As major foodies who believe that a destination’s food can tell you a lot about a place’s history and culture, we knew that the first of many posts in our Charleston Series, had to be about good ‘ole Lowcountry grub.

But first, since we suspect some of you may be wondering what the Lowcountry is and maybe where, it is the coastal region south of the Sandhills, which extends from around Charleston down to the coast of South Carolina. The Lowcountry is a very special place for both of us. For me, Carley, I spent many years visiting my best friend who lives in the region, getting to discover the culture and more importantly, the food that represents it. For me, Jordan, my roots are in the south, so in Charleston, I feel a sense of comfort instantly. My grandparents have lived in Hilton Head since I was young so I spent countless summers in South Carolina and have so many cherished memories.

The combination of influences from Europe, the West Indies, and West Africa, makes for spice-loaded Lowcountry flavors that will probably make you cry when you have to leave this sweet food behind. Local recipes treasures owe their existence to Charleston’s history-steeped past which goes back hundreds of years to colonial times.

While an ugly time in America’s history, much of these flavors can also be credited to the slaves who worked in the rice fields and in the kitchens. Colonial trade brought spices from Africa and the West Indies. Slave families would incorporate these spices and also use the resources of the sea and land to create dishes.

What, though, are the best of those hundred’s of years old recipes that represent Lowcountry cuisine? And more importantly, where in Charleston can you find the best southern cooking? Continue on to find out and try to resist buying a ticket to Charleston immediately after (actually forget that).

Charleston Series Part #1: Essential Lowcountry Food and Where to Eat Them!

1) Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp and grits - a southern staple

Grits are a ground maize kernel that is boiled with milk or water and then slowly added to create a rich and homey dish. The shrimp in shrimp and grits is usually season aggressively (and deliciously) and makes for a composed southern comfort food dish.

Best places in the city to try it: Husk, Slightly North of Broad, and 82 Queen.

2) Fried Chicken

Southern fried chicken that you can't miss!

What’s it like to bite into the perfect piece of fried chicken? You know, the kind that has been battered and fried to perfection with a spice coating to make it sparkle and juiciness that explodes in your mouth as soon as you bite into it? Head to one of many of Charleston’s restaurants to find out!

While fried chicken is a staple in most Southern cuisines, in the Lowcountry, the spices from colonial trading that has influenced its food in many ways, adds a little something special to this already traditional food.

Best places in the city to try it: Pawpaw, Early Bird Diner, and Bertha’s Kitchen.

3) Biscuits and Country Gravy

Poogan's Porch biscuits and gravy

Biscuits and country gravy is a personal favorite of both Carley and I because of the fluffy, buttery biscuits, and warm, rich gravy.. it’s southern heaven. But, what really is it? So first the base, a biscuit. Biscuits are a southern staple that can be judged by how fluffy, buttery, and flaky they are. If you’re unfamiliar with biscuits, it’s super hard to explain but, it’s closest foodie relative is a scone. Country gravy is starts as a rue (flour base thickener typical in the south) and typically has sausage or bacon in it (including the yummy grease).

Best places in the city to try it: Poogan’s Porch, Martha Lou’s, and Early Bird Diner.

4) Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes is one of the best southern dishes around and OH MY GOD if you do not try these little fried devils at least once in Charleston, you are doing something wrong! When made southern style, which is probably the only way you should eat them, they are battered and fried with cornmeal or corn flour.

Best places in the city to try it: 82 Queen, Cru Cafe, and Bertha’s Kitchen.

5) Oysters

Source

The holy city by the sea is 100% a place you go to get fresh seafood. The local specialty? Oysters! From September to April, these babies are at their peak and any place who wants to attract in customers knows that oysters better be on the menu! Oyster bars are also a great place for happy hour, so it really is a social experience as well as a foodie experience.

Best places in the city to try it: Darling Oyster Bar, The Ordinary, and 167 Raw.

6) Collard Greens

Oh no, something that is green and looks healthy! It can’t be a southern food, can it? Well actually, it is, and it is a very delicious dish!

Collard Greens are incredibly important to deep south cooking for the long history they represent and the love that goes into cooking them. They earn their delicious salty, spicy, and earthy taste from being cooked with some ham and then tossed in hot sauce or pepper vinegar. Collard greens are a southern specialty you can find in any restaurant in the city that serves traditional Lowcountry fare.

Best places in the city to try it: Martha Lou’s, The Grocery, and Pawpaw.

7) Okra

Like a Chameleon, Okra is a food that comes in many forms. From being roasted to pickled, fried to grilled, all our southern foodies swear by this local dish that many visitors fail to try!

Best places in the city to try it: Pawpaw, Smoky Oak, and Martha Lou’s.

Now that you know some of the southern staples that define Charleston you can visit being both informed and INCREDIBLY ready to try each and every dish! As part #1 in our Charleston series, we hope this piques your interest for many more to come… so, stay tuned!


XOXO

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