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Where to eat in Charleston, South Carolina

By Roland Alonzi

Charleston, South Carolina was recently named the best American city by readers of Travel + Leisure for the seventh year in a row. Charleston was also ranked No. 12 in the publication Top 15 cities in the world and was one of just two American cities on the highly international list.

So what makes this southern city such a popular place to visit?

Charleston, named after King Charles II when it was chartered in 1663, has certainly a fascinating history. This history can be easily explored in places like Boone Hall Plantation and Fort Sumpter National Monument.

Still, travelers do not have to visit a place to enjoy the history of the city. Take a walk down the French Quarter, with its cobbled streets lined with terraced houses and oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and you will soon learn why the city is at the top of so many “best of” lists.

Aside from Charleston’s history, the common theme of what makes the city so special is its food.

In March last year, The show today broadcast live from Charleston Wine + Food, the city’s popular annual festival. In addition, restaurants that garner national recognition are popping up all over the city, especially in neighborhoods like the East Side and NoMo.

While there is no shortage of restaurants to explore in Charleston, there are some cool concepts popping up in the city. Here are three of the most unique opportunities to experience the next time you go to Charleston.

Photo: Food Fire + Knives

Mad Ild + Knives

In Charleston, many travelers prefer the flexibility and variety of accommodations found on services like Airbnb and HomeAway. After all, renting a three-bedroom stately home can be cheaper and more fun than staying in three separate hotel rooms. For families, this convenience is even more valuable.

Local Charleston company Mad Ild + Knives offers a unique hybrid of accessible private dining and interactive cooking classes. The on-demand service connects visitors with local expert chefs to create one private dining experience at home that is surprisingly affordable.

When you take into account the cost of a meal at a cozy restaurant and taking an Uber or your rental car to the crowded streets of the city – not to mention the hassle of finding a restaurant to satisfy the preferences of your party – Food Fire + Knives has created an ideal solution that is comparable in price.

Through the company’s website, you will be matched with a local chef who will create a bespoke menu for a wide range of dishes ranging from Asian Fusion and French Nouvelle to Lowcountry and Modern American. Basically, anything you can dream of, Food Fire + Knives can make happen – even sushi.

To add an entertainment item, try the “demo setting”. This is basically a live, personal, interactive cooking class. The chef will discuss everything from cooking techniques and choosing the right ingredients to recipes and inspiration during the preparation of the meal.

When the evening is over, the chef will clean the kitchen immaculately and there is no option to stand and wait for your Uber or pay for parking and drive home.

Food Fire + Knives has become so popular, especially with events like bachelorette parties, that it is expanding to five more markets this summer and fall, including Asheville, Nashville, Savannah, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach. To plan a private dining experience at home or to learn more, visit www.foodfireknives.com.

Mercantile and Mash Charleston Dining

Photos: Andrew Cebulka

Mercantile and Mash

Mercantile and Mash is located at The Cigar Factory, a mixed building that was formerly a cotton factory back in the 1880s. The cigar factory is now home to advanced retail stores, professional offices and unique dining experiences.

Mercantile and Mash are separated into two different sides.

The Mercantile side features a gourmet food house and retail space. Here you snack on items such as sandwiches and local pastries and fill fresh pasta, charcuterie, cheese, wine, beer, locally roasted coffee and other culinary delights. There is also a butcher shop where you can buy certified Angus steaks, charcuterie from the house and homemade sausages.

The Mash side is a bar with a large selection of domestic whiskeys and local beers. The bar even has a type of whiskey that is exclusive to Mash. In addition to the bar, Mash has an indoor petanque court, shuffleboard and a selection of arcade games. If you’re in the mood for a nosh, Mash offers a full menu. Excellent items include edamame falafel, duck confit grill cheese and homemade pimento cheese and beef. 701 East Bay Street, Charleston; mercandmash.com

Charleston Dining Workshop

Photo: Chuck & Patty’s / Little Miss Ha


Workshop is a unique exploratory food hall concept conceived by Stephen Zoukis, one of the partners behind New York City’s extremely popular Chelsea Market.

Eats has called Workshop, which has hosted pop-ups with diverse cuisine from Indian and Cuban to poke bowls and rotisserie chicken, a “Food Court Wonderland”.

Workshop contains six rotating kitchens where new and renowned chefs can experiment with different culinary concepts. This allows Workshop to bring an ever-changing list of unique and small concepts with local and international flair to Charleston.

Currently, Workshop has a bar focusing on organic, biodynamic and small wine producers from unique national and international winemaking regions; a 90s-inspired burger bar; Japanese izakaya with a focus on sushi, chirashi, sake and small plates; a taqueria modeled after California’s fresh Mexican street food scene; a local chef who prepares traditional Vietnamese dishes, inspired her Vietnamese heritage and curated by her mother; and a cooking duo creating traditional Cajun and Creole cuisine. 1503 King Street, Charleston; workshopcharleston.com

Summer is a popular time to visit Charleston, so don’t forget to watch some upcoming events and festivals. That Charleston Margarita Festival in the center of Charleston’s Brittlebank Park takes place on July 26th. That Freshfields Village Starlight Cinema Seriesa free outdoor movie series, now runs through August 21st. In September you can cool off Charleston Water Weeka celebration of recreational water sports, 9.-15. September.

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