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The Best & Worst Restaurants in Charleston (from our 3-day sampling)

Some of you asked where we ate while we were in Charleston. Let’s discuss, shall we?

Hominy Grill: This was the first place we went right after we arrived in town. It’s pretty famous and was just one block away from where we were staying.

One of our goals in Charleston was to eat as many quintessential Southern foods that we could, so I ordered the pimento cheese sandwich which was very possibly the worst sandwich in my entire life, and we shared hummingbird cake for dessert, which was just mehhh. Hominy Grill: 2 thumbs down.

IMG_0801_thumb1Hummingbird cake at Hominy Grill

Poogan’s Porch: They served biscuits when you were seated. Score! I love biscuits, and theirs were perfectly flaky. The mac & cheese appetizer that we ordered was really creamy but a little under-seasoned for my taste. For my entrée, I ordered shrimp & grits, another Southern classic I’d never tried. I liked the texture combo of shrimp & grits but not really the flavor profile of this restaurant’s take on it. IMG_0836_thumb2

We also tried Peanut Butter Pie at Poogan’s Porch. It was reeaaaally rich but pretty tasty. Poogan’s Porch: 1 Thumb UpIMG_0837_thumb1

Other restaurants we visited:

Cru Café: I had salmon with lemon risotto. It was some of the best salmon I’ve had in my life. It was perfectly cooked and the lemon risotto was had a light flavor but a really satisfying creaminess to it. Cru Café: 1 Thumbs Up

Tristan: Their menu was unique, the service impeccable and the food impressive. My salmon here wasn’t quite as good as it was at Cru but the rest of the food was excellent. Their presentation was fun too. Tristan: 2 Thumbs Up

Cupcake: The cupcakes were dry and tasted like pure sugar instead of rich chocolate or creamy vanilla. Cupcake: 2 Thumbs Down.

Christophe’s Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier: Small, quaint shop right on King’s Street with beautiful French macaroons and truffles. Too bad they lacked any memorable flavor. Christophe’s: 2 Thumbs Down

Baked: We tried their key lime cheesecake and dark chocolate sea salt brownies. And I wish we’d visited there on our first day instead of on our way out of town because I would get dessert there everyday. SO good. Baked: 2 Thumbs Up

Lucca: This is one of those meals that we’ll talk about for years. Easily in the top 3 meals of my life. Their pasta is handmade in house; their cheese selection unique and from the few we tasted, incredible; their cauliflower appetizer was very aptly described by a journalist as “so sensual that it’s almost downright embarrassing to eat in public”; and despite the quality of food, the meal was pretty affordable. Lucca: 2 Thumbs Up Doesn’t Even Do This Justice. It’s on an entirely different scale. The scale of….You Must Go There if You Are in Charleston.

Overall Worst: Hominy Grill

Overall Best: Lucca

What’s considered local fare where you live? North Carolina is known for it’s BBQ. And not red-sauce and ribs bbq. I’m not a fan of that, but NC BBQ? Especially the vinegar-based kind? loooove. My favorite place is Prissy Polly’s Pig Pickin’ BBQ (previously posted here under Always Marry an Ugly Girl. Yep, that’s right.).

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57 Comments

  • Reply
    Ashley
    at

    I’ve heard good things about Lucca. Glad you had one FABulous meal! Crazy that you had so many disappointing. I feel that way a lot when dining out lately. Hmm, local fare? Buffalo burgers are pretty big here…and Mexican food too…not really sure there is a specific type of food though. 🙂

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      I was disappointed more than I was expecting, but I’m pretty hard to please too! 🙂

      Winston-Salem has no good Mexican restaurants. I’m jealous of yours. One more reason I need to come visit you.

  • Reply
    Jenn
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    We’ll have to try Lucca! We love The Coast in downtown Charleston and our favorite is The Fat Hen on John’s Island. Great food! We’re also looking forward to going back in June.

  • Reply
    Ash @ Everyday Inspirations
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    When I was in Charleston, I got spoiled and went to Grill 225… which I’m not really sure is your kind of place, because they’re all about the steak. But still. Way good. I had me a nice glass of merlot and a yummy meal. Divine! 😉

    And because I found the web site, I might as well link to it. You may enjoy the dessert menu.
    http://www.marketpavilion.com/?page=grill225&CFID=2913996&CFTOKEN=38830949

    Such a gorgeous town. We ran the big bridge, which was awesome. I loved the view of Fort Sumpter. I could kick myself for not taking more than, like, five pictures while I was there.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    at

    Mm dark chocolate sea salt brownies! Local around here is maple products & the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory.

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      I’m so jealous you live by the B&J factory!

  • Reply
    My Little Celebration
    at

    Local fare where I live in the Midwest is good steak and potatoes so steakhouses reign supreme :D. But KC also has a big reputation for BBQ, so that’s on the map as well.

  • Reply
    christina
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    AGREE AGREE! Hominy Grill is ridiculously overrated. I wish people didn’t go there just bc they think they’re supposed to! It sucks. And yes, Cupcake has really dry cupcakes. BAKED IS SO GOOD!! Omg I’m obsessed with their brownies. I haven’t been to the others, but have heard wonderful things about Lucca. I love that you’ve reviewed a bunch of restaurants in my city that I haven’t even been to. Fabulous! We just have so much stuff here, it’s hard to keep up!

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      I love that you agreed with my reviews! If a local does, that must mean I have good taste! 🙂 Can’t wait to come back and explore more places – with YOU! 🙂

  • Reply
    RLR
    at

    We haven’t eaten at Hominy Grill in years, but I’m still bummed that you didn’t have a great meal there. (We had breakfast, and we LOVE breakfast – any time of day!) Ditto Christophe’s. We ate at Cru Cafe on our last visit, and even the kids (relatively picky, even on a kid fave like mac-n-cheese) ate well! I’m going to come back to this list before our next trip South – sounds like we have to try Lucca, but I may need someone to translate the menu!

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      We were worried about not understanding the menu at Lucca and not knowing how to order too but our waitress walked us through everything – in plain english! – so it was totally fine!

  • Reply
    Alaina
    at

    We have a really good Italian restaurant called Lucca in Boston. Also quite good 🙂

    I will certainly take all of these wonderful tips when I eventually make it down to Charleston.

  • Reply
    Jess @atasteofconfidence
    at

    PB pie..mmm! Local fare in Buffalo is definitely buffalo wings, and in Rochester it would have to be considered garbage plates!

    • Reply
      Teri
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      I have a friend from Buffalo and was in total disbelief the first time he talked about a garbage plate! haha

  • Reply
    Becky
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    ohh Lucca. I will def have to file that away in memory in case I ever visit Charleston. your meal sounds delish! Here in Oklahoma, we are mostly carnivores. One of my favorite meals is the pulled pork bbq sandwich at Joe Momma’s Tulsa. 🙂 Everyone I know loves Joe Momma’s!!!

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      My in-laws live in Oklahoma but I’ve never made it over to Tulsa – only Oklahoma City and Norman. And I’ve been in impressed with some of the food there!

  • Reply
    Lainey_Elizabeth
    at

    One of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life was at 39 Rue de Jean in Charleston. They have an AMAZING French menu. Whenever you go back you really should go there. It is DELICIOUS!!! I had sushi (which isn’t really French but it was good) and the Onion soup (to die for) and the the NY Steak Frites and for dessert we had the creme brulee. I kid you not, this meal was 10 years ago but I still remember how delicous it was.

    There isn’t much truely local in Atlanta, but I do love fried chicken – which given all the chicken farms in the suburbs is local I guess…

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      We wanted to go to 39 Rue de Jean! It was on our list but we didn’t have time to hit it. I’ll definitely remember that for next time!

      I still have not had true Southern fried chicken!

  • Reply
    Suzette Mahoney
    at

    Bummer that you didn’t enjoy your Hominy Grill meal. I ordered the shrimp + grits there and they were delicious. Ditto on Poogan’s Porch however.

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      I have heard their shrimp & grits were delicious – I should have gone with that!

  • Reply
    Michael
    at

    I’m glad Baked made your list – We ate there every morning we were in Charleston. Pastry and really good Stumptown coffee was a great start to the day.

    I wish you’d tried Magnolia’s – Their shrimp and grits was the best I’d ever had (especially since it included lobster) and we actually went back a second time just to have their fried green tomatoes again before we left.

    Such good food in Charleston…

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      Oh my gosh, how did I not know Baked served Stumptown coffee??? I went there everyday I was in Seattle because I loved it so much! Dang!

      I’ll add Magnolia’s to my list for next time. Hopefully I get to go back soon!

      • Reply
        Erin W.
        at

        I agree with Michael – you must try Magnolia’s. We were there in September, and the food was amazing.

  • Reply
    Jill
    at

    Bummer! I had a great meal at Hominy Grill! We had fried green tomatoes as an appetizer (for brunch! haha), I had pancakes and Russ had a breakfast sandwich and it was all great.

  • Reply
    Kailey (SnackFace)
    at

    Ahhh this is perfect! Kyle and I are planning on going to Charleston for vacation in a month or two, and I needed this list! Love your reviews!

    Also, regarding your Q about where we’d like to live (from a few days ago), my cities are identical to yours. Let’s move!

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      yay! So glad this helped! You will LOVE it there!

      Perfect! Can’t wait to be your neighbor! 🙂

  • Reply
    Heather H
    at

    My husband and I have been planning on going to Charleston for a while so this list is great!

    I am SOO jealous you get NC BBQ. I am an NC girl that lives in Atlanta and the BBQ here just isn’t the same. Lexington BBQ is my all time favorite, there is no comparison. My in-laws live in Winston, but I grew up in Greensboro/Statesville and I’m not sure if it’s still there, but Stamey’s is really good too!

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      oh my gosh, seriously, NC BBQ is the best!! I’m going to look up Stamey’s! Thanks!

  • Reply
    melissa (fitnessnyc)
    at

    Will keep in mind next time I go.

  • Reply
    chelsey @ clean eating chelsey
    at

    I live in Chicago – so I”m thinking pizza and hot dogs are “our thing”. Kind of pathetic. 🙂

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      Not pathetic at all! I love Chicago pizza!

  • Reply
    Karis @ Karis' Kitchen
    at

    Hmm, interesting question on local fare. I’m from Wisconsin and I’d say cheese curds, brats, and beer…nothing worth visiting for 🙂

  • Reply
    Nicole
    at

    When we go to Charleston we always eat at 82 Queen. I have also eaten at Poogans Porch for brunch and it was really good.

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      82 Queen? Didn’t hear about that one – I’ll add it to the list for next time! Poogan’s brunch menu does sound really good.

  • Reply
    Jenny (Fit Girl Foodie)
    at

    Omg that peanut butter pie looks amazing!!

  • Reply
    BroccoliHut
    at

    Great restaurant reviews! I know where to go if I ever go to Charleston.
    I’m from NC too, so you probably already know all about the local fare:)

  • Reply
    Pure2raw Twins
    at

    Thanks for the reviews, good to know. I have been to Charleston twice and have enjoy it. I would love to go back. Also we passed on a blog award to you today 🙂 http://www.pure2raw.com/2011/03/4-minute-bodyrocktv-workout/

  • Reply
    Stacy (Little Blue Hen)
    at

    Come to San Diego and eat Baja-style fish tacos! There’s also a small-but-quality craft brew scene here, and tons of local, seasonal restaurants.

    That’s always so tough when traveling. We took a day trip last week and asked the cheese shop lady where to eat. She mentioned that one place was “popular,” but when my husband asked if it was *good* she made a face. We took her other recommendation and it was UH-mazing.

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      I’ve never been to San Diego but I love fish tacos so hopefully I make it there someday!

      We usually try to avoid popular places when we travel too.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    at

    Oo I love biscuits! It’s been too long since I’ve had one. I shall have to remedy this soon.

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      I’m craving one now too! Sounds like a good Sunday brunch options to me!

  • Reply
    Faith @ lovelyascharged
    at

    I’m not really sure that Orlando has any local food traditions, but we do have an awesome vegan/vegetarian profile – I’ve never been in a city that was so friendly to alternative diets!

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      That’s so cool that Orlando has a good vegan/vegetarian scene! I’m jealous!

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    at

    Ooooh, that peanut butter pie looks amazing! I live in a big urban centre, so there isn`t really “local fare”. You can walk up one street and pass lebanese, thai, chinese, greek, ethiopian, japanese and italian restaurants. I’m French Canadian, and our “traditional fare” includes such gems as pig feet soup and sugar pie. Which is pie. Made out of sugar.

  • Reply
    Rachel Wilkerson
    at

    I think we’re going to go to Charleston on vacation next month…looks like I know where we must eat!! Thanks for this!

  • Reply
    Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife
    at

    Cafe Rio– 7 thumbs wayyyyyyy up 🙂

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      Don’t rub it in!!! I need to make some faux Cafe Rio because I’m now craving the pork salad like crazy!

  • Reply
    Johnny Palmer
    at

    Sign… Need to get to USA asap. Next summer will book in a holiday. Living in New Zealand and watching all the American shows that come onto our TV has made me want to come visit for ages. Beautiful looking cuisine too

  • Reply
    Cara Craves...
    at

    I was in Charleston about a year ago, my husband and I did a road trip down from Toronto. We also tried to eat lots of quintessential southern foods, but we did not go to any of the places that you mentioned. There are so many restaurants in Charleston it’s hard to choose. It’s such a beautiful spot, we loved our time there.

  • Reply
    Shannon
    at

    I just discovered your blog through The Fitnessista…right before I am about to leave on a 8am flight to Charleston! So perfect and I am now even more pumped for my trip 🙂

  • Reply
    ashley noelle
    at

    Thanks for posting this…My husband and I just moved to Charleston, and I have to agree, it is an amazing city! Can’t wait to try that dessert place!

  • Reply
    Liz
    at

    I LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEE Cru Cafe… glad you found that gem (its a little off the beaten path i think)

  • Reply
    Kim A
    at

    I am going to Charleston in a few days and appreciate reading your reviews. I made a reservation at Poogan’s Porch because I read good reviews & love the old south ambience of the restaurant in the pictures on their website. I LOVE shrimp and grits so I am disappointed to hear it was just okay. I love the Fat Hen but don’t want to drive out there since we are only there a few days. Does anyone have any suggestions on good Calabash fried oysters & shrimp. Now I am afraid to try that at Poogan’s. Definitely will go to BAKED & maybe Lucca. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Perkins
    at

    I’ve visited Charleston quite a few times as I’ve had numerous business trips there. The issue I think you had was what to order. Hominy Grill has an amazing vegetarian platter. Cru Cafe’s shrimp and grits are THE BEST in the country and I’ve had my share. Brunch at HAL’s amazing! It’s all about what you order where

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