Gluten-Free Travel: Charleston, South Carolina

Eating Gluten-Free in the Lowcountry

I have to tell you that it wasn’t as easy for us to eat gluten-free (and also stay on the budget we’d set) in Charleston as it had been in Asheville. The two cities have very different personalities. Oh, and I didn’t take many food photos in Charleston so I’m sharing some photos from our trip.

Charleston and areas north and south of it along the coast are known as the “Lowcountry” and for their Lowcountry cuisine. Fried foods and butter are important elements in this food. I knew I was going to the coast so wanted fresh fish. I found that the majority was covered in a gluten containing substance and fried, or came with a butter sauce.

Am I saying you can’t eat gluten-free in Charleston? Absolutely not. We always do a lot of research so we had a list of gluten-free possibilities before we’d left home. Once there, we also asked about eating gluten-free at the Charleston Visitor Center on Meeting Street and they handed us a printout listing gluten-free restaurants. (Note: Parking is atrocious in the old part of Charleston and they have a good parking lot. You pay for it but what you save in stress as you drive around looking for street parking . . .)

We ate lunch our first day at 39 Rue de Jean in the old part of Charleston. The building is from 1880 and filled with charm. I’d found the restaurant online as I searched through menus and they had food that looked like it could be gluten-free. When I couldn’t find any reviews on line that said that, I called them. They seemed to know what gluten was and that they could handle it.

They had Nicoise Salade Traditionale (salad with tuna, boiled potatoes and green beans) on their menu and that’s a fave of mine. (When I was in Paris with my mom after high school graduation, a waiter insisted – with some disgust at the obviously uncouth Americans – that a salad before dinner was important and brought us this. He was right :) I enjoyed my salad and my husband had a burger with fries. They didn’t have gluten-free buns but they did have safe fries. (I didn’t remember to take photos of food.)

The next day, we ate at Burtons Grill in Mt. Pleasant which is across a very long bridge from Charleston and basically a suburb. I’d come across something online earlier where a gluten-free person was waxing poetically about the small chain and how they were coming to the Charleston area. Burtons Grill’s website had a gluten-free menu so we figured we had a winner here.

I got their Salmon BLT sandwich without the bun. They have gluten-free buns but I was eating grain-free at the time. This is sauteed salmon with bacon, lettuce and tomato. I don’t know if I would ever have salmon with bacon but loved the combination.

My husband, who as you can tell eats dairy, had their Mediterranean Chicken – sauteed chicken with sundried tomatoes, goat cheese and provolone over spinach risotto and served with a lemon butter sauce. He was very, very happy.

After the lunch where I had the fun salad and he had the simple burger and fries, I thought he could use a treat and he loves barbeque.

We turned to the list from the CVC and tried Sticky Fingers. They had an allergen menu with gluten and diary both listed. All of their five barbeque sauces were gluten-free. I had their half of a smoked chicken with a plain baked potato and coleslaw, and my husband had beef brisket with mashed potatoes filled with cheese and topped with bacon, and green beans. I looked them up today and discovered there are two of them a couple of hours away so we’ll be visiting another Sticky Fingers in the future.

You may be wondering about breakfast and dinner. I’ll have more about it in a later post but, for now, we chose a hotel with kitchens in the rooms so we were able to make breakfast and a couple of dinners. We ate two dinners at the chain Ruby Tuesday (they have a fairly extensive gluten-free menu) and two dinners in our hotel room - salads topped with sauteed turkey breast I bought at the Mt. Pleasant Whole Foods.

We enjoyed our trip and came back healthy. Here’s the sunset from our last night in Charleston.






So what about dinner? The restaurants that might have had what I wanted were priced in what we usually consider the “you must be kidding?” range – $25-$30+ for the entree for dinner. A restaurant would have to come with a great recommendation for us to want to go. We just aren’t wired that way.


  1. laura says:

    This is great info! We’re planning a trip to Charleston for our anniversary this year and are always on the look out for healthy restaurants!

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