It's called the Holy City, and while it's home to many graceful churches, Charleston, South Carolina is also a place for foodies to worship at the tables of some of the country's hottest chefs and bartenders. Bring your appetite and use this guide for a food-lover's take on the best places to eat, drink, tour, shop, and stay.
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orange house exterior charleston
Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

Eye Openers Charleston’s coffee game is strong. Find local roasts, great pours, and groovy ambience at Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer, The Daily, and Second State Coffee. Hungry? Try the city’s favorite biscuit at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit or memorably creative doughnuts at Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts.

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Callie's Hot Little Biscuit
| Credit: Angie Webb Creative

Lingering Lunches The midday meal can be a savvy way to get into high-profile, big-wait-list Charleston restaurants like Xiao Bao Biscuit, which continues to wow with its takes on Asian soul food. And while locals remain devoted to Brooks Reitz’s splendidly low-key Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop on Upper King, they’re also crazy for his latest foray: Little Jack’s Tavern. Get the slider-size Tavern Burger with sunchoke relish.

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Leon's Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Tour Time Dig into Charleston’s complex history from several angles, starting with Alphonso Brown’s Gullah Tours. Brown explores the city’s deep ties to Africa, the ongoing impact of the slave trade, and the Gullah community’s enduring contributions. Home and garden fanatics will also want to download the free Historic Charleston Foundation City Guide app and time their visit during the Foundation’s annual Festival of Houses & Gardens (March 11-April 18 in 2020).

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A Charleston Garden
| Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

Super Sips Charleston has always known how to do bars right. Indulge in the ever-raging tiki scene at the Cane Rhum Bar & Caribbean Kitchen, the city’s first and only rum bar. For craft beer and a vibe that’s simultaneously buzzy and chill, join locals at Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. Wine-lovers will dig the terrific list of vintages and other intriguing pours at Stems & Skins. Oenophiles can score hard-to-find wines from sommeliers Miles White and Femi Oyediran at Graft Wine Shop & Bar — or tuck into the turquoise booths and sample 20-plus wines by the glass.

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Graft Wine Shop & Bar
| Credit: Olivia Rae James

Best Beds You won’t look at an office building the same way after staying at The Dewberry, a 1960s-era office building-turned-boutique hotel with a breathtaking rooftop bar. For a taste of 18th-century Charleston, try the John Rutledge House Inn. The mansion offers high ceilings, canopy beds, and a gracious evening sip of port, sherry, or brandy.

Hot Tickets It’s hard to keep up in this town, but for right-now reservations, try Maison, Mike Lata’s beautiful new French bistro; Malagón Mercado y Tapería for tapas; Renzo Wood Fired Pizza & Natural Wine for pizza and ice cream; and Tu for must-try Indian.

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Maison
| Credit: Aleece Sophia

Culinary All-Stars If it’s your first trip to Charleston and you need to pray at the altar of iconic restaurants, consider a meal at one of the these: Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar, FIG, High Cotton, Husk, The Macintosh, and The Ordinary. Tip: To see rising stars before they’re stars, check out who’s cooking at the new Workshop Charleston.

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Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar
| Credit: Peter Frand Edwards

BBQ, Baby Have it for breakfast, have it for lunch, have it for dinner. Just have this Southern city’s best barbecue while you’re here — and maybe more than once. Start at Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ. Locals buy ribs and sides by the pound to share at the bright blue picnic tables outside at this fantastically low-key James Beard Foundation award-winner. And be sure to saunter around the corner for Austin pitmaster John Lewis’ divine Texas stylings at Lewis Barbecue, and head straight for that brisket.

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Lewis Barbecue
| Credit: Squire Fox

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This article originally appeared in the February/March 2020 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.