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Charleston, South Carolina is known for many things: its classic skyline, punctuated with historic church steeples; its cobblestone streets lined with colorful homes and secret gardens behind iron gates; and, most of all, its food. From the local Gullah Geechee culture and recipes passed down through generations to the countless award-winning restaurants, Charleston's food scene is rich and delicious. If you've visited before, you already have your tried-and-true spots. But in the past year, a handful of new establishments have opened their doors and been thriving, even as the coronavirus pandemic considerably slowed down tourism in the southern city. Below, we've rounded up four new Charleston restaurants not to miss on your next trip.
While the concept of Juan Luis isn't new, the location — a taco truck permanently parked in the backyard patio of Lewis Barbeque — opened just last fall. John Lewis, the widely celebrated pitmaster originally from El Paso, Texas, combines his love of Tex-Mex food and his experience in the smokehouse to create a seriously delicious menu (think: green chile beef tacos, pork gorditas). Go for breakfast and get the tacos — you won't be sorry. (The restaurant is scheduled to move locations again, about a mile north, in late 2021.)
Frannie & the Fox
Frannie & the Fox, located inside the newly-opened Emeline hotel, is an all-around winner. The cozy interiors, complete with green velvet couches and armchairs arranged in a family-room style, make guests feel right at home — an incredibly chic home, at that. But, inviting as the indoor seating may be, try to get a table on the outdoor patio. With lights strung overhead, a large brick fireplace ablaze, and blankets at the ready when the sun goes down, the atmosphere can't be beat. Anything on the menu is worth trying, but the pizzas are especially good.
Tempest, a seafood restaurant that opened in summer 2020 in Charleston's Market District, is fine dining, to be sure, but not fussy in the slightest. The waitstaff is attentive, yet warm, and its historic setting — the former Harriott Pinckney Home for Sailors, with a stunningly vibrant stained-glass ceiling — still exudes a comfortable level of casualness. The menu features hyper-local seafood (like the must-order grouper with salsa roja) and a special "raw and roast" section, giving patrons the option to order oysters, crab legs, and the like fired in a 600-plus-degree charcoal oven and topped with scallion-butter breadcrumbs.
Last year, chef, restauranteur, and Emmy award–winning TV personality Vivian Howard set her sights on the Charleston food scene when she opened her modern coffee shop, Handy & Hot. And in the spring of 2021, Howard introduced Lenoir — a light and airy space right next to her café serving up creative takes on Southern cuisine. The menu, a collection of mostly shared plates and sides with a few mains mixed in (including a cornmeal-dusted catfish and "peculiar pig" pork chop), is inspired by her hometown in eastern North Carolina and was made in collaboration with executive chef Tyson Detzler, of local favorite Obstinate Daughter.
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