The tomato tarte tatin at FIG. // Photo courtesy of FIG
The tomato tarte tatin at FIG. // Photo courtesy of FIG

GuidesCharleston

The Resy Guide to the New Classic Dishes of Charleston

By

Charleston for centuries has been an excellent place to eat, but for most of its history, the best meals were presented in private homes. For cheery reasons related to hospitality, and ugly reasons related to labor and race, a restaurant scene long failed to flourish in the city.

This situation started to change in the late 1980s, with Charleston eventually becoming synonymous with dining out: Over the past decade, the city has gained hundreds of restaurants, and picked up every accolade that glossy food magazines are authorized to offer. Restaurant-going is so central to the municipal mindset that when patients call their doctors’ offices, they’re asked if they want to make a reservation.

Yet visitors still gravitate to the dishes they might have been served if they’d gone to their great-aunt’s house for dinner: Almost every tourist is on the hunt for she-crab soup and shrimp-and-grits.

Those dishes are Charleston classics, as are the Gullah specialties sometimes overlooked, such as red rice, okra soup, deviled crab, oyster pilau, and fried shark. There is another set of classics, though, devised during this millennium by professional chefs and produced solely in commercial kitchens.

These New Classics are just as local as their predecessors — note the list includes tomatoes, shrimp, booze, and a tribute to Mama — and certainly as delicious. But they reflect the way Charleston is cooking and eating now. (As for shrimp-and-grits, try VIP Bistro.)

 

Hanna Raskin is a Charleston-based food journalist. She recently concluded an award-winning run at The Post and Courier, and will soon launch The Food Section, a newsletter covering food and drink in the American South. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Resy, too.

Discover More


Photo courtesy of Bay Street Biergarten

The Hit List

The October Hit List: Malagón, Shiki, Bay Street Biergarten, and More

The Classics

The Trick At Bowens Island? Perfect Oysters And a Special Sense of Place

New on Resy

New on Resy: Berkeley’s, Laurel, Chasing Sage, and More

Photo courtesy of Zero Restaurant + Bar

The Hit List

The September Hit List: Zero, Edmund’s Oast Exchange, CO, and More

Photo courtesy Delaney Oyster House

Guides

The Resy Guide to the Best Cocktail Spots in Charleston

Photo courtesy of Chasing Sage

The Hit List

The August Hit List: Magnolias, Chasing Sage, CudaCo, and More

The Chasing Sage kitchen staff at the pass. // Photography by Lawson Builder, courtesy of Chasing Sage

The Rundown

Four Things to Know About Chasing Sage, Now Open in Downtown Charleston

Behind the Line

For This Pastry Chef, Selling Whimsical Ice Cream Treats Became a ‘Life Raft’

Photo courtesy of Fishcamp Hilton Head

The Hit List

The Ultimate Guide to Hilton Head, Summer 2021 Edition

Photo courtesy of Palmetto Cafe

The Hit List

The July Hit List: Palmetto Cafe, Hank’s Seafood, Monza, and More

The Rundown

Everything You Need to Know About Lenoir, Now Open in Charleston

Wild Common's Orlando Pagan has integrated his high-touch cooking with the neighborhood's mellow vibe. // Photo courtesy of Wild Common

Guides

The Resy Guide to Dining in Cannonborough and Elliotborough

You know it's time for summer seafood, and the Shellmore knows it, too.

The Hit List

The June Hit List: The Shellmore, Barsa, Mex1, and More

New on Resy

Now Open on Resy: Lenoir, Bistronomy By Nico, Lowlife Bar, and More

Courtesy of Shem's Creek Crab House

Guides

The Resy Guide to Soft-Shell Crabs in Charleston