Charleston, the second largest and oldest city in the great state of South Carolina, is a tourist’s dream—a place where time seems to have stood still for the last century and a half. Boasting quaint streets with retro , yet modern lamps, architecture reminiscent of the turn of the century and thousands of state and federal landmarks and national treasures, Charleston offers a wealth of things to see and do. And when you’ve completed your daily sightseeing, you may just want to head to one of the city’s many great bars to relax and unwind, where bartenders and locals are always happy to educate you further on the history, culture and longstanding traditions this city holds so dear.
To help you discover one of these great drinking locales, below we have highlighted several of the best and most oft-visited bars in Charleston, and provided a brief description of each establishment—the type of bar, the food and drinks they serve, the atmosphere and vibe, and some of the fun things to do at each location.
Although located a bit outside the city center of Charleston, the Tattooed Moose is definitely a bar you should experience on your next trip to the city. Boasting a cool vibe and relaxed, comfortable atmosphere, the Tattooed Moose is the type of bar in which you could spend hours without ever realizing it. That’s because the bartenders and typical crowd can quickly begin to feel more like family than strangers, and the affordable drinks, poured generously, are bound to boost your mood.
In addition to a full selection of great liquors and liqueurs, the Tattooed Moose offers up one of the most comprehensive lineups of draft beer in the city, red and white wine by the glass, and nearly 100 selections of bottled beer. The food menu here is also impressive, albeit somewhat different and unique. We recommend you try the bar’s Duck Club, a tasty sandwich consisting of duck confit, bacon, cheddar cheese, and garlic aioli sauce. Other mouthwatering entrees and snacks include their Low-country Cuban sandwich, corndogs and French fries fried in genuine duck fat.
If a dive bar is your idea of a good time, the Upper Deck is perhaps the diviest of them all in Charleston. Located down an alley off King Street in the downtown section of the city, you will first need to climb a rickety metal staircase, one that leads to a graffiti-spoiled door representing the entrance (and exit) of this upstairs bar. Inside, the atmosphere improves ever so slightly, but it may take some time for your eyes to adjust as you make your way down the dimly lit hallway leading to the bar area.
A college hangout for certain, the Upper Deck is not the type of place for a first date, but if you’re looking to spend a night with buddies and sip on ever-so-cheap cocktails and beers, this is definitely the place to be. Behind the long straight bar at the Upper Deck you will find all the standard spirits required to whip up a Jack and Coke or Vodka Soda, as well as roughly ten tap beer selections served in your choice of a mug or pint glass. Bottled beer, with foreign, domestic and local craft beer choices, is also available.
As you might suspect, the Upper Limit is known for its (very) relaxed vibe and many diversions. There are pool tables and several arcade style games, and a great jukebox that is always pumping out rock, hip hop, and indie tunes.
Moe’s Crosstown Tavern
One of the most popular local bars in the Charleston area, Moe’s Crosstown Tavern is situated on Rutledge Street almost directly across from the well-visited Hampton Park. One of the largest bars on our list in terms of space, the tavern boasts over a hundred customers who would self-identify as regulars—and for good reason.
Not only are the drink prices at Moe’s Crosstown Tavern extremely reasonable and generously poured, the food menu is simply off the charts. In fact, Moe’s has won the local newspaper’s award for “Best Pub Food” in the city of Charleston for eight years running now, and shows no sign of letting up any time soon.
Moe’s Crosstown Tavern is popular with all ages of people, and because it is located very near the areas of Wagener Terrace, Hampton Park Terrace, the Citadel and North Central Charleston, it is very convenient to get to. Most come for the amazing beer, ale and burgers (Tuesdays are half-off burger night), but stay for the tasty signature cocktails, music (including live music on the weekends) and dancing.
Although the name of this bar can be rather misleading (it is not located in a hotel and is far from being a palace), the abundance of locals that frequent this tavern show that it’s definitely worth stopping into when visiting the city. Located in Charleston’s less traveled Eastside neighborhood, the Palace Hotel is a quirky and unique bar, with cheap beer and cocktail prices, a colorful décor, and several televisions enabling patrons to watch many different games at once.
The epitome of an after-hours college hangout, the Palace Hotel offers a fairly large menu of appetizers, burgers and sandwiches. Their tap beer selection includes domestic favorites like Budweiser, Coors and Miller Lite, as well as a range of local and national craft brews, including some very tasty ales and IPAs.
With a name like Salty Mike’s, you just know this have to be great dive bar…and it is. In addition to offering some of the cheapest beer (both tap and bottled beer) in the city, Salty Mike’s has all the components necessary for a Dive Bar: a somewhat outdated décor, friendly, casually-dressed bartenders, great music and regulars who are always happy to share a joke or two.
Located along Lockwood Drive, the Palace Hotel offers a limited food menu that is tasty on most nights, and wonderful views of the Ashley River and Charleston Marina.
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