Charleston’s year-round warm climate makes it the perfect location for outdoor dining. From trendy rooftop bars to beachside taverns to rustic, down-home seafood eateries, Charleston has outstanding dining options to cater to all tastes and budgets.
Outdoor dining in Charleston, SC is a different affair from elsewhere and a tradition on its own. Come here to soak up the slower pace of life, linger over meals and spend time enjoying all the culinary delights that make the Carolina Lowcountry famous.
There’s no rush in this part of the world; food, drink and good company are to be savored like the famous sunsets over Charleston Harbor. This love of the finer things in life and easy-going nature makes all locals answer with a resounding “yes” when asked if Charleston, SC is a good place to live.
With the climate and the culture, there are almost too many delicious, memorable restaurants to choose from, but here are 13 of the best:
- Palmetto Cafe – 205 Meeting St, Charleston
Located in the grandest of hotels in Charleston, the Charleston Place, this restaurant is inspired by the courtyards of traditional Charleston homes. In these hidden leafy areas, families would gather to eat in the cool, breezy shade in the days before air conditioning. In this spirit, the Palmetto Cafe is a verdant courtyard paradise right in the heart of the historic center of Charleston.
Sit next to the fountain or the living, ivy-covered walls and sample some of the best seafood and meat the area has to offer. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but a traditional Sunday brunch with their legendary eggs benedict with caramel brioche is a favorite among locals.
- Frannie & The Fox – 181 Church St, Charleston
Enjoy oven-fired pizzas at this outstanding Charleston Italian restaurant under the twinkly lights and stars. The restaurant focuses on family-style dishes; larger portions are meant to be shared among friends and family with hearty conversation and at least a couple glasses of wine from their extensive wine list.
On cooler nights, grab a cozy seat by the giant outdoor, wood-fired oven, sip on one of their signature craft cocktails, and munch on an order of blue oyster fritters, a local favorite with an Italian twist. Open for both lunch and dinner, this restaurant’s gorgeous courtyard is always filled with good conversation and great food.
- Le Farfalle – 15 Beaufain St, Charleston
An island of delicious regional Italian cuisine in the heart of Charleston, Le Farfalle is the passion project of renowned chef Michael Toscano. After an impressive stint as a chef in several of New York’s best Italian restaurants, including Mario Batali’s Babbo and Eataly’s Manzo, he opened his own award-winning restaurant in Greenwich Village, Perla.
His success led him to open a world-class restaurant in historic Charleston to bring the finest Italian cuisine to the Lowcountry.
Le Farfalle is located in a historic building with a green patio perfect for a warm evening meal. Sample some of the finest traditional Italian foods like Ceci in Umido, Agnolotti and grilled Branzino, and finish it off with one of their flavorful flights of Amari.
They are only open for dinner, and the outdoor seating is first come, first served, so be sure to get there early and start off with some fine Italian aperitifs like Fernet, Cynar, or Sfumato.
- BLU Beach Bar & Grill – 1 Center St, Folly Beach
There is outdoor dining, and then there is beachfront dining. BLU Beach Bar & Grill is located right on Folly Beach at what locals call the “Edge of America.” This famous, laid-back beach town has some of the best food and drinks on the Eastern Seaboard. Enjoy sweeping views of the entire white sand coastline and feel the gentle ocean breeze as you eat some of the freshest seafood you can find.
They offer regional and standard dishes, all served with the highest quality ingredients. Try the Lowcountry sweet plantains as an appetizer, the grilled salmon and avocado salad for a light meal, or the locally caught swordfish on the grill for a full taste of the best Atlantic seafood.
- 39 Rue de Jean Charleston – 39 John St, Charleston
Cleverly named 39 Rue de Jean, this is a French translation of its street address and an homage to the delicious French Brasserie-style food served in the historic building it calls home. 39 Rue de Jean focuses specifically on 1800s French Brasserie foods like seared foie gras, escargot, duck tartine, and coq au vin while also adding a touch of Lowcountry seafood tradition with Carolina French fusion moules served five ways, roasted trout amandine, and seared fresh scallops.
All foods pair well with the extensive wine menu and everything can be savored and enjoyed on the restaurant’s romantic patio, where fin-de-siecle decore makes the rest of the city feel miles, and centuries, away.
- Park & Grove – 730 Rutledge Ave, Charleston
Located in historic downtown Charleston just a few short steps from Hampton Park, Park & Grove is a beloved local favorite and a neighborhood mainstay. The restaurant focuses on New American cuisine, bringing local ingredients and tastes to every dish, highlighting what makes this part of the Carolinas special.
The restaurant is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, with seasonal menu changes to ensure that only the freshest ingredients are served. Grab a seat under the leafy trees on the patio and sample some Yellow Fin Tuna, Marketfish, Bang Island Mussels, roasted quail, or oysters on the half shell.
- Bay Street Biergarten – 549 E Bay St, Charleston
Enjoy the flavors and beers of southern Germany in this authentic Bavarian Biergarten in the heart of historic Charleston. Bay Street Biergarten is located in the former Wilmington Railroad Depot in the historic Wraggborough neighborhood. This 7,500-square-foot building was destroyed during the Civil War, and its ruins are now home to one of the trendiest and best craft breweries in South Carolina.
The Biergarten celebrates Charleston’s storied history and Bavaria’s long tradition of delicious food and beer. Try fusion dishes like Schnitzel and Grits, Jagerschnitzel, Biergarten surf and turf with locally sourced seafood and meat. The patio is dog-friendly, offering live music on Thursday and Friday evenings and weekend afternoons.
- Bohemian Bull – 1531 Folly Rd, James Island
A self-proclaimed place for families and friends to relax with a rotating list of 31 craft beers on tap, the outdoor seating at Bohemian Bull is some of the best in the Charleston suburb of James Island, a popular stopover for those interested in neighboring Kiawah Island real estate. Grab a picnic table for brunch, lunch, or dinner under the shade of gorgeous old trees and twinkly lights, and choose a pint from the industrial rustic-styled bar.
The menu features modern takes on traditional southern comfort food classics like fried green tomatoes, fried mac & cheese, and fried chicken. For a taste of modern southern classics, try the pecan-crusted salmon.
The beer menu is constantly updated with a wide selection of high-quality ales, stouts, lagers, IPAs, wheat, and fruit beers from South Carolina and around the country.
- Bowen’s Island – 1870 Bowens Island Rd, Folly Beach
Often referred to as a “state of mind” rather than a restaurant by its loyal customers, Bowen’s Island is a one-of-a-kind eatery that cannot be missed. Open since 1946, this restaurant is a collection of cinder blocks and graffiti-covered walls built on stilts above the tidal flats at the end of a road two miles away from the main sites of Folly Beach.
Oysters are served not by the dozen but by the shovelful, the tool that transports them from the custom-made steamer to your plate.
The restaurant is entirely without pretension and serves legendary food on a simple first-come-first-served basis. They also cater to groups, making it an excellent party destination to celebrate birthdays, bachelor parties, and business events. But make sure you book ahead to select from three of the group catering areas, including the bustling Dock House, the refined Sophisticate, or the Porch with its stunning water view.
The menu has a grand total of three mains: shrimp and grits, Frogmore stew (a take on the famous Lowcountry boil of shrimp, sausage, potatoes, and corn), and oysters by the half tray or all-you-can-eat. Choose your dish, grab a cold beverage and slip into the Bowen’s Island state of mind.
- Uptown Social – 587 King St, Charleston
Uptown Social is one of the most fun outdoor restaurants for those looking to drink as well as eat. The rooftop of the bar and restaurant overlooks historic downtown Charleston. The menu is crafted by Brooklyn native and self-proclaimed “Legend” Anthony Falco. It has unique twists on bar staples like sandwiches, greasy breakfast options, and New York-style pizzas. Try the famous Wake ‘n’ Bacon pizza featured on the “Food Paradise” TV show.
The rooftop at Uptown Social is one of the most exciting spaces in Charleston, with incredible views of the Holy City’s steeples, an expansive bar menu, and nightly acts catering to almost any music taste, from hip hop to country to rock and roll. The kitchen is open from 10 p.m. to close on the weekends for those who need a little food to soak up some delicious beers and cocktails from the bar.
- Peninsula Grill – 112 N Market St, Charleston
The Peninsula Grill is one of the most beautiful fine-dining restaurants in South Carolina. A 4-star, 4-diamond restaurant located in a secluded, Palmetto tree-lined verdant garden, this is an unforgettable eatery. The restaurant is romantic and intimate, with a fine dining menu that adds Lowcountry hints and flavors to classic dishes.
Their signature dish comes for dessert, the unmissable Ultimate Coconut Cake. Introduced as a one-off Valentine’s Day decadent treat, this 12-layer coconut cake was so popular it has been kept around and enjoyed daily by locals and tourists alike, who often come specifically to savor its unique tastes.
For those looking to pull out all the stops, the Peninsula offers a Champagne bar, featuring numerous vintages of bubbly along with perfectly paired appetizers like oysters on the half-shell and foie gras.
- Red Drum Restaurant – 803 Coleman Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC
Although Red Drum Restaurant is located in the delightful, historic Charleston suburb of Mt. Pleasant, its cuisine is somewhere between coastal Carolina and the rolling plains of Texas. Native Texan Ben Berryhill built the restaurant as a hangout where the locals can relax and enjoy good food, nice weather, and cold beer. Imbibe magazine named it one of America’s top places to have a beer.
The menu features Tex-Mex staples like quesadillas, tostadas, and enchiladas and Lowland favorites like pan-seared scallops, wood-grilled chicken breast, and thick-cut pork chops with rustic pan sauce. Stop by this local hangout for a famously cold beer and watch the warm sunset over Charleston in the distance.
- The Watch Rooftop and Grill – 75 Wentworth St, Charleston
The Watch Rooftop and Grill at The Restoration Hotel is one of Charleston’s best outdoor rooftop dining options. The restaurant features farm-to-table ingredients that let you taste the best of what seafood and products the Lowcountry has to offer. This restaurant can give you a taste of the best of Charleston’s food scene, serving everything from traditional, southern-style breakfast to full-service dinners.
Try the Low Country Bouillabaisse or the Fresh Catch daily caught seafood for a taste of the region’s seafood for dinner. Or, try the tomato and watermelon salad or spicy fried chicken sandwich for lunch. Pair your food with some of the Watch’s signature cocktails like “The Claw,” “Saving Princess Peach” or “Southern Living” and enjoy the vistas of the Holy City spread out below.
Enjoy This Foodie Paradise
If you are a long-time local or a tourist staying in one of the many historic downtown Charleston hotels, there is a perfect outdoor restaurant in the Charleston area for you. The wide, diverse, and booming food scene in this historic city caters to all tastes and preferences, offering numerous options for you to choose from. Sample the cuisines of some or all of these restaurants and enjoy the best food from the Lowcountry and beyond.