Enjoying Charleston’s Low Country Cuisine
Low country cuisine is a term commonly used to describe the traditional meals prepared in coastal South Carolina and Georgia (roughly Beaufort, SC to Savannah GA). A type of Southern cuisine, traditional low country recipes emphasize seafood (shrimp, oysters, crab, red drum), fresh vegetables (particularly okra), rice, and grits.
Charleston has a large number of highly-regarded fine dining establishments, many of which feature modern and traditional interpretations of low country dishes. Last Fall, Bon Appétit named Charleston’s HUSK, a farm-to-table restaurant, “The Best New Restaurant in America.” We chose two well-regarded Charleston restaurants, both specializing in low country cuisine– Poogan’s Porch and 82 Queen. Neither disappointed. Reservations are recommended at both.
Poogan’s Porch is located in a restored Victoria home in the historic district. The traditional layout of the house is largely intact, making the atmosphere feel very much like eating in someone’s home. After being seated in a dining room with 12-foot ceilings and a gas-burning fireplace, we ordered white wine and the Yelp-recommended pimento cheese fritters (which we saw on several menus in Charleston). The fritters were lightly fried and maintained a delicate (and surprisingly light) texture and flavor. For entrees, I enjoyed the buttermilk fried chicken with delicious mashed potatoes, while David enjoyed the grouper. Neither dish particularly stood out but both were still quite good. The sweet tea and biscuits (lighter than typical) were both top-notch. Service was excellent. We both left very satisfied. Entreés are priced $17 to 28.
We had brunch the next morning at 82 Queen. Also located in the historic district, 82 Queen has a charming outdoor seating area. Given the beautiful weather, we happily chose to sit outdoors. The extensive brunch menu features salads, sandwiches, and entrées ranging from about $11 to 17. I enjoyed an ultimate bloody mary (with okra and shrimp) and eggs benedict with a Southern twist. The eggs benedict was made with a spicy Hollandaise sauce flavored with pork and fried green tomatoes as the base. The accompanying cheese grits were the best grits I’ve ever eaten.
After brunch, but before the wedding, we drove over to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. Sullivan’s Island features a beautiful, wide, sandy beach and a remarkably ugly lighthouse known as Charleston Lighthouse. Completed in 1962, the square black and white tower replaced the more traditional-looking, but still-standing Morris Island Lighthouse. We enjoyed a short walk along the nearly deserted beach (water was pretty cold in early November) before heading back to the car. We spent the rest of the evening celebrating our friends’ nuptials before taking an evening flight home.
Charleston, South Carolina is a memorable destination. There are few cities in America that can compete with Charleston’s scenic beauty and abundance of historic architecture. Charleston is much deeper than appearances, however. A sophisticated food scene also thrives here by taking cues from the area’s rich cultural heritage. I thoroughly enjoyed my brief stay and would not hesitate to go back.