On our last visit to Charleston, South Carolina, our worst meal was merely good. The rest ranged from excellent to sublime. Chefs here take full advantage of the local seafood and fine heirloom produce, and some have deservedly garnered national attention.
This traditional steakhouse has live music every evening, but I’m also very fond of the gospel brunch on Sundays. The dinner menu keeps to the traditional, which nowadays feels rather refreshing. Start with some superlative she-crab soup, or fried green tomatoes topped with a succotash of crab, shrimp and bacon. Carnivores should then opt for the dry-aged rib-eye or New York strip, but the shrimp and grits is also flawlessly executed, as is the wild salmon with root vegetables and cornbread croutons. The wine list emphasizes California bottlings.
434 King Street. Tel. (843) 727-0090
Hank’s is a modern evocation of an old Charleston seafood house, where chef Tim Richardson serves imaginatively updated low country cuisine. Starters include a rich chowder-style oyster stew with leeks, potatoes and bacon. Among the specialties is local shrimp sautéed with smoked andouille sausage, then stewed with fresh tomatoes, garlic and white wine and served with grits. If you’re looking for a real taste of local seafood, the platters here are legendary.
Hank's Seafood Restaurant
10 Hayne Street. Tel. (843) 723-3474
Late last year, celebrity chef Sean Brock created quite a stir when he opened a new version of McCrady’s, serving tasting menus to a maximum of 22 guests each evening (book tickets a month in advance), as well as McCrady’s Tavern, set in a former warehouse near his renowned Husk (a low country restaurant I also recommend). McCrady’s Tavern presents richly reimagined classics, such as the Rockefeller-like Oysters McCrady, and crispy blanquette de veau with peas, mushrooms and city ham. The appetizer of escargot-stuffed bone marrow is pure decadence.
2 Unity Alley. Tel. (843) 577-0025
Chef Mike Lata of FIG (also a superb restaurant) opened this local seafood-focused small-plate venture in late 2012, and it quickly became a great success. My favorite dish was the pickled shrimp, a humble-sounding appetizer that Lata updated into a gorgeously composed salad. Current selections include broiled oysters with green garlic and Parmesan, and steamed grouper with morel mushrooms and beurre rouge. Try one of the adroitly balanced rum-based cocktails.
Closed Monday. 544 King Street. Tel. (843) 414-7060