Let’s cut to the chase. The best way to experience Charleston is to eat your way through the city. Throw caution (and your diet) to the wind, roll up your sleeves, and dive in. At least that’s what I did, and I have zero regrets. You’ll walk through some of the most gorgeous neighborhoods in the process, and you’ll be enjoying great food. What’s not to like?
Charleston prides itself on its culinary choices and I completely understand where the confidence comes from. From fresh caught seafood to classic southern cuisine and a regional take on BBQ, Charleston does not hold back on its flavors. Nearly everything we ate during our three days in the city officially stands at the top of our favorite meals list, and we’ll be dreaming about them for years to come.
Here’s a rundown of some of our top spots!
For BBQ: Swig and Swine
The first night in Charleston, we stopped by Swig and Swine, a divey BBQ joint on the Savannah Highway. It’s in a small strip mall and if you blink, you might miss it. That’s how you know it’s great. The unassuming spots always are. We listened to the countless reviews online telling us what to order, and ordered nearly one of everything. Ribs, smoked turkey, brisket, pickled vegetables, baked beans, mac and cheese, potato salad and butter bean salad were presented to us and we showed no mercy. (Oh my god, it’s even worse now that I typed it all out.) During the last few bites, I for sure thought my headstone would read “death by BBQ but she was satisfied.”
For shellfish: O-Bar
We decided to treat ourselves one day for lunch (we were on spring break, after all)/ The result was a seafood extravaganza. We stumbled across O-Bar, a small portion of Oyster House, and could not have been happier. We ordered the seafood tower and snacked on oysters, shrimp, crab, and ceviche. It was the perfect amount of food for two and left us feeling healthy after our BBQ feast the night before. Plus it was fresh. How could we say no?
For traditional southern fare: Magnolia’s and Poogan’s Porch
I’ll be honest – these are two spots we’ll be talking about for awhile. (And two spots I’d specifically visit Charleston for again.) I made a reservation for my boyfriend’s birthday dinner at Magnolia’s and, quite frankly, I don’t think I’ll beat it for as long as I live. I know, I know, I tapped out early, but it was worth it. Magnolia’s touts itself as a classier twist on standard southern food. We had the best fried green tomatoes to start, and he had the catfish while I chose the shellfish and grits. After once again eating ourselves into misery, we let the waiter convince us to get a piece of pecan pie to bring home. We ate it the second we got back to our hotel room. Both the service and the food far surpassed my expectations, and they were high to begin with.
Poogan’s Porch is a Charleston favorite and it’s haunted to boot. Also a spot focused on southern fare, it stands in an old Victorian house and has quite a bit of character. It was named after a dog who used to hang out on the home’s porch, and is allegedly haunted by a past resident. Our waitress was able to tell us some personal stories, and our ghost tour guide gave us enough to make us want to make a reservation immediately. I’m so glad we did! From the warm biscuits and pimiento cheese fritters to the scallops, swordfish, and peanut butter pie, not a single thing could have been better. Excuse me while I drool.
For fried chicken: Boxcar Betty’s
Compared to the other locations listed, Boxcar Betty’s is a bit of an eclectic choice. It’s a counter service fried chicken sandwich location and I’m sure it will be on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives soon enough. Rather than serving traditional fast food type sandwiches, they blend a variety of flavors together to create things like the Chicken “Not So Waffle” (bacon jam, maple syrup, pimiento cheese, tomato) and the Boxcar (pimiento cheese, peach slaw, house pickles, spicy mayo). Their sweet potato fries are heavier on the sweet, as they’re sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon. For just $9, you can treat yourself to a genuine explosion of flavors. Yes, please.
Now that I’ve sufficiently made myself crave each and every one of these locations, it may be time to consider another trip, to focus on visiting these favorites and the spots we didn’t have time for. Believe me, there were plenty.