I have been obsessed with Charleston for a long time now. I probably visit at least every other month. It started with that press trip several years ago and I have been hooked ever since, even convincing (well, helping to convince… it wasn’t a lot of work) my parents to move to John’s Island. So now it really is my second home, in a sense. I just love this city so much. If you’ve never been, definitely add it to your list. It’s the absolute perfect weekend getaway.. the flight is just over an hour out of New York! My not-so-secret goal is to get the whole family to move there (or at least live there for part of the year)! Someday!!
In the meantime, today I’ve rounded up all of my favorite spots for you in one handy guide. I try to keep this post updated as I try more and more Charleston faves, old + new but I feel pretty confident that I’ve captured most of the best spots!
**Updated January 19, 2020**
Charleston City Guide
Where to Eat
These are all alphabetized. I felt like it wouldn’t be fair to list them in any other order… I have so many favorite spots!
- Basic Kitchen is a newer favorite. It’s delicious healthy food but also with yummy drinks (get the beet margarita!) I love how open and airy it is and everything on the menu is really really good!
- Basil is a must if you love Thai food as much as I do. Their duck is basically famous, and the ginger pork is probably my favorite thing on the menu. (Their spring rolls are also delish.) I like it for lunch or takeout… it’s casual and never disappoints.
- Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits I joke (sort of) that I get fat every time I go to Charleston and Callie’s plays a big part in that. There is nothing better than one of her warm delicious biscuits. Nothing. Fun fact: they have cream cheese inside the dough which keeps them extra moist and yummy.
- Cannon Green is one of the prettiest restaurants in the city. The space is elegant (and very large… great for parties and/or large groups) and will make you feel as though you are in some sort of really beautiful indoor terrarium.
- Chez Nous is a really interesting concept as they only serve a few things each day. Two appetizers, two entries, and two desserts! The best way to know what they are serving is to check out their instagram account. The space is tiny (and I think) they don’t take reservations, so it’s best to go with just one or two other people. The food is always delicious… I would definitely say this is a must-visit while in town.
- FIG is another favorite favorite. They recently remodeled the space. I haven’t been in to check it out yet, but I’m looking forward to it on my next trip. Everything on the menu is delicious. Everything. Listen to the waiters’ suggestions as they are all very knowledgable. When I went for my mother’s birthday, they had just caught a fresh mackerel that day. I’m not usually into mackerel (I find it to be too fishy and oily) but the mackerel at FIG is epic. It melted in our mouths like butter… we ended up having to order another plate!
- Herd Provisions is more new to Charleston but is SO good. We went this past trip and had the poutine, steak, an amazing salad, and so much more. We sat at the bar and had a really delicious meal + a great time.
- Husk So I will be honest. I think that Husk is a little bit overrated. That being said, if you are looking for a classic Charleston Brunch (think pimento cheese, biscuits, and something fried)… go here. The food is delicious, but it’s very, very heavy. I personally love their bar even more (it’s in a separate building, adjacent to the restaurant), as it is a great place to grab happy hour. The cocktails are so, so good!
- Leon’s Oyster Shop is one of my favorite places to grab lunch. It’s best to go on a nice day… there’s lots of outdoor seating. Oysters, rosé, and the fried chicken sandwich. You don’t need much else in life.
- Little Jack’s is owned by the same team that does Leon’s and it’s delicious. This time around they went with a tavern type of vibe. Think burgers, truffle fries, yummy bar food. We call the Tavern Burger the “girl burger.” It’s the perfect size… not a slider, but not a full on burger. You’ll be able to eat the whole thing and still have room for dessert.
- The Macintosh is absolutely delicious. Fresh, farm to table ingredients… and so many good vegetarian options. The deckle is a must. It’s meant to be shared between two people. They also have a bacon happy hour. I mean… I can’t think of two things that go better together!
- McCrady’s is tied with FIG as my favorite restaurant in Charleston. The sad thing is that the tavern is now closed but the tasting room is still open and it’s a really special experience. I’ve only done the tasting a few times but it’s absolutely incredible!!!
- Minero is a casual spot that serves up delicious Mexican food. It’s located upstairs with pretty city views. I love the queso and breakfast tacos, and their chicken wings may be one of my most favorite things on the planet! It’s the perfect spot to go for a boozy lunch or brunch.
- Monza has the best Italian food. The pizzas are amazing but the thing to order is the butter bean salad (it’s so refreshing and delicious) and the carbonara (this pasta will change your life. I didn’t order it but my friend let me have a few bites. It’s one of the best things I’v ever eaten!!)
- The Ordinary is my friend Deirdre’s favorite spot, and by extension, my favorite too. The cocktails are delicious, the oysters are incredible, and don’t even get me started on the crab toast. They have a great happy hour, and if I am in Charleston, I am probably sitting at the bar with Deirdre.
- The Park Café is a little further away from the action too, but it’s worth the trek. I personally love their homemade ricotta cheese. But also, avocado toast! I like to get a half grapefruit and share the avocado toast… it’s the perfect breakfast.
- The Peninsula Grill I have never eaten a full meal here, but go for the coconut cake. Just trust me. It’s incredible and they actually ship it worldwide.
- Raw 167 is another spot that I go to every.single.time. I visit Charleston. Great oysters, but my favorite things on the menu are the lobster roll and the tuna burger. The best thing to do is go with a like-minded friend or date (my sister is the perfect companion for this activity!) and split the two. If I were on death row, that would be my last meal.
- Xiao Bao Biscuit is another awesome spot for lunch. The drinks are really delicious, and the cabbage pancake is unreal! Seriously. It sounds funny, but get it. It will change your relationship with cabbage forever!
Where to Drink
So I only have a few favorite drinking spots. Maybe this means I need to drink more (trust me, it doesn’t) but I think this is because I’m more of a restaurant girl… and also, the two places below kinda fit every need. If I want wine, I go to Bin, if I want a cocktail, I go to The Belmont. If you have a bachelorette party or are craving a wild night, check out Prohibition but that’s not really my jam. (Feel free to leave your favorite watering holes in the comments below, I’m sure it would be helpful!)
The Belmont is my favorite bar-bar in Charleston. I go a lot. The cocktails are amazing. I usually will have a Negroni, although last time I went, we all got piña coladas which was totally weird (they’re on the menu!!) but also awesome.
Bin 152 is my favorite wine bar. I wish we had one in New York… I’d be there every night! It’s owned by the same team that does Chez Nous, and their selection is really really good. I go here a lot, too! (It’s right around the corner from The Mills House, so kinda perfect if you stay there!)
The Watch (the rooftop bar at The Restoration Hotel) is a great spot to grab a drink. They have two large patios and an indoor space too which is nice when it’s hot out. The views of the city are amazing!
Where to Shop
So, the big shocker here for me initially was that Charleston has some really gooooood shopping. King Street pretty much has everything you could ever want or need. That being said, I never thought I’d be saving up to come shop in Charleston which is the case. I know it sounds nuts but I have better luck shopping here than in New York!
Hampden Clothing is my go-to. Stacy, the owner, has the best eye. She brings in amazing designers that haven’t even hit New York’s best boutiques yet. She has an incredible eye, and it shows. You will walk in, and want everything in the store. Not to worry, the staff will have you covered. My sister and I both rely on Evelyn, our spirit animal who is both the store manager and one of the lead stylists… but the entire team is very knowledgable and helpful. I feel like all of my best investment pieces come from Hampden. Every time my sister and I visit, the one thing we have to do is pay Hampden a visit.
Candy Shop on Cannon is a must-visit for two reasons. First, if you love vintage jewels (hands raised), you will be in heaven. Deirdre (the owner and my great friend) curates the coolest stuff ever. Second, if you need to get someone a present, it has to be Charleston Rice Beads. I wear mine constantly (love the longer strands!). It’s nice being able to give a gift that is rooted in history, but also very wearable. Anytime I’m getting any (female) friend of mine a Charleston gift, it’s always Charleston Rice Beads!
Croghan’s Jewel Box is a Charleston institution and a must-visit. They carry the most incredible range of estate jewels, but then there’s also the Goldbugs line (made in house) – so many beautiful pieces! I wear these drop earrings constantly.
Beckett Boutique has a beautiful mix of contemporary clothing (they carry two of my favorite designers + friends… Holst + Lee and Library by Lauren Lail). The selection is smaller than Hampden but everything is meticulously selected… so many pretty things!
The Daily is a great little spot for coffee and a grab and go breakfast. Addicted to their breakfast burrito.
Harbinger has great coffee and is the CUTEST little cafe. Perfect place to sit and people watch and get some work done!
The Rise at The Restoration Hotel is another great spot for coffee. I love their croissants!
Where to Stay:
86 Cannon may be my personal favorite hotel in Charleston. It’s a charming little bed & breakfast with just a few rooms. The owners are so kind and they have two beautiful dogs! You can see more of the property in this blog post.
The Restoration Hotel. I love this spot. Right now it’s my favorite. They have big, cozy rooms, beautiful decor (the library downstairs is incredible with its fireplace and cobalt blue chairs) and the coffee shop (Rise) is one of my favorites. They also have a fantastic rooftop bar (The Watch) which is perfect for watching the sunset with a glass of wine.
The Planter’s Inn. The Planter’s Inn is a favorite as it is luxurious yet charming, cozy, and very central. The perfect mix! The Peninsula Grill is also attached, meaning you can grab that yummy coconut cake on your way home! The only downside is that they don’t have very many rooms so getting a reservation can be hard (and expensive). But the service, cute rooms, and convenient location make it worth it.
Zero George is one of the most beautiful hotels in Charleston, and has been ranked one of Conde Nast’s best hotels. I am absolutely obsessed. They also have a great restaurant. It is a bit of a hike to town and less central than the other two hotels I mention, but the beautiful space makes up for it.
The Mills House. I want to love The Mills House. I really do. It has the most beautiful exterior (I instagram a LOT in front of those pink walls), and it has an amazing story (the original building actually served as the Confederate Headquarters during the Civil War). And when you walk in, the first floor is really lovely! That being said, the rooms are just meh. But I still listed it here as a) it’s pretty cool getting to stay in the old Confederate HQ and b) the location is great… it’s right there in the historic district and close to everything. I am probably going to get in trouble for saying this, but I hope someday someone buys this hotel from Wyndham and helps it realize its full potential.
But also make sure you visit Sullivan’ s Island!
Poe’s Tavern is chill and relaxed and the perfect burger joint. It’s also dedicated to Edgar Allen Poe, which is pretty awesome. Get the burger.
The Obstinate Daughter is so delicious that it’s worth driving to Sullivan’s, even if you don’t have other plans there. I accidentally ordered the frittata (long story) and it was amazing. On another visit, we had the polenta fries (scrumptious) and I had the shrimp roll (like a lobster roll but maybe even better?) It’s a must. The line can be intimidating… bring a tiny snack to hold you over.
Goldbug is my latest jewelry obsession. The designer/owner Ashley Reid Martin creates the most gorgeous (lightweight) brass pieces… perfect for summer/Charleston’s humid climate where you want your accessories to be as lightweight as possible. The photos on her website don’t do the product justice, but her earrings are beyonnnd.
And also John’s Island!
My parents moved to John’s Island a little over a year ago. To be honest we probably haven’t done enough exploring BUT there are currently two places I really love!
The Wild Olive is by the same team that does The Obstinate Daughter and is absolutely delicious! My dad actually works there a few days a week. It’s some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had.
The Southern General is a little spot in a mall but has an incredible turkey sandwich. My mom and I like to split the turkey pesto sandwich.