Boiled Peanuts: A little salty, a little soggy, a whole lot delicious. They can be really good or really bad depending on their freshness, but if you get the good ones you won’t be disappointed.
Shrimp & Grits: This Southern expectation can be found in more than a few states, but this is Charleston’s specialty. If you’re in the city you have to at least try it.
Hoppin’ John: A mixture of rice and peas. It’s traditionally served on New Year’s Day and represents good fortune for the following year with the peas acting as coins.
Shrimp Burger: Get this along the coast, preferably somewhere near Beaufort and the ports. Possibly in a place that looks like it’s in shambles.
Lowcountry Boil: A boil of fresh seafood, vegetables, and spices that bridge somewhere between Cajun, Caribbean, and traditional Southern. It must contain corn and shrimp, but the other ingredients are negotiable. It’s meant to be dumped on a table and eaten off of the cloth; utensils are about as necessary as plates.
She-crab Soup: A thick bisque-like soup made with heavy cream and fresh crab. Its orange tinge is off-putting at first, but all you have to do is taste it to love it (and like crab, you must like crab).
Hominy Grill: It has a reputation as the best brunch in the South. Its reputation isn’t incorrect, not in the least, but the lunch is also worth a shot. They’re known for their grits (for good reason), but the cornbread, the tomato pudding, the stewed okra, the hushpuppies, and pretty much anything else you order will delight your taste buds. If you only get one meal in Charleston, go here.
Shrimp Shack: Get the super shrimp burger. Don’t bother with any other sandwiches and don’t expect any extras. This is a shack, after all. The shrimp comes from right across the street where it is plucked fresh from the water. The hushpuppies and the sweet potato fries are decent sides, but again, don’t expect huge portions. This is basic hole-in-the-wall food fresh from the sea (and the deep fryer). Bring cash; they don’t accept cards.
Edmund’s Oast: Known primarily for their PB&J beer, this brewery knows its stuff. There are dozens of other options that are both fully described in the menu and freely expanded upon by the waiters if you want a recommendation. As far as food, the servings are serving size portioned – the way they should be, not oversize and large.
Jestine’s Kitchen: This place is a Southern home cooked meal wrapped up as a casual environment with lines of locals and tourists alike. Think fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and tea so sweet it’ll make your teeth tingle.
– M. Ray Hall