Charleston’s 5 Best French Restaurants
As one of only two cities in the United States to have a French Quarter, there are plenty of options for those looking for steak frites, duck cassoulet, pancakes, and other quintessential classics – which means it’s no small feat to be named one of the top five French Restaurants in Charleston. There’s no shortage of options, but we’re here to help you narrow the list down with a few local favorites from our Plate Top 50 restaurants for spring 2021.
On the City papers List of Charleston’s top five French restaurants, you’ll find a hidden gem with a handwritten menu that changes daily, a King Street cocktail bar, a Parisian restaurant with matching decor, and two French-inspired restaurants from chef Nico Romo. Plus, we’ve added a few honorable mentions that are worth checking out.
Charlestonians cannot physically travel to France yet, but there is plenty of French food to keep you busy while you wait. here are the City papers The five best French restaurants in Charleston.
Bistronomie by Nico
Downtown. 64 Spring Street (843) 410-6221
Serve dinner (daily)
A month after obtaining the keys to 64 Spring St., co-owners of Bistronomy by Nico Nico Romo and Dominique Chantepie opened the French bistro after redesigning the space previously occupied by Joséphine Wine Bar. Since its opening in November 2020, the Bistronomy has offered fun dishes such as rice balls with snails, goat spring rolls and lobster with candied ginger in a decor reminiscent of a Parisian bistro.
The kitchen reflects the vibrant atmosphere and draws inspiration from famous dishes from Romo’s 10 years at Fish, which closed in 2017 after 17 years on King Street. Romo calls the Bistronomy menu accessible French cuisine with a touch of Asian fusion.
“There were a lot of dishes and food that I made like the steamed duck bun that I had,” Romo told the Charleston City Paper. “I had a lot of followers at the time for this food, which I don’t do at NICO, which is more of a classic French dish with an oyster bar. ”
Look for those steamed duck buns, the tuna tartare with shrimp ‘chips’ and a panko-fried tomato and mozzarella salad in the small plate section, while the entrees consist of platters like chicken with truffles, cassoulet and scallops with coconut rice, all under $ 30. –Parker Milner
Downtown. 6 Payne Court. (843) 579-3060
Lunch, dinner (Tuesday-Sun), Sun Brunch
Most mornings before lunch, Chez Nous’s Instagram feed (@cheznouscharleston) features an image of the daily menu, handwritten in black ink on a small white card in the quirky and highly stylized handwriting of the Executive Chef Jill Mathias. Next is a separate image of each dish served that day, taken from above in crisp light. Admittedly, that’s only seven photos in total, since Chez Nous only serves two starters, two main courses and two desserts, and the selection changes every day.
The setting is charming and the cuisine of European inspiration, but this is hardly a return to an older mode of dining. Chez Nous is alone as it is, an eccentric outlier. With such a dynamic menu, any review of Chez Nous is by necessity a fleeting snapshot. On my last visit, each of the dishes balanced a dark, heavier dish with a brighter fish option, and each was splendid, albeit in a very different way. –Robert F. Moss
Downtown. 550 King Street (843) 203-6297
Serve lunch (Monday to Friday), dinner (daily), weekend brunch
Foreground on its posh website – well, just below the martini-quaffing frog GIF – Félix Cocktails et Cuisine declares its intention to serve “creative cocktails and small plates, all with the glamor of Paris d ‘today”. Felix nailed down his stylish intention when it comes to a hip European vibe. The food is polite. The decor is suitably cool, yet effortlessly chic and accompanied by jazzy music playing softly overhead.
Félix’s food is mostly small portions, with an emphasis on familiar French classics like croque monsieur and steak frites. Executive Chef Andrew Miller added a seasonal approach after taking office in June, giving the restaurant more substantial dishes to pair with popular small plates like crab cakes and chicken liver mousse.
Overall, Felix himself is resolutely thoughtful and perfectly executed. Whether you are looking to sample the wide array of personalized cocktails, share a few small plates, or just enjoy a conversation in an environment where you can actually hear yourself talking, this is a welcome addition to the Upper King scene. –Vanessa Wolf
Downtown. 708 King Street (843) 990-9165
Serve dinner (Monday to Saturday)
House shares a low-rise, unassuming King Street building with a climbing gym, but walk in and you’ll find an immaculate invocation of an elegant French bistro. There’s a bar topped with pewter, white and black hexagonal floor tiles, and Parisian-style bistro chairs with white and black woven backrests. The menu options – snails, pepper-fried steak, coq au vin – at first seem to match traditional bistro standards, but Chef Vandy Vanderwarker gives each one a creative and flavorful twist. The sensual coq au vin is a deconstructed delight, with long marinated chicken that is braised, grated and tossed with roasted ramps in an intensely fragrant patty. A thick piece of monkfish tail has a soft, buttery bite beneath its golden-brown bite, enhanced by the unexpected richness of the roasted chicken butter sauce. With deep, intense flavors and a playful sensibility, the bold interpretations of Maison’s traditional French plates are a welcome addition to the Charleston scene. –Robert F. Moss
Mount Pleasant. 201, boulevard Coleman (843) 352-7969
Serve dinner (daily) and weekend brunch
NICO was the fine dining establishment that Shem Creek expected when it opened in 2018. You wouldn’t know it due to the lively atmosphere and trendy decor, but NICO is located in a former Pizza Hut, which adds to the appeal of the restaurant. Executive Chef Nico Romo’s menu has flash notes with beautifully arranged raw bar platters and dishes like roasted whole lobster. Each plate that comes out of the open kitchen is a display of classic French techniques using ingredients from South Carolina. Take his bouillabaisse de Marseille, which incorporates local fish, shrimp, mussels, clams and scallops, resulting in a perfect interpretation of the famous French dish.
Eating at NICO is both comfortable and exciting, which means customers always want to come back for more. If you are looking for ambiance, breathtaking food and lots of fresh oysters, NICO is your place. –Parker Milner
39 rue de Jean
Downtown. 39 John Street (843) 722-8881
Lunch (Fri-Sun) and dinner (Tue-Sun)
Downtown. 40 Archdale Street (843) 974-4441
Serve dinner (Tuesday-Saturday)
Mount Pleasant. 1220, boulevard Ben Sawyer (843) 216-3434
Serve dinner (Wednesday-Sun); Sunday brunch
Fast & French
Downtown. 98 Broad Street (843) 577-9797
Serves breakfast, lunch, dinner (Monday to Saturday) and Sunday brunch
Rotisserie and grill with goulette
Downtown. 210 Rutledge Avenue (843) 805-6699
Serve dinner (Tuesday-Saturday)
Bistro Ville Sainte
Mount Pleasant. 1035, boulevard Johnnie Dodds (843) 388-5778
Serve dinner (Tuesday-Saturday)