Monday, July 4, 2011

The Lowcountry

Perhaps technically the Grand Strand or Pee Dee, but Pawleys Island and the surrounding area is as Lowcountry-like as any place I've ever been before.  To follow, a picture heavy post that sums up my eating in the area, including the drive down from the CLE and back up.  Most meals were eaten in, but we got out a bit and just about everything down there, including the food, was excellent.

First up, after eleven hours of driving, a bbq legend: Scott's Bar-B-Q.  NYT summary of the place here.  This place is the real deal, serving locals and tourists alike.  If you're ever anywhere near the place, I'd urge you to check it out.  Perfect pulled pork.  I've never had any bbq even close to as good.  My money says that Scott's secret ingredient is Ac'cent (i.e. msg).  It's got to be something like that, not that I care--I just couldn't stop eating the stuff.  And at $9 a pound it was consistent with most the food we had down there--completely  reasonably priced.

idyllic, no?
Litchfield Restaurant.  Excellent diner food.  Cheap, quick, and friendly.  And the sweet tea never stops flowing.
sweetest chicken coop ever (pic doesn't do it justice--it's one big western town)
Hog Heaven.  The phone number is 237-PIGG.  Southern lunch buffet for like $7.  Not mind blowing, but very good bbq and southern sides.  Also very good local seafood (little neck clams and shrimp were in season)--sadly, we were too late in the summer for oysters.  Pretty short on atmosphere and service (I think they overcharged us on purpose).  Great place to stuff yourself on the cheap.  The food tastes better than it looks sitting there on a steam table.

Carolina Country Cafe.  Set back behind a gas station, this place was one of the best surprises of the trip.  It was the home of both the pictured crab sign and chicken coop. We saw the crab sign and had to stop.  No atmosphere--great food. Super fresh and hyper local.  If the fish wasn't from the dock about a mile away, it wasn't on the menu.  We had a plate of those crabs (pretty small, very messy, and incredibly  tasty) and some fried flounder sandwiches.  The biggest mystery during the meal was why the tomatoes on the sandwiches were so good.  A quick walk outside revealed the secret--they don't have to walk far to harvest super ripe red tomatoes.  No pretension at all, and you'd need a pretty cool partner to go here on a first date, but the food can't be beat.

only fish i caught (we did get lots of blue crabs though)--kate's need another filleter?
We stopped at Carolina Country Cafe after going to Independent Seafood Market in Georgetown.  They had some good fish, but for me the best spots to get shrimp were all over the place on the side of the road.
If you're not into buying your seafood out of back of a pickup, another nice fish store is Murrells Inlet Seafood, located in the seafood capital of South Carolina.  Great stuff, local or otherwise.
too hot in the creek to do much damage with the pole.  didn't stop us from trying though.
Two other local spots were Sam's Corner and Chive Blossom.  Need clam strips at 3 am, try Sam's.  Chive Blossom--good she crab soup, but otherwise kind of overrated.  Wonderful atmosphere and service though.
good morning creek
After eating our fill of fresh seafood, tomatoes, pork, and peaches, it was, sadly, time to go.  But, during a twelve hour drive home one must stop to eat.
Keaton's Original BBQ in North Carolina was the perfect place to stop.  Perfect bbq fried chicken.  Kind of weird hours, a bit out of the way, and long lines just add to the enjoyment.  Get there early--rumor has it they run out.  The food goes great with Cheerwine.  Likely the best chicken I've ever had.  And there's some nice green space to stretch your legs for the long drive ahead. 
good night creek
Like New Orleans, the Pawleys Island area of South Carolina was filled with fantastic regional cuisine.  There was a real sense of place to just about everything, whether it be the sweet tea, seafood, or bbq.  It wasn't just "farm to table" or "nose to tail."  It wasn't a fad or marketing or hype.  The food was filled with pride and history and even a sense of celebration.  Besides being ruined for select seafood and southern staples for a long time coming, I'm stuck longing for that sense of place in cuisine back here.  I am, however, optimistic that we'll come up with something in Cleveland.  I just hope it's soon.


Dine O Mite! said...

Some of the most honest food you'll ever eat. I have a glass Cheerwine bottle (made with cane syrup) that sits on my desk. Funny thing is that I pulled from my Anson Mills grits stache in the freezer today. So many places, so little time.

steve said...

Hey Tomato, So glad that you made it to Scott's, now it's confirmed what we missed and where we will have to go the next time we are in the area.

The CFT said...

Cal, you just reminded me that I stashed some AM grits in a pocket of a cooler and completely forgot about them. Thanks. (and they really love glass bottles down there, even if it was easier to recycle cans at Pawleys Isle)

Steve, going to Scott's was all you. Thanks for the suggestion.

Anonymous said...

The NY Times article you linked to confirms that yes, they use Accent.

The CFT said...

Thanks. I hadn't looked at the article for a while or ever really gave it a thorough read, but the subconscious is an odd thing, so maybe that's where I got the thought. The only time I felt the same crazy urge to continue eating was after having some roast pork in Cle Asiatown.

Shane said...

Thanks for scouting Pawleys and surroundings ahead of us Mr. Tomato. Some delectible ideas for us to pursue here.