Before you read any further know this, I’m not a foodie and will never claim to be. I don’t know the difference between Duck Confit and Duck L’Orange, I’m not the first one in line when a new hotspot opens and I still need someone to tell me what wine goes with what I’m eating. All that said, I’ve been fortunate enough to live in a few of the world’s food capitals(New York, San Francisco and Aix-en-Provence) and have been exposed to very good cooking. When I find a place I like, I’ll often go back because reliability is very important. I want to know that I’m going to get a good meal, with good service and not feel like I’m being overcharged. So, below is my top ten list of reliable restaurants in Charleston – which by the way should also be considered a food capital.
In the four years I lived in California, I ate more Asian food than I had in my entire life. California as you know has a large Asian population and many folks are very picky about their food. When I moved to Charleston, I thought I was saying goodbye to all those great dishes. I was wrong. I’ve found my new Asian spot, it’s called CO and it’s right in the middle of everything on King Street. Their Shrimp Pad Thai is better than a lot I had on the West Coast and its reasonably priced.
When we were kids, my grandparents – in an attempt to give us some culture – would take my brothers and I to fancy restaurants a couple of times a year. We’d have to wear jackets and ties and be on our best behavior. Peninsula Grill reminds me of those places. When you walk in you feel like your in the dining room of a fancy house where people talk quietly. I always begin with the She Crab Soup and follow it up with a steak. Not only are their cuts good but so are their side sauces and if you want to try more than one, they wont charge you extra. Most people finish off their meal with Peninsula’s famous “12 Layer Ultimate Coconut Cake.” I’ve been told it’s excellent but as someone who doesn’t eat coconuts, I can’t attest to this. But I can tell you the Creme Brûlée is one you’ll never forget. They burn the top perfectly and the inside is smooth and creamy. My only complaint is they don’t give you enough.
If you like really good Southern French or Northern Italian / Northern Spanish food then you’re going to want to head over to Chez Nous in downtown Charleston. Getting in can be difficult as Chez Nous is about the size of a Mini Cooper but it’s well worth the wait. The menu changes daily and is the same for lunch and dinner. Check out their Instagram page (cheznouscharleston) for a look at past dishes.
The Obstinate Daughter is one of those places everyone seems to like no matter what their age or where they are from. Located on Sullivan’s Island which is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Charleston, the Obstinate Daughter is usually packed from open until close. My favorite appetizers are the Flatbreads and Geechie Frites.
If you like pasta, you have to try the Ricotta Gnocchi with short rib ragu and horseradish gremolata. Another good choice is the Catalan Seafood Stew.
It’s worth crossing the Ravenel Bridge for a meal at the Old Village Post House Inn in Mt. Pleasant. I’ve been coming here for more than 10 years and not once have I been disappointed. While lots of area restaurants have an Iceberg Wedge Salad, none compares to the one they serve here. My other favorite menu items are the Lobster Bisque, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and the Ribeye. The Old Village Post House Inn also has a solid list of sides to choose from. The best are the French Beans, the Parmesan Risotto and Fingerling Potato Hash. The desserts here are also very good.
I don’t understand why the owners of ‘The Ordinary’ gave the restaurant its name because there is nothing ordinary about this place. Located in an old bank building on Upper King Street, it’s considered by many to be the best seafood place around. You’ll want to start with oysters which they have a large selection of and for an entree, I’d suggest the Grilled Swordfish or the Steamed Grouper. The Ordinary also has a very good cocktail menu and I’ve always been happy with the wines suggested by the bartender.
While I’m not a huge pizza guy, I do like it and thought that moving to the South would mean the end of pizza as I knew it. I’m happy to say I was very wrong. My favorite pizzeria in Charleston is Vespa which is out on Daniel Island – about a 20 minute drive from downtown Charleston. Just like authentic Italian pizza, it’s very thin and crispy. They have every topping you can imagine and also offer a gluten free option which is indistinguishable from the regular pie. Vespa also has decent salads -the Caesar with eggs, bacon and blackened shrimp is especially good.
Its name is the only odd thing about Edmund’s Oast. It’s one of those places that’s just as good with a large group of friends as it is with a date. While the food menu is on the small size, it’s tough to choose because I like almost everything on it.
You can’t go wrong by starting with the Charcuterie or Chicken Liver Parfait. The New Potatoes appetizer is also very good. For a main course, go for the Hangar Steak or Cheeseburger. Edmund’s also has an extensive selection of beers and cocktails. And, if the weather is good, ask to be seated outside.
McCrady’s is the oldest restaurant on my list. It first opened its doors in 1778.
McCrady’s is one of those places I could eat at every night. It’s got a great vibe, the waitstaff is very attentive and of course the food is very good. My favorite is the Tavern Burger. Served with Bearnaise Sauce and Crinkle Fries, it’s one of the best I’ve ever had. There’s a lot of other entrees on the menu including Charcoal Grilled Deviled Lobster and the Caviar with Tater Tots, but since I’ve only ever had the burger, I can’t personally vouch for them.