Where to Find Romance in Charleston’s Restaurants

A cocktail spread at The Darling Oyster Bar | Credit: Andrew Cebulka

Magical Charleston, with its cobblestone streets and historic homes, sets the scene for a romantic night out. The culinary culture continues to thrive in this growing and well-traveled city. Whether you want the traditional steakhouse with wine pairing, seafood towers, or something a bit more exotic, Charleston exceeds dining expectations. Here are the 12 most romantic restaurants to try for any romantic occasion, from a first date to an anniversary.

Maison (Upper King)

This small but popular French bistro in Charleston sits on trendy Upper King Street and is led by chef Vandy Vanderwarker (formerly of The Ordinary). Vanderwarker mixes traditional French fare, such as burgundy escargot and rabbit en croute, with more casual dishes like the onion soup croquettes and steak frites. Local patrons mix with tourists throughout this lively restaurant.

Dining at the restaurant:  Paris is always a romantic idea and so is escaping to Maison. Dining consists of bar seating, bistro tables, booths, and a weather-permitting outdoor area. Large glass windows allow a peek into the bustling French bistro emulating a busy Paris restaurant in the heart of the city. French wines grace the menu and pair with the cuisine, rounding out the European feel.

Takeout: Ordering to-go entrees is available.

Tempest (Market)

Credit: Tempest

Sibling to Church and Union (formerly 5church), Tempest sits across from the historical open air vendors market. Executive chefs Jamie Lynch, Adam Hodgson, and Will Cammer lead the way in seafood cuisine on their raw and roast menu that utilizes seasonal local ingredients such as Lowcountry oysters from the Ace Basin in South Carolina. Dishes include clam risotto with scallion butter; whole fish with tahini, pickled blueberries, and bitter greens; and all manner of raw bar.

Dining at the restaurant: Artist Honey McCrary used glass pieces to construct overhead art with an under-the-sea feel that brings something new to the historic district. With both indoor and outdoor seating, Tempest Restaurant creates a dark-lit atmosphere perfect for any romantic occasion. At the end of the meal, the southern tradition of cognac, cigars, and roses are offered to add that extra-special touch.

Takeout: Tempest offers takeout but not delivery.

Experiences: Check out the special experiences available at this restaurant: Valentine’s Day 3-Course Prix-Fixe Menu. Book the Experience here.

Oak Steakhouse (Broad/South of Broad)

Oak Steakhouse sits in an unassuming historic building surrounded by offices and artist studios on Broad Street. What lies behind is this traditional steakhouse that provides signature steak options including filet mignon, prime ribeye, and a porterhouse to share with upgrade options such as scallops Oscar and King crab Oscar. Servers are dressed in upscale attire allowing for a more elegant evening for two.

Dining at the restaurant: Walking into the restaurant provides a luxurious open bar with dark wood and deep colors alongside a grand staircase. Oak Steakhouse has indoor seating on multiple levels with the quietest section on the third floor. The wine selection includes an extensive by-the-glass list as well as half bottles and magnums, leaving pairing options limitless.

Takeout: Currently Oak Steakhouse is dine-in only.

Experiences: Check out the special experiences available at this restaurant: “Raising Spirits” with Woodford Reserve. Book the Experience here.

The Darling Oyster Bar (Upper King)

Credit: Andrew Cebulka

This popular restaurant brings the sea to the city with highly sought-after fresh seafood leading the menu options. The always coveted seafood plateau allows for the adventurous couple to try a variety of different raw options, followed by dishes such as fried clam strips, blue crab tagliatelle, or shrimp and grits.

Dining at the restaurant: The raw bar sits in the front windows of this restored 115-year-old storefront, allowing diners and those walking by to watch local shuckers prepare the evening’s selections. Dining options include sitting at the expansive, full-service bar or in the retro-style booth or tables. No matter where, couples can enjoy the beautiful ambiance while watching the city pass.

Takeout: Some takeout options are available to-go.

Sorghum and Salt (Cannonborough)

A destination new American restaurant, Sorghum and Salt is tucked off the main streets of Charleston in a renovated house with limited seating. All menus are updated daily based on local availability and seasonality, and dishes could include a mushroom tart, Parisian gnocchi with cauliflower, marigold butter, dehydrated buttermilk, and herbs, or short rib with sunchokes, black garlic, and persimmon. With an open kitchen, diners can see the house-made pasta in action while enjoying their chosen dish.

Dining at the restaurant: Sorghum and Salt is one of the few vegan-friendly restaurants in the area. With a four- and six-course tasting menu with optional wine pairing, Sorghum and Salt makes the decisions for you — allowing you to pay more attention to your date.

Takeout: All menu items are available for takeout nightly pending availability.

Experiences: Check out the special experiences available at this restaurant: Valentine’s Day 2022 7 Course Tasting Menu. Book the Experience here.

Husk (French Quarter)

Located in historic downtown Charleston, Husk was initially made famous by chef Sean Brock, who is no longer with the company. Reservations are still highly coveted by both tourists and locals alike and a new spin on Southern cuisine from executive chef Travis Grimes brings seasonally local ingredients from the South to every plate. Daily dishes like the cornmeal fried catfish or the Vermillion snapper are alway prepared with Southern flair in mind.

Dining at the restaurant: Diners have the options of sitting inside this historic Southern home, on large porches overlooking the gardens, or at the historic bar sitting across the walkway. Whether seated inside or outside, Southern charm overflows and will be a welcome addition to any special occasion.

Takeout: Curbside to-go options are available for all current menu items.

The Kingstide (Daniel Island)

Credit: Andrew Cebulka

Located on the water in Daniel Island, this newly opened seafood restaurant provides one of the only waterfront dining options in the area. Executive chef Kevin Getzewich partners with local farms and fisheries to provide fresh and seasonal menu options to the dining table such as seafood towers, lobster Cobb salad, crab fried rice, and Lowcountry chowder. 

Dining at the restaurant: Waterfront views are available to everyone with large windows for the inside diner as well as a covered porch for those looking to sit outside. Interior design brings the seascapes into the restaurant with soft colors and nautical accents. Couples can enjoy the sunset while toasting to the future or their past with a signature craft cocktail, Champagne, or wine.

Takeout: Takeout options are available.

O-Ku (Upper King)

Asian cuisine is the focus at O-Ku, mashing up ingredients from many Asian countries, resulting in creative dishes such as chicken wings with a gochujang barbecue sauce, braised beef short ribs with pickled butternut squash, and truffle edamame. But the focus here is on sushi, with all sorts of rolls and sashimi available. Sitting at the sushi bar and putting your meal in the chef’s hands with an omakase makes for a particularly fun date night.

Dining at the restaurant: This darkly lit restaurant provides indoor dining options including full-service bar seats, sushi bar seats, dining tables, and high tops.

Takeout: Takeout is available for all menu items at this time.

Indaco (Upper King)

Credit: Andrew Cebulka

Executive chef Mark Bulchoz focuses on rustic Italian cuisine with hand-crafted pasta, housemade salumi, and wood-fired pizzas at this classic date night spot. Favorite dishes include the black pepper tagliatelle with a runny egg yolk and pancetta and the burrata with tomato bacon jam.

Dining at the restaurant: Large wooden doors set the scene for Indaco providing a grand entrance to diners. Seating options include patio tables, a full-service bar, high-top social tables, and more private tables for two. With wines leaning toward affordable Italian varietals, adding a glass with dinner is always a welcome option.

Takeout: Italian food tends to travel well. Takeout options are available for select menu items. 

Coterie (Upper King)

Coterie is perfect for the couple looking for a delicious dining experience different from ubiquitous Southern fare. One of the few Indian restaurants in Charleston, it’s a collaboration between chefs Viraj Borkar and Flint Spencer, who meld Indian fare with ingredients from other cuisines. Shared plates include saag burrata and Bombay shrimp and grits, while entrees turn to pan-seared local fish with lentil rice and Caribbean curry or tandoori masala spiced quail.

Dining at the restaurant: One of the most beautiful patios in the area, the outdoor dining space offers an overhead trellis with hanging greenery, soft lights, and a large covered bar. Coterie also offers indoor dining with unique colorful artwork covering the walls.

Takeout: Takeout is available, and the pro move is to enjoy a drink on the patio while waiting for your pickup.

Graft Wine Shop (Upper King)

Graft Wine Shop sells wine for any palate and budget while also providing a cozy space to try it all. Co-owners and sommeliers Femi Oyediran and Miles White provide extensive knowledge for those who are just starting off in the wine world or for those looking for the next-level experience — making it a fun, interactive date-night experience for any couple.

Dining at the restaurant: Graft is not a full-service dining establishment but rather a wine bar with retro booths lending to a relaxed and approachable atmosphere. Wine walls provide ample choices and small snacks like meats and cheese are available for those looking for pairings. Walk into this small spot to start with a glass of wine and a snack before heading off to a full meal nearby.

Takeout: Since Graft is a bottle shop, favorite bottles can be purchased to enjoy at home.

Leyla Fine Lebanese (Lower King)

One of the few Lebanese restaurants in the Lowcountry, Leyla’s Fine Lebanese is a quiet oasis on busy King Street. Experience this family-run and -owned restaurant with a friendly staff and extensive menu that caters to vegetarian, vegan, meat, or gluten-free diners, giving couples an inclusive option for date night. Dishes range from hummus and baba ghanoush to falafel, kabobs, and shawarma. 

Dining at the restaurant: This warmly lit dining room features cozy tables for small parties and provides an intimate atmosphere for a romantic evening. Leyla’s wine list brings Lebanese brands to pair with dinner.

Takeout: Currently all items can be ordered for pickup during regular operating hours.