There’s a lot Charleston is known for, but all its fame stems from being a historic port city.
And Charleston matches a long list of other global port cities for a lot of similar characteristics:
But one thing that unifies these and many more is featuring damn good, local seafood.
Experiencing Charleston requires at least one meal of fresh seafood from Lowcountry waters. And the best seafood restaurants in downtown Charleston, SC, are here to oblige.
Some typical coastal South Carolina seafood cuisine include:
shrimp and grits
fresh raw oysters
Personally, the best seafood restaurants in downtown Charleston are too pricey to visit on a regular basis. But let’s face it: seafood ain’t cheap.
Top 10 Seafood Restaurants in Downtown Charleston, South Carolina
1. 167 Raw
This diminutive restaurant on East Bay Street, across from Harris Teater, packs a bunch. This little restaurant started as an 8-seat raw seafood bar. It’s now a destination for anyone looking for the best seafood restaurants in Charleston, SC.
This cozy and casual restaurant is fantastic, and my favorite on this list. Be ready for a wait when you come, though, as 167 Raw is everyone else’s favorite, too. And their small size and limited seating (made worse with a recent legal dispute) can get hairy.
Anything from their raw bar (especially including raw oysters) is amazing.
2. The Ordinary
This downtown Charleston seafood restaurant is plain hip. Where Cannon Street ends on Upper King sits the Ordinary. The building is a converted 1920s bank. The expansive interior of high ceilings isn’t great for those sensitive to noise levels. But the second floor seating area doesn’t have the same problem. And the bar is absolutely beautiful.
The service here is great, and matches the various, rotating menu of seafood. Pretty much everything here is exceptional seafood, so avoid this place if you or someone in your party prefers other options. Big favorites are the raw oysters and shrimp hushpuppies.
3. Coast Bar and Grill
Coast Bar and Grillwas founded in 2002 and redefines fresh with their fantastic menu. The restaurant is designed with inspirations from paintings of various parts of the world. The decorations create an atmosphere like a multifarious beach bar. The chefs procure fresh seafood daily from local fishermen and farmers. Afterwards, the food is prepared on a custom made wood-fired grill. The menu is specially crafted by the chefs and includes such local favorites as seared rare tuna, wood grilled fish, and fish tacos.
4.Fish Restaurant Charleston
This Upper King Street restaurant mixes French cuisine with Asian cuisine. The combination creates an excellent meal to match the warm and inviting ambience. Fish Restaurant’s Bastille Day Celebration dinner is not to be missed. The event features family-style seating for a prix fixe menu. Entertainment between courses celebrate French culture. As far as seafood restaurants on King Street go, this is one your best options.
The meals are all enjoyed with a view of the beautiful waterfront from the maritime-chic dining room and wrap around deck. Reservations are taken (though not required) to enjoy one of the few Charleston seafood restaurants on the water.
The nondescript building of this Ellitotborough/Cannonborough stalwart conceals one of Charleston’s best-concealed secrets. Its fantastic fried fish, shrimp, and fried food in general are all big draws. The take out restaurant welcomes guest with the genteel hospitality you come to expect here in Charleston. Dave’s Carry Out also sells fresh and healthy food at prices cheap for historic downtown Charleston. They have a few tables for customers who intend to sit in and eat, but this eatery is focused on take-outs picked-up from the counter.
7.Hank’s Seafood Restaurant
This busy restaurant has been voted as one of the best seafood restaurants in Charleston for years. For fifteen consecutive years, the restaurant has served seafood using local recipes.
This eclectic oyster bar serves a seafood menu which comprises of Lowcountry recipes of:
The raw bar of the restaurant offers fresh seasonal shellfish and a variety of oysters. All can be washed-down with their extensive cocktail and beer menu. Pearlz supports the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative and has been voted the place to find the best oysters in Charleston by locals. My personal favorite for raw oysters is later on in the list.
To go with typical seafood fare. Its sister restaurant is considered one of the best seafood restaurants in North Charleston, SC, as well. Visitors looking to stay close to the Charleston airport can enjoy that option as well.
A Few More Options for Seafood Restaurants in Downtown Charleston, SC
Yes, these didn’t make the top list. But there’s a good reason: they’re not my favorite.
10.Old Towne Grill and Seafood
This seafood restaurant on Lower King Street is one of the longest lasting restaurants in Charleston. This cozy Greek restaurant with a modern look serves gyros and shish kebabs. It also serves more typical American fare such as flame-grilled steaks, chicken. Old Towne Grill and Seafood makes this list for serving all sorts of seafood, be it boiled, steamed, or fried.
11.Charleston Crab House
This casual seafood restaurant is located on Market Street near the Charleston City Market. It features a convivial atmosphere and a spacious outdoor seating area, including rooftop seating. The restaurant serves:
Hyman’s Seafood has been around for a couple of years as a family restaurant with a fun experience and great food. They serve hush puppies, shrimp, and grits, fried green tomatoes among others. This restaurant is a perennial favorite with tourists for reasons beyond this writer. There’s always a long line in front, though Hyman’s Seafood has earned a bit of a reputation among locals.
Great Choices for Sushi Restaurants in Charleston, SC
I love sushi. And sushi within walking distance even more. But inexpensive good sushi within walking distance trumps all else.
O-Ku Sushi restaurant celebrates the authentic Asian cuisines mixed with a Southern approach. Its menu depends on unique local ingredients and sophisticated arrangements. From sushi specialties to small plates, Chef Thad Stuckey highlights the freshest fish from global locales such as:
Sustainable sources in Charleston
The ambience of this seafood restaurant on Upper King Street and Radcliffe is modern and chic. The decor features exposed brick walls and high ceilings. To experience this downtown Charleston seafood restaurant at a less exorbitant price, O-Ku happy hour is on Mondays and Wednesdays. The happy hour is a fantastic deal with half-priced rolls and unique signature drinks, though getting a table on these evenings can be a bear.
An avid traveler, Colin Pearson loves to settle in an area and discover every little bit of that spot. And having lived on various places on three continents, Charleston, South Carolina, is one of his favorite places he's ever lived.