12 stellar special-occasion restaurants in Charleston

Homey Pakistani classics like samosa chaat make Ma’am Saab in downtown Charleston an ideal spot for family-style celebrations. | Credit: Ma’am Saab
A floral blue bowl with samosa pieces covered with yogurt, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds at Ma’am Saab in Charleston

Charleston’s got a celebratory soul, and food is practically a religion here. Which explains why its special-occasion restaurants are forces to be reckoned with. While many of its most festive restaurants are in its historic downtown, surrounded by views of horse-drawn carriages and cobblestone streets, others are on some of the smaller islands, complete with stunning coastal views.

Whether you’re ringing in a birthday, anniversary, promotion, or simply just because, the city’s thriving restaurant scene has the ideal spot. Read on for a guide to 12 special-occasion worthy restaurants in Charleston to book now.

Neon Tiger (Downtown Charleston)

Neon Tiger is a vegan cocktail bar and a funky, futuristic place to celebrate just about anything. Owner John Adamson is all about spreading the gospel of veganism so when you devour a dairy-free pizza or a meat-free burger, you can feel good about the food on your plate and the special occasion you’re here to mark. If you’re with friends, grab one of the padded vinyl seats at the pink and purple bar and order a round of seasonal daiquiris. For something more romantic, sink into the deep, dark booths in the avant-garde dining room.

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Maison (Downtown Charleston)

An evening at Maison is the next best thing to a celebratory night in Paris. The acclaimed French neighborhood brasserie serves gussied-up comfort food like foie gras, a ratatouille tart, and, yes, even escargot. For toasting, there’s an exceptionally well-curated French wine list. It’s known to get loud and lively inside so if you prefer a calmer night out, book a table on the pretty patio instead. 

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O-Ku (Downtown Charleston)

An eight-piece assorted nigiri set on a rectangular white plate at O-Ku in Charleston
Celebrate your special occasion with elegant sushi at O-Ku. | Credit: O-Ku

If sipping premium sake and feasting on exquisite raw fish is your idea of a celebration, O-Ku’s your spot. This elegant pan Asian restaurant with brick walls and sleek black interiors is arguably the classiest sushi joint south of the Mason-Dixon Line. O-Ku stands for glamour in a city where shorts and flip-flops are often part of the going-out dress code. So dress to the nines when you book a table at this chic Japanese favorite. 

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Boathouse at Breach Inlet (Isle of Palms)

This rustic-but-refined beachside spot is known for killer Southern-style seafood like butter-poached lobster tails and crab cakes, plus “best ever” collard greens that live up to their name. It’s a relaxed backdrop for a family-friendly celebration, more sophisticated than some of its Shem Creek counterparts but still casual enough for shorts—and antsy children. There’s something for everyone here, making it especially ideal for larger get-togethers.

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Brasserie la Banque (Downtown Charleston)

Duck consommé is poured over over a main dish at Brasserie la Banque in Charleston
French chef Jeb Aldrich designed the brasserie menu at this downtown gem. | Credit: Andrew Cebulka

Brasserie la Banque is a French restaurant made for anniversaries and special date nights. The classic Broad Street brasserie, just steps from iconic Rainbow Row, is named for its previous life as a city bank. The menu was designed by French chef Jeb Aldrich and features traditional faithfuls like steak frites, duck breast cassoulet, and bouillabaisse, plus more innovative fare and a raw bar—this is Charleston after all. Before or after dinner, impress your date with a drink at Bar Vauté. Decked with Art Deco furnishings, it’s one of the only below-street-level bars in the city.

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Ma’am Saab (Downtown Charleston)

Neon lights and brick walls make at Ma'am Saab in Charleston
Neon lights and brick-lined walls make Ma’am Saab a celebration hotspot. | Credit: Ma’am Saab

Raheel Gauba and Maryam Ghaznavi brought hard-to-find Pakistani classics to downtown Charleston in May 2023. And even though it’s a new addition on the city’s restaurant scene, Ma’am Saab is already a celebration hotspot thanks to its trendy jewel-toned interiors and spice-forward dishes like lamb biryani and chopped bone-in goat with ghee, tomatoes, and ginger. Bring a crew, get ready for a family-style celebration, and enjoy homey Pakistani hits with a dash of Southern charm.

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Tempest (Downtown Charleston)

Two roasted oyster platters and freshly baked bread at Tempest in Charleston
Tempest’s hyper-local seafood menu is full of special-occasion fare like roasted oysters with Calabrian chile. | Credit: Tempest

A spectacular stained-glass mosaic fuels the charm (and the Instagram cred) at this beloved special-occasion spot. Tempest is led by Top Chef alum Jamie Lynch and also known for an exceptional hyper-local seafood menu filled with triple-tiered towers stacked with fresh local shrimp, middleneck clams, and more. If you’re drinking, consider toasting to your night with one of the restaurant’s many excellent seafood-friendly wines—Tempest has one of Charleston’s most robust selections.

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Camellias (Downtown Charleston)

The bold pink interiors at Camellias in Charleston include a glowing marble bar.
At Camellias in the Hotel Bennett, the oval-shaped interior channels a Fabergé egg. | Credit: Camellias

Lavish service that includes Champagne and caviar (or afternoon tea with macarons) makes Camellias, in the lobby of the luxurious Hotel Bennett, a go-to for the chicest celebrations. Case in point: jackets for gentlemen and hats for ladies are encouraged. You’ll toast in style here thanks to a large collection of bottle and by-the-glass bubbles, plus decadent caviar, oysters, and pastries. The stunning oval-shaped space was inspired by the most famous of eggs—the Fabergé. 

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Anson (Downtown Charleston)

A quintessentially Lowcountry celebration, complete with touches like crisp white tablecloths and views of horse-drawn carriages, set this city mainstay apart. Anson perfects Southern classics like fried green tomatoes, she-crab soup, and all sorts of fried, steamed, and fileted seafood—a shout out to Charleston’s rich maritime roots. The restaurant’s gilt-trimmed dining room is where you go to dial up the romance, but the first-come-first-served bar is better for a more casual occasion.

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843 Korean Barbecue (North Charleston) 

This sprawling family-owned spot is where Charlestonians come for easygoing celebrations. There’s a full sushi bar and a menu bursting with Korean classics like bulgogi kimchi fried rice and bibimbap, best paired with soju and plum wine. But if you’re here with a large group, go for an all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue extravaganza and cook your own ribeye, pork jowl, and more on 843’s tabletop grills. For an epic night, book one of the restaurant’s karaoke rooms to sing—and eat—your heart out.  

The Kingstide (Daniel Island)

Suburban Daniel Island has plenty of restaurants. But The Kingstide may be the only culinary destination with real special-occasion status. The light-filled spot regularly attracts downtown diners for highlights like decadent oysters Rockefeller, dressed up with hollandaise and bacon, and the lardon-laced Brussels sprouts. Reserve a table on the patio and your celebration will come with sweeping Wando River views.

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Peninsula Grill (Downtown Charleston)

Acclaimed chefs like Robert Carter, Sean Brock, and Graham Dailey all have history at this Southern fine-dining legend. Elevate any special occasion with elegant dishes like smoked heritage duck breast and pan-seared scallops, and don’t skip the restaurant’s famous 12-layer coconut cake if you’re here for a birthday. The dimly lit dining room and Champagne bar scream romance, and the courtyard, surrounded by greenery and twinkling lights, is one of the city’s most charming outdoor dining spots.

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Tried them all? Check out other options here.

Stephanie Barna is a food writer based in Charleston, SC. As the former editor of Charleston City Paper, she has chronicled the Charleston food scene for two decades and has been to every single Charleston Wine + Food Festival since it started. You can follow her dining exploits (and—fair warning—her Weimaraner’s misadventures) on Instagram @stef_barna.

Stratton Lawrence contributed to this guide.

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