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Gullah in South Carolina low country

  • m

I would really like to try some of this food! I'll be on Kiawah Island, but have car, will drive! Also, any recs for BBQ, crab shacks, pies, corn, grits, biscuits, or any other roadside yummies NOT frequented by resort tourists?

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  1. Gullah is not a food, it is a language (or a dialect, as some say).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sandy

      Darlin, you may want to take it easy on our yankee "friends", as they just don't know any better. ;-)

      1. re: Observer

        Just to make sure we understand each other, this is a he-darlin', not a she-darlin'

    2. Try "Seewee Restaurant" on Hwy 17 North in Awendaw,SC (between Mount Pleasant and McClellanville). This will be a pretty long drive (probably 30 miles) but the food is excellent. I had their shrimp and grits the time I was there and they were great. Another spot for good local seafood and fresh vegetables is "Gilligans". When you leave Kiawah turn right and follow the road all the way back almost to Hwy 17. Gilligans will be on the left just before you get back to 17.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sandlapper

        I tried the Seewee a couple of years ago on a leisurely drive north. Definitely recommended. Softshell crabs and fried green tomotoes -- it doesn't get much better than that.

        Bonus: There is a cherry tree outside that when I visited was just loaded with cherries.

      2. I realize it's a dialect, a patois of Elizabethan English and leftover African words and phrases born of necessity on Africa's slave coast, and developed in the communities of the isolated plantations of the coastal South. Even after the sea islands were freed in 1861, the Gullah speech flourished because access to the islands was by water only until the 1950's.
        But it also refers to really good chow.
        So d'ya know where any of it is??????

        6 Replies
        1. re: missy

          What kind of chow does it refer to? It certainly isn't going to be found in any of the standard restaurants in the Charleston area. If by the term you mean shrimp and grits, creamy grits, cheese grits, or any of the other stuff that I see much touted on this list, that has been so changed by the restaurants of the area to conform to what they feel the tourists will want, that it has little or nothing to do with the food indigenous to the area. And bbq isn't really native to the lowcountry.

          BTW, Gullah is a corruption of Angola, which is the area that many of the slaves originally came from. And only 3 of the inhabited islands on the coast of SC, Hilton Head (which had ferry access from the early 20th century on), Jehossee (very sparsely inhabited), and Daufuskie were without bridge access as late as the 1920's and 1930's.

          I think you are probably referring to standard southern cooking, with some local variations, seldom available in restaurants. Perhaps if you gave some examples I could help, but the real lowcountry foods are not available in any restaurant I am familiar with in the area.

          1. re: Sandy

            As a kid growing up,my mom always used to tell me that the people are referred to as Geechee and the culture is referred to as Gullah.

            Having spent summers of my youth in the St. Helena and Edisto areas, I don't know of any restaurants in the area that serve Gullah food exclusively. It's really something that you would eat at someone's home.

            Sadly, the Gullah culture is being squeezed out by the development of the lowcountry. I fear that it is close to extinction except in being carried through generations by family traditions.

            1. re: YourPalWill

              This is a propos of nothing, but when my Mom was a kid in the 40's she was fascinated by the Gullah/Geechee people that would travel to my Grandfathers peach farm in the upstate as migrant pickers. She would hide in the peach trees and listen to their speech and singing while they worked. She said if they saw her, they would hush.

              1. re: YourPalWill

                From what I understand, the Gullah/Geechee people are one in the same. The Gullah's are in SC & the Geechees are in Georgia.

                The Geechees derive their name from the nearby Ogeechee River.

              2. re: Sandy

                Strongly suggest that you take a diversion if you are on your way to Savannah to Blufton, small town on the way to Hilton Head, and find Pepper's Porch. Really a terrific place and does have the unexpurgated version of low country food with plenty of heat and plenty of calories and very nice people. The menu is pretty nice, the cheese biscuits are terrific, and the fresh oysters and fish are terrific....

              3. re: missy

                Good Luck on your quest for good, lowcountry food! In addition to the ones mentioned, I'm sure you'll find others on your own, as there are many. Hope you will overlook some of the comments about your post. Some folks would rather try and dazzle you with their "pseudo-intellect" than answer your inquiry.

              4. Man, you all are something else! Feisty, huh?
                Granted my experience with your all's chow is limited, as I'm a Virginian, but I still live south of the Mason Dixon line. I know a ham hock from a piece of prosciutto, after all. You want Northerner? I'm married to a guy from Michigan who puts corn on top of mashed potatoes and smothers it all with ketchup. Hooray for the red, white, and yellow.
                All that aside, I'm looking for that special blend of African, Caribbean and US of A chow that includes stuff in the melange like okra, onions, and peppers, and allspice. Yummy yam things. Rice-y stuff. Aren't those kinds of dishes now indigenous to the Sea Island area because of African-imported ingredients and cooking styles? Of course, we can say the same thing about our justly-famous Virginia peanut soup.
                But the SeeWee sounds great. Now does anyone know anything about this place:

                Gullah Cuisine - Mt. Pleasant, SC
                Address:1717 Highway 17 North Phone:843-881-9076

                3 Replies
                1. re: Missy

                  Hi, Missy. Yes, I know about that place! My husband and I make at least one trip to Charleston each year, and we always eat at Gullah Cuisine. www.gullahcuisine.com
                  We have not been there for dinner, but all of our lunches have been great. The buffet is very good, but if you do that, also order some Gullah Rice off the menu. It's heavenly!

                  1. re: Missy

                    My husband and I eat at SeeWee all the time on the way to Charleston. It's a little out of the way if you're at Kiawah, though...in fact, way out of the way.

                    1. re: Missy

                      Hi Missy - it's a bit further afield, but you can go to Gullah Grub on St. Helena's Island which is run, I believe, by the queen of the Gullah nation (which is still in existence and is very active here in the Lowcountry). The food there is terrific and inexpensive. Just drive to Beaufort and take the bridge over to St. Helena's. The restaurant will be on your left as you drive east and is maybe 5 miles down the road.

                    2. Sorry if somebody already mentioned this...

                      Tyler Florence, SC native chef, just had a show on the Gullah people and their food. Very interesting...It might be shown again on the weekend -not sure. FoodTV, of course

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Chuck

                        I caught that show. Very interesting.

                        The "Gullah" portion was filmed in & around the Penn Center on St. Helena's Is, between Beaufort & Fripp Is. This appears to be the single largest concentration of Gullah blacks in the US. Not too sure about Gullah "restaurants", but there is a place in Frogmore (name escapes me) that claims to cook in that style.

                      2. The Gullah Restaurant on 17 in Mount Pleasant is supposed to be fairly good and authentic. I've never eaten there, but it's worth a shot. I'll get to it some day.

                        1. j
                          Joe A. Cardona

                          I live at Taylors, SC and I know about the Gullah people from South Carolina. I love to go back there again, 'cause I had a stew made with crab, potatoes, etc. which it was out of this world. I would like to find out the name of that stew and if they have a recipes book for sale that I can get on my way down to Florida in a couple of weeks.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Joe A. Cardona

                            As I stated below in this thread, there are no such people as the "Gullah" people. It is a corruption of the word "Angola" and properly refers to a language or dialect indigenous to the SC sea islands, spoken by both white and blacks in the area, but clearly of black development. Read some of the postings below in this thread.

                            The "stew" that you are referring to is not really a stew at all, but a boil. That is, it is a mixture of ingredients (in this case shrimp, corn, potatoes, crab, sausage, and/or whatever you have available) all boiled together until done, the liquid discarded, and the solid contents poured out on a table for people to choose and eat. It is called by various names: Lowcountry boil (the correct name), Frogmore Stew, Beaufort Stew, etc., depending on where it is cooked. Apparently some restaurants, misled by the word "stew" are presenting it in bowls with the liquid and solids together. They must be doing something different with the liquid, because the liquid in the true boil isn't very appetizing.

                            1. re: Joe A. Cardona

                              Under the thread below, "Woeful News .... Question for Sandy" for July 9, I've given a recipe for Lowcountry Boil, if you're interested. It's a paraphrase of a recipe from a cookbook about Daufuskie Island. Full info is at that posting.

                              1. re: Joe A. Cardona

                                Dear Joe--it is Frogmore stew--and a delicious concoction it is.

                              2. Updating a thread that's been long-neglected:

                                The Gullah/Geechee culture lives (barely) on Hilton Head and nearby Daufuskie Island (fictionalized in Pat Conroy's "The Water is Wide." Its history is preserved at the Penn Center a little north on St. Helena.

                                Hilton Head has a relatively new restaurant that carries on the tradition, Dye's Gullah Fixin's, in the Pineland Station shopping center near the north end of the Island. It's open for lunch and dinner. It occasionally has live entertainment, always has wonderful food and warm, friendly service, usually from Dye herself.

                                Everything is fresh and local. The shrimp and grits will wow people who don't like grits. Swear you'll never taste collard greens? You'll like these. Fried chicken --- so what if it isn't good for you? It also isn't greasy. Oysters, but only in season. Lots of downhome vegetables, cornbread so light it practically floats off the plate....

                                Gullah cooking is oldstyle southern cooking, and this is head-and-shoulders over commercial places like Paula Deen's in Savannah. If you're going to do a cholesterol splurge, you ought to save it for this place.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: joe d

                                  I'm from the Low Country and very familiar with the Gullah culture.

                                  That said, true Gullah food is leftover from whatever the big plantation houses had from slaughter, rice, and whatever could be grown locally.

                                  Anything you get that someone tells you is Gullah food is fancied up. After all do you really want to eat pigs feet and chitlins?

                                  1. re: BlueHerons

                                    Blue, I laughed at your post and you're absolutely right. I've never gotten up enough courage to try chitlins, but I will admit to having sampled pigs feet in my childhood. Can't say it's an experience I'm eager to repeat!

                                  2. This post may be of some help since a lot of you are looking to use the term gullah (as it applies to food) and lowcountry cuisine interchangably.


                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: GrillMaster

                                      Went to a place called Gullah Grub on St. Helena Island 3 weeks ago. It's a little house across from the Red Piano Gallery II. Great food, and the owner/cook/waitress is originally from the area. I had barbecued chicken, red rice, fresh lima beans, potato salad, and hot cornbread. My husband had ribs, white rice, collards, potato salad and cornbread. Delicious food, amazing lemonade and charming atmosphere. BE PREPARED to share your life story with the owner!

                                        1. re: LaLa

                                          gullah cuisine on route 17 in mount pleasant would be a good choice, been written about by the late r.w. apple in the NY Times... Suggest lunch, where there is a steam table, over dinner, which is pricier with less choices ...

                                          1. re: sadie1

                                            After reading favorable reviews I went to Gullah Cuisine this afternoon. The lunch buffet for $7.25 was quite a good value. The bar was loaded with southern treats. I am a huge fried chicken fan. Their chicken was the best I've had in South Carolina (that argument deserves another thread). It was well seasoned and not very greasy at all. There were mostly thighs available (not my favorite) but they were quite good. The pulled pork was already sauced but it had a great smokey flavor. The collards were not overly seasoned which is a plus in my book. The only items that were lackluster were the okra and tomatoes which had an old-shoe flavor. The mashed potatoes were out of a box. The banana pudding was the jello-type mix. Otherwise I found the selection to be a great representation of southern cooking for a price that can't be beat.
                                            I expected the decor to be plastic table cloths on picnic tables. Not so. The restaurant has a classy, down-home vibe to it. There are antique cabinets with preserves and pickles displayed. It is a really nice atmosphere to enjoy good southern food.
                                            We will return.