Charleston's best by sight, sound, taste

What you see. Hear. Taste. These are the experiences that make vacation memories. And with Charleston being such a popular repeat destination, it's time to give you new sensory memories to add to those you already treasure.

We've harvested these selections from the 2008 “Best of Charleston” edition of the weekly Charleston City Paper. It's a collection of what readers and staffers pick as Charleston's very best.

Go see (and hear and taste) for yourself.

John Bordsen, Travel editor

S ight

Best local theater company

Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. (downtown). More than laughs, more than improv, Theatre 99 is a comedy institution. Wednesday nights: $5; $10 Friday-Saturday. Details: 843-853-6687;

Best museum

Gibbes Museum of Art, 135 Meeting St. (downtown). It takes a museum to show us our past, but it takes a dynamic and forward-thinking organization to show us our future. Fortunately, this museum's got both. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $9; $7 62 and older and students; $5 for ages 6-12. Details: 843-722-2706; www.gibbesmuseum. org.

Best art gallery

Redux Contemporary Art Center, 136 St. Philip St. (downtown). Every city needs a place where grassroots artists can congregate, collaborate and work without fear. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Details: 843- 722-0697;

Best window display

Saks Fifth Avenue, 211 King St. (downtown). From designer jeans and make-up to Juicy sweats, Saks displays eye candy for any shopper's sweet tooth.

Best outdoor patio

Vickery's Shem Creek Bar & Grill, 1313 Shrimp Boat Lane, Mount Pleasant. The downtown patio has long been a favorite of the after-work crowd, and Shem Creek location's water views can't be beat. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday. Details: 843-884-4440; www.

Best rooftop bar

Rooftop Bar & Restaurant at Vendue, 19 Vendue Range (downtown). Things are casual and breezy at the popular Rooftop Bar, which boasts a memorable view of the French Quarter, Charleston Harbor, the Ravenel Bridge and historic downtown. The bloody Marys are spicy and the live acoustic music is groovy. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m. daily. Details: 843-577-7970;

Best waterfront dining

Fleet Landing Restaurant, 186 Concord St. (downtown). The only place to eat on the harbor in downtown proves good enough to beat out the Shem Creek favorites. Details: 843-722-8100;

Best scenic after-work activity

Biking on Sullivans Island. Details:

Best spot to watch kite boarding

Sullivan's Island. Details: www.

Best out-of-the-way sunset

Sol Legare Boat Landing. The landing, owned by Charleston County Park & Rec, is on Battery Island. Heading toward Folly Island, from Folly Road turn right onto Sol Legare Road; follow it to the end.


Best rock music club

Music Farm, 32 Ann St. (downtown). Nearly 16 years after the original owners first opened on East Bay Street, the Music Farm re-emerged this fall with new ownership, staff and a fancy red carpet. Details:

Best jazz & blues club

Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ, 1205 Ashley River Road, West Ashley. Home Team maintains its popularity – not only among connoisseurs of Carolina and Tennessee-style barbecue, but music fans who appreciate authentic Southern blues, folk, roots and improvised music. Hours: 11 or 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. Details: Details: 843-225-7427; www.hometeambbq. com.

Best local band

The Plainfield Project. This newly established rock/reggae/funk band must have earned a ton of new fans really quickly with those gigs at O'Malley's (549 King St.) and along King Street this winter; featuring singer/guitarist (and TV reality show winner) Ben Fagan and former members of One Night Stand. Details: project

Best house band

Sin County. Fronted by singer and rhythm guitarist Mike Thompson, country/rock quartet Sin County started out at the old Market Street Saloon and play regularly at K.C. Mulligan's (8410 Rivers Ave., North Charleston) and Necter (951 Folly Road, Charleston), jamming on familiar honky-tonkers and classics. Details: thompsonband.

Best jazz band

Quentin Baxter & Friends. Led by drummer Baxter, this outfit is the main acoustic jazz band at the Charleston Grill (224 King St.) Wednesday through Saturday evenings. The rotation of players includes vibes player Michael Hanf, bassist Jake Holwegner, pianist Gerald Gregory, trumpeter Charlton Singleton, bassist Kevin Hamilton, Brazilian singer/guitarist Duda Lucena and others. Details: www.quentin

Best karaoke night

Upper Deck Tavern, 353 King St. (downtown). The notoriously rascally Karaoke Chris (currently of AS/IS), runs the popular karaoke on Sundays at cozy Upper Deck Tavern. Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. Details: 843-958-0002; 362021.

Best club DJ

DJ Moo Moo. A longtime local favorite, this suave turntablist spins at Torch (545 King St.), Light (213-C E. Bay St.) and other funky hot spots. Details: moo.


Best restaurant

Peninsula Grill, 112 N. Market St. (downtown). Chef Robert Carter has built a veritable institution with this modern Southern belle, a perennial winner. Hours: 5:30-10:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Details: 843-723-0700; www.penin

Best downtown restaurant

Charleston Grill, 224 King St. (downtown). The old girl got a facelift this year and has been wooing diners and jazz fans ever since. Hours: 5-10 or 10:30 p.m. daily. Details: 843-577-4522;

Best James Island restaurant

Mustard Seed, 1978 Maybank Highway. Sal Parco's place remains one of the few bright spots in James Island's limited dining scene. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Details: 843)-762-0072.

Best Folly Beach restaurant

Taco Boy, 15 Center St. A hopping place for sandy gringos to get fish tacos and strong margaritas. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. daily. Details: 843-588-9761;

Best Mount Pleasant restaurant

The Red Drum Gastropub, 803 Coleman Blvd. Chef Ben Berryhill's take on Southwestern cuisine has found a happy audience here. Hours: 5-9:30 to 10:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Details: 843-849-0313;

Best Isle of Palms restaurant

The Boathouse at Breach Inlet, 101 Palm Blvd. A stunning view and deliciously prepared seafood add up to everyone's favorite place to eat on IOP. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Details: 843-886-8000; www.boathouse

Best romantic restaurant

Fulton Five, 5 Fulton St. (downtown). It must be the hidden location, tucked away on Fulton Street, that makes this little dining room feel so sexy. Hours: 5:30-9 or 10 p.m. daily. Details: 843-853-5555.

Best breakfast

Hominy Grill, 207 Rutledge Ave. (downtown). Robert Stehling's house-made sausage, fluffy biscuits and stone-ground grits add up to one satisfying breakfast. Hours: 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday brunch. Details: 843-937-0930; www.hominygrill. com.

Best seafood

Hank's Seafood Restaurant, 10 Hayne St. (downtown). In a town rife with mediocre seafood restaurants, this fresh face stands head and shoulders above the crowd and nets another win. Hours: 5-10:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, to 11:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Details: 843-723-3474;

Best oysters/raw bar

Pearlz Oyster Bar, 153 E. Bay St. (downtown). These folks know what we want and how we want it – super fresh, ice cold and shucked for our pleasure. Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday. Details: 843-577-5755; www.