What To Eat in South Carolina
A land of majestic barbecue and fascinating diverse sauces, including a unique mustard-powered sauce in the center of the state, South Carolina also boasts shrimp, flounder, and oysters that are second to none (shrimp and grits should be the official state dish). Oyster roasts are big all along the coast, as is the festive sausage-shrimp-corn-potato gallimaufry known as Frogmore stew or Low Country boil. South Carolina also produces more peaches than nearby Georgia, so its peach cobbler, peach ice cream, peach ham glaze, and peach cake all are pretty swell. The South’s beloved pimento cheese is big in every county; and do note that the state capital, Columbia, is where the pimento cheeseburger was invented (and where the best one is served).
South Carolinians take grits seriously, using stone-ground cornmeal, butter, and milk or cream to create a slow-cooked warm cereal that is delicious alone but better as the bed for a school of vividly-spiced shrimp – a duet of spice and comfort that is good to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The pimento cheeseburger was invented in Columbia, South Carolina in the 1960s at a long-gone restaurant called the Dairy Bar. The inspired pairing of carnivorous succulence and cheddar luxury, with a soupcon of spice, has become popular throughout the state and much of the Southland, but you still find the beefiest and cheesiest ones in and around Columbia.
Whole hog barbecue is an arduous, time-honored ritual that few modern restaurants continue to employ. The process commences late in the afternoon, when the pitmaster starts burning oak and hickory logs until they turn to charcoal. The coals are pushed from the chimney where they burnt into an adjoining pit, where halved hogs are arrayed on a grate above the heat. At midnight, then again at dawn, more coals are moved to the pit. In South Carolina, whole hog restaurants are open only on weekends, and it is advised to get there early, before the skin runs out. Skin's a delicacy that is meltingly fatty and infused with the briny smack of basting juices.
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Mexican seafood is brilliant at 7 Mares, an unlikely shopping-center restaurant where highlights include shrimp-stuffed chiles rellenos & mile-high margaritas.
Top-quality, no-frills seafood and great fried chicken make DeShawn's a destination feast in North Augusta. All-you-can-eat crab legs are immense.
Bobop's is a gas station / convenience store / Blimpie shop that also includes a short cafeteria with extraordinarily flavorful fried chicken & fixins.
Located off Atomic Road near the SRS nuclear reservation, Papa's Kitchen is a cheerful cafe serving breakfast, meat-&-2 lunch & supper, and handsome burgers.
It's a humble diner, but quality lunch counter burgers and meat-&-3 have made the Blue Top Grill a favorite lunch spot east of Augusta since 1951.
Legendary meat-&-3 destination since 1947, Wade's draws Spartanburg crowds for well-priced, very-Southern vegetables, fried chicken, & motherly dinner rolls.
Huge cinnamon rolls are the headliner, but this Columbia, South Carolina, restaurant also offers significant sandwiches at breakfast & lunch.
Out-of-the-way Backyard Cafe is a destination for handsome hamburgers, after-5pm southern-accented dinner & from-scratch ice cream atop squares of gooey cake.
Kaleidoscopically seasoned Indian food (hot or not, as you wish) makes Taj Aiken a destination for adventurous eaters. Nothing on the menu is boring.