12 quintessential date-night restaurants in Charleston

Two diners dig into various dishes including avocado toast and house-smoked salmon dip along with two cocktails at The Darling in Charleston.
The Darling’s crowd-pleasing seafood selection and cocktails fuel flawless first dates. | Credit: Andrew Cebulka

Charleston’s cobblestone streets and candlelit verandas scream romance, and that Lowcountry charm also defines its best date-night restaurants. Window seats and fried fish baskets take the edge off first-date nerves at an oyster bar. For dinner and dancing, there’s a multi-level hotspot with killer sunset views. Proposals mean a nautical dining room at a waterfront beauty.

This guide pairs Charleston restaurants with romantic occasions from first dates all the way to milestone anniversaries. These are Charleston’s 12 best date-night restaurants. 

For a first date

The Darling Oyster Bar (Downtown Charleston)

When it comes to planning a flawless first date, the right vibes are just as crucial as the food—you want a setting that smooths over any awkward moments. The Darling checks all those boxes with a crowd-pleasing menu of oyster shooters, seafood towers, fried fish baskets, and burgers. The best seat in the house is by the raw bar near the front window, where you’ll be entertained by buzzy King Street views.

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For a second date

Sorghum & Salt (Downtown Charleston)

At Sorghum and Salt, the ultra-seasonal New American menu changes daily, though dishes are always heavy on the produce. Chillier months bring options like scallops with celery root, shiitake, and watercress or butter beans with focaccia and feta. Focus on your date and get better acquainted by leaving the decision-making to the chefs and go for the four- or six-course tasting menu.

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For a cozy and intimate evening

Bearcat (West Ashley)

The two distinct vibes at this inventive Avondale newcomer make it the kind of versatile date-night gem you can keep returning to. Graze on chicken yakitori and bao buns on the bar side. The main dining room next door is all about inspired New American dishes by chef/owner George Kovach, who brings MICHELIN firepower from Chicago restaurants like Elizabeth and Band of Bohemia. His menu changes frequently, but is a unique riff on fine dining—without any of the fuss.

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Muse Restaurant (Downtown Charleston)

Muse’s address—just off King Street in a historic home—makes it feel like a closely guarded secret. Small dining rooms are scattered throughout the rambling old house, and there’s an intimate bar known for a top-notch wine list. The drinks are great matches for the restaurant’s housemade pastas and seafood hits like risotto with pistachio-crusted halibut—dishes that will have you and your date plotting your return before you even get to dessert.

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For an anniversary or romantic milestone

Brasserie la Banque (Downtown Charleston)

Exposed brick and globe-shaped pendant lights at Bar Vaute in Charleston
Pop into Bar Vaute, the cozy bar below Brasserie la Banque, to make your date last a little longer. | Credit: Andrew Cebulka

Nothing levels up a special anniversary like a decadent French meal in a gorgeous dining room. Find both at Brasserie la Banque, a locally loved spot in historic downtown. Your celebrations here will include chic starters like caviar, chilled oysters, and escargot, plus mains like steak frites and coq au vin. Pro-tip: Begin—or end—your romantic evening with a martini or a manhattan at Bar Vaute, the cozy bar downstairs.

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Tempest (Downtown Charleston)

Tempest’s nautical dining room is an elegant backdrop for a big night out. But it’s the installation by local artist Honey McCrary—100,000 pieces of stained glass on the ceiling—that adds a wow factor to any romantic celebration. The hyperlocal seafood-focused menu is just as innovative, featuring Lowcountry oysters from the Ace Basin and flounder with local kale. Whether you and your SO are seated indoors or out, Tempest’s dreamy atmosphere fits the bill for a very memorable evening.

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For an adventurous and transportive date

Coterie – Charleston (Downtown Charleston)

Diners siting on the leafy patio at Coterie in Charleston
Coterie’s lush patio is one of the prettiest in downtown Charleston. | Credit: Coterie

Coterie is for wanderlusting couples who crave a meal that stretches beyond traditional Southern food. Starting on January 18th, the restaurant will serve global cuisine made with local produce and fish. International ingredients like aloe liqueur and masala chai-infused gin make cameos on the creative cocktail list. The menu is just as cross-cultural, filled with must-orders like jackfruit ceviche and yellow Thai curry with pork belly.

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Maison (Downtown Charleston)

Paris is always a romantic idea—and so is escaping to Maison. The petite, window-wrapped French bistro is led by executive chef Vandy Vanderwarker (formerly of The Ordinary), whose menu features sophisticated French staples like burgundy escargot and rabbit en croute, plus more casual dishes including steak frites. Bonus points for the excellent French wines, which round out the transportive European feels for you and your date.

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For a group date

Indaco (Downtown Charleston)

Wood-fired pizza, cured sausages, and housemade pasta at Indaco in Charleston
The hearty Italian dishes at Indaco make it ideal for group hangouts. | Credit: Andrew Cebulka

Indaco’s farmhouse-inspired interiors make a great backdrop for lively group conversations. And its rustic Italian plates, which include black pepper tagliatelle with a runny egg yolk, housemade salumi, and wood-fired pizzas, were made for devouring with a crew. Parties of four or more can enjoy a meal at a pair of butcher block tables or out on the streetside patio. Sign up for one of Indaco’s regular wine dinners for an exceptionally great group date.

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For an evening of entertainment

The Habit (Downtown Charleston)

When a date calls for dinner and dancing, you head straight to this sprawling downtown hotspot. With three levels, a rooftop bar, and a club, The Habit has something for every kind of date. Start with Champagne and caviar on the roof and then check out the speakeasy lounge for a DJ dance party. If you’d rather linger over dinner, sit in one of the dining rooms and get truffle fries and charred lamb lollipops before splurging on a chocolate tasting for dessert.

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For a proposal-worthy place

Oak Steakhouse – Charleston (Downtown Charleston)

Expect the relationship red carpet at this classic steakhouse. Oak is set in a former bank and has three floors with distinct ambiances, depending on the kind of proposal you’re planning: to see and be seen, grab a spot downstairs; for peak intimacy, pick one of the quieter upper levels. Signature steak options include filet mignon and a porterhouse to share, and the wine selection features an impressive by-the-glass list plus half bottles and magnums, ideal for your extra-special moment.

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The Kingstide (Daniel Island)

Pop the question at one of the area’s prettiest waterfront restaurants. From Charleston, a visit to The Kingstide kicks off with a 30-minute ferry ride to Daniel Island, where you’ll be treated to solid seafood like crab fried rice and Lowcountry chowder. Get down on one knee in the nautical dining room or on one of the terraces overlooking the Wando River. Or propose at The Kingstide’s scenic rooftop, equipped with its own raw bar and small plates menu.

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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.

Find your table for any occasion