Best Seafood Restaurants in Charleston: Charleston’s Top Seafood Spots – Thrillist

If you desire, this guide can provide two full weeks of seafood eating in Charleston, South Carolina. That’s fourteen of the best places that shuck oysters, skewer grilled shrimp, or sear vermillion snapper and drizzle it with a buttery sauce. Charleston is mainly at or below sea level (something apparent anytime there’s a storm and certain streets fill with water), so its relationship with the waters that surround it is as steady as the tides.

Although these spots have a seafood-focused menu, they are by no means the only places to enjoy shrimp, fish, oysters, or clams. Many of Charleston’s best restaurants include fresh seafood on the menu, so wherever you are getting ready to order, here are a few tips to ensure seafood success:

  • Communication is key if you’re looking for local specialties.

    You, the guest, have amazing power to keep the community strong where you are dining. It always begins with a question: where do you get your seafood? If your server doesn’t know, it’s a good sign it’s not going to be local.

  • If you’re ordering salmon, you’re not ordering local.

    We agree, salmon is delicious, but “it ain’t from around here, y’all.” Salmon doesn’t swim here, so unless you’re just in the mood for it, look for more local varieties such as triggerfish, flounder, swordfish, or black sea bass.

  • Oysters are having a moment in the Lowcountry.

    Oyster farming has exploded here in the last decade, so there are delicious, salty varieties available year round, and many of these restaurants support those farmers. Ask for local oysters on the half shell and you’ll be richly rewarded.

Chubby Fish

There are no reservations, no waiting area, and in our book, no doubt that this restaurant is one of the best in Charleston. Just imagine a laid back neighborhood gathering where, instead of burgers on the grill, your neighbor masterfully showcases local fish through a rotating menu of “everything is good here” dishes, and you’ll begin to get the idea. The wines skew bright and crisp, the servers are knowledgeable but not stuffy, and there’s a caviar sandwich, too. So, relax with a glass of something on the sidewalk while you wait and know that once you’re seated, the night is just beginning.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

167 Raw

French Quarter
That tourist traffic jam on the sidewalk on Lower King? Yep, 167 Raw is responsible for that. Diners habitually wait an hour or more to get into this restaurant where oysters are obligatory and the lobster roll is a thing of legend. The restaurant’s original location now serves as its Sushi Bar outpost, but since expansion to this spot on King Street, the party hasn’t stopped. Great wines, cool cocktails, and a bevy of people imbibing both no matter the time of day sets the tone, and from there, the servers guide each table to seafood satisfaction.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Delaney Oyster House

A rare Charleston spot that is open seven days a week, Delaney nevertheless makes every night feel like a special occasion. Puerto Rican native chef Shamil Velazquez grew up catching and eating seafood, and he melds island flavors with the fresh seafood from Lowcountry waters with a deft hand that doesn’t cover over the delicate flavor of many a local fish. The restaurant is a straight stunner, too, located in a single house right on Calhoun. So, if the weather permits, dine al fresco on the second-story porch.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or reserve via Resy.

Dave’s Carry Out

One of the holdouts from a simpler time in the Holy City, Dave’s Carry Out still serves some of the best fried fish platters on the peninsula, fried to order by folks who just might call you “Honey.” As the name says, this is a carry-out situation, but order right, and that styrofoam container can also be filled with Gullah Geechee staples, so don’t forget the deviled crab, red rice, or hoppin’ john.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served takeout.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar

East Bay
The original Rappahannock Oyster is in Virginia, but the owners didn’t replicate the menu from that state, only the sensibility that local is best. South Carolina seafood shines on this menu from chef Kevin Kelly, from in-season oysters to ceviches made with dayboat catch. Exposed brick walls and a gleaming bar define the dining space. There’s a wonderful happy hour, too, so begin with oysters and see where the evening takes you.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or reserve via OpenTable.

CudaCo Seafood House

James Island
Part retail fish counter, part snack and fish sandwich heaven, and part wine shop, CudaCo on Folly Road is as local as local can get. Grab a perfectly-fried fish sandwich for lunch, oysters, and Sauvignon Blanc with friends, or pick up well-butchered fish with some tips for the best way to cook it. This small shop suits James Island just fine and has become an easy stop on the way home or out to the beach.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or takeout.

Acme Lowcountry Kitchen

Isle of Palms
Relaxed with a real focus on Lowcountry specialties, Acme has become a family friendly destination for those visiting Isle of Palms or locals just crossing over the connector. You’d do well to keep a keen eye on the specials board when ordering, and if they have pecan crusted flounder, go for it. There’s also often local oysters, shrimp, and she crab soup depending on the night. Come hungry.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or reserve via Resy.

Three Sirens

Park Circle
Tucked in behind an orange door in Park Circle, Three Sirens gets the neighborhood vibe just right. They ought to, since this seafood-centric restaurant is the latest project from the owners of Stems & Skins, a wine bar located across the street. Fresh fish specials, fried oyster bar snacks, seared scallops, and whole roasted fish are Siren standbys, as well as approachable wines by the glass and a Spanish gin and tonic that is one of the best in town.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or reserve via Resy.

Hank’s Seafood Restaurant

French Quarter
Its location close to the market alone could keep it hopping, but Hank’s doesn’t rest on its location laurels. Consistently good for a long time, the restaurant has a steady group of regulars who enjoy the bar and the crispy fried shrimp and seared scallops, as well as devoted travelers who return to enjoy Lowcountry favorites year after year. Longtime chef de cuisine Tim Richardson has recently been promoted to executive chef, so there’s assurance that the good run this restaurant has enjoyed will continue.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or reserve via Resy.

Gillie’s Seafood

James Island
If you’re looking for fried seafood heaven, then this soul food spot on James Island will certainly deliver. But it’s more than just fried seafood and fries—the extensive sides menu recalls chef Sean Mendes’ grandma’s table. There’s mac and cheese, collards, sweet potatoes, and red rice, which makes the combo of these sides with crispy, fried seafood one of the most Lowcountry local meals you can have. You might need a nap afterwards, but you won’t leave hungry.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Bowen’s Island Restaurant

Between James Island and Folly Beach
A James Beard American Classic restaurant, Bowen’s Island Restaurant is on its own hammock island between James Island and Folly Beach, and a visit here has been a tradition for the area since the late 1940s. Oysters are pulled out of the Folly River and its surrounding creeks, beer and cocktails are served cold while you wait in line, and the sunset view is one of the most spectacular in the region. Bring the family and start your own tradition.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Sullivan’s Fish Camp

Sullivan’s Island’s shiniest new spot doesn’t seem new at all, but a throwback to the wood-paneled and tiki drink swilling of a bygone fish camp era. That includes crispy fried shrimp and a killer fish sammie, but it’s not all nostalgia and a good soundtrack. Rotating specials, a tempura tuna appetizer that could be a meal, and fresh salads, crudo, and seafood towers prove that although Sullivan’s is a time warp, it’s not trifling.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or reserve via Resy.

The OrdinaryThe Ordinary

Courtesy of The Ordinary

The Ordinary

Upper King
Co-owner Mike Lata has been a driving force for local, sustainable seafood since way before he opened this restaurant in 2012, but since its doors opened, The Ordinary has been a go-to for locals who want to mingle at its expansive bar, slurp down perfectly shucked oysters (and we mean perfectly: clean shell, ultra-fresh meat, oyster liquor intact), and in general, be able to relax knowing that all decisions on local and sustainable have been correctly made before they were handed a menu. If it’s caught in the local waters, The Ordinary not only serves it but makes its flavors shine.
How to book: Reserve via Resy or call 843-414-7060.

The Boathouse at Breach Inlet

Isle of Palms
The Boathouse has been a consistent go-to for years, and the view of Breach Inlet isn’t half-bad either. Come early and sidle up to the bar to drink it all in, then settle into a nice dinner of the Parmesan-crusted local catch as the sun sets over the creek. Depending on the season, you might be able to get sweet local shrimp too, so make sure and ask your server.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or reserve via OpenTable.

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Stephanie Burt thinks that seafood has no calories since she eats so much of it. Find her and her food musings at @beehivesteph and on her weekly podcast, The Southern Fork.