Charleston is a wonderful place to visit and to settle down for so many reasons—from fine art galleries, to breathtaking ocean views, to stately historic homes—Charleston has so much to offer Renaissance men (and women). Among Charleston’s greatest draws are its restaurants, which range from classic Southern to Asian-fusion. If you are visiting Charleston, you’ll find there is something to suit every taste, but be sure to try a bit of the Lowcountry while you are here. Looking at “Frasca Chefs” by Robert Spooner, I instantly start thinking about all the wonderful chefs we have here in Charleston that are working at this very moment, serving up their delicious creations to locals and visitors alike.
Lowcountry cuisine is a type of Southern cuisine that has been influenced by the geography and history of the area. As a coastal city surrounded by rich marshes and estuaries, Lowcountry cuisine includes a diversity of the freshest seafood available. One of the most popular dishes is she-crab-soup, which many restaurants will claim as “The Best in Charleston” or “Award Winning.” For a really good she-crab soup, try Cypress Lowcountry Grill. Another popular dish (and a personal favorite) is shrimp and grits. The best shrimp and grits will include tender, perfectly grilled shrimp tossed with caramelized onions and bacon over creamy yellow grits that have been mixed with cheese. For shrimp and grits, visit Hominy Grill. Although they do not take reservations, it is well worth the wait.
Most restaurants in Charleston will have a catch-of-the-day or market fish on the menu. If you are unsure as to what to order, you can bank on the fresh fish—usually treated simply to bring out freshness and natural flavors. Tristan’s locally sourced market fish is exquisite and understated, accompanied by asparagus, carrot puree, cippolini onions, and a blood orange “hollandaise” . “Husk” a popular new restaurant whose Chef recently won a James Beard award, is a great option all around for Lowcountry cuisine. “If it doesn’t come from the South, then it’s not coming through our door,” says Chef Sean Brock. Their menu includes cornmeal dusted catfish with smoked jalapeno grits and heritage Ossabaw pork chop with butterbeans and red Russian Kale.
Lowcountry cuisine has also been influenced by the historical connections with the Caribbean and with Africa. Slaves brought in from these regions developed a culture all their own, known as “Gullah” –a fusion of Southern culture and their own African/Caribbean culture. Some residents of Charleston still speak “Gullah,” an English-based Creole language. Responsible for cooking on wealthy estates and plantations, they would often serve up a little bit of home.