Charleston's Best Bars, Pubs and Rooftop Venues
By Amber Nolan
If your idea of nightlife includes hitting a bar for drinks and socializing, then our Charleston guide is just what you want. By capitalizing on first-hand experience downing a few pints, as well as extensive research, we've located the best bars in Charleston for hanging out and kicking back. Long-lived mainstays include Blind Tiger Pub, a historical icon rich in stories from past patrons, and Moe's Crosstown Tavern, a typical neighborhood dive with wallet-friendly specials.
Two sophisticated rooftop bars have made their mark on the nightlife scene: the legendary Pavilion Bar and Cafe and newbie Star's Rooftop Grill and Tap Room. For a happening spot without the sky-high prices, try Squeeze, a trendy new local's favorite.
Beer lovers will appreciate the many brew pubs in Charleston that serve craft beer from all over the globe, including Gene's Haufbrau, which has more than 170 beers on tap, and CFB (Closed For Business), a unique after-work hang out with a constantly rotating beer menu.
We present the top bars in town and offer details about them all. What's the energy like? How do the bartenders pour? Are most bars located in the downtown area? No fear - we share all the facts! Here are our selections for Charleston's 10 Best watering holes.
10 Poe's Tavern
Located on Middle Street just two blocks from the Sullivan's Island beach, Poe's Tavern is a cozy bar and restaurant hugely popular with loyal locals and beach vacationers. The bar and restaurant walls are lined with photos and documents paying tribute to the great Edgar Allan Poe. Poe's Tavern boasts a cool covered bar porch and outdoor patio and seating make the perfect post-beach setting. Enjoy bottled and draught, foreign and domestic beers, as well as a selection of wines and cocktails, at this buzzing beach joint. Poe's Tavern was the winner of Best Sullivan's Island Bar and Restaurant in The Charleston City Paper's Best of Charleston Awards of 2012. (843-883-0083)
9 Pavilion Bar and Cafe
Stunning views of the harbor and the skyline greet patrons of this fabulous rooftop venue, located on the upper floor of the Market Pavilion. Container plantings also set a refined scene, and twilight is especially beautiful. A large, open space, complete with a swimming pool in its midst, establishes a romantic, upscale setting wherein folks can sip champagne or indulge in a well-crafted cocktail. A menu of gourmet appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and desserts provide sustenance when needed. Choose from five different types of mojitos and sample lobster ceviche, duck confit nachos, or six varieties of thin crust pizzas from barbecue chicken to Mediterranean. (843-723-0500, 877-440-2250)
8 Moe's Crosstown Tavern
With a name like Moe's Crosstown Tavern (a Simpson's television reference), you can expect this bar to be the quintessential neighborhood watering hole. The beer is always cold, the food is hearty and satisfying, and the daily and happy hour specials are great. Moe's was voted "best pub food" for eight years running by the Charleston City Paper. The burgers are a few notches above standard pub fare, with inventive toppings like goat cheese and poblano peppers, and the wings are near perfect. Sports fans will find it is ideal for watching NFL, MLB, soccer, and ESPN while downing on of the 20 beers available. (843-722-3287)
7 Gene's Haufbrau
A longtime haven for beer aficionados, Gene's Hofbrau has the greatest beer selection, with some 170 domestic and imported bottles and drafts. The food menu covers all the basics (wings, burgers, dogs, cheese fries, and even deep fried candy bars for dessert). For $7.50, the daily blue plate specials might be the best deal in town, with down-home items like pork chops, pot roast, and country-fried steak. With a recently revamped interior, Gene's also offers typical bar games like pool, darts, shuffleboard foosball. The low-key atmosphere feels like it is part beer garden in Germany, part corner bar in the United States. (843-225-4363)
6 Stars Rooftop Bar and Tap Room
As one of the city's newest restaurants, Stars earned its name thanks to the view from the building's rooftop-turned-full-service bar. The first floor kitchen features custom designed live fire grill and rotisserie for Chef Nate Thurston's menu, which includes items like wood-grilled blue crab soup, lobster and grits (a must try), and truffle-chicken pot pie. The rooftop bar opens at 5pm and serves up cocktails, artisan wine and craft beer with 360-degree views, while a downstairs bar is also available.The bar gets busy (and noisy) late night for those seeking a trendy nightlife scene, but if you are interested in a quiet dinner out we'd recommend arriving early. (843 577 0100)
5 Tattooed Moose
Offering a cool, dive-y atmosphere, the Tattooed Moose is quickly becoming a favorite among Charleston locals. The bar's extensive beer menu includes draft, bottles and cans, as well as a healthy selection of craft brews. Happy hour specials on drinks and food run from 4pm until 7pm, Monday through Friday. Those in need of a late night dinner or snack (the kitchen stays open until 1am) can choose from great food options, including the famous duck fat fries and "duck club." Sunday brunch draws the crowds with bloody Marys, banana French toast, and a garbage plate - a true hangover helper. (843-277-2990)
4 Closed for Business
Recently voted as having "the best beer selection on tap," Closed For Business is one of upper King's most popular hangouts. This local's bar offers 42 craft beers on tap, roughly 50 bottled beers, a seasonal beer menu, monthly beer specials and even local Charleston brewery flights. CFB, as it is called by locals, also offers premium liquor and wine choices. A faux fireplace, wood-lined walls and community tables in the rustic lodge interior give this neighborhood bar a unique feel. The menu features upscale pub food like slap pork, fish and chips, and duck pot pie with creative desserts that change daily. (843-853-8466)
3 Blind Tiger Pub
A landmark in Charleston, the Blind Tiger Pub is located in the old bank building, with a hidden courtyard in back. The restaurant and pub has changed hands many times since the 19th century, and its name itself is a throwback to the speakeasies. The Blind Tiger Pub is a safe bet when you're in the mood to enjoy good drinks in a cozy atmosphere, with live music on select nights. Menu items include fried green tomato caprese, elk and Cajun alligator burgers, tacos, and pitas. Sunday brunch is served outdoors from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., with $3 mimosa specials. (843-577-0088)
Squeeze may be Charleston's narrowest bar, so be ready to rub elbows with other patrons. It may be tiny, but it is a trendy hot spot that strays from the college nightlife scene. Expert mixologists whip up classic martinis and cocktails, live music sets the tone, and things get jamming around 11pm on weekends. Squeeze has a strong locals' following, and the happy hour specials knock prices down to around $5 for top-shelf cocktails. A large selection of bourbon, gins, whiskey, and specialty liquor is available. Bartenders keep the vibe friendly and will engage customers with jokes, stories, and are quick to offer drink suggestions. (843-937-6210)
1 Southend Brewery
Beer lovers are certain to have a great time at the much-loved Southend Brewery. They, and other patrons, enjoy views of Charleston Harbor while sipping on innovative microbrews. The massive kettles and hoppers are on display in the center of the dining area. Lunch and dinner are also served, making the brewery a great place to meet up with friends and catch up. Menu options include fried green tomatoes and baked brie for starters, with mains like butternut squash ravioli and the smokehouse platter - a sampling of pulled pork, barbecue ribs, and beef brisket. Live music is on tap most nights, too. (843-853-4677)
About Amber Nolan
Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite places are Iceland for its remoteness; Panama for its parties; and Peru for its history. Her work can be found on MSNBC.com, Frommers, and Sherman’s Travel, where she served as the Cruise Editor and Senior Producer. She is currently working on a comic novel about her shoestring travels as she hitchhikes on airplanes across the country in an effort to visit all 50 states. See Jethiking.com.
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