Eating Like the Locals: 5 Staple Ingredients in Every Charlestonians Kitchen

Eating Like the Locals: 5 Staple Ingredients in Every Charlestonians Kitchen

gritsCharlestonians love their food, which is pretty obvious, seeing that we have dozens upon dozens of events and festivals hosted around food and have some of the nation’s most exceptional and award-winning restaurants and chefs!

Below are 5 staple ingredients that you’ll never find a Charlestonian without:

Grits: Arguably the most important ingredient in a Lowcountry-local’s diet, grits are the perfect southern-style base for almost any dish. For all you out-of-towners, a grit is a small, broken grain of corn that was first introduced to the world by Native Americans.

Grits can be found in almost every single Southern-style restaurant in Charleston and are a must-try for visitors who have never explored the creamy and flavorful bite of a grit. Some of the most popular grit-base dishes in Charleston include shrimp and grits (there are dozens upon dozens of ways to prepared shrimp and grits), grit cakes, and cheesy grits.

And if you’re looking for the best shrimp and grits in town, we suggest the following restaurants:

  • Hominy Grill (downtown Charleston)
  • The Post House (in Old Village Mount Pleasant)
  • Magnolia’s (downtown Charleston)
  • High Thyme (Sullivan’s Island)
  • Poogan’s Porch (downtown Charleston)

Crustaceans & Shellfish: From shrimp and grits to she crab soup, and crab cakes to Lowcountry boils, most of Charleston’s signature dishes incorporate some type of shellfish or crustacean!

Lowcountry boils, for example, are popular when hosting a large event because they can feed a lot of people! In a traditional Lowcountry boil you’ll find shrimp (pull-and-peel), Andouille sausage, halved corn on the cobs, and small red potatoes. All of the ingredients boil together with some seasonings, then are drained, and served on newspaper or butcher paper.

Click here for a traditional Lowcountry boil recipe.

Image to the right taken from the Home Team BBQ of Charleston Facebook page


Barbecue sauce and rubs: Us South Carolina folk wouldn’t even be able to fathom eating pulled pork, wings, or ribs without some tasty, finger-licking barbecue. From dry rubs to vinegar-based sauces, and tomato-based sauces to mustard-based sauces, there’s no type of barbecue seasoning we won’t try! Some areas in the South traditionally only use one type of BBQ sauce (yellow or red), but down here in Charleston, we love them all. And most restaurants found in Charleston employ this philosophy of “we-can’t-choose-just-one.”

Our favorite BBQ joints in Charleston include:

  • Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ (Sullivan’s Island & West Ashley)
  • Mamma Brown’s BBQ (Mount Pleasant)
  • Melvin’s Barbecue (Mount Pleasant)
  • Jim N’ Nicks Bar-B-Q (North Charleston)
  • Nicks Bar-B-Q (downtown Charleston)
  • Sticky Fingers Smokehouse (downtown Charleston & Mount Pleasant)                                                                         

Oysters: How do Charlestonians like to spend their winter evenings? At Oyster Roasts, of course! When the evenings get chilly, we love to grab our coats and gloves, oyster shuckers, oyster rags, and hot sauce and head to a local Oyster Roasting event (which usually happens somewhere in the Charleston area 2 or 3 times a month during the winter), and socialize with newfound friends.

Although there are more than a dozen Oyster Roasts to attend in Charleston in any given winter, many locals also host their own roasts. Click here for a complete guide on how to host your own Oyster Roast.

Charleston oyster roast

Cheese: A world without cheese for southerners is like a world without beer for men. It’s a necessity! Some of our favorite cheesy dishes include pimento cheese (which is usually a mixture of shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, cream cheese, and mayonnaise), cheesy grits, and, of course, mac n’ cheese! In fact, mac n’ cheese is so famous in Charleston that there’s even an annual Charleston Mac-Off that features the best Mac n’ Cheese in town from restaurants around the Charleston area.

Some of our favorite places to grab some tasty mac n’ cheese include:

  • Crave (Mount Pleasant)
  • Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ (Sullivan’s Island & West Ashley)
  • Oak Steakhouse (downtown Charleston)
  • Cru Café (downtown Charleston)
  • Halls Chophouse (downtown Charleston)

Do you think there are any other staple Charleston food items we should add to the list? Tell us in our comments section! 

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