Now that the long January on record has finally come to a close (please tell me I’m not the only one who felt like January was 300 days long?), it’s time to usher in some hopefully warmer weather and a new round up of restaurants in Charleston.
This round-up’s theme is love, as Hallmark’s favorite holiday is just around the corner, and lovebirds new and old are looking to celebrate in the Holy City.
These are my top suggestions for romantic restaurants that’ll help set the mood, whether it’s your 1st or 40th date.
Zero Restaurant + Bar
Hands down my favorite restaurant for any occasion in Charleston (and possible the world), Zero George is the pinnacle of romance in my opinion. When the weather is nice, there’s nothing I love more than dining al fresco in their courtyard, which feels like a secret hideaway right in the middle of the city. Chef Vinson is a wizard in the kitchen (seriously, I think he graduated from Hogwarts’s Culinary program), and everything I’ve ever eaten there has blown me away. While it’s not cheap ($135 per person for the prix fixe experience on a normal day, or $250 for their special Valentine’s Day experience), it’s worth saving up for.
Order: Whatever Chef Vinson cooks. He won’t steer you wrong.
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There was a period of time where Fulton Five was constantly being named the most romantic restaurant in Charleston, and I’m here to tell you that the hype is real. From the ivy-lined entryway to the nude silhouettes painted onto the bathroom doors to the comforting Italian cuisine, you can’t help but feeling like maybe Cupid himself designed this restaurant.
Order: The antipasto spoleto has been a favorite of mine for years, and you can’t go wrong with any of their homemade pastas.
French food is often considered the quintessential romantic cuisine, and few places in Charleston do it better than Chez Nous. The restaurant itself is nestled into a historic house off of Coming Street, and seats only a few tables at a time, giving you a very intimate feeling right off the bat. Additionally, their entire menu is setup of a daily-changing set of 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts, so every visit is a new and exciting experience.
Order: it depends on that day’s menu, but I recommend getting one of each and sharing for a more intimate experience.
Recently named by TripAdvisor as “the most romantic restaurant in America,” Charleston Grill is oft overlooked by locals, due to its location inside the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel. The atmosphere oozes luxury and class from the moment you walk in the door, making every visit feel like a special event.
Order: The crab cakes are legitimately good, but if you’re feeling especially adventurous, consider the Chef’s tasting menu.
I’ve dined at Circa 1886 a number of times in my history of living in Charleston, and I’m always blown away by their ability to make every table feel like the most important table in the restaurant. The decor harkens back to colonial luxury, and they keep the lighting romantically dimmed (so go ahead pretend like it’s 1886 and just not bother taking photos of your food).
Order: I’m usually iffy about scallops, but they do them right. Also the foie gras is not to be missed.
If you’d like a more casual experience that still feels special, there’s no better place than Wild Olive. Yes, you have to make the drive all the way out to Johns Island (the horror!) but it’s worth crossing any number of bridges for their house made pastas and cured meats. Their wine list is hearty, their cocktails are inventive, and their menu spans from classic favorites to adventurous specials.
Order: Call me basic, but I love their chicken parmesan, and the ricotta gnocchi is also fantastic.
Josephine Wine Bar
A new entry into the Charleston culinary scene, Josephine has quickly become one of my favorites. Their wine list is impressive enough to impress even the pickiest of oenophile, and for the wine illiterate (aka me), they’re happy to work with you to find the perfect bottle to fit your tastes. Their menu is simple yet inventive and full of surprises that will delight your taste buds.
Order: the buffalo milk burrata is a gamechanger, and the roasted butternut squash ravioli is divine.
Another relative newcomer, The Establishment has quickly established themselves (patting myself on the back for that) as a go-to spot for high-quality seafood. The art on the walls, paired with the piano in the middle of the dining room, the large projector screen above the bar, and the glass-walled wine cellar really sets the mood for contemporary luxury. Chef Matt Canter puts a lot of love into his menu, and it shows in artistry and harmony of each dish, and sommelier Andres Contreras is masterful, yet approachable in his knowledge of wine, and will orchestrate the perfect pairing for any course.
Order: the shrimp or the scallops (or both) to start, and the swordfish for your entree.
Hope you’re feeling the love this month, Charleston!
(Sydney Gallimore is a cat-loving food writer who's lived in Charleston for almost 10 years. Her life is fueled by meals at various restaurants around the Holy City, iced coffee, and craft cocktails. For more of her food-related adventures, visit her blog, Queen of the Food Age.)