This is a common question I receive as a Charleston local. People are looking for two things typically when asking where locals eat lunch. One is for interesting little food joints not on the regular guides and perhaps not on the editorial review lists of big magazines. AND, sometimes it is simply the places to grab a quick, simple or inexpensive bite to eat. In both cases, it is about the restaurants that we locals enjoy enough to go to every day.
Let’s dig in.
First, a note about how I narrowed the list.
The main variant to any local’s list of where to eat lunch in Charleston is going to be where they live or work in town. I live on Broad Street so my quick lunch choices tend to lean toward central downtown in Charleston. I have also added a few other stops that are excellent choices in other areas downtown.
Charleston is known for its burgeoning food scene—and local quick lunch bites are also equally plentiful. This list is narrowed to only 10 places locals eat lunch to keep it easy to navigate.
1. Burbage’s Grocery
A small, corner grocery catering to Charleston locals on the west side of Broad Street. You will find a lot of Charleston centric food items here along with a slightly elevated selection of food and drink goods. For lunch, it is the deli counter in the back that grabs my attention. They have made-to-order “fancy” hotdogs and deli sandwiches which are so delicious. My favorite is the Charleston Dog—hotdog topped with pimento cheese and pickled okra—do not knock it til you try it. It is a must-try while in Charleston. Make sure to grab a freshly baked cookie or cake slice at the front counter when checking out. Average pricing $4 - $10 total. No seating except 1 bench outside; grab and go.
2. Fast & French
Also known as Gaulart & Maliclet, it is located on Broad Street close to the corner of King. It is a quaint French bistro with sidewalk seating. Lunch specialties include sandwiches paired with soups or salads and baguettes or croissants. Average entree is $15.
Two locations in Charleston, one South of Broad and one on the north end of town. Think gorgeous charcuterie shop that also serves delicious sandwiches using the products they sell in their shop. Sandwiches are only offered from the small location on Church St, South of Broad, Tuesday thru Friday and only until they run out. If you snag one, they are so worth it. $15. No seating; grab and go.
A Low Country, soul food meets seafood joint on Blake Street in Charleston. It is not fancy in the least. The food makes up for it. All fresh, home cooked southern staples—from ribs, chicken, and turkey to livers, gizzards and chops right alongside shrimp, flounder and crab rice (famous for this). Sides include all the Southern fixins, Mac n cheese, collard greens, cabbage, corn, okra and more. They also offer sandwiches and burgers, priced from $4 for a cheeseburger to $9 for a fish sandwich. Main plates with sides $14 - $18. Grab and go.
5. Island Provisions
A coffee meets sandwich shop located in an historic home in the Cannonborough area of Charleston. Sandwiches vary from BLTs to Veggie, Roast Beef to Italian plus pastries, bagels, quiche, salads and bowls. Average $11 - $14 for salads or sandwiches. Less for other offerings. Indoor & Outdoor seating.
6. Le Chambertin
A tiny authentic French bakery / Cafe with outdoor seating only. All house-made with a changing menu. Think quiche and sandwiches on croissants and baguettes plus pastry items. We have tried nearly everything and loved every bit. $11 - $15
7. Queen St Grocery
From the street it looks a little iffy. That is part of the charm. You will also notice the sidewalk seats always full of locals. This local staple serves hot pressed gourmet sandwiches, crepes, smoothies and salads. It is not, as the name implies, a grocery store. It does, however, have a small cooler section with grab and go essential food items and a selection of wines. My favorite is the Happy Houdini. Indoor and outdoor sidewalk seating. Pricing $12 - $14
8. Mercato at Sorelle
A new addition to Broad Street and an instant local and tourist favorite. The Mercato portion is an Italian deli meets coffee and bakery. The most upscale vibe of any on this list, the 3 recently renovated and adjoined historic buildings it occupies makes for a gorgeous backdrop to your quick lunch bite. The Mercato is on the first floor and unlike it’s full service restaurant upstairs, requires no reservations. Salads, Sandwiches, Sicillian-style pizza slices, plus treats. My favorites include the Stromboli $8 and the Meatball or Chicken Sandwich $16. (The coffee and treats are also delicious). Indoor and outdoor sidewalk seating.
9. The Pass
Helmed by a fine dining, little bit crazy (in a good way), Italian chef who decided to open a sandwich shop. Fantastic and innovative, huge sandwiches. Mainly a take-out. Average $15. Limited seating; indoor and out.
10. 60 Bull
A small cafe located in the Harleston Village side of Charleston offering an extensive menu. Selection of sandwiches ranging from a Black-Bean Burger to a Confit Duck BLT to a Flounder, Shrimp or Oyster Po-Boy to a Fried Chicken Sandwich and everything in between. There are also salads, tacos, and seafood plates as well as chops, chicken, ribs and shrimp and grits. Sandwiches $14-20, Main Plates average $30. Indoor & outdoor sidewalk seating.
BONUS: 5 More Local Lunch Favorites that are more Widely Known:
These additional five entries are more widely known among tourists and thus tend to lean toward being a bit more crowded. Even with crowds, these are not to be over looked and often frequented by locals. Four casual places that definitely have a huge local lunch following are Lewis BBQ, Rodney Scott BBQ, Rancho Lewis, and Leon's Poultry & Oyster Bar. And, one that reigns supreme for locals at lunch with a resort casual or nicer attire is Magnolia's. These are ALL favorites of mine as well.
The list of 10 Places Where Locals Eat Lunch in Charleston
Fast & French
Queen St Grocery
Mercato at Sorelle
All of the Coffee Cafes on my "5 Best Coffee Shops in Charleston" also serve quick lunches. AND, several of the restaurants in the list of 20 Best Restaurants in Downtown Charleston SC from a Local also serve lunch (including 2 BBQ picks and a Tex-Mex pick)
So where do we locals take all these Grab and Go lunches from this list of 10 places where locals eat lunch in Charleston? To the parks of course. There are numerous parks around every corner. Most notable are The Battery aka White Point Gardens, Colonial Lake, Waterfront Park plus Washington Square right off Meeting Street.
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