How many great conversations have strangers shared over supper at the 16-seat community table since Hank’s Seafood introduced the communal eat, meet and mingle option in 1999? A lot! The popular concept has taken hold at a variety of other local restaurants; so if you are a solo diner or simply looking for some lively interaction, check out these community tables.
10 Hayne Street, Charleston
(843) 723-3474, hanksseafoodrestaurant.com
5 – 11 p.m.
The bones of this late 19th century cotton warehouse-turned-restaurant—high ceilings and leaded glass windows—are innately appealing. Antique tile, pine plank floors, copper accents and wait staff in white jackets give the airy dining room its polished gleam, while Chef Frank McMahon’s Lowcountry-style preparations of local seafood pays homage to Charleston’s classic fish houses.
TASTE THIS: fried oysters with green tomatoes, sweet corn and blue cheese in a vinaigrette with pickled okra
OTHER COMMUNITY TABLES AROUND TOWN:
Butcher & Bee
654 King Street, Charleston
(843) 619-0202, butcherandbee.com
11 p.m. – 3 a.m.
The menu changes daily, but you can get a sneak preview of the plats de jour by checking Facebook and Twitter for a photo of the chalkboard specials.
TASTE THIS: Hummus. Israeli born owner Michael Shemtov serves an incredible version of this dish along with house made pita.
Coast Bar & Grill
39 D John Street, Charleston
(843) 722-8838, coastbarandgrill.com
5:30 – 10:00 p.m.
This former indigo warehouse offers a unique covered patio area that overlooks that alley between John and Hutson streets in the upper King Street neighborhood. Inside, 40-foot ceilings, rustic tin accents and taxidermy blowfish chandeliers give this restaurant an eclectic beach bar vibe.
TASTE THIS: The selection of ceviche is great, and the manager-bartender, John Aquino, is a world-class character. Ask him to make you a Bonecrusher… just don’t ask him to list the ingredients!
18 Pinckney Street, Charleston
(843) 534-2434, crucafe.com
The Charleston single house-turned-restaurant has been serving Le Cordon Bleu-trained Chef John Zucker’s food since 2002. Its off-the-beaten path location endears it to everyone who happens upon it, while the food attracts a loyal following (one local attorney has eaten his lunch at Cru every day for years).
TASTE THIS: duck confit arugula salad with caramelized pecans, tomato, fried onion and port wine vinaigrette
186 Concord Street, Charleston
(843) 722-8100, fleetlanding.net
5 – 11 p.m.
The waterfront view at this “maritime chic” restaurant is a celebration of the Charleston area’s waterfront heritage. Housed in a 1940s naval building overlooking the historic harbor, Fleet Landing offers a view of Fort Sumter alongside its pan-fried crab cakes.
TASTE THIS: a classic 8oz. Black Angus hamburger topped with pimento cheese
232 Meeting Street, Charleston
(843) 805-5900, eatatfig.com
5:30 – 11 p.m.
A laid-back establishment described as part retro diner and part elegant bistro, the menu features delectable dishes that use seasonal ingredients and local, sustainable products prepared by James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef Mike Lata.
TASTE THIS: the coddled Sea Island egg with stone crab, sweet corn, chanterelles and croutons.
451 King Street, Charleston
(843) 720-8787, monzapizza.com
5 – 10 p.m.
This long, skinny restaurant pays homage to the epic Italian super speedway that gave it its name: Monza. The menu features ten Neapolitan-style pizzas, housemade sausage and ricotta meatball antipasto, and clams casino, among other rustic dishes.
TASTE THIS: the Count Louis Zborowski pizza is topped with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, roasted mushrooms and pepperoni… named in honor of the man who designed Chitty Bang Bang!
Pearlz Oyster Bar
153 E Bay St, Charleston
(843) 577-5755, pearlzoysterbar.com
4 – 11 p.m.
Oystermen shuck-to-order the salty bivalves that give this restaurant its name, and watching them crack open the thick shells is a sport. Raw, steamed, baked—the menu canvases every style of preparation, so be ready to tuck in to an oyster extravaganza.
TASTE THIS: sliders with crispy fried oysters, green tomato chow-chow, chipotle-lime aioli and arugula served on potato buns
217 Huger Street, Charleston
(843) 789-3333, tacoboy.net
5 – 10 p.m.
Funky, irreverent and ready to fiesta! The quirky character of this hot spot is like a Tex-Mex disco housed in an emporium of eclectic décor. Have we piqued your interest? Check it out.
TASTE THIS: tempura shrimp tacos with thinly sliced white cabbage, cilantro and Nuevo remoulade sauce
479 King Street, Charleston
5 – 10 p.m.
What’s in a name? In the case of Chef Jeremiah Bacon, it’s an appealing case of truth in advertising. The daily happy hour small plate offering is a riff on fanciful fatback—crispy pork belly with herbed breadcrumbs and an apple cider gastrique on a recent visit.
TASTE THIS: glazed confit pork shoulder in bacon-sorghum jus with field peas, frisee, Sea Island red peas and fennel marmalade
Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.)
192 E Bay St, Charleston
(843) 723-3424, mavericksouthernkitchens.com
5:30 – 10 p.m.
There’s always energy coursing through this restaurant. During the day, this restaurant serves as the “see and be seen” spot, Charleston’s version of the power broker’s lunch. At night, the open kitchen provides entertainment for the lively dining room.
TASTE THIS: Chef Frank Lee’s version of shrimp and grits—sautéed shrimp, sausage, country ham, fresh tomatoes, green onions and garlic served over yellow grits