Charleston City Guide.

The Stripe Charleston City Guide

Now that I live here full time (!!!), I wanted to give my travel guide a little update. If you are a long time reader, you already know that prior to moving here, I was obsessed with Charleston for a very long time. Pre-pandemic, I would 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. Now I’m realizing my dream: I moved in April and my sister and her family get here next week. We are all here and it is the best thing ever.

I just love this city so much. It’s hard to even explain it. But 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. 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 August 11, 2021**

The Stripe Charleston City Guide

oysters at leon's
oysters at leon’s… one of my fave lunch spots!

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 and the salmon bowl!) I love how open and airy it is and everything on the menu is really really good! They have a great outdoor dining area… it feels a little bit like LA.

Bistronomy by Nico has such fun, interesting food (think escargot dumplings) and great cocktails.

I really like sitting at the bar for drinks and a few fun apps.

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 so I usually go in a small group. The food is always delicious… I would definitely say this is a must-visit while in town.

Chubbyfish may be the best meal I’ve had here in ages

But be warned: they don’t take reservations, and people start lining up to get a table at 4pm. That being said, I kinda think it’s worth it? The wagyu tartare is beyond (I love the nori + rice preparation), the amberjack crudo is so good… and you have to get a caviar sammich!

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 knowledgeable. 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!

Hank’s has amazing seafood (I think they always win the award for best seafood in Charleston!).

It’s fancy… white linen table cloths and really, really good food (love their martinis!).

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!

La Farfalle has such incredible Italian food.

I can’t decide which I prefer: this or Melfi’s (also amazing Italian, with a New York-ish vibe!). If you go, be sure to get the whipped ricotta, it is insanely good. I also love the linguini with clam sauce.

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.

Maison has epic french food and maybe the best steak tartare I’ve ever eaten.

Malagon (by the same owners of Chez Nous) serves up incredibly delicious tapas.

I live for the white asparagus and any and all of their cured meats and cheeses.

Melfi’s

OMG the hype is real, this is some of the best Italian I’ve had in ages. Definitely get the Stretch Armstrong and the Cacio e Pepe!

Monza also has great 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’ve ever eaten!!)

The Ordinary is one of my favorite spots.

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 am just obsessed with.

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!

The Stripe Charleston City Guide

Other Things to Do:

Bulldog Tours has such fun walking tours. We did a historical tour years ago but I really want to do a ghost tour at some point!

Go to the beach! Sullivan’s Island is my personal favorite but Folly Beach and Isle of Palms both have beautiful beaches.

My Favorite Bookstores:

Buxton Books is a classic. It really has that neighborhood-y, local feel… and I love that they have so many fun events.

Blue Bicycle Books is my personal favorite bookstore in Charleston as they focus on used, rare, and local books!

The Stripe Charleston City Guide

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Where to Drink

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!)

Vintage Lounge is another fun cocktail bar.

I love their cocktails and it’s such a pretty space!

The Blind Tiger is just a great, fun dive bar (with a really pretty patio out back!).

Henry’s makes for a fun night.

It’s one bar with tons of different rooms all with different concepts. You feel a little bit like you are in a boozy party treehouse. I may be a little too old for it but it’s a fun place to go every now and again for a very specific type of night.

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!

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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.

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!

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Coffee/Breakfast:

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits

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.

The Daily is a great little spot for coffee and a grab and go breakfast.

Addicted to their breakfast burrito and the whipped feta toast.

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!

Second State Coffee (formerly Black Tap) has great coffee.

It’s a fun spot to work and the quiche is amazing too!

Brown’s Court Bakery

Their coffee is delicious, but their pastries are amazing. Just get their early as things go fast.

Baba’s on Cannon

This is an absolute favorite. Great coffee, great snacks (the ham and butter sandwich is just the most satisfying?), and also fun for drinks later in the day.

Sightsee Coffee Shop

This is such a sweet little spot. Really great coffee and a cute little shop in back too.

Brown’s Court Bakery great coffee and AMAZING pastries.

But get there early as all the good stuff goes fast!

Queen Street Grocery was my go-to when I lived here for 6 weeks.

Succcch great crepes and smoothies and their cold brew is amazing. I get mine with chocolate almond milk. Bonus: they sell beer and wine in the back.

Where to Stay in Charleston

Where to Stay in Charleston

Where to Stay in Charleston

Where to Stay:

Guesthouse is probably my favorite place to say but it isn’t a hotel.

It’s a collection of beautiful rental houses and apartments, all with a beautiful courtyard in the middle. The vibe is very similar to a hotel but you get more space, a kitchen, your own entrance, more privacy, etc. I did a longer post about them but I LOVE this space.

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.

Where to Stay in Charleston

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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.

Coop has the best frosé. And so many flavors too. LOVE.

Home Team BBQ is my fav casual spot! Great pulled pork and tater tots, the salads are surprisingly good (I know, I know, who gets a salad at a sports bar, apparently me!) and the Game Changer is my favorite (very strong!) frozen drink.

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.

Leave a Comment

Comments

  1. Regine Karpel says 5.11.16
  2. Charleston is so amazing and you’re one of the people who originally put it on my radar, so thanks! We had the best time visiting recently – Zero George was just gorgeous. I used a lot of your recommendations when planning – FIG was so good, and Hampden Clothing as well (but dangerous for my wallet!). Can’t wait to go back and try some more of these places!

  3. Jess Zimlich says 5.11.16

    Ah, I’ve been dying to take a trip for years! Everything is so picturesque. I just need to book a trip already and make it happen 🙂

  4. Kristen says 5.11.16

    you really are an expert!! I’ve only been once but can agree with many of these fabulous suggestions! Bin 152, Chez Nous and Fig – yes! When I return, The Ordinary and Xao Bao are at the top of my list.

  5. Judy Shappley says 5.11.16

    So happy to see this! We are heading to Charleston for the first time next month. Thanks!

  6. Ellen says 5.11.16

    Pinning this for later! Charleston is at the top of my list. I’ve heard the food there is amazing, and all of the cute houses have me sold.

    Ellen | A Pop of Pink

  7. Thuy says 5.11.16

    Lovely guide. Didn’t read through the whole thing yet but saved it to my Travel collection on Bloglovin’

    http://www.dressupchowdown.com

  8. kim says 5.11.16

    this is fantastic! Thanks for such a detailed post!!!

  9. Deirdre Zahl says 5.11.16

    Literally LOL’ing over here over your Ordinary description. I mean I am just waiting for my embossed frequent flyer card. Miss you and love reading your guide! Memories of all your fun visits to Charleston – can’t wait to make new ones! xoxo

  10. Amanda S. says 5.11.16

    What an amazing guide – thank you!!!

  11. Allison says 5.11.16

    You really should be Charleston’s ambassador. It sounds so incredible… dying to plan a trip!

  12. Elizabeth M. says 5.11.16

    love this so much – thanks for such a thorough guide!!

  13. heather says 5.11.16

    obsessed! great guide!

  14. lily says 5.11.16

    EPIC City guide!!! I would maybe add The Butcher’s Daughter but otherwise you got my fave spots! Totally agree re: FIG, Hampden, and McCrady’s!!!

  15. Emily says 5.12.16

    This is the best Charleston guide I’ve seen yet!! I’m a local, and I couldn’t agree more with your selections. Beckett is my new favorite store on King,and the restaurants you listed are some of my favorites, too. Next time you’re in town, you should try Trattoria Lucca. It’s off the beaten path a bit, but definitely worth it.

    • graceatwood says 5.12.16

      aw, thank you so much!!! And, adding Trattoria Lucca to my list! xx

  16. Liz says 5.12.16

    From all of the photos you have posted about Charleston, it looks like Uptown New Orleans. Looks like I’ll have to come up from down South to visit one day!

  17. C's Collection says 5.12.16

    I went to Charleston in February and stayed at The Mills House. The location really can’t be beat, and the staff is wonderful! I would definitely go back even though it’s very “hotel-y”. I’m headed back in July so I’ll be referencing this post! Thanks!

    http://chelseascollection.com

  18. Barry says 5.12.16

    A couple of points: the Mills House was rebuilt in the 1960s and only the wrought iron balconies are original, but a good recreation. The hotel to stay in Charleston, if you are high-ending, is Charleston Place. Also, Kaminskys 78 North Market Street is unmissable if you really want to blow a diet!! Amazing gateaux.

    • graceatwood says 5.12.16

      Ahhh thank you for the tips!!!
      I have to check out Kaminskys, next!

  19. Katie says 5.12.16

    Oooh, thanks for these tips! I’ll have to keep these in mind for future vacay plans!

    xoxo,
    Katie
    chicincarolina.blogspot.com

  20. Maggie says 5.12.16

    What a great post! I love Charleston and these are great tips. I’ve been to Bin 152 and loved it too!

    http://looklikeget.com

  21. The Southern Stylista says 5.14.16

    My husband and I honeymooned in Savannah, GA and drove up to Charleston for a day and absolutely fell in love. On your next trip I highly suggest having lunch at the Hominy Grill (the tomato pudding is the best side dish & the buttermilk pie for dessert is a must have!) and then Fleet Landing for dinner with a view-those were our faves 🙂

    xoox, SS

    The Southern Stylista

    • graceatwood says 5.15.16

      Thank you so much for the suggestions! Both sound delicious. I’ve never had tomato pudding – intrigued!!!

  22. Sarah says 5.16.16

    Loved the post! This has me wanting to book a trip ASAP:) Looks live such a lovely place to visit!

    XO – Sarah
    https://beautyandblooms.com/

  23. Joye says 5.17.16

    As a licensed private tour guide in Charleston for more than 28 years I loved your travel tips. When Dr Ruth took a tour with me we were both surprised at the things that were of interest to most people from New York. Contact me next time you come to town. Joye McElrath Hanna ( my family has been in SC since the 1690’s) [email protected]

    • graceatwood says 5.17.16

      Aw, I am so honored that you liked my tips!!! It’s such an amazing city!!! xx

  24. David Summerbell says 6.8.16

    This is a pretty comprehensive guide on Charleston and a good read. I live next door to charleston but have never been there. Love the pics, they do a good job of showing of the beauty of the city. Thanks for sharing this.

  25. Alyssa says 12.14.16

    I’m looking at going to Charleston in the spring, is it necessary to rent a car if you’re staying in the historic district? Or are there Ubers, or can you walk most places?

    • graceatwood says 12.14.16

      If you are staying in the Historic District, definitely not! Most of it is walkable and you can always take Uber or Lyft. The only reason you’d need a car is if you want to get out of the city a bit (i.e. go to Sullivan’s Island, Middleton Place, Folly Beach, etc!) Have FUN!!!

  26. Lauren says 2.12.19

    I just went back to this post to track down the name of the iced coffee place because I couldn’t find it to recommend to a friend. Black Tap is now called Second State Coffee (changed in mid-2018). https://charleston.eater.com/2018/5/21/17377218/second-state-coffee-charleston

  27. Mary says 1.20.20

    I stayed at 86 Cannon because of you and LOVED it. I agree about the Mills House. I’ve stayed there at different times over the last 20 years because of weddings but it feels like it’s not trying hard enough. The rooms at the Hampton Inn are about as nice. Once upon a time it was considered one of the nicer hotels in Charleston because there wasn’t any competition from chic, new, boutique hotels. I think it’s time they rise to the level that’s been set for the rest of the city.

  28. jen says 6.21.20

    Great guide. I grew up near Charleston and these are spot on (esp the meh!). 167 Raw is my fav too–but I would have the oyster po boy with the beet brown butter sauce as my last meal–sublime! 🙂

  29. T says 2.21.21

    Hi Grace:

    My daughter is a waitress at Basil and was informed, they are closing this Spring! 🙁
    During the pandemic they realized they did well with takeout and have been keeping to that. The other locations (Mt. Pleasant and other…) will remain open. Wewill certainly miss Basil, food was excellent!

  30. Lindsay Pavliga says 5.3.21

    Hi Grace – check out Doar Bros on Meeting Street. A little hole in the wall cocktail bar that is super small but amazing cocktails! We also love the lobby bar at the Spectator Hotel and The Dewberry is just FAB! Cheers!

  31. Jaclyn says 7.23.21

    Hi! Chez Nous does take reservations (on Resy).

  32. @Em_c_nola says 7.23.21

    Went to Basic Kitchen in June on a trip to Charleston right after getting engaged! Kind of a weird place for a celebratory lunch but we’re a little offbeat so?!? It was so good!

    High Cotton (not on your list) — went for brunch and we thought it was way overhyped/priced. The best meal we had was at The Ordinary…the zucchini carpaccio MY GOD! We also had a fun time sitting at the oyster bar at Pearlz and eating all the seafood.

  33. Colleen says 7.23.21

    Are there activities in Charleston that you enjoy (outside of dining/shopping) that a visitor might enjoy? How do you spend your time? Like arts, culture, outdoor activities. I’m sure I can check elsewhere but thought I’d ask given this post. Thanks!

  34. Pat Schwab says 7.23.21

    I love the architecture and the beautiful array of colors on the buildings.

  35. Awesome! I just moved to Charleston yesterday after only visiting once to buy a house haha so I definitely need this list!!

  36. Kate says 7.27.21

    Hi Grace! I’m currently in CHS living it up at The Restoration and it is fabulous! We are having a great time, thanks for all the lovely recs. Does it help you out at all if we tell the hotel that you referred us or anything like that? -Kate

    • grace at the stripe says 7.28.21

      That is so sweet! I doubt they would know who I am but have so much fun and ENJOY – it’s a beautiful property. I love the bar on the roof and the coffee shop.

  37. Anna says 7.29.21

    I lived in Charleston for four years for grad school and all of these recommendations are SPOT ON.
    The cucumber and jalapeño gimlet from the Belmont remains my favorite cocktail of all time (the game changer at home team is a very close and boozy second). I would also recommend the farro from Obstinate Daughter if you haven’t had it! And the Tattooed Moose for a great dive bar (and *amazing* corn dogs if that’s your thing). This post reminds me that I am LONG overdue for a visit! Glad you’re enjoying the Holy City.