Charleston, South Carolina, is known for its rich culinary history and dozens of award-winning restaurants. But if you don’t want to spend all of your time with other tourists and can’t score a reservation at Husk, there are plenty of under-the-radar and local restaurants to enjoy. You don’t need to call ahead to these casual spots or worry about breaking the bank for a good meal.
Bowen’s Island Restaurant
This beloved seafood joint has burned down twice but keeps on going, serving up oysters straight from below the dockside restaurant. Follow the gravel road from James Island and you’re met with a wooden structure on the water. Cash is the preferred method of payment and you can get your seafood of choice broiled, fried, or anything in-between. Scratch your name on the table and join the years of graffiti left behind.
The Taco Spot
With locations in West Ashley and downtown, The Taco Spot is the ideal place for a quick and cheap bite. Their tacos come with delicious sauces and everything is made fresh. Choose from chicken, fish, beef, or steak with soft or crunchy shells. In addition to tacos, you can chow down on quesadillas or a burrito. Slosh on some hot sauce from the hundreds of bottles lining the bar.
Named for the writer who spent time living on Sullivan’s Island, Poe’s Tavern attracts beachgoers and hungry locals up for the drive from the city. The burgers are legendary and named for Poe’s most prolific stories like The Raven. Fish tacos and salads are also on par, paired with a full list of craft beers. There’s no hostess, so be prepared to scope out a table.
If you’re looking for true South Carolina barbecue, cross the bridge to Mount Pleasant to eat at Melvin’s. Its namesake was a member of the Bessingers, the state’s biggest barbecue dynasty. Grab a pulled pork sandwich with its signature yellow mustard-based sauce, called “The Big Joe,” and a side of steak fries.
Jack’s Cosmic Dogs
Jack’s Cosmic Dogs has been voted the best hot dog in Charleston for good reason. The roadside favorite serves up hot dogs with a futuristic spin, like their sweet potato mustard, blue cheese slaw, and all the fixings. They also sell sandwiches and vegetarian options. It’s a favorite of Food Network star Alton Brown, who named it one of the “best things he’s ever eaten.”