If you’re visiting Charleston, SC or even if you’re a long-time resident, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of restaurants in the downtown area. Because Charleston is teeming with seafood fresh from the Atlantic, it’s sometimes a challenge to find one delicious place that specializes in seafood. Whether you want amazing sushi, a raw bar, or a multi-course dining experience, Charleston has some of the best seafood in the Southeast. Check out these hard to find, but noteworthy eateries that offer great seafood dishes.
Charleston’s Best Raw Bar
Situated in a refurbished 19th-century cigar factory, Rappahannock Oyster Bar's simple décor provides the perfect background for its amazing seafood. The standout raw bar serves up platters of fresh oysters, head-on shrimp, and a spectacular snapper crudo. Rappahannock usually serves a variety of Chesapeake oysters (which changes daily), and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable in helping you pick out the ones that are right for your tastes. For those not interested in the raw seafood, try the charred octopus, which is augmented by a rich potato, mustard, and spume combination which gives it a coastal European sensibility. The restaurant’s ample wine menu lends itself to the 3 oz sample pours, which lets you sample a few of Rappahannock’s amazing selections.
Tuna and Lobster
167 Raw is the quintessential tiny restaurant with an outstanding menu. Be prepared to come early to avoid the line (although it moves quickly). 167 Raw, not surprisingly, has a substantial, delicious raw bar, which includes a rotation ceviche and crudo of the day. However, it may be best known for its lobster rolls and tuna burgers, which can only be described as an out-of-this-world experience. The lobster roll is stuffed luxuriantly, while the tuna burger (which sells out quickly) is made with sashimi-grade tuna and practically melts in your mouth. Try it with a Saison from the local Blackberry Farms brewery. Or, finish up with the 2-for-1 ice cream sandwich for dessert, an elegant and fun take on the childhood chipwich.
The great thing about being next to the coast is the freshness of the fish, something that makes sushi particularly delightful. If you want the freshest sushi in town, look no further than O-Ku. Chef Andrew Souvana specializes in fresh, authentic sushi with a specially added Southern touch. Sushi beginners can start with the potato roll, which takes fresh shrimp and incorporates flash-fried potato for added flavor. The more adventurous can try the surf and turf roll, a play on the American entrée that brings Waygu beef to the sushi experience. Or, if you are hankering for unique sushi experience, rolls like the O-Ku lime roll (a delicious combination of tuna, asparagus, and lime) provide that added twist. You may want to make reservations; it gets incredibly busy at peak hours.
A Special Night Out
To celebrate that special occasion or have a romantic evening for two, the best seafood in Charleston is definitely found at The Ordinary, which provides an upscale dining experience. The Ordinary specializes in Coastal Carolina seafood, elegantly prepared with other seasonal ingredients. Locals come here for the “seafood tower”—a three-tiered turret of raw and cooked oysters, clams, other fresh seafood, which are then combined with unique, house-recipe garnishes such as lemongrass cocktail sauce. You’ll want to save room for the main courses, however, particularly the New Orleans style BBQ white shrimp, which sports a dynamic, Worcestershire-BBQ sauce that is spectacular. Although more pricey than the other restaurants on this list, The Ordinary provides one of the best fine-dining experiences in Charleston, with an elegant atmosphere and some of the most unique seafood combinations in town.
About: Rory Brown delivers food criticism and lifestyle advice to a global readership spanning three continents. With bases in Charleston, SC, Kauai, Sydney, and Lake Como, he provides sharp, well-researched analysis of current diet discourse while never missing an important restaurant opening. Rory Brown’s gastronomic philosophy is grounded in good food, good health, and good company.
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