Your Guide to Authentic Regional Eats
Sign In | Register for Free!
Restaurants Recipes Forums Eating Tours Merchandise FAQ Maps Insider

Bowen's Island

1870 Bowens Island Rd., Charleston, SC - (843) 795-2757
Posted By Michael Stern on October 24, 2009 5:59 AM
Oysters, all you can eat! They come from Bowens Island oyster beds all gnarled and splotched with pluff, which is the oysterman's term for the fine silt that is stuck on them when they are harvested and clings to them when they are roasted so that merely touching a cooked cluster will smudge your fingers. Unlike sparkling specimens presented in a pretty pattern on crushed ice, these uglies come in clumps of three or six or more grown together in a single pluff-caked mass. They are roasted under burlap on a big smoky pit, then brought to the table by the shovel full. It is the customer's job to shuck them (easy, once cooked) with the knife provided.

To dress the cooked oysters, Bowen's Island offers only one option: a paper cup full of thin red cocktail sauce hot with horseradish and Texas Pete. Some regulars bring along sticks of their own butter, which the restaurant is happy to melt for them. The cocktail sauce recipe comes from May Bowen, who, with her husband, Jimmy, started the restaurant at their fish camp in 1946. It was an outdoor picnic then, with pecks and bushels dispatched at sawhorse tables. The informality never has wavered: eating areas are famous for generations' worth of graffiti that cover all wall space. Even after a big fire in 2006 destroyed much of the place, including its cherished oyster eating room, it reopened only few months later, serving oysters in the rough-and-tumble dock room until a new oyster dining area could be built (still to come, as of autumn, 2009).

If there happens to be an oyster frowner in your party, no problem. Bowen's Island's menu also includes good fried shrimp and really good hushpuppies, as well as crab cakes and even Frogmore stew, the Carolina coast specialty that combines shrimp, sausage, and corn.

To say amenities at Bowen's Island are minimal is an understated joke. Tables sometimes have covering in the form of newspapers; the ones dedicated to oyster eating have holes in the center where you conveniently can throw shells after you have extricated the meat from the heaps of inner tidal bivalves. The heavy kerplunk of emptied shells getting tossed into the garbage cans beneath the tables' holes is the backbeat of dining at Bowen's Island; the melody is the slurp of sucking slippery nuggets of marine meat straight off the oyster knife, then drinking down warm, salty liquor from the shell.
5 star rating
Overall Rating
Oysters (All You Can Eat)
Hush Puppies
Frogmore Stew
Shrimp (fried or broiled)

9 out of 9 people found the review helpful. Was it helpful to you?

No Yes
Posted By richard on May 19, 2011 3:47 PM
The food was great. I had all-you-can-eat oysters and they were perfect. My wife had shrimp and hush puppies and they were just perfect. I just wish I could get the all-you-can-eat oysters all the time.
5 star rating
Overall Rating
Oysters (All You Can Eat)
Hush Puppies
Shrimp (fried or broiled)

1 out of 1 people found the review helpful. Was it helpful to you?

No Yes

What is Roadfood?  |   Submit Content  |   Privacy Policy  |   Contact Roadfood.com   Copyright - Roadfood.com