New York City and San Francisco certainly might have the most brunch joints per capita, but I like to think that Charleston, South Carolina takes the title of “Ultimate Best Brunch” in the USA. You won’t find national chain restaurants on the peninsula – almost every dining establishment in the area is locally-owned and grown, making Charleston’s brunch cuisine even more unique. Here is a selection of classics to choose from on your next trip:

Poogan’s Porch

This restaurant is on the tourist circuit near Meeting Street, but the locals still adore it. Legend has it that the building is haunted, and sometimes diners catch a glimpse of Poogan, the dog which the restaurant is named after. It’s some of the best Southern cooking you’ll ever eat, and the casual, old-fashioned atmosphere is charming and worth the wait if you don’t have a reservation.

You can get typical southern staples here, like shrimp ‘n grits, and fried green tomatoes, or you can be adventurous and try some fried alligator, or an omelette made with oysters. Every year in January the restaurant features a “rollback” menu, featuring retro dishes (as well as their prices) from a previous year, so if you are in town at the right time, you can take advantage of some amazing food at a seriously discounted price.


What to order: the country-fried pork chop, with a side of potato hash, eggs, and a Texas Pete jus. It’s the perfect dish for when you have woken up late, but aren’t quite ready for a proper lunch.


High Cotton

One of the more quintessential East Bay restaurants, High Cotton does not disappoint those looking for flavorful Southern cooking. Their dinner specials are certainly something to experience, but their brunch menu is pretty classic, with brioche French toast, steak and eggs, and an appetizer of maple-bacon-glazed donut holes. They also usually feature local jazz musicians to set the mood as you enjoy.


What to order: Shrimp ‘n Grits. The combination of slightly spicy, savory and hearty flavors make this southern staple a must-order anywhere you go in Charleston. High Cotton’s version is especially delicious because they use fresh, jumbo shrimp, and Andouille sausage in theirs. Grits are sort of hard to explain – better to just eat them and make your own description, really. The closest I can come up with is a more flavorful version of Cream of Wheat.


Five Loaves Café

If you’re looking for a break from soul food, but still want a taste of southern hospitality, head to Five Loaves Café. One of the first dining establishments to help revive the Cannonborough district of Charleston, this little café has a big reputation amongst locals for its innovative use of fresh ingredients.

The best deal in the house is their pick 2: soup/salad/sandwich combo. All of their ingredients are sourced from local farms, and their soups are made daily. The tomato, crab meat and tarragon is a hat tip to Charleston’s famous She Crab soup. And their tuna salad sandwich is made with grainy mustard, red grapes, and seasoned with dill, with slices of red onion, cheddar cheese, and lettuce. I get mine on a croissant!


What to order: The Vegetable Benny, made with goat cheese, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, and served on an English muffin with hollandaise poached eggs.



With fresh seafood brought in daily, Tsunami serves up some of the best sushi and Japanese cuisine the city can ask for. Some of the specialty rolls, like the Flamin’ Filet, or the Sea Buddy, are not as traditional as something you’d get in Japan, but the rolls are big, and pretty inexpensive. If you’re willing to wait a bit for something in between lunch and dinner, Tsunami’s offers a special half-price menu during Happy Hour (from 4-7pm).


What to order: The Duffy is quite tasty, made with tempura shrimp, cucumber and crab, and then topped with more shrimp, some avocado, eel sauce, and spicy mayo. You can’t go wrong with their sashimi or hibachi entrees, and their fish tacos are not too bad either.


AC’s Bar and Grille

Located on Upper King Street, this is where the college crowd goes to cure their hangovers. It’s got a great dive-bar feel and is probably the best place in Charleston for cheap drinks. The staff is super fun and laid-back, and they really do a great job of making even travelers feel welcome.

Each week there is a different theme for the brunch at AC’s. Godzilla, Star Trek, Harrison Ford – the chefs get super creative, and the television screens show related movies or TV shows. Don’t be put off by its low-key atmosphere though – just one taste of their a plate of chicken and waffles, will have you returning every Sunday.


What to order: Blueberry muffin French toast, with homemade vanilla root beer syrup. It’s always amazingly delicious, but especially tasty when hungover.


Juanita Greenberg’s

Juanita’s doesn’t have any brunch specials per se – sometimes you can get lucky and be there during football season, when they’ve got some awesome food and drink specials. But the tacos, burritos, quesadillas and more are worth ditching the traditional brunch feast for. They’ve got the best margaritas in town, and an awesome outdoor patio which is dog-friendly.


What to order: The Nachos Royale – a huge flour tortilla with black beans, pico de gallo, jalapenos and covered with Monterey Jack cheese and lettuce, served with a side of salsa and sour cream. It’s sort of like a Mexican Pizza, you eat it in triangular slices and it’s just a gooey, delicious mess of food.


With so many options to choose from, you really can’t go wrong with finding the perfect brunch spot in Charleston. These are just a few of the places that have been in the area for a long time. As the neighborhoods of Charleston revitalize even further, new places have begun to make their mark. But the restaurants mentioned above, and more, will always be a favorite in the heart of locals.