What Michael Symon's Favorite Seafood Restaurant Has To Offer

Michael Symon first rose to fame in the late 1990s when people took notice of his restaurant, Lola, a bistro-style concept in which the down-to-earth Cleveland native took Midwestern classics and turned them into something modern, creative, surprising, upscale, and — up until that point — yet unseen. Named "Best New Chef" by Food & Wine magazine in 1998, he went on to launch a number of other restaurants and gain even more national acclaim (via Fine Dining Lovers). Symon was selected to compete in the first season of Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef" in 2008, and went on to win the prestigious title.

Several awards — including the James Beard nod for Best Chef, Great Lakes Region — as well as national television shows, cookbooks, not to mention a portfolio of award-winning restaurants throughout the United States, and by now the always-affable Symon has become a household name and the epitome of a classic American success story. The kid from Cleveland who grew up learning the humble recipes from his Eastern European and Greek relatives is now an icon, and as such, he has eaten in the best restaurants around the world. So, if Michael Symon recommends a restaurant, chances are it is pretty great.

When it comes to seafood, the esteemed chef's favorite restaurant is Leon's Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop in Charleston, South Carolina (per Food Network). As Symon says, the reason is simple: "Perfect oysters, frozen gin and tonics, and rosé on tap. 'Nuff said."

Oysters, chicken, and cocktails are on the menu at Symon's favorite seafood spot

Leon's Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop is a humble and hidden, yet stylish, gem. But rather than one of Charleston's centuries-old historic treasures, it's housed in a former auto body shop, outside the city's restaurant scene and fashionable neighborhoods, points out Bon Appétit. It's all the creation of Charleston restaurateur and designer Brooks Reitz. With exposed rafters, big garage doors, and concrete floors, the atmosphere of Leon's previous life as a garage remains, but atop these touches is a stylish and comfortable flair, including mid-century furnishings and gallery-style portrait walls.

When it comes to the food, Leon's is all about oysters and fried chicken, which, in a city knee-deep in great fried chicken, still stands out. As Michael Symon has noted of his favorite spot, the oysters here are perfect, and they're served up in a variety of ways (via Leon's): Raw; chargrilled and served with lemon, parsley, butter, and Parmesan; and fried on roll. As the name indicates, there's also fried chicken on the menu here. According to Bon Appétit, it's "brined, glazed in Old Bay [seasoning], and fried in lard" and is "one to seek out." Charleston Magazine says the irresistible chicken is a "fryer-hot, pepper-kissed bird with ... a crisp crust." 

Small plates include some delicious-looking fried Brussels sprouts and crispy clam wraps. Complementing the fried fish and chicken dishes is a refreshing draft rosé and frozen gin and tonics, as well as beers and ciders, both basic domestics and curated crafts, as well as a short but refreshing list of house cocktails. So, if Charleston is part of your 2022 itinerary, don't miss out on Leon's. You might just run into Michael Symon while you're there.