What defines Southern hospitality more than a steaming communal table of Lowcountry boil or shrimp and grits? While those standbys, fueled by the bounty of the surrounding creeks and rivers, still form the soul of Charleston dining, the Holy City is expanding its culinary universe. These new restaurants, ranging from the city’s only food hall to an Indian fusion restaurant, pay tribute to Charleston’s history while increasing its global appeal.
Brasserie la Banque (Downtown Charleston)
You don’t have to know much French to gather that this stunning spot, which opened in November, sits in a former bank. But we’re not talking drive-through tellers—the restaurant lies catty-cornered to the Old Exchange at one of the city’s most historic intersections. Fortunately, dishes such as duck consommé with foie gras dumplings are as decadent as the space’s soaring ceilings and ornate millwork. This is the place to feast on bouillabaisse with local clams, or treat yourself with a marquee plate of steak frites. Before or after your reservation, descend into the vault (one of the only basements in this low-lying city) for an exquisite cocktail at Bar Vauté.
Port of Call (Downtown Charleston)
With a few historic exceptions, dining on Market Street is typically for tourists. But this food hall—Charleston’s only one, which debuted in October—offers a curated mix of vendors that’s drawing locals back to the heart of the city. Empire Oyster’s Raw Lab stands out for its fine-dining prix fixe dinners. Less formal is Bok Choy Boy, where the stir-fried glass noodles and Korean fried chicken wings pair umami with a fiery kick. Palmira Barbecue’s brisket and pulled pork could be some of the city’s best. If you’re in recovery mode or craving lighter fare, Iaca pulls double duty with Insta-worthy poke and acai bowls. To all this, add a pleasant outdoor courtyard, live music, and the local-tap-heavy bar to the mix, and you could easily make Port of Call a multi-meal destination.
Maya (Downtown Charleston)
Upper King Street comes alive on weekend nights, and this hip Mexican restaurant, which opened in September, is no exception. Revelers fill the atmospheric courtyard for DJ sets and tacos served until 11 pm. But it’s the delicious science behind those tacos that keeps Maya busy the rest of the week. Chef Brett Riley, a Brooklyn transplant, imports corn from Mexico for the kitchen’s masa program, using the ancient process of nixtamalization to generate dough for the house-made tortillas. The perfect corn discs are then filled with brisket, braised mushrooms, or roasted cauliflower and gooseberry salsa. The showstopper is the al pastor, roasted on a vertical rotisserie, shaved with care, and accompanied with a perfect blend of guac, pineapple, onion, and cilantro.
Coterie (Downtown Charleston)
To understand the evolution of Charleston’s food scene, look no further than the shrimp and grits offered at this Indian fusion hotspot. Mustard seeds, curry leaves, and coconut oil all lend flavors to a dish that rarely receives such a bold overhaul. That’s also the case with the country captain tikka, a spice-heavy creation that injects new life into the Carolina classic. The cocktails pair flavors with similar magic—the okroni brightens gin and vermouth with okra amaro. Colder months call for toddies, including one with mezcal and pamplemousse cream. For Saturday brunch, bring a friend to split a heaping plate of appam—rice pancakes served with a rotating array of India-inspired dips and sides.
The Kingstide (Daniel Island)
Most visitors to Charleston won’t have occasion to visit Daniel Island, a swanky suburb sitting atop Mount Pleasant. But this bustling waterfront gem, a March 2021 opening, is gaining far more traction now, thanks to two levels of wraparound porches overlooking the Wando River. It’s an ideal setting to enjoy the kitchen’s spread of wood-fired and raw seafood. The eponymous seafood tower—stacked with two dozen oysters, a pound of shrimp, 15 local clams, and a healthy dollop of crab meat—is one of Charleston’s most impressive. Off the grill, try the trout reuben, enlivened by pickled kohlrabi. Wash it down at the rooftop bar with a vanilla bourbon float or a chilly glass of frosé.
Church and Union (Downtown Charleston)
In a city where steeples dominate the skyline, it’s no surprise that there’s a restaurant in the sanctuary of a former church. This New American spot was formerly the popular restaurant 5Church, which was treated to an overhaul before reopening with a new name in January. At the updated location, dine on reinvented Southern classics, such as a pork chop with hoisin glaze and fried chicken with chile honey under the light of stained glass windows. Ensure good luck all year with the hoppin’ john risotto, made hearty with tasso ham and crawfish. And if you find yourself idling over a market street spritz, made with aperol, peach, vanilla, herbs, and rosé, gaze up at the ceiling, where artist Jon Norris painstakingly etched lines from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War between the rafters.
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