The Local Palate....
ROAD TRIP: SC BACK ROAD EATING
Get Your Fill on the Road
The meteoric rise of the Charleston dining scene over the past decade has brought South Carolina and Southern fare to the forefront of culinary travel, but Palmetto State residents and visitors alike are swiftly learning that seriously delicious dining is also to be had well beyond the Holy City's limits. From the Lowcountry to the Upcountry, eating off the beaten path guarantees unique experiences and Southern food fix satisfaction.
While located just twenty miles from downtown Charleston, See Wee Restaurant is a world apart. This former general store has been a dining destination since 1993, thanks to traditional Lowcountry fare in a casual roadside setting right on Highway 17. Renowned food writer R.W. Apple Jr. praised the fried pickles and fried green tomatoes, but there is also much to celebrate regarding their she-crab soup and their "only available when yo are super lucky" fresh fish seafood baskets.
Owner Miriam Green says Buckshot's Restaurant is "Southern, with a bit of soul." Situated just another twenty miles up Highway 17 from Awendaw, the Buckshot's buffet is the most popular way to indulge your (better be big) appetite for fried chicken, mac and cheese, and green beans....among many other varied sides. Those ordering off the menu would do well to opt for Miriam's addictive, and some say "famous," fried shrimp.
Even though it is located just off Highway 17, Pawleys Island Tavern (known to all as "the PIT") can be a bit hard to find for first-timers. When you do locate this island icon at the end of a short sandy lane under moss-draped trees, you will quickly learn that Southern classics rule at the PIT. Crab cakes, pimento cheese sandwiches, burgers, and lunchtime "blue plate" specials (like a fried seafood platter on a recent visit) make for a filling feast, one best accompanied by cold drinks out at the Tiki Bar--weather permitting--or inside at the always-teeming bar.
Scott's Bar-B-Que is on the lips of South Carolina barbeque fans near and far for good reason. Ella and Roosevelt "Rosie" Scott founded the restaurant in 1972, and their son Rodney cooked his first whole hog at age of eleven. Today, Rodney is renowned for his tender and tasty barbeque, including pulled pork, smoked barbeque chicken, and cooked-to-order smoked barbeque ribeye steak. Rodney also takes his whole hog experience on the road to many events, but there's nothing like eating his 'cue in his hometown of Hemingway. Don't forget to take home a bottle of sauce and some pork rinds for the drive.
At Harold's Restaurant, a downtown dining institution since 1932, sandwiches rule the menu, with the "World Famous Chili Burger" and "World Famous Hot Dog" leading the list. Regulars swear by the homemade pimento cheese and homemade bacon egg spread sandwiches, as well as the soups, seasonal chicken stew, and Wednesday's "All You Can Eat Pintos," which come seasoned with ham, cornbread, fatback, and onions, plus chow-chow. Their popular "Bulk to Go" program features many menu items by the pint, quart, and gallon to enjoy back home--or as a snack further up the road. haroldsrestaurant.com
Sisters Joyce and Nancy McCarrell are Travelers Rest natives who are integral to the town's revitalization, thanks in part to their restaurant, The Cafe at Williams Hardware. Located adjacent to the popular Swamp Rabbit Trail, the one-time hardware store is now gathering spot for breakfast among the active set. Omelets, hearty slices of quiche, and "Everything Grits" (cheese grits, with ham, sausage, peppers, and onions topped with an over-easy egg and bacon) really keep those bikers and runners moving. For lunch, the pecan-encrusted chicken salad features chicken salad covered in pecans, flash-grilled, and served over greens for a unique riff on a classic.
Countryside situated at Saylors Crossroads, thirty-five miles south of Greenville, Grits & Groceries is well worth the drive. South Carolina natives Heidi and Joe Trull developed noteworthy cooking chops working with Emeril Legasse and others, but their own restaurant has allowed them to return to their roots. Heidi's creative Southern fare features standbys like pimento cheese sandwiches, but the ever-changing weekly menu often stars local pork roast, seafood lasagna, or smothered chicken with rice and vegetables. Indulge in praline bacon, fried cheese grits with tomato gravy, Hattie Mae tomato pie, ham balls, and Carolina shrimp gravy and grits at their famed Sunday brunch. And don't miss Joe's desserts, which are nothing short of decadent.
About forty miles southwest of Columbia, Ridge Spring's quiet downtown Main Street has been luring hungry mouths to Juniper restaurant for more than a decade. Chef Brandon Veile and wife Jeanne focus on traditional Southern favorites featuring local ingredients in a casual atmosphere. At lunch, the Juniper meatloaf, shrimp and grits, or chicken 'n' dumplings will hit the spot, while dinner allows local farms to shine even brighter in dishes like Manchester Farms quail breast medallions with pimento cheese, Adluh grits, and flash-fried WP Rawl Farms collards. Try a bit of everything with Chef Brandon's Five Course Tasting Menu.
Harold's Country Club could only succeed in the South. Originally a Chevy dealership and then a garage and gas station run by Harold Peeples, locals began gathering here as far back as the 1970s for Thursday-night potlucks. That tradition evolved into the garage becoming a restaurant and bar open for themed dinners among the radiator hoses and fan belts. Well, Thursday nights are still potlock night, burgers are now featured on Wednesdays, wings on Friday, and steaks come Saturdays--two steak seatings are offered with reservations taken by phone. Large charcoal-grilled ribeyes come with baked potato, sauteed onions and peppers, tossed salad, a dinner roll, iced tea, and coffee. Long necks are available and encouraged, and wine drinkers can revel in the five-dollar corkage fee.
Get Your Fill on the Road