Our top food spots in North Charleston's Park Circle neighborhood — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
It's no secret that the walkable streets of downtown Charleston are lined with historic homes as well as well-established restaurants and bars. There seems to be a charming hotel and inviting seafood restaurant on every block. But just a 20-minute ride from downtown boutique hotels like The Ryder and Emeline, there's a relatively under-the-radar neighborhood in North Charleston with a walkable main street, stunning street art and, most importantly, a thriving food scene.
We've picked 10 of our favorite food spots in Park Circle, North Charleston.
Shrimp and tilapia ceviche from Azul Mexicano — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
This laid-back, high-ceiling Mexican restaurant caters to seafood lovers without alienating carnivores or vegans. As the name Azul indicates, the chairs, tables, ceiling and dozens of small agave decorations along the wall are blue. Most of the fare is on the heartier side, with smaller portions available for lunch.
For something lighter, try the ceviche. While it's not on the lunch menu, the staff can prepare it upon request. Both the shrimp and tilapia versions come with all fresh ingredients finely chopped to the point where it's more practical to eat with a spoon. They serve this citrusy dish with four packs of Saladitas crackers. You can ask for a mix of shrimp and tilapia, which we highly recommend.
Basil Thai Park Circle
Yum nea (beef salad) and basil rolls from Basil Thai — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
One of Basil Thai's six Carolinas locations is located in the heart of Park Circle's unofficial restaurant row. Those Korean barbeque tables that line the outer red brick walls remind guests that this stylish spot near the intersection of Chateau and Montague was once the local spot for grilled beef and kimchi. The cool lounge music combined with artfully framed photos of floating markets and elephant statues from the motherland give the Park Circle location a refined feel.
While the menu manages to play the hits like most Thai restaurants do, crispy red curry duck is the signature dish. If you've never tried barramundi, you can find it here, deep-fried with your choice of basil or curry sauce. They also have a full bar.
For dessert, try the fried banana topped with coconut ice cream. Basil Thai's twist on this traditional Thai dessert is the house-made raspberry jam, which mixes well with the coconut ice cream. And it's the same jam they use in their raspberry bourbon jam cocktail.
Basil Thai Park Circle is closed on Sunday.
The margherita from EVO Pizzeria — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
EVO stands for Extra Virgin Oven. And from this extra virgin oven, Executive Chef Zach Turner and his team turn out six different pies plus a calzone and daily featured pizza.
While enjoying your wood-fired pie on one of the EVO's wooden tabletops, you'll notice that the dough is chewy to the point where there's no excuse for not eating the crust. And while the margherita may be the standard by which any establishment referring to itself as a pizzeria is measured, the meat-centric pies definitely have a southern twist. For purists, the margherita may be number one, but EVO's pistachio pesto is a very close second.
After dining at the pizzeria, check out EVO Craft Bakery, which is their sister location on the rear of the property. Here, you can enjoy espresso and dessert on their elevated back deck seven days a week.
Fratello's Italian Tavern
Pomodoro e mozzarella from Fratello's Italian Tavern — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
There are waist-high basil plants on each side of the entrance to Fratello's Italian Tavern. The menu is traditional Italian, with pasta dishes like penne alla vodka and lasagna being the most popular. The ravioli special changes every other day.
As Charleston is a coastal city, we recommend ordering a pasta dish with seafood. If you like garlic and clams, try the linguine alle vongole. And working backwards, start your meal at Fratello's with either the popular namesake salad or pomodoro e mozzarella. The latter is a simple, yet delicious mix of house-pulled mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and fresh basil taken straight from the plants at the main entrance.
Fratello's is closed on Sundays.
Karaage & seared scallops from Jackrabbit Filly — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Jackrabbit Filly is the most modern restaurant in Park Circle. The fact that this Asian fusion spot is located next to an antique store a block from Montague Avenue makes it feel all the more exclusive. Once you pass the ceramic jackrabbit and step inside, you could easily feel like you're in either Manhattan's West Village or West Hollywood.
The majority of dishes have an East Asian influence. Both karaage versions are popular, with the Sichuan version being much spicier thanks to the chili oil. Regardless of which version you order, you won't have to worry about taking your first bite only to discover that you just ordered a bowl of the all-too-common mix of excessive breading and fatty dark meat that too many Japanese and Taiwanese restaurants serve. Everything here is top quality.
And the menu changes often. If it's on the menu, you must try the seared scallops dish. Same with the Xi'an shrimp.
Sunday is dim sum brunch only. They are closed Monday and Tuesday. Reservations are highly recommended.
'Chopped' chef Dan Doyle's favorite restaurants on the other side of Charleston
'Chopped' chef Dan Doyle's favorite restaurants on the other side of Charleston
Etouffee with shrimp and crawfish from LoLA — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Thanks to LoLA, you can enjoy Louisiana recipes in the Lowcountry. The extensive menu is divided into six sections, with appetizers and sides being plentiful enough for a separate location. Bayou classics like etouffee, jambalaya and shrimp creole will take you on a culinary journey to the Louisiana swamps, yet LoLA looks and feels like a beach bar that happens to serve unapologetically heavy Cajun and Creole food.
The festive atmosphere is pure New Orleans, but after a Creolepolitan or two, one could be excused for thinking that the Myrtle Beach Promenade is just around the corner.
LoLA is closed Sunday and Monday.
Park Circle Creamery
Today's flavors at Park Circle Creamery — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
All of Park Circle Creamery's 17-plus flavors are made in-house. The ice cream here is good enough that it's worth skipping dessert at one of the local restaurants just so you can try a scoop or two. Inside, you'll find a classic stand-alone ice cream parlor feel.
If you're looking to beat the heat, grab a bar-style stool opposite the ice cream counter. Flavors range from the popular lemon crunch to the nostalgic cereal-inspired Lucky Charms. While you can find the different flavors listed on their website, they do run out of some, especially by evening. Coconut Oreo is the vegan option.
Southern Roots Smokehouse
Smoked brisket and turkey from Southern Roots Smokehouse — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Southern Roots Smokehouse may look like a sports bar from the outside, but it's also the best barbeque spot in Park Circle. Nothing is on a small scale here. The portions are enormous, and two rooms combined make Southern Roots Smokehouse one of the larger dining spots in the area.
Even the salads are a full meal. The bar is impressive, but the signature hickory smoked meats are the main culinary attraction. You can make your own plate with one to three meat options plus sides, or you can order the smoked meats a la carte and add them to a salad. Regardless of which meat you choose, you won't need a knife. The Southern Roots smoked meats are tender enough to cut with a weak plastic fork.
The Tattooed Moose
Moroccan gyro, Southern fried chicken sandwich and the famous duck fat fries from The Tattooed Moose — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
The Tattooed Moose is that kind of place where you can spend a lazy afternoon eating, drinking and reliving your childhood at the pinball machine. Even if you happen to just be passing by along Chateau Avenue, it’s impossible not to notice the Patch Whisky street art that adorns the one-story former rehearsal space.
In the dining room, a wall-mounted moose heads jut out above the tables, each of which comes with a small bucket of crayons and markers. The space is super casual to the point where patrons are welcome to write whatever they want on the tables or walls. But despite the crayons, markers and mini arcade near the main entrance, this is no Chuck E. Cheese.
The menu leans towards hearty pub fare, which fits perfectly with the dozen or so beers on draft. The duck club sandwich is their top seller. You'll also see duck fat fries on every other table. When Guy Fieri came to Charleston to film "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," he had the blue cheese fries. Although he visited the downtown location, the menus are the same at both locations. The fries are cut super thin and garnished with salt to the point where the garlic aioli that comes on the side can be optional.
Butter shrimp and corn from Three Sirens — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Park Circle's newest seafood restaurant opened in early 2022. Inside, Three Sirens is as blue as the sea itself. Everything from wallpaper to the electrical outlets is a shade of blue. As all ingredients are sourced locally, the menu changes daily.
The one thing you need to order is the butter shrimp and corn. The shrimp (from nearby Crosby's) are cured with sugar and salt and served over a bed of charred corn in a cream reduction that includes milk from the cobs. The dish's moderate spice level comes from the pickled fresnos.