If you are just coming to Charleston to sail on a cruise, then you’re missing out. Charleston is one of America’s most historic cities and should be thought of as another destination on your cruise.
While there is any number of things to do in the city before or after your cruise, we think that any trip would be incomplete if you didn’t sample the local fare. From bistros to seafood, Charleston offers something for any palate. And as a popular tourist destination, it has a surprising number of quality restaurants for the city size.
Best of all? Some of the best restaurants in town are within walking distance of the cruise port in the heart of the city.
Of course, with so many options, you could have a tough time deciding where to eat. To help you out we’ve rounded up a list of 11 restaurants that are highly rated and near the cruise terminal. We’ve also created a short profile for each so you can decide which sound the best for what you’re craving.
Billing itself as “iconic lowcountry cuisine,” 82 Queen is one of Charleston’s most talked-about restaurants. The food is best described as fine cuisine versions of typical southern food. You’ll find fried oysters and seafood gumbo, as well as BBQ shrimp and grits. There are lighter options available, including several vegetarian options. If the weather is cool, be sure to try and sit out in the courtyard, which gives off a terrific southern ambiance. 82 Queen Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
If you want to celebrate a special occasion or simply want fine dining, then Charleston Grill is your place. This is definitely upscale, with wood paneled walls, white tablecloths and superb service. Lobster, shrimp, fresh seafood, even foie gras and caviar — expect all the typical fine-dining fare, but with a little southern flare. We especially want to try the German chocolate cake on the dessert menu. 224 King Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
Another entry into Charleston’s “lowcountry” cuisine and seafood, Blossom offers up the favorites like oysters, crab cakes, shrimp and grits, and blackened catfish. But the restaurant also has an expansive menu with pizzas, sandwiches, and salads. If you plan on dining, definitely look into a reservation, just to be sure you have a spot. And while it’s great food and a little pricey, we like that you don’t have to get all dressed up to dine. 171 East Bay Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
Magnolias is actually owned by the same parent company as Blossom, but it more focused on traditional southern fare. You’ll find those favorites like mac and cheese, fried green tomatoes, fried catfish, and pork chops. Dinner can be a little pricier ($20-40 per plate), but you can also visit for lunch to get some tasty grub for less money. If you have the time, visit for Sunday brunch, which offers some fantastic options like banana pudding stuffed French toast. 185 East Bay Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
Ok, so the initials of this place spell out SNOB, but you will definitely be welcomed at this restaurant. Slightly North is proud of using as many fresh, local ingredients as possible to serve up delicious southern lowcountry food. Grouper, duck, and steak are all on the menu, as are quail and a roasted pumpkin salad. If you are gluten-free, they have an entire menu just for you. We especially want to try the sour cream apple pie, served with vanilla ice cream. 192 East Bay Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
If you want to eat close to the cruise ship, it doesn’t get any closer than Fleet Landing. It’s literally a stone’s thrown away from where the ship docks. The restaurant serves seafood primarily, including favorites like fried shrimp and po-boys. That said, there is something for everyone with burgers, sandwiches and salads. We also like that the restaurant is on a pier right on the water, so it’s a cool place to watch boats pass up and the Cooper Rive. 186 Concord Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
Want the best seafood in town? Well, Hank’s has been voted best in the city by the Charleston City Paper for 16 years in a row. Frome ceviche to tuna to oysters to lobster, it’s all here. We especially love the old city charm of the building, which will take you back and holds true to the historic side of Charleston. 10 Hayne Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
Want some history with your mean? Hyman’s has been around at the same location for nearly 130 years. Best of all, the place is much more casual than other seafood eateries in the city. Get your fried shrimp po-boy, or the signature crispy flounder. While you’re there you can also check out all the plaques on tables of where celebrities — from Jimmy Buffett to Neil Armstrong — have sat and had their seafood fix in Charleston. 215 Meeting Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
FIG — which stands for “Food Is Good” is one of the adventurous restaurants making its mark on Charleston’s culinary scene. Rated in the top 3% of Charleston restaurants by TripAdvisor, people seem to love the place thanks to its focus on using fresh local ingredients. It’s a distinct change from the myriad of traditional seafood available in Charleston, and you’ll find items like chicken liver pate and slow-baked triggerfish. 232 Meeting Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
Of the nearly 700 restaurants in Charleston, TripAdvisor ranks this place #5 — so you know it’s going to be good. The menu features a different mix of pastas, seafood, salads, and soups, all prepared under executive chef and owner John Zucker, whose background includes working under Wolfgang Puck. The restaurant is also set in an old single-family home, giving it a touch of classic southern charm. Reservations are definitely recommended. 18 Pinckney Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
Chicken and waffles? Crawfish hushpuppies? Jambalaya? If it’s southern comfort food, this place will have it, but this isn’t some hole in the wall. Lowcountry Bistro has made a living off turning traditional dishes into fine dining. We’d recommend checking out the happy hour, which offers up some great deals, like $3 pork sliders. The Bistro Cuban served at lunch with Carolina pulled pork also sounds amazing. 49 South Market Street. Read reviews on TripAdvisor
Have you been to one of the restaurants on this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.