Like New Orleans, New York and San Francisco, Charleston is an eating city. Chefs are gods in the Holy City and the many fine restaurants in and around the city are their temples, where locals and visitors alike go for gustatory rejuvenation.
The Lowcountry has its own distinct food that every visitor should try while here.
- Shrimp and grits – once a home-cooked breakfast dish, shrimp and grits have grown to a staple of Lowcountry fare, made in myriad ways to accommodate a variety of palates. Get your grits made with cheese or garlic or lemon. Some add bacon and mushroom. Old Charleston recipes often include andouille sausage and Worcestershire sauce for added kick. However they’re made, authentic shrimp and grits delight the palate while they go down easy. Have them for Sunday brunch at Poogan’s Porch, renowned for their shrimp and grits.
- Sweet tea – sure, you can get sweet tea anywhere these days, but real sweet tea Charleston style is made with simple syrup – not plain sugar, lord no! — and homegrown tea, and the only place to get domestically-grown tea is from the Charleston Tea Plantation right here on Wadmalaw Island. The table wine of the South is delicious warm or cold, but it’s not for diabetics.
- Boiled peanuts – go to a baseball game in Charleston and the peanuts you’ll get will be boiled in salt water, not roasted. They’re the unofficial snack food of the Lowcountry. Split open those shells and suck out the juicy flavor inside.
- Collard greens – outside Charleston, it’s hard to find this delicious vegetable done right. In the Lowcountry, that’s the only way we make ‘em. The best recipes use some combination of sugar, molasses, hot sauce, bacon, whiskey, and ham hock. Smoky, sweet, savory all at once. Some folks say Swig and Swine BBQ makes ’em best.
- Roasted oysters – in any month with an “r” Charlestonians are pulling up oysters by the bushel full from the briny waters surrounding the city. Then we roast them to slimy perfection, crack them open over a steamy fire and slide them down our throats right out of the shell. If that isn’t heaven it’s because you haven’t had your sweet tea yet. Buy a cup or a gallon at Crosby’s Seafood.
There are plenty of other great Lowcountry delicacies that could be on this list – she-crab soup, Hoppin’ Johns, Lowcountry boil (also known as Frogmore stew), Charleston red rice and more. Y’all just come on down and see for yourself – and don’t forget to bring your appetite.