My mom grew up in West Ashley and attended the College of Charleston, and my dad has been here since 1979, first working at the Charleston Naval Shipyard in North Charleston. They first met at San Miguel's on Market Street, a former late-evening drink hub in a location that has long been at the crux of Charleston's nightlife scene.
However, Market, East Bay and Meeting streets' many bars have become increasingly flooded with tourists staying in the hotel district over the years as visitors from overseas and across coasts look for a nearby nightcap in historic downtown. And while there are some prominent cocktail bars that have popped up in the last half-decade in the area — note Doar Bros. on Meeting Street and Balao on North Market — nightlife for the locals has, for the most part, shifted to Upper King Street.
On the corner of Calhoun and King, you'll find a row of nightclubs, from Mynt's DJs and shot deals to Trio's more exclusive VIP dance floor above an outdoor courtyard. Nestled in between is Big Gun, a casual dive bar that still serves good craft beer along with cheap PBR for the punk crowd. There's emo karaoke on Monday nights.
From there and past Marion Square, college kids, young professionals and, yes, some tourists, of course, can meander to discover a conglomeration of bars with live music, delicious drinks and late-night pub grub. In empty lots, you'll find booze pops and street meat, or my favorite Greek food truck Platia, awaiting the tipsy hordes to descend upon the streets at last call. Callie's Hot Little Biscuit stays open until 2 a.m. on the weekends.
Inside establishments like Prohibition and The Cocktail Club, specialty cocktails are slung and jazz or rock music serenades, depending on the time of night and day of the week. Offering a calming vibe that comes with a bit of a price tag, The Belmont's chic bar features charcuterie and homemade Pop Tarts in addition to craft cocktails.
AC's likely will have a line out the front door on Friday and Saturday nights, with a few bouncers managing the younger crowd searching for Bud Light, pool tables and dance music. Silver Dollar and Midtown will also be calling the college crowd for a late-night good time.
Meanwhile, Ink N Ivy's upstairs club likely will be thumping, along with the dance floor and outdoor courtyard of Republic Garden & Lounge, the red carpet out front a nice, elevated touch.
Pingpong games take over the back tables of HoM, while Instagram posts are taken incessantly in front of the butterfly mural at Uptown Social. Pour Taproom calls beer lovers to fill their own glasses from dozens of craft selections before catching views of the city lights from the rooftop.
And, of course, farther down the block and a little removed from the chaos, neighborhood gathering spot Rec Room will be serving the most 12-ounce cans of PBRs in the country (yes, that's a thing) to its diverse, local crowd from happy hour until close.