We don’t believe that the best things only come in the smallest packages (as people who love growlers and heaping plates at meat n’ threes, we clearly don’t gravitate only toward the tiny), but in the case of these miniature meccas, the sentiment has delicious merit. Whether it’s fine French food in a converted Charleston Single or hot biscuits in a three-foot-wide space, squeeze on in!
CHEZ NOUS Perhaps the city’s best kept dining secret, Chez Nous is housed in a traditional Charleston Single, charmingly tucked away in an alley just two blocks from bustling Upper King Street. They only have 36 seats and a tiny bar for 4-6 (good weather expands options to the adorable side patio). No reservations, and they have a limited, ever-changing daily menu of two (each) appetizer, entrée, and dessert choices. With an excellent wine list, we’d forgive you is you thought Chez Nous was French for “everything is perfect.” 6 Payne Court. Tuesday thru Saturday for lunch and dinner.
Gambas au Pastis (Shrimp with Pastis)
from Chef Jill Mathias of Chez Nous
HOT LITTLE BISCUIT We recently watched an elegant woman walk by the door to this “blink-and-you’ll-miss-me” storefront, stop, sniff the air, and loudly proclaim, “That smells better than anything I have ever smelled. What is it?” She then quickly lost composure, frantically searching the street to discern the door hidden amid retail shops. At Hot Little Biscuit, you could reach your arms out and touch each wall, but you’ll be too busy hoovering Carrie Morey’s sweet and savory nuggets of heaven, washed down with a rich French press coffee, to do so. 476 King Street. Open everyday 8.00am-2.00pm.
The Biscuit is a Family Affair
Carrie Morey’s mother, Callie White, was an in-demand Charleston caterer for years. In a city full of culinary talent, most agreed that hers were the best darn biscuits around. Starting with the addictive country ham biscuit, for which Callie was known, Carrie and her mom have added seven other sweet and savory options to their repertoire, and eventually opened Hot Little Biscuit, a teeny restaurant with big flavor, in 2014. It’s stories like these that show how food in Charleston always has a story—and a family—behind it.
ELLIOTTBOROUGH MINI BAR This watering hole is the neighborhood bar everyone dreams about having as their regular go-to. Chalkboards relay options, and somehow each table feels like an intimate space, though you are essentially on top of those beside you. Their smoke and mirrors tricks continue with fitting in live music and whipping up quality-cute snacks in their minuscule place. 18 Percy Street. Open evenings Monday thru Saturday.
167 RAW No, lobster is not indigenous to South Carolina, but the glorious lobster roll at 167 RAW shows that these boys have some New England in their blood. You’ll need some local oysters and whatever daily ceviches are on offer too. Tip: If it is too packed at this tiny spot, grab your lobster to go and roll on down to Waterfront Park (a 10-minute walk), for a seafood picnic with a view. 289 East Bay Street. Open lunch and dinner Monday thru Saturday.
from Jesse Sandole of 167 Raw
CRU CAFE Tucked behind the tourist-packed market on Pinckney Street, this consistently excellent cafe offers lunch and dinner in the sweet settting of a Charleston Single house. Light fare, like their Chinese Chicken Salad can be balanced with their addictive four-cheese macaroni. Chef and owner John Zucker is as much institution as his locals-only resto. 18 Pinckney Street. Open lunch and dinner Monday thru Saturday.
Both Chez Nous and Cru Cafe occupy a Charleston Single, a type of house specific to the Holy City that is characterized by being one-room wide on the street front and several rooms deep. These houses were built long and narrow in order to maximize air flow in this steamy town (though some tour guides may tell you they were a response to street-frontage taxation). A very common aspect of this style of architecture is the double- or triple-floor piazza, a porch, which extends the length of the house and is often entered by a false door. Piazzas provided additional living space and were constructed on the west or south side of the home to take advantage of the breezes. Chez Nous and Cru Cafe are not only delicious destinations, but offer an opportunity to dine in historic settings, so eat up.
BON BAHN MI Venture further down Spring Street and duck into this Vietnamese sandwich bar, in all it’s petite glory, for a five spice pork bahn mi (or go veg with five spice tofu). Bonus: There’s parking behind the building too. 162 Spring Street. Open daily for lunch and dinner.