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Charleston

dining food restaurant peninsula grillVisitors can dine well and often in this city where, in years gone by, residents ate only at home. Now, the city is a foodie haven where dining out has become a never-ending adventure. The Saturday Farmers' Market is always crowded, and an annual Wine + Food Festival has been introduced. Restaurants offer plenty of traditional Southern cuisine -- buttermilk biscuits, shrimp and grits, blackened catfish -- often with an upscale or innovative twist.

Finding the Best Restaurants on the Road

Peninsula Grill is in the Planters Inn and reflects the high standards and service of its host. It's really a magnificent setting, with elegant service and fabulous food. Besides, the coconut cake is to die for. (They ship them too!)

Fleet Landing is a converted Navy pier and offers open, waterfront dining. It serves seafood and Southern food at moderate prices in a unique setting. Reservations are recommended for nights and weekends.

Gaulart & Maliclet is known as Fast & French by everyone. During the day, this place offers great pate, fruit and cheese plates, sandwiches, and salads (including many vegetarian options); at night, enjoy French country fare. Don't miss the Thursday night fondue. It's open all day.

Hominy Grill is best known for its breakfasts, and dinner is just as great. A short ride from downtown, it's Southern comfort food with a twist.

Il Cortile del Re offers to-die-for Italian cuisine like gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and stewed wild boar over pappardelle. Ask to be seated in the original back area or the courtyard itself. The food and service are excellent, but the setting and ambience are what make the place. If there was any more atmosphere, you'd pass out.

Magnolia's has become a Charleston classic, with updated Southern specialties in a clean, elegant atmosphere. It's not cheap, but dishes like buttermilk-fried chicken breast or bourbon-glazed porterhouse pork chop with roasted sweet potato hash are worth the price tag.

Martha Lou's Kitchen is a "don't judge a book by its cover" experience: Southern soul wrapped in pink cinderblock. The cabbie knows the place; he ate there and sat next to the mayor and a federal judge.

The Noisy Oyster is bright, colorful, and fun for families and everyone else. Seafood is available in abundance, including the delicious shrimp and grits and the Noisy Oyster Seafood Steam Pot, filled with snow crab legs, shrimp, oysters and mussels -- but there are other options for the landlubbers in your party. The walls roll up for an open-air experience, and the prices are reasonable.

Southend Brewery & Smokehouse brews its own beer, including ales and stout. They go well with the smoked meats and ribs, fish, pasta, sandwiches and salads. There's often live entertainment.

Sticky Fingers, started by three local friends, is now a regional group of unqualified success. Offering smoky-sweet everything, its food is just delicious -- the ribs are a specialty -- and there's great service to boot.

TBonz Gill & Grill has a fun, lively atmosphere that's reminiscent of a jazz eatery you'd find in New Orleans. As its name suggests, TBonz is a great place to snag some steak, but it also features seafood, chicken wings, quesadillas and other indulgent fare.

Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar is a posh bar and seafood restaurant with an urban feel. But despite its appearance, it's quite affordable and offers amazing crab cakes. Other menu items include delicious hushpuppies, burgers and an assortment of items like salads, soups and, of course, seafood.

Cupcake is the perfect place to pull up a chair if you're craving a sweet snack. Amazing cupcake varieties include red velvet, lemon, chocolate chip cheesecake, coconut, carrot cake and many other tasty options.

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