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Charleston SC: Okay, so where's the GOOD low country food?

Boy, you Charlestonian's do not make it easy! It seems like people either like or hate the less-expensive options in town for "low country" grub. (The only thing everyone seems to agree on is the coconut cake at the Peninsula Grill.) Jestine's, Poogan's, Hominy--what's an outsider to do? It seems like all of these places are geared for the tourist crowd. Where can I go to get the BEST shrimp and grits in Charleston? Aren't there any places that cater mostly to locals? Any other special dishes I should try? And where? Where do YOU GUYS go, other than "your mom's" for home cooking/comfort food?
I'll be there in August (I know--it's not oyster time) staying in the historic district, but I have a car and I'm willing to find my way to the less-touristy parts of town.

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  1. I'll avoid the topic of shrimp and grits altogether since that's a whole separate discussion in of itself.

    For great down-home Southern cuisine, the type that Charlestonians know and love but tourists for whatever reason don't tend to frequent much (perhaps because it's across the bridge), go to Gullah Cuisine in Mt. Pleasant. They have perhaps one of the best Southern buffet spreads at lunch that I've ever experienced. A lot of fellow Southerners concur. Dinner is a sit-down menu.

    http://www.gullahcuisine.com/

    A new place that opened up on the Charleston side, but north of the historic district, that has been getting rave reviews and acclaim from local publications all around, is Alluette's Cafe. Traditional Southern and Gullah recipes, but with an eye toward fresh, local, and organic ingredients. According to reviews by those with many local reviews under their belts, this may very well be the best place to get nonchalant Southern food on the Charleston side.

    Review: http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gy...

    Another review: http://charlestonchow.blogspot.com/20...

    You really can't go wrong with either of these places. It might just be the best down-home Southern food you've ever had. Both of these places thrive entirely off of word-of-mouth and local traffic, so go ahead and support one or both during your next visit. I know I will next time I'm down there.

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    Gullah Cuisine Lowcountry Restoration
    1717 N Highway 17, Mt Pleasant, SC

    Alluette's Cafe
    80 Reid St, Charleston, SC 29403

    1. I'm a local and here's my two cents:

      Boulevard Diner in Mt. Pleasant is pretty darn good. It's VERY affordable and is sort of a meat-and-three (always have at least 10 veggies to choose from). Really good fried chicken, meatloaf, crab cakes. I even like their shrimp and grits.

      The best? I think it's SeeWee Cafe. Great seafood, great fried chicken. It's where you want to go for Sunday dinner! It's WAY out there, but totally worth the drive. Get on 17N, drive, drive, drive. When you're almost to Awendaw, you'll see it on your left. Everything is delicious.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chasfoodie

        Ahh, I had forgotten about SeeWee. Good call. Have never been to Boulevard. Will try it next time.

        SeeWee: http://www.seeweerestaurant.com

        Boulevard Diner: http://holycitystyle.wordpress.com/20...

        1. re: mikeh

          When I went to SeeWee on a Saturday night, they had live music. We missed it, but everyone seemed to have enjoyed it!

      2. I think the best Shrimp and Grits can be found at SNOB. I will second the recs for Boulevard Diner and SeeWee for good comfort food. I still enjoy Jestine's and Hominy, but I know they have gotten a little touristy for some people. I haven't yet tried Alluette's, but it is definitely on my to try list.

        3 Replies
          1. re: uoha

            SNOBs' "Maverick" Shrimp & Grits is consistently excellent.

          2. re: lizzy

            The shrimp and grits at the Variety Store at the City Marina is one of my favorites

          3. Dunno if it's up and running again after their fire from years ago (I'm assuming it is), but Bowen Island Restaurant is just one of those "must go" places...

            http://www.bowensislandrestaurant.com

            1 Reply
            1. re: Rand

              Up and running for four years now, but not so much "low-country", just low and country....

            2. As out-of-towners, my family loved the food at the Hominy Grill in Charleston. I'd call it updated Southern. The place was in inexpensive and there were no crowds. But that was just before the New York Times, last fall, featured the restaurant for four straight weeks on Page one of its food section - so they may have gotten more expensive or more crowded. They had things like buttermilk pie, sweet potato spoonbread, chocolate pudding, cheese grits, Mile High Biscuits, shrimp and grits, roasted butternut squash, collard grinds, ginger-pumpkin soup, a BLT in which the T was fried green tomatoes, Brunswick stew, a pimiento cheese sandwich, grillades (braised veal steaks) with grits, grilled tripe, hominy stew, sesame-crusted catfish, peach-blueberry cobbler, Carolina chicken bog. I don't really know for sure whether any of that is authentic low country grub or not, but it sure did taste good.