Charleston, South Carolina is fast becoming a world-class food city. For decades, this quiet city has been frequenting more and more regularly on top-level culinary professionals’ and foodies’ radars. Now, this small city’s restaurant industry is growing in the international eye. A charming southern town, the food here is renowned for its quality and the city will soon be a destination for everyone who enjoys good food. Surrounded by a beautiful, clean harbor and plenty of low country farms, the freshness of local produce plays a major role, but it’s the world-class local chefs that are the key ingredients.
A prime example is The Obstinate Daughter, opened in March 2014 on Sullivan’s Island. Executive chef Jacques Larson (from Wild Olive) is showcasing the very best of farm to table. With stunning ocean views, it’s sea to table as well. The menu is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean, but with a delicious regional touch. Every dish focuses on the primary, locally sourced ingredients, displaying them with creative twists and beautifully execution. Fried polenta, hog toast, gnocchi, and fantastic salads feature prominently- and the shrimp sandwich is delicious, simple, and crafted to perfection. A favorite from the Obstinate Daughter’s dinner menu is the veal sweetbreads, served with fresh peas, Italian pancetta, mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes. As Chef Larson said, “Italian cuisine, especially the rustic variety, just consumes my personality. The concentration on simplicity and freshness really strikes home with me.”
Of course, there’s the Charleston institution, Husk. Chef Sean Brock has been featured on Iron Chef, is a winner of the prestigious James Beard award, and is the second season host of Anthony Bourdain’s “The Mind of a Chef” on PBS. Husk is known far and wide for its modern and evolving menu. Heirloom varieties of local produce and heritage breeds of animals are used for reanimations of classic southern dishes. Chef Brock himself said, “If it’s not from the south, it’s not coming in the door,” even foregoing olive oil until sourcing from a supplier in Texas. The menu includes mouthwatering options such as pig’s ears, crispy chicken skin, and southern style strawberry cheesecake. Not just influencing local diners and cooks, this standout restaurant has impressed diners from coast to coast and looks set to remain a top-level eatery for quite some time.
On Trip Advisor alone, there are over 850 restaurants listed for Charleston, serving everything, and everyone, from local seafood eateries to Asian influenced hipster hangouts, as well as fine dining. Charleston tops the list for the number of five-star restaurants per capita, which demonstrates the strong food culture among its small population of around 130,000. Restaurant sales per capita average $2,615 yearly in Charleston, well above the national average of $1,953. It also has a larger number of restaurants per capita, a higher percentage of which are full service rather than fast food, and it’s no surprise that those numbers are growing faster than average for the US. The wonderful local bounty from both the low country and the ocean have given Charleston a reputation for quality, fresh ingredients, and its dedicated, innovative chefs present this time and time again. Recently, Charleston was chosen by the Washington Post for its first article in a series on the best American culinary towns. If you ever get a chance to visit this fantastic city, you’re bound to add it to your list, too. That is, once you’ve finished your meal and soaked up the gorgeous atmosphere with a cocktail on a porch in this food lovers’ destination.