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Jul 15, 2003 11:54 AM

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.
                  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, 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.