Brooks Reitz's Guide to Charleston

By Brooks Reitz

Making any favorites list in your own hometown is always fraught with a challenge - the places you go as a local may not always be the experience a visitor is seeking. Sometimes you love a place because you know the staff, the location is convenient, or it’s easy to get into. It may not always be the “best,” but it may well be the “favorite.”

To that end, this is a list of some of our favorite Charleston spots. It is by no means exhaustive, and an omission is not a reason to think we don’t like a place. It just may mean it isn’t on our heavy rotation. And because my first thought of the day is always, “What are we eating today?” most of these are food or drink related. 

For coffee, we like Babas on Cannon. It’s a pint-sized cafe with a lovely streetside patio for meeting friends or taking a meeting. Throughout the day their offerings transition from coffee to cocktails, and their drinks are some of the best in the city. Don’t miss the Gin & Tonic, a pre-bottled offering featuring Jack Rudy’s Extra Bitter Tonic. It is stellar.

If we are in the historic district, we always seek out Harken for a coffee and a small snack. The baked goods are exemplary, and the location, on a quiet stretch of Queen Street, is the perfect refueling spot for a day of antique shopping.

For lunch, we love a grown-up’s lunch (where there is no schedule and the wine is plentiful) at Chez Nous. The cooking is quiet, confident, and seasonal, with some of the best fish dishes in the city. It leans French but not slavishly so. The petite menu (only 6 items) undergoes a wholesale change each day, so you never know what you might get. But you can always trust it will be just what you wanted. 

If we are feeling casual and breezy, we like Lewis BBQ for lunch. The large patio means there is always space to sit, and though there is a lot of great barbecue in town, Lewis is our favorite. If we are feeling healthy we opt for the faultless smoked turkey. If we want to party, it’s nachos, all the way.

We love a late afternoon lunch (which sometimes becomes dinner) at Leon’s and Little Jack’s. Though they are my restaurants, I never get tired of the offerings - we like to make craveable food that you could eat any day and every day. 

On a nice day, we will ride our bikes to Goat Sheep Cow on Church Street for their daily sandwich offering. We will bike them down to White Point Gardens and enjoy a picnic on one of the benches overlooking the gorgeous homes of South of Broad. It’s a must for any visitor who doubts the charms of the city.

For dinner, we love Bar George on James Island. Great oysters, rotisserie chicken, and inventive, seasonal smaller dishes that always lean heavy on local produce. The tunes are great and the staff is kind. The Post House in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant makes for a great escape from downtown, and the food is delicious.

If we are feeling celebratory, we will go to my Italian restaurant, Melfi’s. Pound for pound I think it’s the best “nice” restaurant in the city, and the Negroni’s are certainly the best in town. 

For wine, we love Graft for a younger, more laid-back environment with a great progressive offering, or Bin 152 for a more classic selection and a more refined, Frenchified environment.

If shopping is to be done, the Preservation Society of Charleston has a lovely edit of many of Charleston’s best makers and manufacturers. It’s next door to Ben Silver, the iconic men’s clothier. For a younger edit, you can’t miss Indigo & Cotton on Cannon, which now sells a small selection of women’s wear, as well. Our favorite store, top to bottom, is Worthwhile, a King Street stalwart with everything from Astier de Villatte to Rick Owens to candles that look like birthday cakes.