Charleston has become synonymous with fine dining. Over the past 20 – 25 years its reputation has gained world-class status with award-winning chefs, and restaurants earning the moniker “best new restaurant in the United States.” While it would take quite a while to visit all the top spots in Charleston, we’ve culled the list to some of the most popular spots.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Landmarks, McCrady’s represents some of the best in new Southern fine dining. The menu, created by Chef Sean Brock, recipient of the 2010 James Beard Best Chef Southeast award, centers around inventive cuisine fresh from the farm and local purveyors. Chef Brock is so dedicated to fresh, locally sourced food, he actually manages a farm for the restaurant. Professional service, extensive wine list, inventive dishes with a changing menu, and a posh but not stuffy atmosphere make this a top pick in Charleston.
Location: 2 Unity Alley
One of the first things you’ll notice upon entering Cypress is the impressive three-story wine wall that makes up one end of the restaurant. The other may likely be the soft ceiling lighting which gradually changes color, but not to gaudy effect. But it’s the food you’ll remember the most as your reminisce about your evening of fine dining. Executive Chef Craig Deihl, awarded 2010 Chef of the Year by the Charleston chapter of the American Culinary Foundation, has a dedication to properly prepared meats which sets him apart in this foodie town. Deihl is a founding member of the Butcher’s Guild, a network of meat professionals that promotes responsible butchering through education and community. The menu is fresh and rich and includes choices of tableside preparations for two, a real treat. The service top-notch and the atmosphere elegant.
Location: 167 East Bay Street
Chef Michelle Weaver has created an exciting menu that incorporates tradition without being bound by it, and then adds a few touches of the delightfully unexpected. The menu, which changes regularly, is divided into four categories: Pure, Lush, Southern, and Cosmopolitan, each section beautifully reflecting its title. Located in the elegant Charleston Place Hotel, an Orient-Express property, the Charleston Grill has earned the AA Four-Diamond award and the Mobil Four-Star award. Live Jazz, excellent service and a commitment to excellence make the Charleston Grill and must-visit in Charleston.
Location: 224 King Street
A Charleston institution since 1990, Magnolias exemplifies southern cuisine with a slightly modern twist. Their Down South Dinners are a nod to Sunday dinner back in the day, with farm fresh ingredients, a graceful charming restaurant, and friendly service. The stone-ground grits are garnered from a mill in Tennessee, and are a creamy treat served by chef Donald Drake with white cheddar, caramelized onions, and topped with fried green tomatoes, country ham and tomato chutney. Now that’s southern cooking!
Location: 185 East Bay Street
The Macintosh serves homegrown cuisine in a comfortable neighborhood space situated on Charleston’s bustling upper King Street. Chef and native Jeremiah Bacon utilizes the best of locally sourced foods to create modern American cuisine with a nod to family favorites. The menu changes daily while standard menu items are always available. Not to be missed is their side dish of Bone Marrow Bread Pudding: A rich, salty, savory little rectangle that just may be from heaven! Inventive cocktails, a fun, lively atmosphere and delicious entrees are part of the joy of dining at The Macintosh.
Location: 479 King Street
An acronym for Food Is Good, FIG was the leader in the local food movement in Charleston. Chef Mike Lata seeks to pay homage to the bounty of the Lowcountry, finding fresh, seasonal ingredients at the peak of their flavor for his dishes. His relationships with local purveyors are what ensure the absolute freshness on your plate. Lata won the 2009 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast. The restaurant’s atmosphere is clean and classic; service is professional with a wine list including over 100 bottles under $100.
Location: 232 Meeting Street
This list is just a tiny sample of all the amazing restaurants Charleston has to offer, but this should give you a good start if you’re looking for a wonderful dining experience while staying in Charleston. The staff at The Governor’s House Inn will be glad to help you with reservations during your stay.