We narrow down the playing field for best restaurant, design, and bar of the year

Today, the process of choosing this year’s stars in the Charleston restaurant world — the Eater Awards winners for 2019 — continues apace. After fielding many solid ideas from readers during the course of our month-long nomination period, it’s time to narrow the playing field. There are three finalists in three categories: Restaurant of the Year, Design of the Year, and Bar of the Year.

Here they are:

Restaurant of the Year:

Kwei Fei
Charleston was severely lacking in Sichuan options before chef David Schuttenberg came to town via multiple venerated kitchens in New York. His restaurant Kwei Fei unlocked the doors on James Island to spice-loving eaters looking for lamb dumplings, noodles, and mapo tofu.

Maison
Breezy French restaurant Maison highlights the precision and craft from chef Vandy Vanderwarker (formerly of the Ordinary). The menu is seasonal but is likely to offer steak tartare, mussels bourride, or dry-aged duck.

Malagon
It’s always bustling at Spanish eatery Malagon. From the team that brought Chez Nous and Bin 152 to Charleston, Malagon is a cozy spot to try an extensive list of tapas from gambas a la plancha to sobrasada con queso.

Design of the Year:

Herd Provisions
Move past the butcher shop and enter the dining room at Herd Provisions covered in warm and inviting wood paneling. The real show stopper is the back-bar wall of ceiling-height windows looking onto the tree-lined patio.

The Royal Tern
The the sleek and modern dining room at the Royal Tern contains subtle nautical touches, high ceilings, and stunning lights.

Wiki Wiki Sandbar
Wiki Wiki Sandbar has five rooms with different themes and works from local artists. The restaurant/bar includes: the Octopus Bar with works from Jeff Kopish, the Diorama Room with works by Hirona Matsuta, the Sunset Room with “a sunset-inspired Venetian plaster design” by Suzanne Allen, the Wave Room with a sculpture made of Japanese glass floats, and a tiki bar on the top floor.

Bar of the Year:

Babas on Cannon
Petite cafe Babas on Cannon is more than just a bar, but the drinks do play a large part in the identity of the space. Apertivo hour is when the old-world eatery really comes to life. Perfect martinis, strong Manhattans, and free crisps and olives with every drink are all part of the charm of Babas.

Citrus Club
High above Charleston sits a mid-century modern dream of a bar at Citrus Club. Drinks are on the tropical side with frozen pina coladas and a Polynesian Pearl Diver. The views from the rooftop are unmatched.

Doar Brothers
Lower Meeting Street doesn’t see a lot of bar openings, so when Doar Brothers unlocked the doors, it was an unexpected surprise. There’s classic cocktails, modern twists, and a seasonal punch — all served with a genuine smile and warmth from the staff.

All of these finalists have either opened or come into their own in a new way since we declared the winners last year. All of them were key contributors to making 2019 a great year of eating in Charleston. So please, take a moment to give these brave finalists a round of applause. Winners will be crowned, with much fanfare, on December 10, 2019.