Where To Eat In Charleston, South Carolina

By Roland Alonzi

Charleston, South Carolina was recently named America’s Best City by readers of Travel + Leisure for the seventh consecutive year. Charleston also ranked No. 12 in the publication Top 15 cities in the world and was one of only two American cities on the strongly international list.

So what makes this southern city such a popular place to visit?

Charleston, which was named after King Charles II when it was chartered in 1663, certainly has a fascinating history. This history can be easily explored in places like Boone Hall Plantation and Fort Sumpter National Monument.

Yet travelers don’t need to visit just one place to soak up the city’s history. Stroll through the French Quarter, with its cobblestone streets lined with townhouses and oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and you’ll soon understand why the city lands at the top of so many “best of” lists.

Besides Charleston’s history, the common theme of what makes the city so special is its food.

Last March, Today’s show streamed live from Charleston Wine + Food, the city’s popular annual festival. Additionally, nationally acclaimed restaurants pop up regularly throughout the city, especially in neighborhoods like East Side and NoMo.

While there’s no shortage of restaurants to explore in Charleston, there are some cool concepts popping up in the city. Here are three of the more unique options to check out the next time you visit Charleston.

Fire Food + Knives Charleston Dining

Photo: Food Fire + Knives

Food Fire + Knives

In Charleston, many travelers prefer the flexibility and variety of accommodations found on services like Airbnb and HomeAway. After all, renting a stately three-bedroom home can be cheaper and more fun than being in three separate hotel rooms. For families, this convenience is even more valuable.

Local Charleston Business Food Fire + Knives offers a unique hybrid of accessible private dining and interactive cooking classes. On-demand service connects visitors with local expert chefs to create a a private in-home dining experience that’s surprisingly affordable.

When you factor in the cost of a meal at a fine restaurant and take an Uber or your rental car through the crowded city streets – not to mention the hassle of finding a restaurant to suit your group’s preferences – Food Fire + Knives has created an ideal solution that is comparable in price.

Through the company’s website, you are paired with a local chef who will create a personalized menu for a wide variety of cuisines ranging from Asian Fusion and New French to Lowcountry and Modern American. Basically anything you can imagine, Food Fire + Knives can happen – even sushi.

To add an element of entertainment, try the “demo option”. It’s basically a live, in-person, interactive cooking class. The chef will discuss everything from cooking techniques and choosing the right ingredients to recipes and inspiration when preparing the meal.

When the evening is over, the chef will clean the kitchen spotlessly clean, and there’s no need to wait for your Uber or pay for parking and getting home.

Food Fire + Knives has become so popular, especially with events like bachelorette parties, that it is expanding to five additional markets this summer and fall, including Asheville, Nashville, Savannah, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach. To plan a private in-home dining experience or to learn more, visit www.foodfireknives.com.

Mercantile Dining Room and Mash Charleston

Photos: Andrew Cebulka

Mercantile and Mash

Mercantile and Mash is located in The Cigar Factory, a mixed-use building that was once a cotton mill in the 1880s. The cigar factory now houses high-end retail stores, professional offices, and unique dining experiences.

Mercantile and Mash are separated into two different parts.

The Mercantile side includes a gourmet food store and retail space. Here, you’ll snack on dishes like sandwiches and local baked goods, and fill up on fresh pasta, charcuterie, cheese, wine, beer, locally roasted coffee, and other culinary delights. There’s also a butcher’s shop, where you can buy certified Angus beef steaks, house charcuterie and homemade artisan sausages.

The Mash side is a bar offering an extensive selection of national whiskeys and local beers. The bar even offers a type of whiskey exclusive to Mash. In addition to the bar, Mash has an indoor bocce court, shuffleboard and a selection of arcade games. If you’re in the mood to eat, Mash offers an extensive menu. Standout dishes include edamame falafel, grilled cheese with duck confit, house-made pimento cheese, and beef jerky. 701 East Bay Street, Charleston; mercandmash.com

Charleston workshop dining room

Photo: Chuck & Patty’s / Little Miss Ha

Workshop

Workshop is a unique exploratory food hall concept, the brainchild of Stephen Zoukis, one of the partners behind New York’s hugely popular Chelsea Market.

Eater called Workshop, which hosted pop-ups featuring diverse cuisine ranging from Indian and Cuban to poke bowls and roast chicken, a “Food Court Wonderland.”

The workshop includes six rotating kitchens where emerging and renowned chefs can experiment with different culinary concepts. This allows Workshop to bring an ever-growing list of small, unique concepts with local and international flair to Charleston.

Currently, Workshop offers a bar focused on organic, biodynamic and small-scale wine producers from unique national and international wine regions; a ’90s-inspired burger bar; Japanese izakaya with a focus on sushi, chirashi, sake and small plates; a taqueria inspired by California’s fresh Mexican street food scene; a local chef who prepares traditional Vietnamese dishes inspired by his Vietnamese heritage and curated by his mother; and a duo of chefs who create traditional Cajun and Creole cuisine. 1503 King Street, Charleston; ateliercharleston.com

Summer is a popular time to visit Charleston, so be sure to check out upcoming events and festivals. The Charleston Margarita Festival in downtown Charleston’s Brittlebank Park takes place on July 26. The Freshfields Village Starlight Cinema Seriesa series of free outdoor movies, runs now until August 21. In September, refresh yourself with Charleston Water Weeka celebration of recreational water sports, September 9-15.

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