North Charleston and Summerville may not draw visitors in the same way that the Charleston peninsula and coastal island beaches do—but there are a host of benefits to spending time here—first and foremost, the fact that crowds are largely absent. The richly diverse Lowcountry culture and proximity to hospitality innovation have influenced these areas—and they still manage to maintain a slower pace.
The most well-known nook of North Charleston, Park Circle boasts a food scene that rivals downtown. It’s smaller, of course, but there’s plenty to choose from and parking is not only free but also possible. EVO Pizzeria, taking its name from “extra-virgin oven,” serves wood-fired pizzas and fresh local salads like no other (except at Baker and Brewer, their partner concept with Holy City Brewing). If it’s Thursday, bring your own records and camp out at Stems & Skins for Vinyl Night starting at 6 p.m. Listen while you enjoy octopus skewers, jamón ibérico, the seasonal pasta, and conservas served with baguette, butter, salt, and arugula, paired with some of the most carefully selected wines in the area.
Slaughterhouse BBQ and Brew by Nigel Drayton of Nigel’s Good Food makes true South Carolina-style barbecue. If you go with a group, order from the family-style menu with pork, no pork, and combo options served with four sides—you can also get Nigel’s Geechie wings.
In Summerville, new restaurants abound: Laura offers peninsula sophistication with Summerville prices for rustic Italian food and the unique distinction of the chicken being the top dish on the menu. Meanwhile, Bexley’s raw bar and seafood-forward menu will make you think the beach is only steps away—order East Coast blue crab claws if they’re on the menu, and always start with the Surfboard.
Oak Road Brewery and Coastal Coffee Roasters live side by side in Summerville, making it easy to pick a beverage depending on whether you’re ramping up or winding down for the day. At Coastal, shop from a variety of local food and craft products while you’re waiting for a locally roasted organic pour over and a breakfast BLT; at Oak Road, one of the few businesses open on Sunday afternoons, snag a seat outside to try a German-inspired flight of what’s on tap and pair it with the food truck offerings updated on their Facebook page.
When you’re on vacation, any day of the week is appropriate for day drinking, and north of the peninsula it’s Sunday every day at Martini Me on Ashley Phosphate or Day Drink Brunch Lounge in Summerville, both owned by women of color. Finish your indulgence with a flavored hookah at Martini Me or soak up the sunshine on Day Drink’s charming back patio.
If it’s the weekend, Commonhouse Aleworks in Park Circle has live music. Check out their website for the schedule and then go enjoy the spacious indoor and outdoor areas with a Park Circle pale ale.
The Public Works Art Center is relatively new to downtown Summerville—and it’s free (though donations are accepted). They have three galleries, cultivate a kid-friendly atmosphere, and prioritize a wide range of unique artistic voices.
If you’re curious about where Park Circle gets its name, bring your own disc for the free Park Circle Disc Golf course circumnavigating the circle, or bring a picnic to the Butterfly Garden at its heart—spring and fall are the best times of year for weather and butterfly viewing.
If you have kids and are visiting during the summer, set aside a day to cool off! Ashley River Park is Summerville’s newest park, and at $2 per person it’s budget friendly with access to a giant splash pad, a zip line, and two large play structures for various ages. If you don’t mind spending a little more, Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark at Wannamaker County Park is all-day fun for kids and grown-ups alike.
There’s more to Charleston than downtown King Street: discover West Ashley, James Island, and Folly Beach culture, eats, and drinks.
- by Erin Byers Murray