Don’t be put off by the initials of Slightly North of Broad (192 East Bay St., 843/723-3424, www.mavericksouthernkitchens.com , lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner daily 5:30–11 p.m., $15–35). Its acronym “S.N.O.B.” is an ironic play on the often-pejorative reference to the insular “South of Broad ” neighborhood. This hot spot, routinely voted best restaurant in town in such contests, is anything but snobby. Hopping with happy foodies for lunch and dinner, the fun is enhanced by the long, open kitchen with its own counter area.
The dynamic but comforting menu here is practically a bible of the new wave of Lowcountry cuisine, with dishes like beef tenderloin, jumbo lump crab cakes, grilled BBQ tuna—and of course the sinful Wednesday night dinner special: deviled crab-stuffed flounder. An interesting twist at SNOB is the selection of “medium plates,” i.e., dishes a little more generous than an app but with the same adventurous spirit.
Just across the street from Hyman’s Seafood  is that establishment’s diametrical opposite, the intimate bistro and stylish bar FIG (232 Meeting St., 843/805-5900, www.eatatfig.com , Mon.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–midnight, $20–25)—but the two do share one key thing: a passion for fresh, simple ingredients. While Hyman’s packs in the tourists, FIG—short for “Food Is Good”—attracts young professional scenesters, as well as the diehard foodies. Chef Mike Lata won James Beard’s Best Chef of the Southeast award in 2009. FIG is one of Charleston ’s great champions of the Sustainable Seafood Initiative, and the kitchen staff strives to work as closely as possible with local farmers and anglers in determining its seasonal menu.
Inside the plush Charleston Place Hotel you’ll find
Charleston Grill (224 King St., 843/577-4522, www.charlestongrill.com , dinner daily beginning at 6 p.m., $27–50), one of the city’s favorite (and priciest) fine-dining spots for locals and tourists alike. Veteran executive chef Bob Waggoner was recently replaced by his longtime sous chef Michelle Weaver, but the menu still specializes in French-influenced Lowcountry cuisine like a nicoise vegetable tart. There are a lot of great fusion dishes as well, such as the tuna and hamachi sashimi topped with pomegranate molasses and lemongrass oil. Reservations are a must.
A new hit with local foodies, Cru Café (18 Pinckney St., 843/534-2434, lunch Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner Tues.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m., $20–24) boasts an adventurous menu within a traditional-looking Charleston single house, with a choice of interior or exterior seating. Sample entrées include a Poblano and Mozzarella Fried Chicken and Seared Maple Leaf Duck Breast.
The hard-to-define Mistral (99 S. Market St., 843/722-5708, Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–midnight, $10–25) is part seafood restaurant, part sexy French bistro, part Lowcountry living. With live, serious jazz blowing it hot Monday–Saturday nights and some of the best mussels and shrimp in the area served up fresh, all you really need to do is enjoy. If you’re not a shellfish fan, try the sweetbreads or their excellent veal.