Charleston Self-Guided Food Tour
Charleston is a foodie’s dream vacation destination. You can’t walk two blocks in this town without stumbling up on the best oysters, grits and stews in the South. In fact, some of the most iconic southern dishes were invented right here in the Holy City. Luckily, you don’t need to walk far to find a great meal — and we don’t expect you to either. In this Charleston food tour, you’ll learn everything you ever needed to know about the culinary history of the lowcountry.
Oysters are a staple in a lowcountry diet. They popped up on Antebellum menus, featured in soups and stews. They’re included in The Carolina Housewife Cookbook in more than a dozen recipes.
Served on the half shell, roasted or fried, you can’t get away from them in Charleston. Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar is known for its extensive oyster menu, and these oysters are the perfect appetizer to whet your appetite.
Even the décor celebrates oysters here; the chandeliers here are made of discarded oyster shells. Head here for happy hour for oyster shooters and drink specials.
Just across the street from Amen is the High Cotton Charleston Restaurant, an upscale eatery that specializes in local farm-fresh ingredients.
Another Charleston staple you can’t miss is peaches. Charleston peaches date back to the 1800s — and give Georgia a run for their money when it comes to production and quality. Order the peach salad at this stop, made with South Carolina peaches and blackberries and topped with brie and a balsamic vinaigrette.
If you can’t get enough of peaches and have a car, go to the Glass Onion on Route 17 and order the peach cobbler; it’s considered one of the best in South Carolina.
If you happen to be in Charleston on a Saturday, the farmers’ market should be your next stop. Featuring famers, butchers and dairies from all over South Carolina, this famers’ market has a sampling of all the best food this state has to offer.
While you’re here, pick up a bag of Mike’s Peanuts. They offer them boiled or fried, but the boiled ones are considered a historic lowcountry treat.
On the way to Folly Island is Bowen’s Island and Bowen’s Island Restaurant, the kind of homey restaurant Charleston is known for.
Before you leave Charleston, you’ve got to try thefrogmore stew (sometimes referred to as Beaufort Boil or Lowcountry Boil). The latter names are probably more appropriate as “frogmore” is somewhat of a misnomer; this stew contains no frogs. Instead, it’s comprised of boiled shrimp, sausage corn and potatoes.
You won’t find too many places with a dress code in Charleston, and the Lowcounty Bistro is no exception. In fact, causal clothing is the perfect attire in which to enjoy this down-home recipe.
Another Charleston original is Planters Punch, invented right here at the Planters Inn; which is perfect for you because this is a great time in your tour to stop and enjoy a cocktail.
Made of dark rum, juice, grenadine and simple syrup, it’s no wonder Planters Punch was first invented in this a city thats history is soaked in rum.
Saddle up to the bar at the inn’s Peninsula Grill — or if the weather is nice, take a seat outside. If you get hungry while you’re here, order the She Crab Soup (another lowcountry favorite), topped with lump crab and drizzled with Sherry. And don’t forget to top it off with a slice of their famous coconut cake!
If you can’t make it to the farmers’ market on a Saturday, head to the Historic Charleston City Market any day of the week. Built in 1841, this market has been a part of Charleston’s history for almost 200 years. It was even designated a National Historic Landmark.
Browse the stalls while snacking on a few Charleston favorites, like a freshly baked biscuit at Caviar and Bananas.
Once you’ve snacked your way through the market, hop in a cab and head across the river to The Glass Onion. Shrimp and grits is to Charleston what the deep-dish pizza is to Chicago. This lowcountry favorite needs to be on every visitor’s must-eat list.
Until it closed due to COVID, The ones at Hominy Grill were consistently voted the best in the city. But we happen to think that the ones at The Glass Onion Creamy should top this list, too. The menu changes seasonally, so don’t get your hopes up on any given menu item. If shrimp and grits aren’t available, we recommend the pimento cheese sandwich or the fried green tomato po boy.
There’s plenty of great barbecue in Charleston, so you probably can’t go wrong. Yet if you want a true Carolina BBQ experience, you need to head to Rodney Scott’s. Here you can snag some seriously tasty lowcountry-style pulled pork, smoked chicken and ribs.
Not only is Rodney known locally for his pitmaster skills, but he’s also the winner of a James Bear Award for best chef in the Southeast.
If you have a car, you could also head out to Dukes BBQ, another down-home spot that’s all about good food in a casual setting. At this buffet, you can get a plate of fried chicken, some pulled pork and a side of coleslaw — all served in styrofoam bowls — at a pretty good price.
If you’re not completely stuffed, head up to the Butcher & Bee for dessert. This restaurant is celebrated for its use of local, seasonal ingredients.
Order a bucket of ice cream drumsticks (but make sure you do so 48 hours in advance). It’s comprised of waffle ice cream, a Cadbury finger biscuit and a cornflake crust.
If you haven’t planned ahead or are into something more savory than sweet, you could always get the pickled okra and pimento cheese. Mayo, shredded cheddar cheese and pimento peppers make up this gloriously delectable spread. If you don’t order the pimento cheese at the Butcher & Bee, make sure you do so somewhere while you’re in Charleston.
Hungry for more food? When you take any Walks of Charleston tour, you can save on Charleston food and drink tours. Not only will you enjoy all of the most iconic foods Charleston has to offer, but you’ll learn a little history from a Charleston-area tour guide along the way.