When you talk about charming Southern towns in the United States, there are a couple of real crowd-pleasers: New Orleans, the Big Easy. Asheville, nestled in the mountains. Charleston, with its deep historic roots and quintessentially Southern vibe. I mean, just picture the South, and you’re probably thinking of the buildings, the moss-covered trees, and the fancy-dressed folks with impeccable manners that you’ll experience on a trip to Charleston.
Anthony Bourdain visited Charleston twice during his TV career, once in 2006 while filming No Reservations episode about South Carolina, and again in 2015 for a dedicated episode of Parts Unknown focused exclusively on Charleston. Both times, he remarked repeatedly how Charleston always exceeded his expectations and he could eat there forever – a very strong endorsement if you’re planning a trip and want to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Charleston.
Below you’ll find a complete guide to all of the places Tony ate in Charleston during his two on-screen trips, plus the dishes he had – so you can literally ate what he ate, where he ate it, should you choose to. Or, channel Bourdain, order something you’ve never tried before – and prepare to have your taste buds and mind blown.
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Charleston?
The No Reservations episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV; the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.
Note: This post contains a photo of a roast pig. For those sensitive to food imagery like this, please be advised.
Anthony Bourdain in Charleston Map
I find it’s always helpful to start with a map so you can see where Tony ate in Charleston – both the specific locations, and where they are around the city. As you can tell from the color-coding, a few of the places are no longer open – but more on that below.
No Reservations (2006)
Tony made his first trip to South Carolina in 2006, as part of filming No Reservations. The episode is actually titled “South Carolina,” and he does visit a number of different locations across the state. Within Charleston, there are two spots he eats – unfortunately both are permanently closed.
Hominy Grill (CLOSED)
First up, Bourdain is joined by a local reverend to get an introduction to South Carolina history and culture. Over brunch, they discuss the influence of the slave trade on the state’s history, as well as how the multitude of African cultures slaves brought over have remained and influenced the state to this day.
For brunch, Tony orders the “Big Nasty,” a biscuit sandwich with fried chicken, cheddar cheese, and sausage gravy; it’s not really the kind of sandwich you eat with two hands! He also tries the buttermilk pie with lemon custard, and shares that with the local reverend, who has shrimp and grits for brunch.
Jestine’s Kitchen (CLOSED)
Jestine’s Kitchen was an unfortunate early casualty of the pandemic, and closed in June 2020.
However, back during his first visit, Anthony Bourdain is joined by food writers Aïda Rogers and Tim Driggers at Jestine’s Kitchen for a big meal of Southern classics. They share corn fritters, fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, chicken livers and onions, and mashed potatoes and gravy, and follow it up with coca cola cake, banana pudding, and coconut cream pie for dessert.
Parts Unknown (2015)
Almost a decade later, Anthony Bourdain returned to Charleston while filming season 6 of Parts Unknown. He visited many more spots across the city during this trip, TK of which are still open today.
Bourdain kicks off his visit to Charleston at The Griffon with Sean Brock, executive chef at Husk (where he also dines later in the episode). To be fair, the two don’t actually eat anything here – they just chat and drink… something Tony’s very good at! If you want to order the same thing, their three rounds were a beer, a shot of Jägermeister, and a pull from Brock’s 1991 Stitzel-Weller bourbon. You might not be able to find the last one on their menu…
Next up, Tony partakes of a truly significant Southern pasttime: post-bar bites at Waffle House. It’s Bourdain’s first visit to this iconic dining institution, and with Brock as his guide, they order the pecan waffles, a patty melt, split, a green salad with thousand island dressing – which is apparently a much-needed lighter third course –, and finish it off with pork chops and a T-bone smothered in Heinz 57 sauce. Use these dishes as your guide if you’ve never been to Waffle House either. (I haven’t!)
For his next stop, Bourdain joins Brock at his own restaurant, Husk. As executive chef, Brock focuses on Carolina dishes and Carolina ingredients, which makes for a delicious-looking meal.
The two enjoy a number of dishes, including country ham, bread and butter pickles, and bourbon; old-fashioned oyster pie; shrimp and grits made with hominy and brown gravy; pit beans with West African red peas; Carolina gold rice; grilled whiting with spring vegetables; and suckling pig with mule foot, cream corn, and cornbread. Honestly, you’d have to roll me out of the place after a meal like that!
Next stop: FIG – for even more Carolina dishes, this time focused more on the treasures of South Carolina’s waterways and ocean access. This time, Bourdain is joined by Glenn Roberts from Anson Mills, an heirloom grain company, and they discuss the concept of heirloom grains and how they change the dishes and dining experience.
For their meal, they try soft shell crab with pasta; slow-baked black bass, heirloom faro, ramp, and lettuce; heirloom rice and peas with suckling pig; and chicken confit with Carolina gold rice. Again, this all sounds delicious – but oh, so indulgent!
Keeping with the seafood kick, Tony next heads to Abundant Seafood. There, he learns about the seafood and fish available in South Carolina and enjoys a dockside meal of grilled triggerfish with salt, mustard, chives, and lemon, prepared by the Abundant Seafood fisherman himself.
This obviously isn’t a dining experience you’ll be able to recreate exactly, but you can visit Abundant Seafood’s two markets to stock up on fresh seafood for your own unique meal.
Other Local Dining Experiences in Charleston
As usual, Bourdain also enjoyed a few local experiences that weren’t at restaurants that you can visit. I always like to include these because they often give you even more foods to try when you’re out exploring Charleston – even if you’re not doing these exact experiences.
- Garden Party – During No Reservations, Tony meets up with Southern food experts Matt and Ted Lee, who invite him to a fancy garden party. They sip on mint juleps in mason jars and nosh boiled peanuts and discuss – what else – Southern cooking.
- Charleston Riverdogs Game – Copy Tony’s style in Parts Unknown and head to a Charleston Riverdogs game and grab beer and concessions. Bourdain was accompanied by the inimitable Bill Murray, who lives part-time in Charleston and is co-owner of the Minor League Baseball single-A team. I can’t promise you’ll get to sit next to Bill, but you may well spot him in the VIP area, and can certainly copy Bourdain’s style and have a beer and hot dog while enjoying the game.
- Local Buffet Lunch – At one point during Parts Unknown, Tony ends up at a buffet for a huge meal of Southern and Carolina classics, including slow-barbequed turkey, pig’s feet and collard greens, barbeque coleslaw, potato salad and ramps, baked red peas, and mac and cheese with Chef Mike Lata from FIG and Jeff Allen of Rebellion Farm.
Tony’s Recommended Charleston Hotel
During the credits of No Reservations, I caught that Tony stayed at the Market Pavilion Hotel in the heart of historic Charleston. This is a great property to base yourself from during a trip to Charleston to visit the same spots Bourdain ate. Rooms at the Market Pavilion Hotel start from $359 per night. Book your stay on Booking.com or Hotels.com.
Charleston Food Tours You Might Enjoy
Finally, I always like to recommend a few food tours, in case you want to try these foods but maybe can’t get into the exact restaurants or don’t have enough time to hit them all individually. Here are a few Charleston food tours that seem like ones Tony might not have completely hated:
Have any other questions about following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Charleston, South Carolina? Let me know in the comments!