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31 Jul 2021
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The Holy City (Charleston) is no stranger to “Best of” lists. I mean, we locals know what a terrific place Charleston is. If we weren’t lucky enough to be born here, it’s why we moved here as soon as we possibly could. But it is nice when the powers that be, and folks “from off,” recognize it, too.

When the readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine named Charleston the best city on the planet, well, that was pretty cool.  Apparently they were captivated by the many charms of Charleston – the history, the gardens and architecture, the polite and gracious people, the shopping, the arts, and the cuisine.

Ah yes, the cuisine.

Charleston has slowly become of the best foodie destinations in America. The number of terrific restaurants and world-class chefs per capita in the Lowcountry is really unparalleled. Usually you have to be in a city of millions to find the quality you find here. Only in Charleston, you don’t have to fight the crowds, traffic and the many hassles of a big city. 

Tripadvisor Has Spoken. The fine dining here is REALLY fine.

Tripadvisor recently released their Travelers’ Choice 2021 “Best of the Best” Rankings for 2021. 

In the category of Best Fine Dining Restaurants in the United States, Charleston shines like no other city in the land. Out of the top 25 establishments, four of them are in the Holy City. 

New York only has three. Santa Fe, New Orleans and Yountville, California each have two spots on the top 25.

Here are the top 25 fine dining establishments, according to their rankings:

  1.  Inn at Little Washington  -  Washington, Virginia;
  2.  Café Monarch  -  Scottsdale, Arizona;
  3.  Halls Chophouse  -  Charleston, South Carolina;
  4.  Sazon  -  Santa Fe, New Mexico;
  5.  Collage Restaurant  -  St. Augustine, Florida;
  6.  Mama’s Fish House  -  Paia, Hawaii;
  7.  GW Fins  -  New Orleans, Louisiana;
  8.  Lahaina Grill  -  Lahaina, Hawaii;
  9.  Circa 1886 Restaurant  -  Charleston, SC;
  10.  Kokkari Estiatorio  -  San Francisco, California;
  11.  Geronimo  -  Santa Fe, New Mexico;
  12.  Daniel  -  New York, New York;
  13.  Zahav  -  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
  14.  Peninsula Grill  -  Charleston, South Carolina;
  15.  Le Bernadin  -  New York, New York;
  16.  The Bazaar by Jose Andres  -  Miami Beach, Florida;
  17.  Valette  -  Healdsburg, California;
  18.  Rasika   -  Washington, DC;
  19.  The Modern  -  New York, New York;
  20.  Commander’s Palace  -  New Orleans, Louisiana;
  21.  The French Laundry  -  Yountville, California;
  22.  Bistro Jeanty  -  Yountville, California;
  23.  The River Café  -  Brooklyn, New York;
  24.  Olde Pink House Restaurant  -  Savannah, Georgia;
  25.  82 Queen  -   Charleston, South Carolina.

 It’s worth noting what Tripadvisor’s reviewers had to say about each place in Charleston. Of Halls Chophouse on Upper King Street, they exclaimed:  “All accolades are entirely deserved. Everyone truly strives to provide the best service possible. And they succeed absolutely! Ambiance, service, food—everything is a 10!”

Charleston’s Circa 1886 Restaurant, on the grounds of the Wentworth Mansion, was paid this compliment:  “Food is flavor, and if you don't swoon over your first bite, it’s just food. Be prepared to swoon. Chef Collins creates masterpieces of flavor, presentation and creativity.”

Regarding Peninsula Grill, near the Market and Meeting Street -  “Come for the charm, stay for the coconut cake. My extended family and I have been visiting Charleston every summer for over ten years and this may actually be the best meal I've had since we started our annual get-togethers.”

A diner had this to say about 82 Queen  -  “…strikes a 10/10.  82 Queen was stellar — nothing short of an A-1 dining experience. Our server Drake was delightfully perfect. One of the nicest and most accommodating experiences I’ve ever had.

Best Place in America to Brunch

But fine dining isn’t the only great thing going, food-wise, in the Lowcountry. Tripadvisor also ranked the best places in the country to get brunch. 

To those who have ever been in Charleston on a Sunday afternoon, it will likely come as no surprise that the top two places in America are right here. Not bad, especially when you consider they ranked above Nomo Soho in Manhattan, and both Commander’s Palace and Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans. 

On Tripadvisor’s Best Brunch Spots – United States ranking, #1 is Halls Chophouse, with its bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon & Eggs, and its Farmer’s Omelet with butternut squash, forest mushrooms, collards, tomatoes, goat cheese with a side of pepper jack grits. #2 in the nation is High Cotton, located on East Bay Street, which features mimosa trios and live music. 

Charleston’s Toast Restaurant also made the list of best brunch places, coming it at #23. 

The IOP has some Top Eats, too

And it’s not just Charleston getting the accolades. The Isle of Palms got some kudos, too.

On their Top Everyday Eats  -  United States ranking, Acme Lowcountry Kitchen came in at #12 on the list.  

This is what one reviewer had to say: “Amazing Acme! Our best IOP dining experience all week! Loved the Whistle Stop - sautéed shrimp, pimento cheese grits and fried green tomatoes. Tasty slaw, excellent crispy Brussels sprouts and dreamy Gouda grits fries! The fried shrimp was fresh and tasty! Make a reservation, or be prepared for a wait. But it’s SO worth it! Fantastic servers and an attentive manager who checked in with every table. Thanks for a memorable meal!”

Not that you needed another reason to come to Charleston… but there it is. You will eat well here.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger