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Twenty years ago, five fine-dining restaurants constituted Charleston’s foodie scene, with not much else going on in its culinary world. But all that has changed. Charleston has exploded as an enticing food destination, with innovative preparation of local ingredients like shrimp, wreck fish, okra, and Carolina Gold rice. The city is a fertile breeding ground for culinary experimentation, with its diverse cultural roots and year-round bounty of produce, seafood, and meat. The result? An amazing food scene that has taken Charleston to new heights. Following in the footsteps of the highly-praised Husk, where James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock only uses regional ingredients in his ambitious menu, here are seven super innovative restaurants to experience for yourself.
Gourmet Southern comfort food is celebrated at this cute little eatery on Pinkney Street, near the Charleston City Market. The offspring of Cru Catering, it opened in 2002 in response to public pressure—people couldn’t get enough of Cordon Bleu–trained chef John Zucker’s up-to-the-minute, artsy takes on fresh local ingredients (cru means raw in French). Their most popular dish? That’s a hard one, but probably the Thai seafood risotto. But there’s also the four-cheese macaroni, shrimp BLT, Chinese chicken salad, and poblano and mozzarella fried chicken. And don’t miss the fried green tomatoes with pork belly croutons. The restaurant occupies a cottage-style house, where rustic tables are set up in the living spaces and on the sultry porch, with a small bar overlooking the open kitchen.