbs, head to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits.
Locals agree this favorite is worth the wait, though you’re advised to download their app to order ahead. Try all their yummy biscuits and be sure to order a side of muffins and a tub of pimento cheese. (Bonus: Oprah loves this place).
4. And nothing washes a biscuit down better than some sweet tea, aka the nectar of the gods.
Do not even attempt to order unsweetened iced tea. Though any restaurant can make great sweet tea, Publix and Chick-Fil-A (that ice!) are clear favorites.
5. Chick-Fil-A, Cook Out, Bojangles and Zaxby’s are the only acceptable fast food options.
Obviously, if you’re a Southerner, you’ll crave Chick-Fil-A the most on Sundays (head to Boxcar Betty’s if it’s closed). Go to Cook Out for the Cook Out tray with a side of slaw, hushpuppies, nuggets and corn dog (yes, these are all real side options!) with the best milkshake you’ve ever had. Order boberry biscuits and botato rounds at Bojangles, and get a zalad at Zaxby’s if you’re feeling “healthy.”
6. Gravy isn’t just reserved for Thanksgiving. Here, it’s for every kind of meal.
Bathe us in sausage gravy for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You’ll find this savory treat at most restaurants (and homes) in Chucktown.
7. People here know pimento cheese goes well with anything.
Pimento cheese is another Chucktown staple for burgers, biscuits and any kind of food in between. Typically made with cheese, mayonnaise and pimentos, you can ― and should ― put this spread on everything.
8. If you feel adventurous, try some gator tail or shark nuggets.
There are at least 17 places to get alligator in Charleston, according to Yelp (and probably many more). Head to Roadside Seafood for the best fried gator tail, where we’d also suggest trying the locally-caught black tip shark nuggets. True Southern delicacies!
9. Another super-local (and Southern) favorite is a low country boil.
It’s both a dish and a name for a get-together in the South, and it’s positively delicious. Shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes are sprinkled with lots of Old Bay seasoning, thrown into a big pot and boiled. In keeping with tradition, it’s served on newspaper.
10. For more good old fashioned Southern food, dig into some shrimp and grits cakes.
Located in a suburb of Charleston Country called Mount Pleasant, Page’s Okra Grill has two can’t miss menu items: chicken fried chicken and shrimp and grits cakes. Make sure to top either off with a Bloody Mary and, of course, try the okra.
11. Okra is such a staple in Charleston, people even put it on hot dogs.
Attend a Charleston RiverDogs baseball game and you’ll find two things people adore: beloved resident Bill Murray and the RiverDog. The RiverDog ― a hotdog fit for the Holy City ― is topped with cole slaw, mustard BBQ sauce, and pickled okra, according to Eater. AMEN.
12. But don’t forget about the boiled peanuts.
Boiled peanuts are everywhere in Charleston ― roadside stands, grocery stores, gas stations, and places like Timbo’s ― but they’re especially perfect at a RiverDogs game.
13. Speaking of sports, get your drink on at a classy Charleston polo match.
14. Or just head to any number of breweries for gorgeous views and local beers.
Locals head to Revelry Brewing for its rooftop space on weekdays and weekends. Be sure to also make stops at Palmetto Brewery, Bay St. Biergarten and Closed For Business for the most delicious brews and great atmosphere the area has to offer. And at Low Tide Brewery, you can bring your dog, enjoy a delicious array of rotating food trucks and get your butt kicked with some Suds & Savasan yoga or Burpees & Brews workout classes.
15. If you’re in the mood to drink something a little harder, cocktails here are world famous.
Charlestonians agree there’s no better refreshment than the frozen gin and tonic at Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oysters or a margarita at Zia Taqueria. And don’t forget the other drink locals can’t get enough of: the Moscow mule at The Rarebit.
16. For “Charmed” nightlife, head to The Commodore or The Palace Hotel.
Follow Shep from “Southern Charm,” who owns a share in these two hot spots. Locals said they love The Commodore for its speakeasy, jazz club vibe and its funk music on the weekends. The Palace Hotel also gets rave reviews for its friendly crowd and delicious hot dog (definitely great drinking food).
17. Don’t leave town without trying the BBQ.
Locals suggest the wings at Home Team, brisket at Lewis and pulled pork at Rodney Scott. And, of course, JB’s Smokeshack for some buffet-style (with the best collard greens, corn fritters, green beans and mac and cheese around). Done and done.