There's so much to do in downtown Charleston, that choosing a restaurant at midday mealtime here can be the trickiest part of your trip. There are just so many great options, often much more affordable than the city from where you've come! When it comes to choosing a lunch spot that's easy on the wallet and walking distance from all of the historic sites and museums, choose locally-owned, neighborhood restaurants, and you can't go wrong.
Work a memorable meal into your busy schedule with quick service and fantastic to-go and delivery options, or let yourself linger in the uniquely Charleston-style historic home and courtyard patio restaurant settings. Try Mellow Mushroom's delivery service at the end of a long morning or if just in need of a superior pizza pie, or swing by King Street's Butcher & Bee to check out the daily-changing menus. Head to vibrant Verde for a fresh create-your-own salad after shopping the Historic City Market, or before hopping on a carriage tour just around the corner.
Turn locavore with a quick trip to Caviar & Bananas, Bull Street Gourmet, or Fast & French, three great spots to grab picnic supplies before heading to the shady College of Charleston campus or Battery Park. Vegetarians and vegans will enjoy the variety and atmosphere of Charleston's many herbivore-friendly lunch destinations, especially at the health food meccas of Black Bean Company and Dellz Deli!
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)
Mellow Mushroom is simply one of the best pizza joints, and lunch spots, in the greater Charleston area. Conveniently located on King Street, Mellow Mushroom boasts a colorful, laid-back interior, welcoming staff and a unique combination of freshly tossed and topped pizzas. The extensive Mellow menu offers more than just their signature ultra-cheesy, chewy-dough pizzas creations: fresh salads, pretzel bread apps and build your own pies also share the menu spotlight. Order pizzas for the table, and be sure to include the Gourmet White, with a garlic olive oil base, sundried and roma tomatoes, or the Mighty Meaty, with mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, ham and bacon. Mellow also offers vegan items and gluten free pizza!
Take your lunch upstairs to the Mellow patio for a graffiti muralscape, sunshine or shade. There's always a great selection of craft beers on tap - sample a few local Charleston brews with lunch! (843-723-7374, 843-327-0346)
Black Bean Company
Black Bean Co. is one of Charleston's most popular organic health food restaurants, serving up 'energy wraps,' 'power gyros,' salads, sides and baked goods in two locations, with dine-in seating, take-out and delivery options available. Since opening in 2011, Black Bean Co. has grown its menu and its local fan base in a huge way, successfully mastering the art of speedy service without compromising freshness, quality or portion size. When ordering a Black Bean Co. wrap such as the Black & Blue with protein, blue cheese and fig balsamic vinaigrette or the pure vegan Mega Veggie with broccoli, edamame, carrots, sunflower Seeds, candied almonds, apples and greens, expect a tightly-packaged, overstuffed burrito.
Visit Black Bean downtown on Upper King Street or on your way to the beach on Folly Road. Order your next Black Bean Co. Festival or Gouda Baby Wrap online, adding custom sides or sauces a la carte. (843-277-0990)
Bull Street Gourmet & Market
Bull Street Gourmet & Market is not your typical soup, salad and sandwich spot. Here, the soups are house-made daily, the sandwiches are big enough to share and the artisan salads are topped with fresh vegetables and meats, homemade dressings and imported cheeses. Try the Famous Chicken Salad Sandwich made with cranberry mayo and almonds, BBQ Pork sliders, or the classic Turkey, topped with brie and cranberry mayo. Bull Street carries prepared sides like macaroni and potato salads, and stocks freshly made desserts, dips, as well as enticing meats and cheeses. Head to Bull Street for a sit down meal, or a speedy take-out/delivery lunch for a picnic at nearby Battery Front Park! This gourmet restaurant and grocery is vegetarian and family-friendly - kids love the Croissant with Nutella and fresh strawberries! (843-722-6464)
Verde is an ideal lunch destination for vegans and vegetarians, gluten-free eaters, as well as omnivores. Located on busy King Street close to the College of Charleston and Marion Square Park, Verde serves up fresh and healthy salads to a large following of adoring fans. A popular choice among those who like to custom order, the Create Your Own Salad includes a base green, four veggie or fruit ingredients, and your choice of dressing, all chopped or tossed together. Additional proteins like cheese, chicken, shrimp and tofu will cost an additional $1-$3.50.
Verde also offers Signature Salad Creations, which are already planned out for you. These include such pre-set salad combos as the Cobb on King, Mesa Verde, and the Curried Beet. Any salad, whether self-created or a signature, can be quickly made into a wrap! (843-579-2884)
Gaulart & Maliclet's Fast & French
A fireplace and long communal tables flank this charming and authentic Broad Street eatery, housed in a 300 year old building where diners can quickly munch on casual bites or linger in the relaxed French style of enjoying one's midday meal. Come to the 30-year old Fast & French restaurant at lunchtime for specials like a sandwich or salad with a glass of house wine for under $10, combinations of french cheeses and pate for just $12.75 or Croq 'Monsieur for $5 or less. Fast & French offers a wide assortment of beverages, including teas, coffee, house French wines and local beers to pair with your lunch selection. The Fast & French lunch menu is available from 11am onwards until close, and the restaurant is a pleasant choice for any meal. This small French bistro even offers a "Something Very French" section on their menu, available any time of day. (843-577-9797)
Butcher & Bee
Temporarily closed in preparation for a move uptown to North Morrison Street, Butcher & Bee lays claim to providing "hand-held comfort food" to downtown Charleston. The sandwich artists at Butcher & Bee are open for weekday lunch and late night service on weekend nights (typically until 3am Friday and Saturday). This comfortable, communal style restaurant takes a modern approach to emerging foodie ideals: a menu that updates daily and by meal, which is shared via social media (check their Facebook and Twitter), hearty options for vegetarians, a welcoming BYOB policy and frequent pop-up dinners.
Though the Butcher & Bee menu changes daily, local produce and farm-raised meat and eggs are the focus of each set of mealtime offerings. While many items rotate to accommodate seasonality, some items have become somewhat 'regular' stars on the Butcher & Bee menu. Look for the popular Pulled Squash, Fried Chicken and Lamb Pita sandwiches. ((843) 619-0202)
Caviar & Bananas
Ask any Charleston local about their favorite downtown lunch spot, and chances are they'll describe their usual selection from the hot cases at Caviar & Bananas. Located just off King Street on George Street near the College of Charleston campus, Caviar & Bananas is a gourmet grocery, restaurant and coffee shop in one. Eat indoors in the clean and modern interior, on the side patio for a prime people-watching experience or to-go for the makings of a sophisticated picnic lunch. The talented chefs and friendly staff can help you select from a wide selection of premade pasta salads, housemade daily soups, and hot entree options such as meatloaf, eggplant Parmesan, duck confit spring rolls, and more. Caviar & Bananas has it all - design your own salads, sushi, made-to-order sandwiches and wine and beer.
Expect boutique restaurant prices, but all the flavor and meal personalization you'd expect for the price. (843-577-7757, 843-577-9997)
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 ($7.50), Zucchini with pistachio pistou ($6.75) or the Adult Grilled Cheese with prosciutto and green apple ($6.75). 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. $1.50 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
Five Loaves, wholeheartedly adored by neighborhood locals and visitors, is a charming corner restaurant a just off of the main tourist path on Cannon and Coming streets in the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood. The food is consistently fresh, and always priced at a great value for its reliably good taste and gorgeous presentations. The Five Loaves lunch menu provides a variety of omnivore, vegan and vegetarian options, with popular soup-salad-sandwich combinations a highlight of the midday selection. Salads are served with artful, house-made dressings, while open face sandwiches feature chicken and beef from local farms. Soups, dinner specials and dessert items change daily, with favorites like the Spinach Salad with polenta croutons and pearl onions, Reuben with turkey pastrami and Hot Ham & Brie serving as menu regulars.
Expect a busy (well-deserved) crowd at this small neighborhood spot during peak hours, and a very satisfied palate post-meal. (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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