Charleston, South Carolina is known for its setting in Revolutionary and Civil War history, its genteel residential neighborhoods and its friendly and welcoming people. Best of all, Charleston has grown into a culinary hotspot of the Southeast, wowing visitors with a seemingly endless collection of high quality restaurants. Charleston chefs and restauranteurs share a unique passion for serving locally sourced produce, meat, and seafood from our farms and shores. Thankfully, the the culinary scene you'll encounter here is one of much variety, with a wide range of menu prices found throughout the peninsula and beyond. From breakfast and brunch to lunch and dinner, you'll find Charleston restaurants serving high quality food without the high priced bill.
Do know that it may require a short venture off the beaten tourist path to find Charleston's budget-friendly restaurants. Start your day with a short stroll down Spring Street to Sunrise Bistro Xpress for a breakfast burrito and grits, or stick close to middle King Street with a crepes brunch at Breizch Pan. Enjoy the deeper exploration into Charleston's city neighborhoods by reserving a dinner for two at Five Loaves on Coming Street, or visiting Pane e Vino on Warren Street for authentic Italian dishes, (most are priced under $20)! In Charleston, an incredible meal doesn't always come with a fine dining price tag.
White Duck Taco Shop
This Folly Road taco hotspot is located just over the bridge from downtown Charleston, and has been welcomed heartily by taco lovers in the area. The prices and variety you'll find among the White Duck Taco Shop taco selection is competitive with other Tex-Mex style restaurants in Charleston, with most tacos priced at $3.50, and a handful of specialty items at $6 or $7. Tacos are each served with two corn tortillas, and overflowing with fillings; the double shell allows for a larger than average taco experience (or, two tacos out of one). Inexpensive yet tasty snacks such as the house-made chips and salsa trio or the watermelon feta salad compliment the casual menu and take-a-number setting.
White Duck Taco Shop does not take reservations, but it's not likely that you'll need them; this multilevel warehouse restaurant offers more than enough seating, including an outdoor patio with shaded picnic tables. (843-640-3008)
This small, classic French lunch and brunch cafe is tucked just a few steps off of busy King on George Street–central to downtown's shopping district and College of Charleston campus. Duck inside, and you'll likely be welcomed by the enthusiastic, accented owner couple, who proudly share their omelettes and crepes (sweet and savory) with Charleston locals and visitors, served in the traditional style of Brittany in Western France. Sweet crepes include fillings such as strawberries, bananas, homemade chocolate and cream or blueberries, cream and salted butter caramel. In the mood for something heartier? Try one of Breizch Pan's savory crepes, like the L'huelgoat with goat cheese, spinach, onions, and tomatoes, or the La Complete with egg, ham, swiss cheese, with greens. All Breizch Pan crepes are made with buckwheat and are gluten free. (843-822-3313)
Sunrise Bistro Xpress
Located on Spring Street between Rutledge and Ashley Avenues, this small streetside cafe serves a big menu of breakfast and lunch favorites, all at a great value of prices and portions. Expect a hefty serving when visiting Sunrise Bistro Xpress for breakfast, and prices that are much more affordable than other nearby breakfast and brunch alternatives. Try the Morning Sandwich, meat, egg and cheese on bagel or bread, for just $4, the Breakfast Burrito with meat, eggs, potatoes, onions, peppers and cheese for $7, or a shareable Open Faced Omelet, ranging from just $6 - $9. Sunrise Bistro lunch offerings are just as wallet-friendly, and come in the form of soups and salads, sandwiches, quesadillas and daily specials. Most lunch options are priced from $7 - $11.
Head to Sunrise Bistro by bike or foot if possible, as parking is limited to metered street spots in the surrounding residential area. (843-297-4509)
This corner restaurant is small, but colorful and lively inside and out. Expect quick, friendly service and plenty of "good vibes," a priority for the family-owned Dellz business. Dellz Uptown, located just past the Crosstown in the northern part of the downtown Charleston peninsula, is perhaps best known for their vegan and vegetarian-friendly over-stuffed wraps and the delicious Jazzy Pizza, a healthy pita pizza topped with fresh greens, avocado, tomato, and beans - even vegan cheese by request. Don't worry, there are plenty of options for your omnivore friends, too! There's no delivery from Dellz Uptown, so be sure to call ahead for take out. (843-641-0352)
Butcher & Bee
When in search of food-fuel in downtown Charleston, you'll find that there is no shortage of sandwich-serving options at hand. If you're a little more selective in your cravings, and would like to sample local specialties rather than chain restaurants, Butcher & Bee is your destination. The chefs at Butcher & Bee are in the business of "hand-held comfort food" and artistry in the form of sandwiches and plates that appeal to all preferences and budgets (vegetarians welcomed). Open for weekday lunch and late night service on weekend nights (til 3am Friday and Saturday), this comfortable, communal style restaurant shares their daily menu via social media (check their Facebook and Twitter before going). ((843) 619-0202)
This tiny but mighty restaurant packs in a crowd each day of the week (except Sundays when R Kitchen is closed for business). Chef and owner Ross Web heads a small team of assistant chefs in his venture here on Rutledge Ave--to bring affordable fine dining to downtown Charleston in a comfortable, open, and inviting environment. While they're at it, R Kitchen offers much more to its small group of guests at each of three nightly seatings: a $25, 5-course meal that emphasizes local, seasonal ingredients and a menu that's crafted to meet the needs and tastes of each guest in attendance that evening. Call ahead for reservations (nightly reservations here are in high demand) and be sure to disclose any dietary needs or preferences. Chef Ross will take care of your party, and you'll be able to watch each step taken to prepare and serve your dinner. (843-789-4342)
Gaulart & Maliclet's Fast & French
Step off of iconic Broad Street and into the small yet charming interior of Gaulart & Maliclet's Fast & French, a traditional bistro living up to its quirky name. Come to Fast & French for your Battery Park picnic supplies of French cheeses, meats and breads, or stay awhile, enjoying the always lively company in the cozy interior of this Broad Street bistro.
Start your day off with a cup of coffee and croissant for just $4.25, or come at lunchtime for a sandwich or salad with a glass of house wine for under $10. For a sampling of Fast & French offerings, try the combination of French cheeses and paté for $12.75, or the Fondu Du Jour for $16. Dinner entrees are thoughtfully prepared and presented in a casual yet undeniably beautiful French style; each is served with soup or salad, rice or couscous, and bread. Thursday night is fondue night, with a choice of beef, seafood, Swiss and Blue Cheese. (843-577-9797)
Pane e Vino
This charming, unmarked Italian restaurant is tucked just off of Upper King Street onto quiet, residential Warren Street, within walking distance of many hotels and shops. At Pane e Vino, you'll enjoy a cozy, authentic Italian fine dining experience, for a fraction of the cost you'd expect to go along with your meal. Pane e Vino owner Alfredo Temelini is very dedicated to his Italian family's traditions of cooking and attentive service, and it shows in the beautiful presentation of each dish.
Most entrees at Pane e Vino range from $15 - $25, a modest request for items such as the Ravioli Alla Casalinga with spinach and ricotta fillings, Cioppino seafood stew, or Penne Alla Maremnana with spicy sausage and wild mushrooms. The charcuterie boards, daily dessert specials and a carefully selected Italian wine list at Pane e Vino make for a well-rounded and romantic evening out. (843-853-5955)
You might be surprised to find that one of Charleston's best sandwich joints is housed in a laundromat! It's true: Persimmon Cafe, located at 226 Calhoun Street, shares its deli counter and eat-in seating with several dozen washing machines. Don't pass up the chance to visit this creative cafe for a gourmet panini, like their Curry Chicken Salad, Zucchini with pistachio pistou or the Adult Grilled Cheese with prosciutto and green apple. During the chillier months, Persimmon's soup plus grilled cheese combo warming and satisfying.
It's not just the regular menu items that are responsible for Persimmon's growing crowd of regulars. Daily specials (posted to their Facebook and Twitter pages) like the Cubano, Grilled Butternut Squash, and Spanish Fly are also popular. Sides of Peanut Butter and Ginger Slaw and desserts like the Nutella and (tableside) Toasted Marshmallow Custard act as perfect compliments to any sandwich. (843-937-5399)
Five Loaves Cafe
This humble and inviting corner cafe is located on the corner of Cannon and Coming Streets, and beloved by regulars and first-time visitors alike. Any choice from the Five Loaves lunch or dinner menus is likely a great value, with modestly priced yet artfully intricate soups, sandwiches and entrees. Menus provide a variety of vegetarian options, with popular soup/salad/sandwich combinations a popular option. Five Loaves salads are served with house-made dressings, and sandwiches feature meats from local Charleston area farms. Soup, dinner and dessert specials change daily, and the creative menu is organized by Herbivores, Carnivores, Between the Bread, and of course, Soups (check the chalkboard inside for daily selections).
Five Loaves is ideal for an affordable lunch break or wallet-friendly date night; lunch items usually max out at $10, dinner prices typically fall below $20. Expect hearty sandwiches, impressive salad plates, and large entree portions. (843-937-4303)
About Clare Sweeney
A South Carolina native and avid locavore, Clare also ventured abroad to Spain and north to Boston before returning to Charleston and her beloved Lowcountry.
Clare works and plays in downtown Charleston, spending her days enjoying the city’s perpetually sunny weather, nearby beaches and ever-growing food and craft beer scene.
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