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Charleston’s 8 Greatest Restaurants

A photo of Red logo
by Stephanie Barna
Updated December 21, 2023

In a city where dinner reservations outweigh historical tours on many travelers’ itineraries, there’s a high bar for restaurants. These dining stars—some city stalwarts, some newer entrants—demonstrate the constant emphasis on innovation required to succeed and stand out in Charleston.

Lowcountry cuisine reaches new heights at a refurbished Victorian-era home on Queen Street. A 26-year-old hotel grill serves a dessert so popular that it has trademark status. A laid-back King Street barbecue joint scored James Beard nods for its sumptuous, slow-cooked pork.

These world-class restaurants use the Holy City’s culinary heritage as a springboard for vibrant and inspiring menus. Read on for a guide to Charleston’s 8 greatest spots to book now.

A photo of Peninsula Grill restaurant
4.7
4.7 (7533)
$50 and over
American
Downtown Charleston

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

About the restaurant
Peninsula Grill wowed Charleston with its plush setting and exemplary food from the moment it opened in 1997. At the time, chef Robert Carter was the hot young chef in town, and Peninsula Grill was shaking up the fine-dining scene. Fast forward 20-plus years, and Peninsula Grill, now helmed by chef Kalen Fortuna, has reached classic status. The restaurant has resisted trends and instead hewed close to what made it great from the start: attentive service, an extensive wine list, and a menu of decadent Southern-accented classics. Indulge in oysters, caviar, lobster, and steaks along with expertly prepared local heirloom vegetables. Don’t miss the traditional she-crab soup, and end your meal with the Ultimate Coconut Cake™, a cake so famous it has its own trademark and a robust mail-order business.
Top review
KerryMoorparkvip
Dined 2 days ago
Loved everything about our dinner. James was awesome. Will definitely go back again!
A photo of 39 Rue de Jean - Charleston restaurant
4.2
4.2 (4788)
$31 to $50
French
Downtown Charleston

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

About the restaurant
Classic French brasserie 39 Rue de Jean—or Rue, as it’s affectionately known by locals—has anchored the downtown food scene for more than two decades. Its expansive menu features French favorites including onion soup, steak frites, sweetbreads, and coq a vin. But you’re really here for the moules (a.k.a. mussels). It’s hard to pick a favorite among the five preparations (pistou, red curry, chorizo and tomato, mariniere, and vegetable cream), but you’ll need some extra bread for soaking up the delectable sauce no matter which option you choose. The atmosphere here is convivial and relaxed, with a big bar, cozy booths, and a gorgeous outdoor patio nestled alongside a brick-lined alley. Allow yourself to order a French 75 or two and linger at this charming Charleston mainstay.
Top review
Andie
Dined 5 days ago
Great management, food and waitress! Would definitely recommend.
A photo of The Darling Oyster Bar restaurant
4.8
4.8 (3383)
$30 and under
Seafood
Downtown Charleston

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

About the restaurant
This Upper King Street hotspot had a plan when it placed a raw bar inside a glass wall fronting the sidewalk—it’s near impossible to stroll by and not be tempted to duck in for a few local oysters. Once seated at the sophisticated bar, framed by exposed brick and black-and-white tiles, you glance at the menu and realize you’re staying for dinner—the lobster roll just can’t be resisted. By now, it’s 9 pm and you’re in the midst of one of downtown’s most buzzing nightlife scenes. Order a 513 (tequila, agave, lime, blood orange) and settle in.
Top review
AnneMW
Dined 6 days ago
Excellent food. We loved it and the oysters, shrimp and grits, shrimp creole were all excellent.
A photo of Tempest restaurant
4.6
4.6 (2208)
$50 and over
Seafood
Downtown Charleston

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

About the restaurant
For most of the 2010s, dining on Market Street was largely the realm of tourists. Tempest changed that perception, giving locals an incentive to brave the Market for phenomenal dishes such as sheepshead served with shrimp and pirlou, a traditional Lowcountry rice dish. Tempest is a sibling restaurant to the neighboring Church and Union and has its origins in the Charlotte-based 5th Street Group. These investors know to put the food first—Top Chef veteran Jamie Lynch guides Tempest’s menu, and USA Today gave the restaurant an enthusiastic nod in 2020. The dining room’s ceiling is a showstopping stained-glass mosaic, but it’s also worth grabbing a table on the patio where you can slow down and watch the bustling streetscape.
Top review
JamieD
Dined 1 day ago
Absolutely fantastic experience. My wife and I are both foodies and don’t mind spending good money for good food. Every single bite of our meals were excellent and we will absolutely be back. 10/10.
A photo of Maison restaurant
4.9
4.9 (1505)
$31 to $50
French
Downtown Charleston

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

About the restaurant
This charming bistro is steered by Vandy Vanderwarker, the former chef de cuisine at locally loved oyster bar The Ordinary. Maison is a city favorite for Parisian-inspired modern plates. Expect creative dishes such as octopus bourguignon and diver scallop schnitzel alongside tarts and escargot on the ever-changing menu. The modestly sized wine list, which leans French, hits all the right notes, featuring Chenin Blancs, Chardonnays, and Cabs carefully selected by vintage. Black-and-white barstools and tiles complement navy blues to set a posh tone, whether you’re dining at the welcoming bar or on the cozy patio.
Top review
LongtimeFanvip
Dined 1 day ago
Fabulous meal on a busy night - the diver scallop dish that was on the menu that night was delicious! The server was a delight. Thank you for a lovely evening!
A photo of The Establishment restaurant
4.8
4.8 (2354)
$31 to $50
Seafood
Downtown Charleston

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

About the restaurant
The Establishment swept into town in 2018 with a luxurious approach to dining just as Charleston diners were tiring of the rustic farm-to-table trend. They transformed the historic James Gregorie home on Broad Street into a lush and welcoming dining room that quickly attracted the city’s upper crust. Ever since, the restaurant has treated guests to a seafood-focused menu that showcases fresh local catch such as golden tilefish, grouper, and snapper. Grab a seat at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, order something special from the extensive whiskey list—consider the 10-year Pappy Van Winkle—and get ready for the kitchen to woo you.
Top review
MeterMan2vip
Dined 1 day ago
Will was our server and he started our night off with excellent service, the food was just as good and the music made the night! Thanks Will and the Establishment!
A photo of Indaco restaurant
4.8
4.8 (3507)
$30 and under
Italian
Downtown Charleston

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

About the restaurant
When Indaco debuted in 2013, the open kitchen was novel—tucking into braised pork cavatelli while watching the chef prepare your wood-fired pizza was considered a new indulgence. But now that handmade pastas, open kitchens, and deliberate local sourcing are the norm for restaurants in Charleston, early trendsetter Indaco still hasn’t let off the gas. Charleston native chef Mark Bolchoz prepares crispy clam strips with aioli and creamy burrata with butter beans, combining classic Italian flavors with the area’s best ingredients. Cocktails are brought to life with housemade sodas, and the wine list is extensive. Whether you’re eating on the porch or in the bustling dining room, Indaco shines thanks to a lineup that insists you try at least a bite of everything on the table.
Top review
KathrynBvip
Dined 6 days ago
Great food and very friendly service! Will definitely return!
A photo of Oak Steakhouse - Charleston restaurant
4.6
4.6 (5225)
$30 and under
Steakhouse
Downtown Charleston

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

About the restaurant
Today, Oak Steakhouse is the flagship of a growing chain of restaurants. But before outposts mushroomed across the Southeast, Charleston’s Oak Steakhouse distinguished itself by offering one of the most hospitable experiences in the city. Set in a renovated bank building on Broad Street, the three-story steakhouse caters to diners looking to satisfy their meat cravings. Splurge on the 24-ounce dry-aged bone-in ribeye, add some truffle butter and maybe a lobster tail or some bearnaise sauce, and let your server suggest the perfect bottle of red to pair with your feast. You’ll be in for an unforgettable dining experience that will have you returning again and again.
Top review
LauralouiseAnricvip
Dined 5 days ago
Outstanding dinner at OAK last night, started with a cocktail at the bar, shares a wedge salad and followed by absolutely delicious Steak Frites - superb service - even though it was our first time, it felt like a private club where everyone kinda knew each other, very social and outstanding steak
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