From the archives. Originally published in 2017.
Earlier this year, when I initially started planning a trip to Charleston, I had no idea it was such a foodie town. I expected a well-preserved, historic, charming city and that absolutely rang true. It’s one of the prettiest towns I’ve visited. But, I wasn’t ready for the plethora of options on the dining scene. Friends shared with me their recommendations and I had a hard time narrowing down my final choices. Reservations, especially in high-season, are a must. Here’s where I ended up…
Little Jack’s Tavern Walking in, you feel like you’ve discovered an old school, neighborhood tavern hangout. Steaks, salads, burgers, and pasta are anything but basic. Dim lights, checkered tablecloths and vintage photos of racing horses, boxing and Frank Sinatra greet you in the buzzing space. Classic cocktails at a lively bar round out the timeless appeal. I happened to dine there on Meatball Monday, so I naturally wanted to try this signature dish of three large meatballs in a zesty tomato sauce. They were fabulous.
167 Raw I had several people tell me this was a must, no matter how long the wait. A very casual oyster bar known for their one-of-a-kind, insanely good lobster roll. Fresh and delicious. Tables are either inside the bustling, tiny restaurant with additional seating at the counter or outside on a small patio. While waiting for your table, plan on that, they serve drinks literally on the sidewalk against the front wall. The tuna burger and guacamole were amazing too.
FIG I felt like a won the lottery scoring a table at FIG. Everyone told me this was not to be passed up and to book a table well in advance. Outside, the restaurant looks like nothing, but inside is another story. White tablecloths and an incredibly attentive and knowledgable staff are waiting to answer all your questions about the menu. My biggest problem was choosing what to order, because it all sounded incredibly unique and special. I ended up with the Ricotta Gnocchi & Lamb Bolognese, one of their signature dishes, and the Slow Baked Black Bass. Words can’t describe the nuances of the flavors. It’s clear how FIG (Food Is Good) has been included as one of the best restaurants in America for several years now.
The Ordinary The sister restaurant to FIG, so expectations were high. A spacious seafood hall housed in a 1927 bank building with a focus on regional fresh fish. Oysters are the name of the game here with abundantly loaded shellfish towers serving a variety of local oysters, either fried, raw, smoked or pickled, to compare. I had to try their Thursday night special, a Caribbean Fish Stew of grouper, bass, shrimp and mussels layered over Carolina Gold Rice. It was divine.
Some of the other suggestions I received from friends that I’ll try on my next visit include Husk, Cru Cafe, Leons Oyster Shop, Circa 1886, Chez Nous, Xiao Bao Biscuit and Zero Bar and Restaurant. With so many restaurants to choose from in Charleston, I think you’d be hard pressed to have a bad meal.