Today’s blog post is about five outrageously good seafood dishes in Charleston, South Carolina is one of the best food destinations in America. I am completely unbiased when I say this.
Okay, so I’m not completely unbiased. I spent a summer there as a teenager. Even though I grew up in Greenville, which is in the northern part of the state, Charleston has always held a special place in my heart. The hubby and I got married there, and our daughter was born there while we spent three years living just across town from my parents. Even now, after all the travel we’ve done, it’s still one of my favorite cities of all time. The food is fresh and distinctive, the culture is laid-back, and the architecture is distinctive and filled with small-town character.
After this summer’s monthlong stay, I rounded up my five favorite outrageously good seafood dishes in Charleston so that you can make sure to eat all the things on your next stop there. Don’t walk — run!
Outrageously Good Seafood Dish #1: The Seafood Tower at Nico’s
Charlestonians know that if it’s one food experience you have to have as a visitor, it’s a good seafood tower. Local oysters are plump, briny and fresh, and frequent infusions of oysters from points further north (which tend to be smaller and sweeter) provide a great base for a contrast in education oneself in all things mollusk. The Le Grand seafood tower at Nico, a French-inspired seafood joint perched on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant (just a short drive across the bridge from downtown Charleston), is a real thing of beauty. Briny, taut periwinkle snails are fun to dig out with tiny forks, while an octopus ceviche is silky and tart. There’s something for everyone on this seafood tower meant for six, and it’s not to be missed if you’re a raw bar lover.
Outrageously Good Seafood Dish #2: Glass Onion’s Pan-Seared Trout
No trip to Charleston is complete without a trip to The Glass Onion for one of the city’s best representations of simple, delicious Southern food done right. Located in West Ashley, just a stone’s throw across the main downtown peninsula and on the other side of the Ashley River, The Glass Onion’s menu changes daily, so this pan-seared trout dish isn’t always guaranteed to be on offer unless the fish are jumpin’. This light, flaky trout is often trucked in from North Carolina, and The Glass Onion treats it with respect — searing it just so and making the skin delightfully crispy. A peppery slaw and red rice round out this deliciously complete meal, and you’ll find yourself scanning the restaurant looking for other diners’ judgment as you contemplate rolling up to the counter to order another one. Don’t let the haters get you down. Get another.
Outrageously Good Seafood Dish #3: Oysters Rockefeller at Oak Steakhouse
Oak Steakhouse, a dark wood-paneled traditional joint serving meaty cuts of Certified Angus Beef, may not automatically come to mind when looking for outrageously good seafood, but it’s there. These oysters Rockefeller — broiled with a topping of hot cheese and bacon — are not to be missed. There’s something really luxurious about cheesy oysters, like you’re basically putting all the things that are right in the world onto a half shell and just letting it all melt down your throat. Splashes of fresh lemon don’t hurt either to cut some of the fat you know you’re inhaling but you just don’t care. Even better are nights when executive chef Jeremiah Bacon is in the house; he’s friendly, humble and incredibly knowledgeable about beef, which is a really important quality to have in a chef friend. Tell him I sent you and ask him about beef.
Outrageously Good Seafood #4: Five Fathom Hole Pizza at The Obstinate Daughter
The Obstinate Daughter on Sullivan’s Island, about a short 15 minute drive from downtown Charleston, has only been around for a few years, but it’s quickly become a local favorite for fresh pastas and pizzas with locally infused flavors. It’s worth the trek to Sullivan’s Island to relish in the unspoiled beaches and sleepy Southern feel, but you can’t leave the island without eating a Five Fathom Hole pizza, which is a Southern take on a white pizza. Using Clammer Dave’s clams, famous in town for their sweetness and lightly briny flavor, this pizza effortlessly ties together roasted fennel, red pepper flakes and light touches of garlic to make the tastiest seafood pizza you’ll ever have. It’s not even worth arguing the relative merits of seafood on pizza, or seafood with cheese (which would mortify any Italian), because this pizza confirms that clams can go with pizza, and winningly so.
Outrageously Good Seafood Dish #5: Catch Your Own Blue Crabs
One of the best ways to eat really great seafood is to catch it yourself. My son recently told me that “a good day is when you can go fishing; a great day is when you catch at least a dozen crabs.” He’s going to grow up to be a philosopher, that one. But he’s not wrong; crabbing is a stupidly easy activity, and a great way to enjoy Charleston’s finest seafood.
Catching your own crabs requires a few supplies, all of which can easily be purchased in Charleston. Check out Haddrell’s Point or Henry’s in Mount Pleasant to gear up with some crab nets. You’ll also need to buy a South Carolina fishing license online. Inexplicably, the best bait for crabbing are raw chicken necks, which you can pick up at almost any grocery store in Charleston (they’ll know exactly why you need them). For access to a public dock, this blog post does an excellent job of highlighting three great places to go.
Once you’ve got your loot, Charlestonians love to eat their crabs in Frogmore stew, which is basically a boiled mess of red-skinned potatoes, corn, Andouille sausage (or any other spicy sausage) and crabs seasoned generously with Old Bay seasoning. On one particularly successful crabbing evening when we caught thirty-six blue stunners, we threw together our stew to make for a delicious evening under the stars.
For more about Charleston, South Carolina and all the delicious things you can eat, check out these posts:
- Tour-Eating with Charleston Culinary Tours
- Chez Nous in Charleston, South Carolina
- 5Church, Charleston, South Carolina
- Leon’s Oyster Shop, Charleston, South Carolina
Liked this post? Pin it for later!