Locals know Charleston is a great place. Out-of-towners continue to reinforce that notion with high praise.
In a double dose of national publicity this week, a widely read travel magazine cited Charleston as America's friendliest and second-favorite U.S. city overall , while another well-known publication named the sleek Japanese restaurant O-Ku one of the nation's best new restaurants of the year.
For friendliest city, Conde Nast Traveler magazine ranked Charleston as the best and second-favorite overall based on results from its 2010 Readers' Choice survey.
The Holy City came in one spot below perennial winner San Francisco, now in its 18th year holding the top spot. Santa Fe is No. 3.
Charleston has held onto No. 2 for the past three years, after bumping New York from that slot in 2008.
This year Kiawah Island held top honors among North American islands, and the Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Golf Resort nabbed the No. 3 spot among mainland U.S. resorts.
The rankings appear in Conde Nast Traveler's November issue, which hits newsstands Tuesday. Nearly 26,000 readers voted in this year's survey of destinations and accommodations.
As for the O-Ku, Esquire magazine named the 7-month-old upscale nightspot on upper King Street to its Top 20 list of Best New Restaurants for 2010 in its November issue.
Food critic John Mariani, an Esquire columnist and frequent visitor to Charleston for many years, compiled the list and praised O-Ku and its executive chef by saying, "Sean Park turns out beautiful, fanciful sushi in the liveliest new nightspot in town."
He cited the restaurant's sleek interior along with its Charleston charm of exposed brick and high ceilings as "glamorous."
Steve Palmer, managing partner in The Indigo Road restaurant group, which includes the Oak Steakhouse, gave all the credit to the restaurant team.
"It's the result of their hard work and creativity," Palmer said. "I'm just humbled and thrilled by it. Sean created the exact menu I was hoping for when I came up with the concept and presented it to investors. I couldn't be more honored to see a dream of mine come true."
Park, a native of South Korea who has worked in dining establishments in major cities across the nation, was overwhelmed with the restaurant's honor.
"It is one of the greatest things that ever happened in my life and my career," he said. "I'm really humbled. I just keep the focus on creating fine food and more creativity. It's not just my personal creativity, but it's our teamwork. I'm ready to do even better work and raise my standards even more."
O-Ku, which means oak in Japanese, is not the first local restaurant to snag a spot on the Esquire list.
Past honorees include Hank's Seafood, Peninsula Grill and McCrady's, which continue to serve Charleston's fine-dining appetite. Other recipients that are no longer in business include Sienna and Cordavi.
Allyson Bird of The Post and Courier contributed to this report. Reach Warren Wise at 937-5524.