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Local Heart and Soul in Charleston's Best Southern Restaurants



Charleston is a culinary destination of the deep South, with its own unique style of Southern cuisine that stands out from other regional foodie hotspots. Charleston chefs and restaurants take advantage of a warm climate and an unseen bounty of local produce, meats and, of course, seafood from the surrounding inlets and harbors. This ideal combination of lowcountry ingredients come together from Charleston's warm, coastal climate, taken advantage of by local restaurants, cooks and residents for centuries. This system of exceptional, accessible food sources makes it easy for Charleston to provide the memorable farm and sea-to-table dishes enjoyed at any restaurant in the area.

It's Charleston's long standing cultural traditions, however, that define the unique preparations of the lowcountry harvest. These traditions are present in the perfectly fried chicken, hoppin' john, shrimp and grits, and freshly caught fish served daily in Charleston's best Southern restaurants. For a sampling of the Holy City's finest Southern dishes in a fine dining setting, head to critically acclaimed Husk, by local celebrity chef Sean Brock, or its Queen Street neighbor, the lovely Poogan's Porch.

A Southern-style breakfast is mandatory when visiting Charleston. Get your biscuits and gravy fix at James Beard Award-winning Hominy Grill, or the tiny yet wildly popular Callie's Hot Little Biscuit on Upper King Street. Off peninsula, look for the Early Bird Diner in West Ashley, known for their Chicken & Waffles, or Page's Okra Grill in Mount Pleasant for truly dedicated Southern meal experience. Looking for the real deal when it comes to Southern soul food in Charleston? Make the short ride up to Martha Lou's on Morrison Drive to indulge in a longtime locals' favorite. 


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Cru Cafe, conveniently located on Pinckney Street across from the carriage tour companies of Charleston, offers gourmet style preparations of traditional Southern dishes and ingredients, at a very reasonable rate. The menu at Cru represents a modern, artful take on Southern classics alongside ethnically influenced appetizers and entrees, each presented beautifully. Stop into Cru post carriage tour or Charleston City Market shopping for one of Charleston's best kept fine dining secrets. Some of Cru Cafe's most delectable Southern dishes include the Cru Barrata with heirloom tomatoes, Fried Green Tomato with pork belly croutons and the Pecan Fried Brie with local honey.

Recommended for Southern because: Cru Cafe makes our list for its beautifully prepared Southern ingredients, with a very reasonable price tag.

Clare's expert tip: Cru is centrally located downtown, within walking distance of the waterfront, Charleston City Market and several carriage tour companies.

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Poogan's Porch is an iconic culinary landmark in Charleston, serving up some of the lowcountry's best Southern fare for decades from its quaint cottage setting. Expect beautifully prepared plates of traditional Southern dishes, served with a modern flair, made from locally sourced ingredients. Poogan's Porch is open 365 days a year, making this memorable restaurant the ideal destination for a gathering of friends and family, a holiday celebration, or even a quiet romantic date. When visiting Poogan's Porch, opt for the tried-and-true local favorites, such as the She Crab Soup, Pimento Cheese Fritters or Fried Green Tomatoes to start your meal. For the main event, highlights include the Crispy-Skin Snapper, All Natural Fried Chicken, and of course, the Shellfish & Grits.

Recommended for Southern because: Poogan's laid back, classically Southern style captures the heart of many visitors. In fact, it's been a local favorite since its opening in 1976.

Clare's expert tip: Queen Street catches the waterfront breezes nicely; Enjoy an outdoor patio or porch table during the warmer months!

Read more about Poogan's Porch →




Located just across the Ashley River from downtown Charleston, The Glass Onion attracts both locals and visitors with its classic Southern comfort foods and family-friendly atmosphere. The Glass Onion shares its name with a White Album Beatles' song, and is perhaps just as popular for its Tuesday Fried Chicken Suppers. This weekday dinner special is in high demand, and reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance, and the fried chicken itself is first-come, first-served. Tuesday Chicken Suppers are sold as plates with two sides ($13 for white meat and $12 for dark meat). When it's necessary to reserve your fried chicken in advance, you know you're in for an authentic Southern meal!

Recommended for Southern because: The Glass Onion Tuesday Fried Chicken Suppers are enough to push this West Ashley restaurant to the top half of our list of Southern favorites.

Clare's expert tip: Weekdays are never boring at The Glass Onion! Mondays are half-price wine nights at The Glass Onions, while their famous Fried Chicken Suppers take place on Tuesdays.

Read more about Glass Onion →


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This approachable, budget-friendly West Ashley diner offers the true Southern experience to both locals and visitors to Charleston with a wide variety of breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night hot plates. The Early Bird Diner, living up to its name with late night service til 4am on weekends, is a dependable choice for affordable Southern food in the Charleston area. Look for such Southern menu items as their famous Chicken & Waffles, Fried Pork Chop with Pepper Jelly, Blackened Catfish and Meatloaf to satisfy your comfort food cravings. If you're heading out to Early Bird for weekend brunch, head there early! Lines often form in reflection of the demand for an Early Bird Diner hangover cure!

Recommended for Southern because: Comfortable, unassuming, affordable and filling: simple descriptors of the traditional meal you'll enjoy at the Early Bird.

Clare's expert tip: Early Bird Diner is famous for its Chicken & Waffles! Get there early to order this classic Southern favorite.

Read more about The Early Bird Diner →




Stop by Callie's Hot Little Biscuit for breakfast, lunch, or even a late night snack when you're craving fresh, made-from-scratch Southern biscuits. This tiny bakery-restaurant boasts a wide variety of topped and filled biscuits, priced at just $5 for three or $19 for a baker's dozen. Choose from 7 types of hot little biscuits: Buttermilk, Cheese & Chive, Shortcake, Blackberry, Cinnamon, Black Pepper Bacon, and Country Ham. In addition to the regular biscuit offerings, Callie's Hot Little Biscuit's daily specials often include biscuit bowls of soup, shrimp and grits, tomato pie and more! Check their Facebook page for today's offering - you won't be disappointed!

Recommended for Southern because: Callie's Hot Little Biscuit fully lives up to its name, offering the best in town of this Southern classic.

Clare's expert tip: Plan on taking your biscuits to-go: Callie's Hot Little Biscuit only seats a few patrons at a time!

Read more about Callie's Hot Little Biscuit →


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Mount Pleasant


Page's Okra Grill of Mount Pleasant is a casual, Southern eatery, serving "Local Food for Local Folks" since its opening in 2006. Owned and operated by the Page family, Page's Okra Grill is run by executive chef Ashleigh Page and her sister, General Manager Courtney. This laid-back restaurant offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere, outdoor seating, and consistently delicious Southern plates at a great value. Daily specials appear on the menu for each meal of the day, and biscuits are made from scratch by the hundreds each morning. Order the Hungryneck Pimiento Cheese or the Redneck Rolls for your appetizer, but leave room for Ashleigh's Famous Shrimp and Grits, Country Fried Steak or Fried Chicken Livers for your main course!

Recommended for Southern because: This family-run restaurant supplies locals and visitors alike with hearty hot Southern meals that are true to time-honored tradition!

Clare's expert tip: Reservations are recommended for this popular Mt. Pleasant hotspot!

Read more about Page's Okra Grill →


Hominy Grill
Photo courtesy of Clare Sweeney


Hominy Grill, at home in a historic 19th century house, features a giant wall mural of waitress "Rosie" serving up a steaming bowl of grits. James Beard Award winning chef Robert Stehling serves up classic southern staples for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, like the Catfish Sandwich, Pecan Crusted Pork Chop, and quite possibly the best Shrimp & Grits in all of Charleston. An addition was completed in summer of 2011 to add a full bar and courtyard, making long waits a little easier. Very popular with locals and visitors alike, be prepared to wait, especially during Sunday brunch hours.

Recommended for Southern because: This family-run restaurant supplies locals and visitors alike with hearty hot Southern meals that are true to time-honored tradition!

Clare's expert tip: If you're here for Sunday brunch, go for the Big Nasty, a biscuit sandwich smothered in sweet southern gravy, stacked high with fried chicken and melted cheddar cheese.

Read more about Hominy Grill →


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North Downtown


There's a little pink painted building on Morrison Drive that's self-described as a "roll-your-eyes-it's-so-good" soul food restaurant, and for many, that's exactly what a Martha Lou's lunch is all about. This homey, welcoming spot is situated in a rapidly developing area of north downtown, and it always has been–serving the people of Charleston and beyond for over 30 years. Expect a great value on all the soulful Southern classics–lima beans, mac, pork chops, giblet rice, collards, and fried chicken–and even meet the owner and chef, Martha Lou Gadsen. Martha Lou's little pink restaurant is now a family business, with daughters and granddaughters helping to run the show. Martha Lou's remains and important landmark on Charleston's culinary map, and makes for a spot-on affordable meal for Southern food lovers.

Recommended for Southern because: Martha Lou's is a true demonstration of Southern food done by a local Charlestonian, with all the unmissable soul food classics on the menu.

Clare's expert tip: If you're planning on visiting Martha Lou's during peak lunch hours, be willing to take it to go. This small Southern restaurant gets crowded (with fans and regulars), fast!

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You'll find Husk, one of the Southeast's most critically acclaimed restaurants, tucked into a quiet stretch of Queen Street downtown just a few blocks from the waterfront. The unassuming home style building is an ideal setting for the warm and welcoming service, as well as the true-to-tradition plates being served inside. From brunch to lunch, dinner and dessert, you'll find that you really can't make a poor menu selection. Menus change twice daily according to what's in season or available locally, so be sure to check the Husk website before your mealtime visit. An order of the Skillet of Cornbread with Bacon is not to be missed, and a true representation of Husk's ability to master simple Southern fare. When Shrimp 'n Grits appears on the daily menu, it's an opportunity that should be seized, along with fried chicken or catfish entrees. Reserve a porch patio table if possible!

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Meet Clare Sweeney

A South Carolina native and avid locavore, Clare is always venturing between traveling abroad and her beloved Lowcountry. 

Clare works and plays in downtown Charleston, spending her days...  More About Clare

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