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Martha Lou's Kitchen

1068 Morrison Dr., Charleston, SC - (843) 577-9583
Posted By Gregory Forman on 7/24/2011 11:32:00 AM
Martha Lou’s is one of the premier soul food restaurants in a city filled with great soul food restaurants.

Soul food restaurants highlight fried meats and beans and greens. Martha Lou’s excels in both areas. The fried meats are less greasy than at typical soul food restaurants. When finished eating, there’s no oil at the bottom of the plate but the fried chicken is juicy with a light crust batter and the fried fish uses fresh, not frozen, whiting.

The collard greens and stewed cabbage rely on a lot less pork fat and oil than greens at most soul food restaurants. The stewed cabbage adds slivers of red pepper for visual and flavor contrast. The result is greens in which the fresh vegetable flavor is not being overpowered by smoked meat.

The lima beans were sublime. In a city that invented the "lima bean dinner," Martha Lou's may be the best. The day we ate there (July 23, 2011) they were seasoned with poultry (not pork) and the beans were fully cooked and heavily peppered while remaining toothsome (not mushy) with just a hint of smoked meat flavor. The beans were more cooked and gravy-like than limas at fancy downtown restaurants but less cooked and fatty than at similar local soul food restaurants.

The macaroni and cheese is also lighter than the typical eggy/cheesy casserole served in most soul food restaurants. Instead it’s a mix of soft pasta shells in a thin cheese sauce seasoned by loads of black pepper.

Many high-end Charleston restaurants wisely employ the locavore trend by highlighting our local bounty. Martha Lou’s was doing this even before it became trendy. Martha Lou’s lighter touch with fats and smoked meats results in fresher tasting fare than most similar restaurants.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Fried Chicken
Collard Greens
Lima Beans
Macaroni and Cheese
Stewed cabbage
Fried Fish
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

A Lowcountry triumph, Martha Lou's vividly-spiced okra soup is thick enough to be a meal.
"A Lowcountry triumph, Martha Lou's vividly-spiced okra soup is thick enough to be a meal."
Michael Stern





Fried chicken is on the menu every day. Its crust is luscious, its meat moist.
"Fried chicken is on the menu every day. Its crust is luscious, its meat moist."
Michael Stern


Martha Lou's mac 'n' cheese is creamy soft but sharply peppered -- a balance that defines so much of Charleston's finest soul food.
"Martha Lou's mac 'n' cheese is creamy soft but sharply peppered -- a balance that defines so much of Charleston's finest soul food. "
Michael Stern


The bread pudding at Martha Lou's is made extra-sweet by the inclusion of canned fruit cocktail.
"The bread pudding at Martha Lou's is made extra-sweet by the inclusion of canned fruit cocktail."
Michael Stern


This is the Lowcountry, where frying is refined, and therefore you can expect the fried fish to be elegant.
"This is the Lowcountry, where frying is refined, and therefore you can expect the fried fish to be elegant."
Michael Stern


The one must-eat side dish at Martha Lou's (and other Charleston soul food restaurants) is the soupy lima beans.
"The one must-eat side dish at Martha Lou's (and other Charleston soul food restaurants) is the soupy lima beans."
Cliff Strutz


Martha Lou's menu
"Martha Lou's menu"
Ken Spink


Chef Martha Lou Gadsden in her kitchen
"Chef Martha Lou Gadsden in her kitchen"
Michael Stern


Our visit was on December 31st and Martha Lou Gadsden was being interviewed by local news about hoppin' John, the traditional New Year's good luck dish.
"Our visit was on December 31st and Martha Lou Gadsden was being interviewed by local news about hoppin' John, the traditional New Year's good luck dish. "
Cliff Strutz


One of the handful of tables at Martha Lou's is where daughter Debra spends time when she is not waiting on customers.
"One of the handful of tables at Martha Lou's is where daughter Debra spends time when she is not waiting on customers."
Michael Stern


It would be correct to call Martha Lou's Kitchen a white tablecloth restaurant, but those words do not mean that it is in any way snooty. It is just very gracious.
"It would be correct to call Martha Lou's Kitchen a white tablecloth restaurant, but those words do not mean that it is in any way snooty. It is just very gracious."
Michael Stern


Martha Lou's Kitchen does not exactly blend into the landscape. Like the food served inside, the building is bold and bright.
"Martha Lou's Kitchen does not exactly blend into the landscape. Like the food served inside, the building is bold and bright."
Michael Stern



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