Culinary delights abound in Charleston, which is one reason our fair city claims the title of top destination spot in travel magazines year in and year out. But certain areas of the peninsula shine brighter than others when it comes to dining out. One such nook is a two-block section of upper King Street just north of the Highway 17 overpass in the Westside neighborhood. Between Congress Street to the north and Sumter to the south, you can take your pick from an oyster shop, classic American diner, vintage-style Italian restaurant, French bistro, and laid-back wine bar. Here, we offer a quick guide to this delectable strip of King Street.
A self-described “fine poultry and oyster shop,” Leon’s was the first establishment on this list to open, debuting in summer 2014. A former car garage, the personality-filled eatery (open for lunch and dinner) has a concrete floor and working garage door, that, on nice days, is flung up, erasing the line between indoors and out. Finger-licking fried chicken and oysters are its claim to fame, but fresh salads and flavor-packed sides are noteworthy as well (the scalloped potatoes and Brussels sprouts are our favorites). Wash it all down with a frosé cocktail or one of their ever-changing beers on tap. And don’t leave without a cone of soft serve topped with sprinkles!
This dimly lit diner oozes vintage charm. Black-and-white photos hang above leather banquette seating, while checkered tablecloths cover square-top tables. Perhaps best known for their Tavern Burger—which is truly melt in your mouth—other standout menu items include the hanger steak, pastrami sandwich, and a lighter shrimp burger. Open from 11 a.m. on, this is a favorite of ours for working lunches.
For date nights we head to Melfi’s, an Italian restaurant that’s also steeped in old-world style and is situated just across the street from Leon’s. The polished wood bar (which the owners found in Pennsylvania and dates back to the early 1900s) and lengthy cocktail list will clinch any thirst; meanwhile, the menu offers sophisticated pizza and pasta combinations. It has a fine-dining vibe, so leave the kids—and hats and flip-flops—at home.
The neighborhood’s newest restaurant is this petite French bistro. Another top-notch option for a night out on the town, the servers here are jovial and knowledgeable, the food is rich and nuanced, and the atmosphere is elegant and intimate (but not at all stuffy). The English pea tart and muscles bourride are memorable, to be sure, but our favorite dish on the menu so far has been the steak frites.
From young professionals to retirees, wine lovers of any age flock to this new wine shop and bar that’s as laidback as it is loaded with quality bottles. Experts are on hand to guide you to a perfect varietal, which you can grab-and-go on your drive home from the office or enjoy on site. Mondays are a smart time to do the latter as there isn’t a corkage fee (other days it’s $15). Wine Enthusiast recent named one of Graft’s founders—Femi Oyediran—one of the country’s “top 40 under 40 tastemakers.” Head there to see what all the buzz is about!