09 Jul The Best Restaurants In Beaufort South Carolina
Looking For The Best Restaurants In Beaufort, South Carolina?
Then check out our ultimate list of places to eat in Beaufort where we highlight 31 of our favorite spots to dine. For good measure, we added a few local attractions you don’t want to miss.
Beaufort is similar to its big sisters, Charleston to the north and Savannah to the south. All three have superb dining, fine lodging, notable shopping and storied histories. But for me, Beaufort stands apart from its bookend cities. It’s everything you can hope for in a Southern seaside town.
What strikes me when in Beaufort is how aware I am of the water. Beaufort County has 64 sizable islands and some 2000 tinier ones. This is a magical setting where freshwater meets saltwater. Creeks and rivers meander through marshland thick with cordgrass. The haunting beauty of magnificent oaks cloaked in Spanish moss. Tree-lined streets of charm and class. Well-preserved antebellum mansions.
When you are in this part of the Lowcountry, you can feel the drumbeat of history. Beaufort and the surrounding area has a history that dates back more than 500 years. Beaufort County was the site of the second North American continent landing by European settlers.
This is such a picturesque, postcard town that it played starring roles in such legendary movies as Forrest Gump, The Bill Chill and The Great Santini. I hope we have whet your appetite, because now it’s time to ‘taste your way through Beaufort, SC.’
On every stop we give you a sampler (usually had with a traveling companion) of things we tried. This should give you a “feel” for the restaurant and its food. You know the drill…there is no ranking. If a place made our list you can be rest assured that it is turning out well-prepared food with the right amount of Southern hospitality.
Though this article is primarily about eating and drinking your way through Beaufort, we have included some of our favorite things to do and see between bites. It’s always nice to have some activities to burn off a few calories and then get back to serious eating. There is also a short list of places to stay. Each has provided very comfortable experiences in the past.
Think Katz’s Delicatessen NYC, Union Oyster House in Boston, Old Bookbinders in Philadelphia and you’ll get an idea of Blackstone’s place in Beaufort. An institution since 1991. Two-story restaurant and a dog friendly outdoor patio. Bring a flag from your school – there are 230 and counting. Original owner mounted his Yale flag and he allowed customers to do the same. Pledge of Allegiance recited every morning at 8 a.m.
Homemade Corned Beef Hash – topped with 2 eggs anyway (mine overeasy) with grits or fries. Choose the grits; they are special. You probably know I had a biscuit. This is the real thing, not the limp cubes of meat and potatoes that you encounter in many restaurants but golden, crispy bits of pure flavor.
Shrimp Omelette – Shrimp with demi glace and cheese. I was skeptical – demi glace with an omelette? But I am now a believer.
Next time – Cajun Shrimp and Grits. After viewing a few plates, and hearing sighs of contentment, I kicked myself. It will never happen again.
Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch and some treats
205 Scott St.
Magnolia Bakery Café
Relaxed garden like setting with a panoramic view of the Beaufort River. Local ingredients, attentive preparation. Gift shop with art objects, soaps, etc. Fresh baked goods.
Max’s Breakfast Sandwich – Sausage, American cheese, scrambled eggs on a french roll. All you want in a classic.
MBC Homemade crepes – Eggs, ham, cheese in a freshly made crepe. A decadent dish with the Gruyere cheese taking you higher and higher into flavor heaven. Seasonal fruit on the side adds the right touch.
Next Time – Bellamy Curve Crab Cake Crepe – All lump crab in a Mornay sauce with an over easy egg. As Frank Sinatra said, “Regrets, I have none.” But I do!
Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch, Bakery, Gift shop, Wine, Beer.
Red Rooster Cafe
American comfort food with a Southern influence in an appealing and comfortable setting. Indoor/outdoor seating.
Grandma’s Biscuit and Gravy – Two big, Southern-style biscuits smothered in sausage gravy. A third generation recipe. My Grandmother never made this!
Old Mcdonald – A ciabatta boat filled with shaved ham, crisp bacon, poached eggs and creamy Havarti cheese. A toasted perfection with the buttery Havarti being a difference maker. The saying that something is rotten in Denmark could not be talking about this dish.
Next Time – The Posse – Breakfast panini with scrambled eggs, ham, cheddar cheese, mayo on sourdough. I promise no need to send a posse, I’ll come back of my own accord!
Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch, Alcohol
2045 Boundary St
An airy, high-ceilinged, large-windowed, subway-tiled market. Local produce, cheese, soups, gumbos, bread.
Flounder Grits – Crispy flounder and creamy grits topped with fresh tomato sauce. If the Rolling Stones tried this dish they would never sing (I can’t get no) “Satisfaction.”
Avocado Toast – Two slices of sourdough with avocado, sea salt, black pepper, olive oil and a drizzle of aged balsamic. Just think, not only do you satisfy your hunger, but by going green you are helping the environment.
Next Time – (There better be a next time because I don’t want to miss) The BOWL – scrambled eggs, cheese, stone ground grits, skillet potatoes and crumbled bacon. I love one pot (or in this case one bowl) meals.
Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch, Market Lunch
302 Carteret St.
Wren Bistro & Bar
Never judge a book by it’s cover: nothing’s wrong with Wren’s minimalist white exterior in the historic district, but it hardly prepares you for the interior – spacious, modern, elegant and hip.
Southern Tier – Fried green tomatoes, goat cheese, bacon, mayo, charred tomato relish on grilled french bread. Just like the Lowcountry: a wonderful mish mash.
Bee’s Banjin Birdwatch – 24 hour brined chicken, applewood bacon, fresh mozzarella, caramelized onions, basil jam, mayo, tomato & arugula. Heaven forbid, but I might never step foot in Chick-fil-A again!
Next Time – Lowcountry Cobb – grilled shrimp, applewood bacon, smoked gouda, chopped egg, red onion, hot bacon vinaigrette. One can dream.
Lunch, Dinner, 3-5 in between menu, Cocktails
210 Carteret St.
Panini’s on The Waterfront
Fresh local seafood and Italian cuisine served with Old World Charm. Beautiful water views from the River Deck. Housed in the historic Beaufort bank building.
Margarita Pizza – Heirloom tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella, roasted garlic, shaved Parmesan, fresh Bail. All good!
All classic Crab Cake Salad – 2 crab cakes, mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, Old Bay vinaigrette. Perfect harmony.
Next Time – Frogmore Penne – Shrimp, Andouille sausage, roast corn, tomatoes, green onions, light curry cream. Messing with a classic, but I am intrigued.
Lunch, Dinner, Full Bar
926 Bay St.
Informal, shack-like, eat-outside restaurant. Ten minutes from downtown over the Wood Memorial Bridge. No visit to Beaufort is complete without a trip to St. Helena.
A Shrimp Burger – WHAT ELSE? A rakish, deep fried, shrimp cake with lettuce, tomato, sauce on a bun. Short but oh so sweet.
Next Time – Of course another shrimp burger, and this time add some slaw!
1929 Sea Island Parkway
St. Helena, SC
Family owned, upscale, casual. Uses Many SC certified grown and locally sourced products. Definitely worth the quick trip from downtown Beaufort. Garden setting.
Po’Boys – Shredded lettuce, tomato and remoulade with crispy oysters. A sandwich like this makes me miss the Big Easy. Also can have it with fried shrimp, fried flounder or shrimp salad
Deviled Eggs – Oyster & fennel, pickled shrimp and spicy crab. Sampling these while humming Tams songs. Love that Beach Music.
Next Time – Seafood ‘N’ Grits- Shrimp and scallops in tasso ham gravy with fried grits, a touch of cream and lump crab. Might be time for another shrimp and grits article.
Lunch, Dinner, Bar
925 16th Street
Port Royal, SC
Lady’s Island Dockside
Waterfront restaurant with great views of the Woods Memorial Bridge and downtown. Lots of aged wood, well maintained. Southern influenced menu with outdoor patio.
Captain’s Platter – Fried shrimp, oysters, scallops, flounder (lightly battered using quality oils) french fries. If you’re like me, you’ll be humming “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”
Steamed Seafood Pot – Crab legs, mussels, oysters with Corn on the cob and Red potatoes. Just plain and simple goodness.
Next Time – Shrimp Scallop Piccata Sauteed in Lemon butter caper sauce over linguine with Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Sounds like Tony Soprano would go straight after eating this.
Dinner, Drinks, Views
71 Sea Island Parkway
Breakwater Restaurant and Bar
Fun, friendly place with Southern chops. Serving “New Southern Cuisine” while acknowledging tradition. Lively bar scene.
Scallop Benedict – Geechie boy grit cake, sauteed spinach, champagne hollandaise. Especially nice if you imbibed at happy hour.
Lamb Meatloaf – Rustic mashed potatoes, haricot verts, crispy onion rings, bacon tomato sauce. Despite the fussy description this was comfort food.
Next Time – Scottish Salmon – Mediterranean vegetable melange, tarragon tomato, vinaigrette, lemon sea salt. My understanding is that only wild salmon is used so I’m interested…melange or not.
203 Carteret Street
Small, intimate restaurant with understated elegance. Superior Northern Italian fare with outstanding wine pairings.
Risotto Carnaroli – Rice Risotto with Wild Boar Sausage, Amarone Wine and Borlotti Beans. Rich, luscious ingredients. Pat Conroy loved the food and so do I.
Anatra – Seared duck breast, served over Butternut squash puree with fresh Cherry sauce. What can I say, Conroy was right again!
Next Time – Sunday Dinner – Don’t be like me; if you are in Beaufort on a Sunday evening, try and get a table…appetizer, 2 courses and dessert of impeccable food. Plan ahead!
403 Carteret Street
Q on Bay
Family-style, barbecue restaurant with beautiful views overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. Classic space with old time ceilings.
Smoked Ribeye – Garlic and Jalapeno rubbed and smoked with mac n’ cheese and collards. I’m not going to say anything, because it all would be a cliché.
The Barnyard – Pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket and ribs with slaw and Lowcountry red rice. Again, words would not do justice.
Next Time – The Surf and Turf – Shrimp, ribs, hand cut fries, baked beans. There’s always a next time, until there isn’t…I’d better make plans.
All day, beer, wine
822 Bay Street
Rustic, casual, family-friendly restaurant with spectacular marsh views. Fresh seafood and local produce. A quick ten minutes over the Woods Memorial Bridge from downtown Beaufort.
Devil’s Mess – Sauteed andouille sausage, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, garlic, spices in a scrambled egg ensemble with fries. A little daring here (as I went with fries instead of grits) and after eating this, I received some old time religion.
Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos – Caribbean blackened mahi mahi, corn tortilla w/wasabi sauce, mango, mustard jam, key lime sour cream. Surprised I didn’t start singing “Key Largo!”
Next Time – Cajun Fried Frogs Legs – served with creamy creole mustard remoulade. Can’t wait!
Lunch, Dinner, Brunch, Full Bar, Live Music
The Foolish Frog has a serve yourself Bloody Mary bar fully stocked with bacon, pickled veggies, olives, shrimp and more. A meal in a glass.
846 Sea Island Parkway
St. Helena, SC
Magnolia Bakery (see breakfast)
Strata – Virginia ham, cheddar, eggs, bread. A wonderful layered casserole. They also have two vegetarian options.
The Magnus – Smoked salmon, tomatoes, capers, scallion, havarti cheese, dill, eggs (omelette). Smoked salmon, capers and dill…gets me every time. This omelette does credit to Magnus Carleson, the current world chess champion.
Next Time – Beaufort Choice – Provolone, White cheddar, Swiss, all Lump Crab Cake, eggs, Mornay Sauce.
Sure glad they do brunch Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 9:00 a.m. till 3 p.m.
A LITTLE (VEGETARIAN/VEGAN) PAUSE
As you can see Beaufort has a diverse and creative food culture. But I do not want to be remiss for any visitors that eat vegetarian/vegan. Most of the restaurants on our list can accommodate special requests just make sure you call ahead. In addition, here are a few other recommendations.
Herban Market and Cafe
A cafe specializing in Vegetarian and Vegan fare. Juice and Smoothie Bar with all organic fruits and veggies. Inside and outdoor dining. I’ve sampled some delicious smoothies at this super friendly place. They are very accommodating and will bend backwards to meet your dietary needs.
1601 North Street
Papaya Thai & Sushi Bar
A very good Thai and Sushi restaurant in an attractive setting with upscale cocktails. Some vegan items on the menu and they will make other dishes upon request.
1001 Boundary Street
BARS and NIGHTLIFE
You learn alot about a town when you go to a neighborhood bar. These are my favorite Beaufort haunts. Look for a well-made drink, decent food, friendly faces and no pretension. We will start the story and let you complete it.
Old Bull Tavern
A neighborhood gastropub with European and American influenced comfort foods. A comfortable, pub atmosphere yet with understated class. Enjoy specialty cocktails, lamb shank, curated pizzas. After eating their house made gnocchi, I thought I was in a scene from Goodfellas.
205 West Street
Cry Babies Tavern
A glorious, neighborhood, watering hole. Want to know what it’s like? Order a Trash Can: equal parts Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, splash of blue Curaco, can of red bull. Bring a friend. Drink responsibly. Bar food, darts, pool, music.
2451 Boundary Street
The Fillin’ Station
Long-standing, local icon serving cold drinks and good food with stunning views of Factory Creek. Just think, Rock n Roll Hall of Famer Joe Santana (Carlos’s cousin) played here recently.
57 Sea Island Parkway
Luther’s Rare & Well Done
A serious Cheers vibe, but with a terrific riverview, pet friendly deck and the Corps. The Marine Corps flag flies over the deck and families pack the place during graduation weekends at nearby Parris Island. Bar housed in the former town pharmacy. Red meat type of place: burgers, steak, and delectable ribs. Trivia, karaoke, live music. What’s more….the greatest sign ever above the bar: “You can’t drink all day unless you start in the morning.” The last time I was there I thought I saw Norm.
910 Bay Street
Possibly the greatest dive bar in the United States (that’s definitely a compliment). Located in a subterranean corner of the magnificent Thomas Law Building. This is the first choice drinking establishment of all the area’s bartenders, servers, line cooks and chefs. Monumental Bloody Mary’s. Had a Cuban sandwich that was better than Little Havana in Miami. I will leave you with this “Always do sober what you said you would do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” Yes, that was Papa Hemingway.
920 Bay Street
Premium ice cream shop with counter and table service. Wide variety of sandwiches for lunch. When I want something creamy with great flavor, a salted caramel candy ice cream from Southern Sweets always fits the bill. Crave something rich yet refreshing? Try a Mounds Bar milkshake. You will not be disappointed. Order a banana split sundae to eat on premises and it’s served in a wonderful glass dish. Nice Touch! They even have a Three Doggie Sundae: vanilla ice cream and dog treats.
917 Bay Street
F Old Bay Marketplace Hallway
The Chocolate Tree
Everything you could want in a confectionary shop. The best English toffee I have ever tasted. Buttercrunch center, coated with chocolate, and rolled in cashews and almonds. A store selling salt water taffy always excites me. Growing up, my family always spent a few days each summer in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Without fail, we stocked up for the long winter with a supply of that city’s famous salt water taffy. A little history: saltwater taffy is not made with saltwater. In 1883, a tropical storm caused the Atlantic ocean to flood Atlantic City. A candy store named Bradleys had their entire stock of taffy flooded by saltwater. The owner, as a joke, marketed the candy as salt water taffy and the rest was history. The Chocolate Tree has some irresistible salt water taffy in fantastic and unique flavors. Pomegranate, mango and pina colada are especially delicious.
507 Carteret Street
Scout Southern Market
A store showcasing fine home decor, local gifts, and specialty foods. All very nice, but the main reason to go is to sip on an iconic southern specialty: Scouts Original Sweet Tea Float. Two scoops of sorbet with sweet or unsweetened tea. Four luscious flavors: lemon, strawberry, peach and mojito. Don’t miss this treat! The market and the float are both named for Scout, the unforgettable character in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Previously mentioned in the Breakfast section, but always keep the Magnolia Bakery Cafe in mind if you want a cookie, piece of cake, or slice of pie.
709 Bay Street
Want to kick back one morning? Outside table with the beautiful view, a scone, a cafe au lait and a good book? Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning.
A full coffee bar with a small town cozy feel. Beautiful view of the Henry C. Chambers Water Park. Fresh baked goods – scones are scrumptious! Breakfast and lunch selections. High quality La Colombe coffee. Smoothies, Wine, Beer.
102 West Street Extension
City Java & News
Located in the chic boutique City Loft hotel. Breakfast, Lunch, Quick bites. Features smoothies, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola. Wine, Beer. Great iced coffees – ice cubes made with coffee so your drink is never watered down by the melting cubes.
201 Carteret Street
These are my favorite places to stay when visiting Beaufort for a weekend. These will be a brief description so as to capture the mood of a place and give you an idea of guest services. I hope to expand on these beautiful places in a future article.
A waterfront boutique inn. Front porches overlooking the Beaufort River. Quaint, well maintained rooms with all the amenities you’d expect in a five-star hotel. Classic restaurant. Even if you aren’t a guest, do not miss having a cocktail on the rooftop Ribaut Social Club at Anchorage 1770 (open to the public). The setting and the view are breathtaking, especially at sunset.
1103 Bay St
(877) 951-1770 (Reservations)
An award-winning inn that offers part boutique hotel, part bed and breakfast atmosphere. Located in the historic district, this pink Victorian mansion sits among lush gardens. Forty eight rooms are spread among five buildings. Love to sit by the many fire pits at night. Walking distance to downtown restaurants and shops. Southern hospitality from staff.
809 Port Republic Street
Cuthbert House Inn
Located in the heart of the downtown district, this ten room bed and breakfast was built in 1805. The inn is a model of Lowcountry style. Breakfasts are a delight – French Press coffee, eggs benedict, biscuits and gravy. Every afternoon, on-the-house social hour with wine, beer, soda, snacks such as cheese, pickles, olives. This is a gem.
1203 Bay Street
The Rhett House Inn
Want to stay in an inn where Tom Hanks, Barbara Streisand, Robert Redford, Sandra Bullock and Gwyneth Paltrow once did? Well they all stayed at the Rhett House Inn while filming movies in Beaufort. This is an upscale bed and breakfast with buildings set on beautifully landscaped grounds. All kinds of perks: afternoon tea and cookies, later champagne and cheese. Complimentary breakfasts are amazing. This is not an overstatement when I say I have never had better over easy eggs. Pure Southern charm.
1009 Craven St
Now, as promised, a baker’s dozen of things to do between bites and naps (if you can find the time!)
Beaufort History Museum
A great way to learn about Beaufort and the surrounding area. Housed in the 1798 Arsenal, built to store weapons and be a headquarters for a voluntary militia of prominent citizens who protected the city.
713 Craven St
Captain Dick’s River Tours
The best way to see Beaufort from the water! Dolphins! Egrets! Pelicans! Live Oyster Beds! Lush spartina grass that gives the local shrimp its remarkable sweetness. The Captain is a gracious erudite host. And you can BYOB!! 24-passenger Prince of Tides.
1006 Bay Street
Downtown Beaufort Marina
Southern Rose Buggy Tours
A horse drawn carriage ride visiting all the famous movie sites. Learn about the Antebellum and Victorian architecture of Beaufort. Sit back and relax, enjoy the clippity-clop of these gentle horses. Alway an enjoyable ride.
1002 Bay Street
Hunting Island State Park
Less than 20 miles from downtown. A natural wonderland. A barrier island with 4 miles of beachfront. This is a take off your shoes kind of place. A classic forest primeval. This experience never wanes. **Remember to stop at the Shrimp Shack on the way out.**
And while you are at the park:
Climb the Hunting Island Lighthouse 175 stairs of South Carolina’s only publicly accessible lighthouse. The view is incredible.
Spend time shopping along Bay Street. Boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, and jewelry shops in renovated 19th century buildings.
2555 Sea Island Parkway
Hunting Island, SC
Beaufort National Cemetery
Designated by Abraham Lincoln on February 10, 1863, it is one of the oldest United States National Cemeteries. Located on 33 acres in downtown Beaufort. Veterans from every conflict since the Civil War have been laid here. The cemetery contains close to 20,000 graves (7,500 from the Civil War). Be prepared for an emotional experience.
1601 Boundary Street
Santa Elena History Center
A history center focusing on the 16th century exploration and settlement with an emphasis on the town of Santa Elena located on Parris Island. A fascinating look at America’s untold story.
1501 Bay Street
Beaufort Biplane Tours
Located on Lady’s Island, 29 Airport Circle. This is arguably the best way to see Beaufort. Operated by a Marine aviator and Top Gun graduate. Rides are in a yellow historic de Havilland Tiger Moth plane. A panoramic Lowcountry scene. Consumer alert – Weight limit at 210 lbs – give or take.
Beaufort County Airport
Self-Guided Historical Church Tour
Prominent and historical churches. Get a detailed map at the visitor center. Don’t miss First African Baptist Church, St Helena’s Episcopal and St Peter’s Catholic Church.
Beaufort Visitor Center
713 Craver Street
Pat Conroy Literary Center
A cultural center and museum of African American history on the site of a former school for freed black slaves. This is an important visit to gain an overview of the African American experience in South Carolina from slavery to emancipation and beyond. This beautiful, textural story of this culture and the Gullah life will be explored in another article.
16 Penn Center Circle E
St Helena Island, SC
There you have it!
Eat, drink, explore, relax, ENJOY!
Hope to see you in Beaufort!