Charleston has been voted the most popular small city in the United States for eight years in a row and with good reason: this historical city is where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired and is full of charm and famous Southern hospitality. It's guaranteed to be a hit when you visit.
Saunter down the cobbled streets, wave to the horse-drawn carriages, and then stop off to sample some of the best seafood in the whole of the United States. Thanks to its coastal location, the area in and around Charleston has an abundance of fresh fish and shellfish, which are integral to its vibrant cuisine.
Add in African, French, and British culinary heritage, and you get some of the most tantalizing and exciting dishes on the whole Eastern seaboard.
In this post, we'll explore the best seafood restaurants in and around Charleston.
Hank's Seafood Restaurant
Voted as the best seafood restaurant in Charleston for 16 consecutive years by the Charleston City Paper, and one of America's best new restaurants by Esquire when it reopened, it's little wonder that Hank's is full every single night. Opposite the city market, it's in a wonderful location to have access to the freshest fish and the best ingredients for a sublime fine-dining seafood experience. Be sure to try Hank's specialty pan-fried crab cakes or the delicious Charleston Oyster stew.
The traditional décor of the saloon bar and raw bar means that not only will you be eating great food, you'll be stepping into the past and enjoying a piece of the city's rich, culinary history.
FIG is not the fanciest downtown option, but don't let that stop you from entering its modest doors. Formerly a quaint, corner bistro, FIG has blossomed into one of Charleston's top eateries. Although the menu changes regularly to reflect seasonal selections, FIG's primary core is traditional southern cooking with a South American and French twist, owing to the experience of chef Jason Stanhope. One of the menu's mainstays and the most popular dish is the fish stew Provençal.
To accompany your meal, FIG has an excellent choice of wines and cocktails, prepared by expert bartenders. Book a table in advance, as it's often full.
The Folly Beach Crab Shack
Converted from an old gas station into an outdoor deck with a relaxed and cozy atmosphere, Folly Beach Crab Shack has become one of the most popular restaurants near Charleston. The Crab Shack aka "The Gathering Spot" serves up far more than the crustacean it's named after. Choose from steamed specialties, sandwiches, the raw bar, and fantastically named shacketizers, all of which will leave you heading home feeling full and satisfied. The food here is so damn good that the Crab Shack has even been featured on the Travel Channel!
There are also branches in West Ashley and Coosaw Creek.
Isle of Palms
Coda del Pesce
Coda del Pesce, or the fish's tail to English speakers, is the perfect setting for splashing out on a special and memorable meal. Floor to ceiling windows and an 18-seater outside deck overlooking the waves of the Atlantic Ocean gently lapping onto the beach. The Italian influenced restaurant has a menu that changes daily to accommodate the best fresh and sustainably caught seafood available on the day. Award-winning and experienced head chef and owner, Ken Vedrinski, also owns downtown restaurant Trattoria de Lucca. Both restaurants are featured in Zagat's list of best-ranked restaurants in Charleston.
Long Island Cafe
This quaint seafood café has been popular with locals and tourists alike since it opened its doors in 1987. In 2012, the café was overhauled when restauranteur Michael Proetto and chef Ravi Scher teamed up to buy the café, and they have never looked back. Chef Scher has reworked classic dishes with an innovative and exquisite touch to serve some of the tastiest dishes in Isle of Palms. Nothing beats the local staple She Crab soup, a creamy soup infused with sherry.
The Atlantic Room at The Ocean Course
Part of Kiawah Island golf resort, the Atlantic Room is not only one of the most revered restaurants close to Charleston, but in the whole of South Carolina. This place has hoovered up awards, and has excellent views of the Atlantic Ocean and one of Kiawah Island's many romantic beaches.
All produce is locally sourced and the menu changes daily to reflect the freshest catch. Try delicious small sushi plates with perfectly complimenting cocktails or Japanese sake.
As well as sushi, the restaurant offers a range of delicious conventional seafood dishes which are complimented by a wine list approved by "Wine Spectator". If you've tried everywhere on this list and you're starting to get tired of seafood, you'll be happy to know that the Atlantic Room is also a top-class steakhouse.
Ravenel Fresh Seafood
It's well worth making the half-hour journey by car out to Ravenel Fresh Seafood. Don't let the fact that the restaurant is situated at the side of a highway put you off. The beautifully decorated building is easily recognisable as it's covered with paintings of fish (of course), fishermen, seabirds, and boats, but the real attraction here is the delicious fresh seafood. The signature dish of this unpretentious restaurant is garlic butter crab, and it's excellent. The friendly staff also run a store where you can buy fish to take home and prepare yourself using their recommendations.
The Obstinate Daughter
Named after Miss Carolina Sullivan, one of the defenders of Charleston during the Revolutionary War in 1776, The Obstinate Daughter is located on the laid-back and quaint Sullivan's island. A casual fusion restaurant inspired by southern and Mediterranean cuisine, the Obstinate Daughter is perfect for a spot of lunch or a quiet dinner. There is a range of choices from small plates to pasta, to pizzas made in their wood-fired oven. Not only does the restaurant offer great food, it uses the freshest local produce and is officially certified as a green restaurant.
Try any of the above restaurants for a delicious and memorable seafood experience in one of America's most charming and historical cities. For more destination guides and accommodation reviews, hotels and vacation rentals, check out Trip101.