In the 1980’s and ’90s, the farm-to-table appetizer course revived the Charleston area’s restaurant scene as chefs like Peninsula Grill’s Robert Carter, former Magnolias chef Donald Barickman, and Charleston Grill’s former executive chef Bob Waggoner carried the Lowcountry platter into the 21st century. With emphasis placed on seasonal staples and flavors reflecting the Caribbean and African influences on the region’s sea island heritage, the cuisine is the heart and soul of Charleston culture. We’ve rounded up 13 of Charleston’s oldies, but “goodies,” the OGs who have been perfecting heirloom recipes and Lowcountry fare for decades. Ready to dive in?
Before you go, explore our Two Fork Safari itinerary and spend three days dining your way through Charleston.
When Hank's Seafood opened in 1999 with its fresh-from-the-dock seafood, warm wood interior and white dinner jacket wearing wait staff, Esquire named it one of "America's Best New Restaurants," and it continues to make foodies' mouths water!
Opened in 1991, Magnolias is nestled on East Bay Street and combines old world charm with contemporary excitement. Chefs Kelly Franz and Don Drake are recognized as pioneers in the creative use of the Lowcountry's bounty.
Circa 1886 is located in the original carriage house for the historic Wentworth Mansion, built in 1886, and the building still retains much of its original character, including the wood-burning kitchen fireplace, stable doors, light-filled windows and original heart-of-pine floors. Chef Marc Collins has been at the helm of this Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond rated restaurant since 2001.
The Barbadoes Room
Housed in the historic Mills House Hotel, The Barbadoes Room opened in the '70s! Among its changes through the years is the restaurant's updated menu, which features local produce and seafood.
Chef Nick McBride takes the helm at Anson Restaurant, which has been celebrated in Charleston for almost three decades for putting innovative twists on traditional Southern cuisine.
The experience of fine dining in the Forbes Four Star Charleston Grill shines bright amidst the Southern elegance and refinement of Charleston. Reward yourself with an evening of highly creative and uniquely presented cuisine by Executive Chef Michelle Weaver, who has been with the restaurant since 1997.
It is impossible to calculate how many bowls of She Crab soup are consumed in the Lowcountry daily, but it is a sure bet that 82 Queen has served more of the Lowcountry specialty than any other restaurant on the peninsula. The distinctively delicate seafood bisque that dates back to the 1700s has been on the menu at 82 Queen since it opened in 1982.
When Peninsula Grill opened in 1997, the handsomely appointed dining room and sophisticated interpretations of Southern cuisine set the bar for fine dining in Charleston. Heralded by Esquire magazine as one of "America’s Best New Restaurants," Peninsula Grill went on to earn recognition from a host of other esteemed publications, including The New York Times, Southern Living, Travel + Leisure, Wine Spectator and Food & Wine.
Built in 1942 by the US Navy as a debarkation point for sailors, this building laid vacant after World War II until it was acquired by the South Carolina Port Authority in the 1960s and used for storage. In 1988, a 21-year-old Tradd Newton pointed out the unique building to his mother and made the prediction “One day, I’m going to put something in that building." Fleet Landing features a fusion of classic and contemporary Southern seafood fare in a setting that celebrates the area’s waterfront heritage.
Located near the antiques district, this family-owned restaurant has been serving Southern fare, including homemade buttermilk biscuits and She Crab soup, since 1976.
The story of Hyman's Seafood dates back to 1890, when owner Eli Hyman's great-grandfather used the building as a general store. Passed down through the generations, Hyman's Seafood came to be and is now a favorite spot for visiting sea-foodies!
Built in 1788, the four-story Georgian mansion-turned-restaurant has a storied history as a refuge for Revolutionary War supporters, place where President George Washington dined, bawdy tavern, cotton warehouse, abandoned building and finally as a home to 2010 James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Sean Brock.