From fresh seafood to southern classics - best dining experiences for families
Charleston is a foodie town from delicious seafood to southern classics made with a modern twist. Don’t leave town without eating shrimp and grits or She-crab soup. But southern cuisine isn’t the only thing on the menu. Famous chefs from all over the world are flocking to Charleston. I, personally, believe that kids can eat at any restaurant, no matter how fancy or high-end. The key is to go early and be prepared with distractions, so that kids are well behaved. If the restaurant doesn’t have a kids’ menu, our family orders a few appetizers and entrées to share. That being said, here’s a list of restaurants that are no-brainers for eating with kids in Charleston.
Photo courtesy: Angie Mosier
1/Jim 'N Nick's Community Bar-B-Q
Jim ’N Nick’s has two locations in the Charleston area: a sit-down restaurant near the Tanger Outlets and Firetruck Museum in North Charleston and counter service, called Nick’s on King Street, near the College of Charleston and Marion Square. Start your meal with a basket of cheese biscuits. Just be prepared for your kids to ruin their meal, like mine do; it’s worth it. I’d eat those muffins for my entrée, if I could. Grab a glass of sweet tea, the wine of the south, and order a combo meal. There’s too much deliciousness on the menu to be decisive. The turkey is amazing and tender with a delicious white sauce. The brisket is my favorite. The kids love the pulled pork sandwiches and homemade mac and cheese. We’ve tried almost all of the sides and love every one! $$
Photo courtesy: Angie Mosier
Mellow Mushroom is regularly voted best gourmet pizza in Charleston. It’s thick, yeasty crust is basted with garlic butter, dusted with cornmeal, and sprinkled with powdered Parmesan right before serving. And there’s a whole lot more on the menu than just cheese or pepperoni. Order the pretzels and beer cheese dipping sauce! The menu boasts great craft beers for Mom and Dad, too. There are three locations throughout the Charleston area, and each one has its own style. The kitchen is open, which is a great distraction for kids. If you go for lunch, you can buy pizza by the slice. $$
KidTripster Tip: Call ahead to find out what night is Kids’ Night. Kids eat free with a paying adult!
59 S. Market St.
Whether you’re eating dessert after dinner or cooling off with a treat, Kilwins is the perfect spot. It’s located on Charleston’s Historic City market, the epicenter of tourism in the city. Just follow the scent of waffle cones! They have many different flavors of ice cream. My kids favorite is Superman. The ice cream is in back of the shop, so you’ll have to walk by the fudge and candy counters. Or maybe stop! The chocolates are handmade, and you can’t leave the city without trying some pecan pralines. Just ask for a sample. $
186 Concord St.
Charleston is surrounded by water, but Fleet Landing is one of the only restaurants on the waterfront. It’s the perfect spot for families. Ask for a table outside; kids will love watching the boats, and they may even see a dolphin! Enjoy local peel-and-eat shrimp, hush puppies or fried green tomatoes. Then burn off that delicious southern fried food with a short walk to Waterfront Park, where you can play on the family-sized swings and run through the two water fountains. $$
207 Rutledge Ave.
Hominy Grill doesn’t have a kids’ menu, but you’ll be sure to find lots of things you and your kids will love. The restaurant is located in a historic Charleston house and is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch. Your kids will love the homemade banana bread and pancakes. I suggest that you try the Charleston Nasty Biscuit with fried chicken, cheese, and gravy or the shrimp and grits. Unbuckle your pants. You’re going to need a little extra room! $$
131 Columbus St.
The Alley may be the most family-friendly restaurant in downtown Charleston. It’s also a bowling alley and arcade. No worries about noisy kids here! You need to try the boiled peanuts; they’re a southern staple that you’ll either love or hate. You can easily make a meal of the yummy appetizers; the sliders are just the right size for small hands. Families will want to arrive early before the college drinking crowd rolls in. $$
7/Jack's Cosmic Dogs
2805 Hwy. US-17, Mt. Pleasant
Don’t judge… but Jack’s Cosmic Dogs is one of my favorite restaurants in the Charleston area. It’s such a fun place! This roadside hot dog joint is a blast from the past. It sells glass bottles of classic sodas, soft serve ice cream, and milk shakes. The hotdogs are amazing! Your kids will want the Earth Dog (plain or with ketchup or mustard) or Rocket Corn Dog, but adults need to try some of the out-of-this-world hot dog flavors. My favorite is the Blue Galactic Dog; it’s served with blue cheese slaw, chili, cheese, and spicy, sweet potato mustard. $
8/Tavern and Table
100 Church St., Mt. Pleasant
Just over the Ravenel Bridge in Mt. Pleasant is Shem Creek, famous for its shrimp boats, waterfront restaurants, boat valet parking, and paddle sports. My family’s favorite spot is Tavern and Table. The atmosphere is super stylish, and the food appeals to everyone. The kids’ menu has the normal kiddie staples, plus peel-and-eat shrimp. Kids’ meals offer fresh fruit and healthy drink choices. Charcuterie plates are great starters that everyone will enjoy. While the kids wait for their food, they can walk along the boardwalk to get an up close look at the shrimp boats, kayakers, and stand-up paddleboarders. Dolphins are a common sight in the creek, and if you’re super lucky, you may see a manatee! Our family is still waiting for that. $$
9/The Kickin' Chicken
The Kickin’ Chicken is a local chain of chicken restaurants with five locations in the Charleston area. Start your meal with some fried pickles and then pick your chicken. The buffalo chicken wrap is great. The wings are yummy, too. There are even burgers, if chicken is not your thing. We love to order tenders (grilled, if we’re being good) and salad. The kids’ menu has nuggets, pizza, chicken sandwiches, and burgers. $$
1531 Folly Rd., James Island
If you’ll be spending any time on Folly Beach or visiting the Angel Oak, you should seek out the Bohemian Bull on James Island. You have to see its huge courtyard and awesome pallet fence. Sit outside, and the kids can play corn hole or bocce ball. In cooler weather, you can enjoy the fire pit. The burgers are amazing. $$
Stephanie Hughes Pratt is a former television reporter and mom to two kids, ages 7 and 9. She is married to a fellow journalist, and the family has lived all over the U.S. Her dream Charleston meal is an all-you-can-eat seafood tower with extra oysters.
This writer received some complimentary meals for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.