The Guide: Charleston, South Carolina's Soul Food

Charleston's soul food cafés serve some of the South's most inspired cooking. Here are four spots not to miss on your next visit.

Dinner for two with drinks and tip:
Inexpensive: Under $20
Moderate: $20-$80
Expensive: Over $80

map: the M factory

Where to Stay

Charleston Place 205 Meeting Street (888/635-2350; charlestonplace.com). $215 double. With three excellent restaurants and a spa, this polished, 440-room luxury hotel in the city's historic district is a sumptuous place to stay.

Mills House Hotel 115 Meeting Street (843/577-2400; millshouse.com)._ $149 double._ An elegant, recently restored mid-nineteenth-century hotel in the heart of old Charleston.

King Charles Inn 237 Meeting Street (866/546-4700; kingcharlesinn.com). $89 double. This conveniently located hotel has beautifully appointed rooms with period reproductions.

Where to Eat

Bertha's Kitchen 2332 Meeting Street (843/554-6519). Inexpensive. Lowcountry soul food at its best: red rice with sausage; fried chicken with a crackling, peppery red-gold crust; luscious pork chops; macaroni and cheese with crisp-chewy bits from the casserole pan. Don't miss the turkey prioleau (white rice cooked with drippings and chopped white and dark meat).

Dave's Seafood Carry-Out 42 Morris Street (843/577-7943). Inexpensive. This temple of fried food showcases Charleston's marine bounty: fresh scallops, shrimp, and flounder dipped in flour and fried to perfection. Round out your meal with sides like hoppin' John, a Lowcountry staple of rice with black-eyed peas.

Ernie's 64 Spring Street (843/723-8591). Inexpensive. There's no "Ernie's" sign—look for the "No Loitering" notice on the building. There's no menu, and the bill of fare changes daily, but standbys include the flavorful okra soup, the hearty and meaty lima bean dinner, red rice with pork chops, and an out-of-this-world bread pudding.

Martha Lou's Kitchen 1068 Morrison Drive (843/577-9583). Inexpensive. A tiny eatery with big flavors: exuberantly spiced dishes like peppery mac 'n' cheese, lima beans with chunks of ham, a thick and vibrant okra soup. The fried chicken with a salty, chewy crust, cooked to order and served piping hot, is some of the best in town.