Best Businesses of Charleston Guide: 2020
March 26, 2020
Charleston is a town of many splendors, with classic restaurants and new boutiques around every corner, there’s delight for everyone in store. With all this plenty, it makes choosing the “Best Businesses of Charleston” rather challenging. In my Charleston guides, I’m always trying to give y’all my personal favorite recommendations, but I wondered what it would look like to get your responses! If you’re a Charleston local, you know that a local publication does their own “Best of Charleston” voting, but since companies can buy advertising for it, it can come off as a bit insincere. That’s where you guys come in!
I turned to Instagram and asked you all what you thought the best places in Charleston were, tallied them all up, and even had to have some run-offs for tied contests. These aren’t my opinions, it’s just a result of real people voting for their real favorites. It was close, but it was also so interesting to see what won out in the end for the Best Businesses of Charleston 2020.
Charleston is consistently ranked as one of the world’s best cities, by Conde Nast, Travel + Leisure, and most recently, by Southern Living, for the fourth time running. If you’ve ever been to Charleston, this comes as no surprise. Between top class dining and shopping, enchanting architecture and history, and the ever present appeal of sweet Southern charm, Charleston has it all. Charleston isn’t limited to its stereotypes though. While there’s plenty of Lowcountry joints around, there are also hot bars, new fusion restaurants, and cutting edge boutiques in the Holy City. This Best Businesses of Charleston list will span the full list, including classics like best brunch and best happy hour, as well as fun additions like best margarita and best pet-friendly spot.
Best Businesses of Charleston 2020
Best Charleston: Eats
Best Overall Restaurant in Charleston:
1. Halls Chophouse
Without a doubt, Halls Chophouse should be on every Charleston bucket list. The food is phenomenal, the experience is top class, and there’s not much that can beat it! The votes for Halls were overwhelming, and they made a few other Best of Charleston picks down the list. It’s clear that when Halls sets out to do something, they do it well, whether it’s their steaks, brunch, or drinks.
3. Xiao Bao Biscuit
Best Breakfast in Charleston:
1. Page’s Okra Grill
Page’s Okra Grill combines the best of simple Southern food with casual coastal seafood traditions for a menu of delicious, locally sourced, fresh dishes. Located in Mount Pleasant, Page’s is known for their house shrimp and grits with fried cheese grits, a smoked andouille sausage cream sauce, and sauteed jumbo East Coast shrimp. Their breakfast entrees are hearty and delicious, and they also have a bunch of healthy and sweet options, too!
2. Miller’s All Day
3. Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Best Brunch in Charleston:
1. Halls Chophouse
The Gospel Brunch at Halls Chophouse is a Charleston brunch classic. Between the amazing food and the wonderful local Gospel music accompanying your meal, you’re in for a total brunch experience at Halls. Halls shows off their steakhouse chops with bacon-wrapped filet mignon and several burger options, as well as traditional breakfast dishes like eggs benedicts and Southern sweet potato pancakes.
2. Poogan’s Porch
3. Obstinate Daughter
Best Lunch in Charleston:
1. Five Loaves
Five Loaves Cafe is all about healthy, sustainable food, and it’s good too! The cafe boasts a substantial lunch menu with plenty of sandwiches and salads, featuring innovative recipes. Fresh ingredients brighten up any workday slump, and Five Loaves is a great cost-effective lunch choice also.
3. Xiao Bao Biscuit
Best Dinner in Charleston:
FIG stands for Food is Good, and theirs certainly is. This James Beard award-winning restaurant serves up elevated takes on Southern classics with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Try one of their fresh fish dishes, impeccably seasoned and absolutely delicious!
3. Wild Olive
Best Ice Cream in Charleston:
1. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is a national brand making waves with their unique flavors and smooth texture, without a long list of synthetic ingredients. Stop by the white subway tile-clad scoop shop on King Street to try some creative flavors like brown butter almond brittle, brambleberry crisp, or wildberry lavender.
2. Off Track
I have to give a shout out to this amazing shop. They’ve been open for less than a year and have already built a huge following, coming in second with your votes. They’re a local shop serving handcrafted recipes, and they have great vegan options, too!
3. Ye Ole Fashioned
Best Fried Chicken in Charleston:
1. Leon’s Oyster Shop
Don’t let the name confuse you; while Leon’s does serve up excellent oysters, the true star of their menu is their fried chicken. Whether you’re eating it plain or in Leon’s spectacular fried chicken sandwich, the fried chicken here is beyond compare. Throw in a menu of flavorful sides and a fun restored garage setting and you’ve got a win!
3. Martha Lou’s
Best Pizza in Charleston:
1. EVO Pizzeria
This was the closest vote we had! The poll showed exactly 50-50 when I called it, and EVO won by just one vote. Y’all are enthusiastic about your pizza. Located in North Charleston, EVO Pizzeria bakes up wood-fired pizzas alongside their craft bakery dessert offerings. Pizza and dessert? Yes please!
2. Crust Wood Fired Pizza
Best Restaurant on Sullivan’s Island:
1. Obstinate Daughter
Obstinate Daughter is a Sullivan’s Island instution, drawing people from all over Charleston to enjoy the simple beachy decor and delicious food for all meals. Their dishes are undeniably Southern, but they incorporate French, Italian, and Spanish influences with a creative flair.
2. Poe’s Tavern
3. High Thyme
Best Restaurant on John’s Island:
1. Wild Olive
Wild Olive is a go-to for Italian food on John’s Island. Pair your fresh pasta with one of their selection of wines and a flavorful starter. Dine outside for an authentic, al fresco experience! Wild Olive’s seasonal menu incorporates the best of fresh, local ingredients.
2. The Royal Tern
3. The Fat Hen
Best Restaurant on James Island:
Mondo’s unassuming location hides a treasure trove of hearty plates of traditional Italian food. Sizeable portions in a cozy location with an outdoor patio makes Mondo’s beloved on James Island. With a pasta-heavy menu featuring homemade pasta and an array of sauces, Mondo’s cements its prize-winner status with a solid lineup of appetizers and salads.
2. Martin’s BBQ
Best Restaurant in West Ashley:
1. Red Orchids Bistro
Red Orchids’ mission is to serve delicious, affordable food that keeps people coming back, and they’re succeeding! Their extensive menu features both classic and reimagined Chinese dishes in a classy space in West Ashley.
3. Boxcar Betty’s
Best Restaurant on Folly Beach:
1. Rita’s Seaside Grill
Owned by the same group as Halls Chophouse, Rita’s is a great, casual American eatery on Folly Beach. They offer both indoor and outdoor seating areas, with bright, airy decor and incredible food. Their house-smoked BBQ is a must-try, as is their burger and award-winning chili.
2. Jack of Cups
3. Taco Boy
Best Dessert in Charleston:
1. Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe
With a rotating selection of fresh, daily prepared desserts, Kaminsky’s has something for every kind of sweet tooth! In addition to their decadent cakes and delicious pastries, Kaminsky’s also has a menu of heaping milkshakes in a variety of flavors.
2. Carmella’s Cafe and Dessert Bar
3. Peninsula Grill
Best Asian Cuisine in Charleston:
1. Xiao Bao Biscuit
Xiao Bao Biscuit is serving up family style Asian fusion dishes inspired by Chinese, Taiwanese, Thailand and Vietnamese cuisines. With a seasonal menu, fresh ingredients, and a charming space in Cannonborough, Xiao Bao Biscuit is the perfect fusion food stop.
2. Basil Thai
3. Red Orchids Chinese Bistro
Best Vegan Restaurant in Charleston:
1. Dell’z Uptown
Dell’z Uptown is one of a few of Charleston’s dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurants. In a quaint shop with wood and metal accents in West Ashley, Dell’z offers vegetarian and vegan wraps, pizzas, salads, and more!
2. Gnome Cafe
3. Basic Kitchen
Best Barbecue in Charleston:
1. Lewis Barbecue
John Lewis is the pitmaster of Lewis Barbecue and has gained a cult-like following that won Lewis this vote. Originally from Texas, Lewis brings his expertise and Texas-style barbecue to the Holy City. Lewis Barbecue has a selection of deliciously smoked and flavored meats, sides, and daily specials for all barbecue enthusiasts to enjoy.
2. Rodney Scott’s BBQ
Another special mention has to go to Rodney Scott, who always greets me with the warmest welcome! And their BBQ chicken & collards are life-changing.
3. Home Team BBQ
Best Italian Food in Charleston:
1. Wild Olive
This James Island restaurant won for best spot on James Island. Their Italian menu is spectacularly varied, with a huge list of freshly made pastas and accompanying sauces. With appetizers and salads rounding out the menu, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported across the globe with a meal at Wild Olive.
3. Le Farfalle
Best Seafood in Charleston:
1. 167 Raw
This tiny oyster bar is a seafood giant in the Charleston food scene. 167 Raw is renowned for its oyster offerings, but other dishes like the lobster roll make their whole menu a seafood extravaganza. Fresh ingredients carefully prepared make 167 Raw a stand-out in the Holy City, and it’s rewarded by consistent crowds.
2. The Ordinary
3. Hank’s Seafood Restaurant
Best Sushi in Charleston:
Combining the best of authentic Asian cuisine with Southern twists, O-Ku is known for their sushi menu, especially their half-off sushi roll happy hour deals. There’s a huge variety of rolls to choose from, so there will definitely be one (or two or three) that strike your fancy!
3. Fuji Kiawah
Best Mexican Food in Charleston:
1. Taco Boy
Fun and vibrant settings complement the bright flavors in Taco Boy’s food. As indicated by their name, Taco Boy is known for their taco selection, with 13 innovative recipes to choose from. They also have a huge selection of fun drinks, including tequila flights.
3. Mex 1 Coastal Cantina
Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant in Charleston:
1. Coastal Crust
Pizza is an all-around people pleaser, so it’s no surprise that Coastal Crust, who makes incredible wood-fired pizzas in their Mount Pleasant and James Island locations, took the prize for the best kid-friendly restaurant. From basics like cheese and pepperoni to exciting options like oyster mushroom and fig & prosciutto, and a great wine list, Coastal Crust is good for kids and parents alike.
3. Martin’s BBQ
Best Pet-Friendly Restaurant in Charleston:
1. Home Team BBQ
Home Team BBQ is everything you’d want in a classic barbecue joint. Amazing barbecue, craft cocktails, and a huge whiskey selection are just some of the draws to this restaurant. Reclaimed wood fills the space, which includes a huge pet-friendly outdoor courtyard area. Home Team is a great place to spend a few hours with friends and family (furry friends included).
2. Lost Dog Cafe
3. Red’s Ice House
Best Businesses of Charleston: Drinking
Best Coffee in Charleston:
1. Vintage Coffee Cafe
This charming cafe in Mount Pleasant pulls an amazing espresso. The light wood-filled space is perfect to settle in with a latte and one of their delicious breakfast sandwiches. Vintage Coffee Cafe also even serves wood-fired pizza!
2. Kudu Coffee + Craft Beer
3. The Daily
Best Bar in Charleston:
1. Blind Tiger Pub
Blind Tiger Pub is a fixture of Charleston society and is located in an alehouse that dates back to 1802. The name refers to the term coined in the late 1800s to describe the illicit drinking and gambling spots that opened during the temperance movement. Grab a signature cocktail from Blind Tiger’s extensive drink menu and head outside to the gorgeous courtyard for a great night out.
2. Vintage Lounge
3. The Gin Joint
Best Happy Hour in Charleston:
1. O-Ku Sushi
O-Ku Sushi is known for its sushi and the way it celebrates authentic Asian cuisine with a southern approach. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5-7 p.m., O-Ku offers half-off of all sushi rolls and select bottles of sake, as well as $3 off signature cocktails. This deal is worth it! Get your drinks and some delicious sushi at the same time inside this modern space.
2. Oak Steakhouse
Best Bloody Mary in Charleston:
1. Obstinate Daughter
Located on Sullivan’s Island, Obstinate Daughter is a Charleston favorite that’s worth the drive. Serving up Italian spins on classic plates, OD (as the locals call it) is great for any meal, but their brunch is a stand-out. Obstinate Daughter is one of several Charleston restaurants serving up a unique, lighter-colored Bloody Mary made with Natural Blonde Bloody Mary Mix. The hot pickled okra garnish compliments the brighter flavor of this iconic brunch drink.
2. The Darling Oyster Bar
3. Page’s Okra Grill
Best Martini in Charleston:
1. Halls Chophouse
I’m not a martini connoisseur, but for those of you who are, hit up Halls Chophouse. Halls’ drinks are taken just as seriously as their food, and they offer several specialty martinis, including a Key Lime Martini and a Jalapeno Martini.
2. High Cotton
3. Grill 225
Best Margarita in Charleston:
1. Taco Boy
It doesn’t matter if you prefer frozen or on the rocks, Taco Boy has your margarita needs covered with a menu full of classic and innovative margaritas. Try the Blood Orange house specialty margarita or have a smoky twist with the Mezcal Margarita.
2. Mex 1 Coastal Cantina
Best Brewery in Charleston:
1. Revelry Brewing
Revelry is everything a brewery should be, with Charlestonians and tourists alike sharing brews on the industrial rooftop of the brewery. With a wide selection of beer offerings, Revelry is well-suited for beer aficionados and casual drinkers alike, especially if you’re enjoy some good food and live music at the same time.
2. Low Tide Brewing
3. Holy City Brewing
Best Rooftop Bar in Charleston:
1. The Rooftop Bar at Vendue
Perched at the top of The Vendue, Charleston’s Art Hotel, The Rooftop offers sweeping views of some of Charleston’s most iconic sights. There are both covered and uncovered seating options spanning the two-tiered bar, and the menu features delicious cocktails with a twist.
2. Citrus Club
3. The Watch
Best Wine Bar in Charleston:
From its exposed brick spot on King Street, Uncork offers a selection of amazing wines and delicious small plates, as well as some of the most gorgeous cheese boards in Charleston! Uncork’s Enomatic wine system allows you to sample wines by the glass without committing to a whole bottle, so you can try a few from their well-curated stock, whatever your tastes may be. They also have great happy hour options with discounts on small plates, cocktails, and wines.
3. Avondale Wine + Cheese
Best Dance Club in Charleston:
This night club on Calhoun has everything you could want from a night out dancing. With themed DJ nights, an outdoor terrace, a spacious dance floor, and VIP suite options, Trio is the place to go.
3. The Commodore
Best Businesses of Charleston: Activities
Best Hotel in Charleston:
1. The Dewberry
The Dewberry Hotel exudes quintessentially Charleston mid-century style inside and out. Just steps away from King Street in the heart of downtown Charleston, this hotel is the perfect luxurious getaway in the Holy City. Complimentary bike rentals, gorgeously decorated rooms, an on-site spa, rooftop yoga, live music, and several dining and bar options are just some of the top-notch amenities you’ll get when you stay at The Dewberry.
2. Belmond Charleston Place
3. Hotel Bennett
Best Attraction in Charleston:
1. Magnolia Plantation
Founded in 1676, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is one of the top picks for a plantation visit in Charleston. Their gardens are spectacular, with amazing displays of flowers like azaleas. There are a bunch of different tours you can take of the property, including a tram tour and a rice-boat tour, so you could easily spend a whole day exploring here!
2. Pineapple Fountain
3. City Market
Best Day Trip from Charleston:
1. Savannah, G.A.
Live oaks, cobblestone streets and swoon-worthy antebellum architecture are just 2 hours away from Charleston in Savannah, the oldest city in the state of Georgia. Beyond the gorgeous sights, Savannah has plenty to do for any traveler. Named the Hostess City, Southern charm oozes through every interaction, and you’ll feel compelled to step into boutiques and restaurants to “sit and stay a while,” just soaking up the atmosphere.
2. Beaufort, S.C.
3. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Best Beach in Charleston:
1. Sullivan’s Island
With 3 miles of smooth sand available to enjoy, Sullivan’s Island is a good choice for a pristine beach day. Add in views of the lighthouse and the many dining options available on Sullivan’s Island, and you can easily spend a whole day soaking in the sun and sand on Sullivan’s.
2. Folly Beach
Best Outdoor Event in Charleston:
1. Southeastern Wildlife Exposition
The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) is a three-day event celebrating wildlife and nature through fine art, conservation education, sporting demonstrations, and food and drink. With more than 40,000 attendees annually, SEWE brings people together in the heart of Charleston to learn more about wildlife conservation and the sporting lifestyle.
2. Cooper River Bridge Run
3. Second Sunday
Best Outdoor Activity in Charleston:
1. Walking the Battery
Located on the lower shores of Charleston’s peninsula, The Battery is a defensive seawall and promenade featuring plenty of green space, historic canons and monuments, and gorgeous antebellum houses. Stroll the Battery to enjoy some of the Holy City’s historic culture, beautiful architecture, or just a bit of cool sea breeze on a summer’s day.
2. James Island County Park
3. Going to Folly Beach
Best Boutique in Charleston:
1. Monkee’s of Mount Pleasant
This independently owned and operated boutique offers the best of women’s clothes, shoes, and accessories. Opened in 2018, Monkee’s of Mount Pleasant has a great modern space filled with fun, trendy, and classic designs!
2. Maris DeHart
3. Beckett Boutique
Best Spa in Charleston:
1. Woodhouse Day Spa + Boutique
Woodhouse Day Spa + Boutique is a unique luxury spa offering in Charleston, as it has its own standalone location. With one location in Mount Pleasant and another in downtown Charleston, Woodhouse has incredible spa services for your whole body. Expect excellent customer service, total luxury and relaxation. You can also stop in at their boutique to pick up luxury wellness products to bring the spa experience home with you!
2. Urban Nirvana
Best Place for Men’s Clothing in Charleston:
1. M. Dumas & Sons
Founded in 1917 by Mendel Dumas, M. Dumas & Sons is an iconic specialty men’s retailer located in historic downtown Charleston. They offer one of the widest range of products available in men’s specialty stores in the U.S. with a large selection of casual and chic clothing.
2. Jordan Lash
Best Salon in Charleston:
Largo was by far the top choice for best salon in Charleston. It’s been a favorite of mine since they opened in 2018. There are only four styling chairs in the large open space, creating a totally intimate experience. All of Largo’s stylists are so talented, and they do a great blonde!
2. Stella Nova
3. Canvas Salon
Best Barber Shop in Charleston:
1. Broad Street Barber Shop
Broad Street Barber Shop is exactly what you’d expect from a classic barber shop, from the barber’s pole outside to the impeccable service inside. Broad Street Barber is a full-service spot that exclusively takes walk-ins.
2. Barrelli Barber
Best Place to Get Your Brows Waxed in Charleston:
1. Urban Nirvana
Urban Nirvana has plenty of locations around Charleston, so you can be sure to find a place to get your brows waxed whenever you need! As a full service day spa, Urban Nirvana has plenty of services available, but their brow waxes are professional and affordable.
2. Clear Skin Spa
3. The iLash Studio
Best Plastic Surgeon in Charleston:
1. Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery (Dr. Schimpf and Dr. Blum)
I had plenty of votes for both Dr. Schimpf and Dr. Blum that put Sweetgrass in the number one spot for Best Plastic Surgeon in Charleston. Both doctors adhere to Sweetgrass’s mission of providing patient care in a low-pressure environment, providing services that stay on the front-line of advancing technology and help you meet your beauty goals and needs.
2. Dr. Funcik of Great Face
3. O’Neill Plastic Surgery