Charleston is abuzz right now as the Holy City comes back to life after a long, painful year for everyone, but in particular for its beloved food and beverage industry. With indoor dining restrictions gone, there are plenty of places to pick from for that special night out. The first “to do” on most locals’ lists? Celebrate life getting back to almost-normal by heading straight to their favorite restaurant.
Celebrating is what Charleston does best, and whether your special occasion is a birthday, anniversary, promotion, family reunion, or simply “just because”— there’s the perfect place for you right here. Food is a religion in this city, which is indisputably the cultural hub of South Carolina and the crown jewel of the Lowcountry, the swath of Southern coastline that embraces marsh, beach, ocean, and breathtaking beauty.
Most cuisine you’ll find here is heavily influenced by the locale, with seafood — more specifically shellfish — on every menu. History is also infused in every bite, and the famed Gullah Geechee culture, brought here by the enslaved people of West Africa, is well-represented in dishes that do wonderful things with okra, grits, rice, collards, and plenty of shrimp.
These are the 15 best restaurants in Charleston to celebrate any special occasion.
Coterie (Downtown Charleston)
Helmed by chef Viraj Borkar, this Indian restaurant on Warren Street in downtown Charleston merges Southern food with the Indian cuisine of Borkar’s homeland. United by common ingredients — such as okra, which is widely used in both cultures — the food is unique and yet familiar. Shrimp and grits are tossed in mustard seeds and tempered with curry leaves, and chicken, steak, and paneer are served on skewers. Cocktails are also a big part of Coterie, which offers a dizzying array of pristine concoctions, such as the Carlita with tequila, charred grapefruit cordial, lime, and cardamom bitters.
Dining at the restaurant: Tucked away from it all on a small side street off King Street, Coterie has cozy indoor dining. Or enjoy an outdoor ambiance in its garden-style, partially covered patio — a lovely spot to soak up the live music on offer during Saturday brunch.
Takeout: If you want your Indian cuisine to go, you can call for takeout options.
Prohibition (Downtown Charleston)
A 1920s Jazz-era vibe merges twists on local favorite dishes with a wide array of cocktails. Add in nightly dance demonstrations and this is the go-to spot for a celebratory night out with the squad, flapper-style. A full menu is on offer mixing current culinary trends such as street corn and crispy Brussels sprouts with tried-and-true classics like burgers and shrimp and grits. The tasting menu, featuring chef’s choice of local and seasonal ingredients for the entire table, is an easy, festive choice.
Dining at the restaurant: This is a place to kick up your heels and party, with live music on tap and a main dining room that seats 70 people on banquets and at the lengthy bar, but holds over 120 standing. If you seek a little more calm, the climate-controlled outdoor patio and enclosed sunroom let you take the party outside.
Takeout: You can also take the party home with a full to-go menu, or have it delivered to your home.
Neon Tiger (Downtown Charleston)
A vegan cocktail bar set in the year 2048, Neon Tiger is a trip into the future, and a great spot to celebrate a unique special occasion with a slice of dairy-free pizza or a meat-free burger and a Guava the Hutt cocktail (rum, fresh guava, allspice dram, vanilla agave). A registered B-Corp, with all profits going to education about the effects of animal agriculture on the planet, when you eat at Neon Tiger you can feel good about both the food on your plate and the special occasion you’re there to honor.
Dining at the restaurant: Pick padded vinyl seating at the pink and purple bar, or sink into the deep dark booths in this futuristic dining room tucked at the upper end of Upper King Street in downtown Charleston. There are a few outdoor tables but the indoor ambiance is what Neon Tiger is all about.
Takeout: Pizza to go or a sumptuous salad or sandwich can be ordered by phone or online.
Husk (Downtown Charleston)
Dine on modern Southern food in a historic Charleston house in this romantic spot that’s ideal for food lovers celebrating an anniversary. With allegedly the best fried chicken in town, Husk works hard to reinvent Southern classics resulting in some surprises on the menu. From glazed pig’s ear lettuce wraps and cornmeal-fried catfish, the food at this must-do Charleston hotspot is always interesting and uniquely thoughtful. Husk’s well-known mantra is that “if it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door” — which makes it the obvious choice to celebrate your Holy City vacation.
Dining at the restaurant: A Victorian-era home, Husk offers diners well-spaced tables in several separate rooms, with the option of a patio perch for the lucky few. A separate bar, situated in a former ruin adjacent to the restaurant, is a great place for a pre-dinner cocktail, rare artisanal microbrew, or a glass of wine from a list grouped by terroir and soil type rather than geography or varietal.
Takeout: Husk at home includes a selection of some of the most popular menu items offered for takeout with curbside delivery, including the confit duck leg and fried cornbread panzanella.
Kiki & Rye (Mount Pleasant)
This wood-fired kitchen featuring coastal fare and farm-fresh food is a welcome addition to the Mount Pleasant dining scene. Its family-friendly vibe and ample indoor and outdoor space paired with a stellar brunch menu makes it a great spot to celebrate Mother’s Day on any Sunday. Plus, a craft bar program features made-from-scratch ingredients and citrus squeezed-to-order for every single drink.
Dining at the restaurant: This spacious, light-filled restaurant takes up a large corner lot in the Belle Hall shopping center and is situated right on a pond. Outdoor dining on the patio comes with visits from the local water fowl, and inside, tall four-tops, long, deep banquets, and bar dining are all on offer.
Takeout: Call for takeout at any time or order online; tailored lunch, dinner, and brunch menus are available depending on the time of day.
O-Ku (Downtown Charleston)
If sipping premium sake and chowing down on raw fish from Norway while seated at a sushi bar is your idea of the best way to honor the day you were born, or got married, or the fact that it’s Friday, then O-Ku is the downtown Charleston spot for you. This high-end authentic Asian restaurant and sushi bar in the heart of historic King Street is the classiest sushi joint south of the Mason-Dixon line. Oozing glamour in a city where shorts and flip-flops are always part of the dress-code, O-Ku is the place to come when you want to dress to the nines.
Dining at the restaurant: A small two-top, seats at the sushi bar, or plenty of space for a party of 10 — all can be accommodated in the long and lean dining room with its brick walls and dramatic black aesthetic. There’s no outdoor dining on offer.
Takeout: Takeout is always an option at O-Ku, plus your choice from a delivery menu can show up at your door.
Maison (Downtown Charleston)
If you’ve always wanted to celebrate your anniversary in Paris, Maison is the next best thing. A French neighborhood brasserie in downtown Charleston, this acclaimed spot serves up cultured comfort food, from foie gras to coq au vin, and yes, even escargot.
Dining at the restaurant: Maison is a lively spot, ideal for a boisterous celebration or, if you prefer a calmer evening with your cuisine, pick a perch on the picturesque patio with views of the Eiffel tower. Be sure to seek out a selection from the exquisitely curated French wine list, and say “à votre santé” (a cheers that means “to your health”) in style.
Takeout: Maison does not offer takeout.
Patois (West Ashley)
This West Ashley favorite is a pan-Caribbean restaurant showcasing colorful yet minimalist dishes for dinner or lunch. Currently BYOB, this is a great place to bring a bottle of bubbly and say cheers to that promotion or celebrate your best friend’s engagement. Enjoy dishes such as shrimp ceviche, gazpacho, empanadas, and Cuban-style slow-roasted pork.
Dining at the restaurant: The bright and airy diner-style interior offers plenty of table options, or choose the bar for a quick bite. Slide outside for dining on the patio.
Takeout: Take a taste of the Caribbean home with you at any time as Patois offers a full takeout and delivery menu.
Boathouse at Breach Inlet (Isle of Palms)
Enjoy Southern-style seafood by the sea in this rustic-yet-refined beachside establishment on the Isle of Palms. Fried seafood is front and center in this boat house, with top-notch hushpuppies and “best ever” collard greens that live up to their name. A raw bar and steaks and chops round out the culinary offerings in this lively spot with spectacular views. There’s something for everyone here, making it a great choice for a big family get-together.
Dining at the restaurant: Choose from five dining experiences: Watch the Intracoastal Waterway in the enclosed patio, enjoy a cozier meal in one of the two inside dining rooms, or grab a bite at the dockside bar. The best spot, however, is the rooftop deck, where panoramic views take in the beauty of the Lowcountry marsh and the grandeur of the Atlantic Ocean and go great with a Sunshine Crush or Sailshade cocktail.
Takeout: A carryout menu features some key favorites including a fried shrimp dinner or steak and lobster. There’s some sure-to-please choices for the kids, too. Delivery isn’t on offer and takeout may be unavailable during peak times.
Brasserie la Banque (Downtown Charleston)
A French bistro is a guaranteed place to enjoy a romantic dinner à deux. This highly anticipated classic brasserie on Broad Street, just steps from the iconic Rainbow Row, debuted this summer with a menu dreamed up by French gastronome Jeb Aldrich. Featuring traditional French dishes such as foie gras dumplings, crepes, and profiteroles alongside more innovative fare and a raw bar (this is Charleston after all), the cuisine promises to be out-of-this-country good.
Dining at the restaurant: Named for its previous life as a city bank, Brasserie la Banque is located in an iconic corner building on historic Broad Street dating to the 1700s. Inside, a long bank of seating in the center of the light-filled main dining room offers cozy spots for two. A handful of smaller rooms contain four tops and booths next to 17th-century fireplaces and 14-foot bookshelves. There is no outdoor dining option; however, beneath your feet is Bar Vauté. Outfitted with Art Deco influenced furnishings, this intimate bar is one of the only below-street-level options in the city.
Takeout: The restaurant doesn’t currently offer takeout or delivery.
Camellias (Downtown Charleston)
From Champagne and caviar to afternoon tea with smoked salmon and macarons, Camellias in the lobby of the luxurious Hotel Bennett on Lower King Street in downtown Charleston is a venue in search of a celebration. Featuring an extensive collection of bottle and by-the-glass bubbly offerings paired with a decadent selection of caviar, ceviche, and tartare, Camellias lets you celebrate in style with Champagne or sip on Earl Grey tea and nibble on scones.
Dining at the restaurant: This upper-crust tea and Champagne bar offers plenty of plush, pink leather and lush, blue velvet seating in its oval-shaped space inspired by that most-famous of eggs — Faberge. The room positively glows courtesy of the pink marble bar, reservations are a must, and jackets for the gentlemen and hats for the ladies are encouraged. There’s no outdoor dining here.
Takeout: Camellias doesn’t offer takeout or delivery, though room service is an option if you are a hotel guest.
Rodney Scott’s BBQ (Downtown Charleston)
The James Beard-award winning pitmaster presents classic South Carolina BBQ in a down home setting on Upper King Street in downtown Charleston. This is a great place for a big family get-together after over a year apart or lunch spot to celebrate seeing good friends again. The menu is classic Carolina barbecue, with whole hog plates, two meat combos, or, the king of the menu, Rod’s original pork sandwich — served open face and topped with sauce and pig skins. All the classic sides are here, and there’s even salad and a kids’ menu for the lighter eaters in your party.
Dining at the restaurant: Counter-service ensures there’s no waiting around once you get to the front of the line (and there’s always a line!), and canteen-style banquets provide plenty of room for the whole family. Ample street-side seating is also on offer.
Takeout: Take your barbecue to go, or order online for pickup or delivery.
Tempest (Downtown Charleston)
Top Chef alum Jamie Lynch helms this hyper-local, sustainable seafood restaurant, which presents fresh local shrimp, littleneck clams, king crab legs, and oysters — all either chilled or roasted in a live fuel charcoal oven, on single, double, and triple seafood towers. This is the place for sharing top-notch seafood with a loved one while celebrating your special occasion.
Dining at the restaurant: The spectacular 700-square-foot, stained-glass ceiling featuring an ocean-themed scene will steal the show wherever you sit in this ornate, historic building on Charleston’s Market Street. Upstairs, a cozier dining room offers views over Market, or dine outdoors on the brick patio and indulge in plenty of people-watching along this busy tourist street while diving into your food.
Takeout: Tempest doesn’t offer takeout or delivery.
Xiao Bao Biscuit (Downtown Charleston)
Find Pan-Asian soul food inside this hip converted gas station on the corner of Rutledge and Spring streets in downtown Charleston, run by husband-and wife-team Josh Walker and Duolan Walker-Li. Xiao Bao Biscuit is an inventive, exciting establishment and an ideal spot to take a client for a celebratory lunch. Encourage your fellow diners to try the okonomiyaki — XBB’s signature take on the crispy cabbage Japanese pancake. The menu changes daily but always features spicy Asian comfort food that could include pad kra pow, mapo tofu, and pork dumplings. There are no reservations at this come-as-you-are neighborhood favorite where the cocktails from co-owner Joey Ryan are not to be missed.
Dining at the restaurant: Urban-style decor dominates the unpretentious space with cafeteria-style chairs and hand-scrawled specials on chalkboards. Expanded outdoor seating in the gas station forecourt is on offer, but Xiao Bao Biscuit’s real ambiance comes from the food.
Takeout: An all-day menu is an option for both delivery and takeout.
Mesu (Downtown Charleston)
You love sushi, but your other half is mad about Mexican food. Problem solved: Mesu is the place to go for your next celebratory dinner for two. This innovative, vibrant urban restaurant merges Mexican and sushi to form Mesu. On the Japanese side, indulge in delectable rolls or choose a sushi taco, and for Mexican fare, opt for street corn skewers and pork carnitas. Fuse it all by drinking a sake sangria.
Dining at the restaurant: The loft-style, modern space on Upper King Street in downtown Charleston is wild and bright inside. The decor is dominated by a wide assortment of colorful original prints and contemporary art from the likes of Jeff Koons and Kaws. Seating is canteen-style and indoor only.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery are on offer, plus, with four-days notice, you can order entire sushi platters for a big celebration.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.