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The Short List: 20 Must-Visit Charleston Restaurants

Holy City essentials

Chubby Fish is one of the newcomers defining the future Charleston restaurant style
Chubby Fish is one of the newcomers defining the future Charleston restaurant style (Jonathan Boncek)

By Robert F. Moss

Whether you’re planning an upcoming visit or just arrived in town, Charleston’s unique and much-acclaimed dining scene is so broad and diverse that it’s hard to narrow down where to go eat. That’s true even for long-time residents, for the city’s restaurant landscape is always changing and looks much different today than it did just two years ago.

Hence the Southeastern Dispatch’s inaugural Charleston Short List, which aims to help kickstart your culinary explorations. It presents twenty picks for must-visit restaurants, each of which exemplifies the character and style that made Charleston an international dining destination.

This is not exactly a selection of the “best” restaurants in Charleston—whatever that term means these days. The Holy City has fantastic options for dry aged steaks and authentic fish and chips, but those aren’t what sets it apart from other great dining cities. Instead, we’re presenting our recommendations for the restaurants we think you really need to try if you’re in town on vacation or looking to reacquaint yourself with the local dining scene.

Some of the picks are high end and expensive, but others are low key and won’t break the bank. Some are long-running local institutions, while others are new players on the scene. What they all have in common is that they offer exceptional dining experiences that you aren’t likely to find in any other city in the country.

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About the Author

Robert F. Moss

Robert F. Moss is the Contributing Barbecue Editor for Southern Living magazine, Restaurant Critic for the Post & Courier, and the author of numerous books on Southern food and drink, including The Lost Southern Chefs, Barbecue: The History of an American Institution, Southern Spirits: 400 Years of Drinking in the American South, and Barbecue Lovers: The Carolinas. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina.