Every time you turn your head, Charleston is bound to gain a new accolade. For the past decade or so, this coastal city has become the veritable darling of the south, drawing curious travelers, students, and new residents from all over the country. And it’s no surprise that the city has such a gravitational pull on the world — the historic streets, bountiful southern charm, and buzzing food-and-drink scene classify Charleston as one of those places that seems to really have it all.
Whether you’re looking to escape to the south for a weekend and cozy up in one of the many sweet hotels in town, or you hope to become a regular in the area, we recommend you spend a good chunk of time tasting the local cuisine (ahem, shrimp ‘n grits, anyone?) and sipping brews or craft cocktails at the restaurants and bars below—some iconic, others off-the beaten path, all equally delightful.
Where to Brunch
Chez Nous calls itself a pint-sized neighborhood restaurant—but don’t let the size fool you, as the team here is churning out some hugely impressive European cuisine. The menu changes daily, thanks to local and seasonal ingredients, and offers includes dishes inspired by southern France, northern Italy, and northern Spain.
Serving up uncomplicated, farm-to-fork dishes, The Park Cafe is all about simple, real food. This Hampton Park haunt has a cheerful, chic interior, and the dishes will give you a good dose of local Charleston flavor by way of the farm-sourced ingredients and the careful preparation.
Rooted in traditional Lowcountry dishes, with ingredients sourced from local farms, The Macintosh delivers delicious, ample brunch dishes like poutine, chicken and waffles, and fresh biscuits with jalapeno gravy that will more than satisfy any craving for inspired southern cuisine.
Where to Drink Craft Beer
Rooftop deck? Check. Live music on Fridays? Check. Creative and dynamic beers? Check, check, and check. With a lively atmosphere and a loyal following, the team at Revelry Brewing on Conroy Street crafts eclectic, award-winning beers that impress both locals and travelers (we dare you to try this beer and not become a part of a cult following).
Food trucks, live music, and a family-friendly atmosphere wed to make Rusty Bull Brewing Co. one of Charleston's most-loved breweries. Founders Ben and Brian boast beers that have “a sense of individualism,” with inventive names like Tumbling Monk (porter) and Dance Naked (IPA).
If you’re in search of a brew with a view, Freehouse Brewery is your spot. Nestled along the banks of the Ashley River, this brewery focuses on local, organic ingredients (including coffee) that yield beers reflective of the natural setting. You’ll find a seasonal, hand-made selection in the taproom—but if you’re heading to the beach, go with the flagship Folly’s Pride.
Where to Sip Cocktails
Sure, there is a dress code at the aptly-named The Cocktail Club, but this joint just wouldn’t be right without it; the atmosphere here is rich with upscale southern charm (which makes sense, seeing as it’s been an institution in town since 1881). Sip a craft creation in the dimly-lit bar, or head up to the rooftop where you can enjoy a cigar and stunning views of the city.
At once chic and sophisticated, intimate and comfortable, you’ll settle right into the bar at Zero George Street Hotel—in fact, you’ll likely want to cozy into a room, too, as the award-winning property is housed in several beautifully-restored, historic homes and carriage houses. Steeped in history and southern charm, Zero George is the ideal place for a relaxing glass of wine (the bottles are the hotel’s private label) or an after-dinner nightcap.
Where to Eat Dinner
If you want a fancy southern seafood dinner, this is your place. Housed in a very cool 1920’s bank building, the team at The Ordinary offers a dynamic menu of local seafood, with everything from $1.50 oysters at happy hour to shellfish towers or Swordfish "Au Poivre.”
Nightly jazz, an elegant, crisp-linen atmosphere, and elevated southern cuisine come together at the Charleston Grill, a timeless Charleston restaurant, which is housed in the beautiful Belmond. You’ll be instantly charmed by the four-category menu (Social & Shared, Roots & Stems, Waves & Marsh, and Field & Pasture) and the warm wait staff who serve up delicious southern dishes like the can’t-miss crab cakes.