Summerville, “The Flower Town in the Pines,” is situated about 26 miles from Charleston in South Carolina. Various Summerville SC restaurants rely heavily on Lowcountry cuisine, which has a culinary identity all of its own.
That’s not to say you can’t find pizza in Summerville, or Thai, or Chinese in Summerville, but the delicious southern-style food is where to eat in Summerville SC restaurants.
The Lowcountry coastal estuaries provide a rich diversity of seafood, especially shrimp and oysters. African cooking influenced Lowcountry dishes, introducing many spices like sesame (nutty seeds), vegetables such as black-eyed peas, okra, and eggplant, fruit like melons, and grains like sorghum and rice.
Southeast American Indian tribes like the Choctaw and Seminole added to the gastronomic mix with deep-pit barbecuing and growing crops of squash and corn. The Lowcountry is renowned for its grits, a derivative of corn.
One can also detect elements of New Orleans and Cajun cooking in many Lowcountry dishes served in Summerville restaurants. Both styles often rely on combining green peppers, onions, and celery. Creole food also includes tomatoes, more oysters, crab, and shrimp.
Summerville’s motto, “The Flower Town in the Pines,” is well-deserved. In early spring, a myriad of blossoms, especially azaleas, transform the town into a feast for the eyes. Summerville is not only known for its flowers but also its pine forests. In fact, the motto on the town’s official seal is “Sacra Pinus Esto – The Pine is Sacred.”
The history of Summerville spans over three centuries, going back to 1696 when Puritans settled in the area. In the late 1700s Charlestonians and Lowcountry plantation families spent the summer months in this area to seek relief from the oppressive heat, mosquitos, and disease along the coast and the Ashley River. The residents aptly named this pine-forested ridge with its higher elevation “Summerville.”
The village officially became a town in 1847 with the arrival of a railroad. With great foresight, the city immediately passed a law prohibiting cutting certain-sized trees without permission.
1886 saw an earthquake followed by a fire, destroying the buildings around the town square, causing extensive destruction. But, soon after, there was a reversal in fortunes. The International Congress of Physicians in Paris, France, proclaimed the forested Summerville as one of the two best places in the world for the treatment and recovery of lung disorders. People flocked to the town, and the building industry boomed.
Given all this history, and the continued tourism, it’s no surprise that there are many great places to eat in Summerville. We’ve compiled some of the best restaurants in Summerville below.
7 Must-Try Summerville SC Restaurants
207 W 5th N St. // +1-843-871-3800
As my friend and I stepped into the spacious reception area of Oscar’s restaurant, we knew that we were in for a special treat. This Summerville restaurant, originally an inn, has served the Lowcountry for about thirty-five years.
The staff greeted us with the warmth associated with Southern hospitality. The elegant farmhouse look of the foyer confirmed the restaurant’s upscale reputation and casual luxury. There are several large dining areas, including a Plantation Room and an outdoor space.
Josh, one of the managers, led us to our table. He introduced a very attentive server, Kelvin, an employee of eighteen years at Oscar’s. Quite a talkative guy, we quickly learned that this proud grandfather was the father of two sets of twins himself. On his recommendation, we ordered a cocktail of Di’s unique blend of Peach Vodka and Fruit Juices with the intriguing name of South Cackalackey.
My friend enlightened me that Cackalackey is a nickname for both North and South Carolina. The first few sips of the cocktail were refreshing, leaving a piquant taste in the mouth, but then it became a little too sweet for my palate. The glass of chardonnay went down exceedingly well.
Josh recommended a tray of Classic Bruschetta appetizers. The little crusts (crostini) were delicious, crisply toasted, topped with buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, and fresh basil, and drizzled with balsamic and extra-virgin olive oil. We savored every mouthful.
I chose Oscar’s Lowcountry She Crab soup. I have often wondered if a she-crab is a specific type of crab. Nope, they are female crabs.
Some chefs prefer them because the she-crabs carry flavorful roe. The typical East Coast female blue crab has a broad, triangular-shaped area in the middle of the shell and red tips on her claws, whereas the male has a more elongated spire and bright blue claws.
Oscar’s serves a soup made in-house, using fresh lump crab, roe, and a 12-year aged sherry. I learned that lump is a mixture of large and small pieces of crabmeat, adding to that chunky texture.
My friend gave the French Onion Soup a huge thumbs-up. She savored the caramelized onions simmered in a madeira beef broth and topped with melted Swiss, gruyere, and jack cheese.
My entree is an all-time favorite in the Lowcountry, Oscar’s signature dish, Shrimp and Grits, voted #1 in Summerville. The shrimp was plump and firm, sautéed to perfection, and the bacon, mushrooms, garlic, and scallions enhanced the creamy sauce. The tabasco added a pleasant bite.
Grits, a dish made from crushed or ground corn, became popular after Native Americans introduced it in the Southern States. There is evidence that the Gullah or Geechee people, descendants from the slaves who worked in the Southern plantations, combined the grits with shrimp.
I have tasted shrimp and grits at various restaurants in Charleston, and Oscar’s dish was certainly one of the best in Summerville or anywhere.
My friend had one of the other signature dishes, Grilled Chicken Burrito. She ate it with such relish that I insisted on tasting it too. I am not a burrito fan, but I will order this one anytime. The spicy pepper Jack cheese sauce, caramelized onions and green chiles enhanced the flavor of julienned grilled chicken while the chunky pico de gallo added a pleasing crunch.
Kelvin insisted that we try the Caramel Xango dessert. Well, can I use a cliché and say that I had died and gone to heaven? White chocolate and crème anglaise topped the cheesecake, wrapped in a flour tortilla, deep-fried, but certainly not oily. Cinnamon ice cream, candied pecans, and caramel completed the dessert.
Fully satiated, we settled back into our chairs, enjoying the relaxing ambiance created by the soft background music. We agreed that we would highly recommend Oscar’s Place as one of the best Summerville SC restaurants.
114 Central Avenue // +1-843-871-3800
There was a pleasant buzz when I walked through the door of the Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, situated in the heart of downtown Summerville. The restaurant was a short distance from where I left my car on Central Avenue, next to a parking garage. The trendy Summerville restaurant has a well-stocked bar and several tables in the indoor area, with plenty of outdoor seating.
The manager, Jason, gave me a warm welcome and a seat at a corner table from where I could see the lively interaction between staff and clientele, many of them returning customers. The Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, one of about 20 stores, has been in operation for about 5-1/2 years, mainly in the Carolinas and Georgia.
As I looked through the menu to select a cocktail, the Shucktini caught my eye. The name is a creative play on the “shucking of oysters” and a “martini.” Indeed, a deliciously spicy olive and steamed oyster skewer floated on chilled Tito’s vodka.
The recipe calls for marinating the oysters in a secret garlicky sauce. I would have been happy to have the skewers as an appetizer! The mix of celery salt, paprika, and red and black pepper in the Old Bay seasoning topping the glass’s rim added another layer of flavor to the cocktail. Indeed, “The Shack way to drink a martini.”
Next, Jason brought me their Signature Cold Crab Dip Starter, a ball of solid crab meat, cream cheese, and spices. The crunchy, toasted garlic bread was a pleasant surprise – so much better than the usual crackers. The toast offset the crab dip’s smooth richness, while a few drops of fresh lemon juice added a little tartness. Delicious!
Next, Jason brought me a plate with six steamed oysters, beautifully displayed. The three raspberry points from Island Rocky Road in Prince Edward Island, Canada, had a gentle brine and sweet mushroom finish, while the other three from Rhode Island were more full-bodied with a strong brine and slightly salty flavor.
Of the three accompanying sauces, I preferred the taste of the housemade tomato dip to the biting hot sauce and smooth tartare relish.
I was enjoying a seafood feast at The Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar. A plate of perfectly fried, plump scallops, served with homemade cocktail sauce, followed.
Combine red or new potatoes, corn on the cob, smoked sausage, and fresh, local shrimp in a pot, cook it in a spicy stock, and you have a Low Country Boil.
This one-pot meal is also known as a Frogmore or Brunswick Stew, named after the different areas where it originated in South Carolina. Seafood boils are rooted in the Gullah-Geechee people’s traditions and can be found in many Summerville restaurants.
During the season, the restaurant uses domestic white Wild American shrimp. Returning customers enjoyed the sausage and potatoes in the boil so much that they asked the restaurant to include it as a side on the menu.
I had a great time at this excellent seafood bar-restaurant in Summerville. The Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar is undoubtedly a place to go for top-quality food at very reasonable prices.
110 Miles Jamison Rd. // +1- 843-225-6201
If you’re looking for a hearty Southern breakfast in Summerville, look no further than the family restaurant, Sunrise Bistro, situated on Old Trolley Rd.
The restaurant looks decidedly unpretentious, but appearances can deceive. As one customer summed it up, “Don’t let the outside of this little hidden gem fool you. The inside is full of cuteness, courteous staff, and deliciously prepared food!”
One of the best things at Sunrise is the coffee station with its selection of tasty, unique beverages. Customers can refill their mugs to their hearts’ content. There is also a bar when craving something a little stronger, like the ever-popular mimosas. The restaurant has wide spaces between tables. My friend and I were impressed that the restaurant used the menus as placemats, especially during COVID.
The British introduced the idea of a full breakfast many years ago, and Sunrise Bistro certainly kept up the tradition by offering a “full” menu for your breakfast in Summerville. Intrigued by the name, I ordered the Old Trolley Farmer’s Open-Faced Omelet served with House-made Herb Bread.
It turned out that, in the early 1900s, Old Trolley Road in Oakbrook was the proposed rail bed for the route connecting Summerville via Dorchester Rd to Charleston. Alas, all that remains of the proposal is an original stock certificate for The Charleston and Summerville Electric Railway Company (C&SE), issued in 1905.
Back to the omelet. Ham, potatoes, onions, peppers, pepper jack, and cheddar cheese filled the omelet. Goodness, wholesome, and delicious – just what I imagined a farmer should have for breakfast.
My friend ordered a typical southern dish, Fried Boneless Chicken Breast, Biscuits and Gravy, rumored to go back to the early 1800s. She was thrilled that the delicately spiced chicken was tender and not oily at all. The biscuit was light and smothered with a spicy sausage gravy. Chunks of fried potato and tomatoes and scrambled egg completed the meal.
With such an extensive menu, it was hard to make a choice. We will definitely return to explore the other options for the next breakfast in Summerville.
975 Bacons Bridge Rd. // +1-843- 419-6430
Chris and Sharon Bauer own and operate the Palmetto Flats Restaurant and Tavern, inconspicuously located in Summerville Galleria, a shopping center in the heart of the town. Locals love this restaurant with its homey ambiance, friendly service, and delicious, affordable food.
What caught my attention was the postscript attached to the Summerville restaurant’s name, “Southern Bites with an Italian Twist.” Chris and Sharon blended their diverse backgrounds, individual talents, and passion for cooking and made their business dreams come true.
The staff provided excellent, friendly service, with Melody warmly welcoming me and Kaitlyn attending to my every request. She brought me a pot of Royal Cup Coffee after I raved about it as the most aromatic coffee I had ever tasted.
I had to Google its origin and found that the company started in 1896 with the original owner, Mr. Henry T. Batterton, operating out of the back of a horse-drawn wagon. The coffee Mr. Batterton served in the city of Birmingham, Alabama, was so fresh and delicious that customers praised it as a drink “fit for royalty.” And hence the name Royal Cup.
Most of us will recall the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. Well, fried tomatoes is a regular item on many Southern menus. The preparation and unique presentation of this dish at Palmetto Flats elevates this one to a new level.
A golden-brown crust encased the tomatoes, topped with pimento cheese. As I bit through each layer, I savored the delicate balance of salty grilled prosciutto ham, crunchy bits of onion, and a lightly spiced basil pesto base served on an organic spring mix.
As my main dish, I chose the Pecan Chicken Flatbread, an excellent example of Southern and Italian culture combined. I loved the thin crust base of the flatbread with the generous chicken topping. I savored the layers of Parmesan, vinaigrette, spring mix, tomatoes, asiago cheese, sugared pecans, and the diced pecan encrusted chicken. Delicious!
I decided to go Mediterranean for dessert and selected a slice of Italian lemon cake with a cream filling and raspberry and powdered sugar drizzle. A proverbial “melt-in-your-mouth” experience! For a great Italian restaurant in Summerville, stop at Palmetto Flats.
903 Central Ave. // +1- 843-285-8558
The Lowcountry Fish Camp might as well have a sign outside that reads “Welcome, y’all!”
Voted “Best seafood restaurant in Summerville” four years in a row, this eatery is very popular with locals and out-of-state visitors alike. Regular patrons welcome new arrivals to join them at the rustic, long wooden tables spread around in- and outside this old home transformed into a restaurant.
Coming from Charleston on the I26, drive across the railway line, through the charming downtown area of Summerville, and head for Central Avenue, taking you a little out of town to The Lowcountry Fish Camp. Yes, it is indeed a laid back, rustic place, slightly off the tourist path. Be careful of the ditch very close to the front yard. Rather park behind the building.
My friend prefers to have shrimp fried rather than seared or blackened when it comes to seafood. The fried shrimp was lightly breaded and juicy. We ordered a side of hushpuppies, those delicious cornmeal-filled dumplings with the crunchy bread-crumbed layer.
There are a few tales regarding the origin of this Lowcountry delight. The one I favor tells of Civil War soldiers tossing yapping dogs fried bits of cornbread to silence them. It is also entirely believable that enslaved West Africans used scrap ingredients passed along to them by plantation owners to roll into balls and fry.
I settled for the Low Country Crab Cake, two big, beautiful, lightly crumbed patties filled with lump crabmeat, mixed with cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and parsley. I learned that the secret of making a successful crab cake is to let the croquette stand in the fridge for a few hours before frying.
We ordered some Southern Fried Okra on the side. Okra came from Africa, and, together with other fresh vegetables, shrimp and crab is a staple of the Gullah-Geechee diet.
The Parmesan White Cheddar Mac and Cheese looked too good to miss, so we shared some as a side as well. This Mac and Cheese is a far cry from what you get as fast food!
The salty Parmesan cheese teams up well with the white cheddar, while the parsley snippets added color to this comfort food. Interestingly, the first written macaroni and cheese recipe was in Latin and dates back to the thirteenth century in Italy.
If you like peanut butter, nuts, and chocolate, this is the dessert for you. Taking the first bite into the crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, I was in chocolate heaven. Different textures clung to the palate – rich chocolate, gooey peanut butter, crusty nuts, and frothy cream.
The Lowcountry Fish Camp will definitely see us again. The staff was super friendly and helpful and the service quick and friendly. And the food? Yummy! For seafood and a lot more, make sure you try this best from the Summerville SC restaurants.
717 Old Trolley Rd #10 // +1-843-900-4422
Toast! of Summerville is famous for their breakfasts, lunches, and carafes with bottomless mimosas. The delicious, refreshing, chilled orange juice topped up with champagne is ready to pour into tall glasses embellished with orange-wedges.
The manager, Jonny, told us that there are a few branches in the Charleston area, but each one puts its own spin on the menu. Situated on Old Trolley Road, it is easily accessible from Dorchester Road.
The three of us could not resist nibbling on the light, sugary beignets before ordering our mains.
Beignets have a long history going back to the 17th century when French settlers brought the delicacy with them when they migrated to Acadia in Canada. When the British took over that region in the 18th century, they forced thousands of Acadians to resettle elsewhere, many of them in Louisiana. The beignet became that state’s official state doughnut.
I ordered a decadent Lowcountry classic, Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles. The home-made buttermilk waffles topped with house blueberry syrup countered the spicy taste of the crispy chicken. This was a very filling dish.
My one friend had never had a Po-Boy grilled hoagie. After tasting the plump fried shrimp and low country pepper sauce, he declared it delicious.
I love it when there is a good story attached to an item on the menu, and this one was no exception. During a strike in New Orleans, the protesters would go to buy a big sandwich for lunch. Every time one of them approached, the seller would yell, “Here comes another poor boy!” The sandwich thus became known as a “Po-Boy.”
My other friend was thrilled with the Mamma’s Meatloaf, comparing it to what she used to have in her childhood home. The prep cook, Willis, uses an old family recipe for this flavorsome, juicy meatloaf and serves it with red smashed potatoes and green beans with bacon bits.
We were impressed with the friendly and efficient service at Toast! and the fact that you could enjoy indoor or outdoor dining with well-spaced tables. This is one of the best Summerville SC restaurants for classic, delicious Southern-style food.
1990 Old Trolley Rd. // +1-843-974-8688
The warning on the menu says it all, “Vegetarians, cover your eyes!” Pulled pork, prime beef brisket, smoked turkey, pork belly, homemade sausage, rib racks – you name it, they have it. And, no messing around with portions.
You will get half-a-chicken on the family plate. My friend and I had a mouthwatering lunch at this family-friendly Summerville restaurant. From the moment we entered, we received top-notch service and attention from the manager, Taylor, and assistant, Charlotte.
There is a diverse selection of craft beers and an extensive collection of whiskies, mainly from Kentucky and South Carolina, and rare scotches from Scotland, some fifteen years old. We sat back, enjoying a cocktail each, a Rum Punch and Smoked Manhattan with a bourbon base.
If you are looking for an unusual Lowcountry menu through Summerville SC restaurants then this is the place to come. I have always been wary of Pork Rinds, but the plate set in front of us popped and crackled with freshness, and the rinds were delicious served with a pimento cheese ball.
It wasn’t easy to choose between the items on the menu, but we both decided to order the Two-Meat Plate with Prime Beef Brisket as our primary choice. I added the succulent Chicken Wings to my plate.
Prepared in a Lang BBQ Smoker and using red oak wood only, barbecued smoking is a very Southern thing. The smoking practice dates back to pre-colonial times. Smoke cooking is where the meat, usually pork, is cooked for about eighteen hours over an indirect fire.
Swig and Swine rub a spice mixture and smear some mustard and vinegar on the meat before and during smoking. After the meal, I visited the smoking room where three attendants kept the fires and smokers going around the clock.
The restaurant developed an excellent array of sauces, and the chef, Chris Harris, even share the recipe for Sweet Red on the wall. I loved the Jalapeno Red and my fellow diner, the Carolina Mustard. Carolina Gold sauce is a special South Carolina sauce, a mixture of yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, and other spices.
I drooled at the thought of having Brunswick Stew as a side dish. I looked at the other Southern sides on offer; Beans with Brisket, Hash and Rice, and decided on the Corn Pudding. A word of warning. The Brunswick Stew has quite a kick! The unique Corn Pudding was simply delicious. The small cornbread muffin was firm, almost coarse, with a crisp top.
My friend closed her eyes and blissfully exclaimed that the brisket was the best she’d ever tasted, and I had to agree. It was so tender. The owner, Anthony DiBernardo, a former chef on a submarine, explained: “We believe that nothing is a substitute for hard work and long hours. We cook our barbeque low and slow, savoring all the natural juices and locking in that iconic smoked flavor.”
My companion also thoroughly enjoyed the Homemade Andouille Sausage and her very Southern Collard Greens.
My friend was adamant that she wished only for Chocolate Cream Pie to complete her meal. I was still on the Bourbon trail and ordered the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. I thought that was a fitting tribute to a Southern Lowcountry meal.
If, or should we say when, you find yourself in South Carolina, consider this as the ultimate list of the best Summerville SC restaurants to enjoy.
Which of these Summerville SC restaurants do you most want to try? Let us know in the comments section below!
Elsa Dixon, a South-African born U.S. citizen, is a part-time piano teacher, freelance travel writer, photographer, food and wine-lover. She is the author of a biography of her father who was a famous South African comedian.