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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A family-run restaurant since 1969, Carolina BBQ is a traditional all-you-can-eat pig pickin: smoky pulled pork plus a constellation of side dishes around it.
A forthright diner surrounded by South Carolina industrial parks, Airport Grill is a favorite for hearty breakfast, well-dressed burgers & take-out meals.
Fine fried seafood, from flounder to porgy, plus crab legs, pork chops, chicken wings, burgers and "Mo," make Off Da Chain a colorful, unique destination.
What looks like a honky-tonk biker bar is a source of excellent seafood, fried or broiled. Harry's is a must for food-focused folk in Aiken, South Carolina.
A broad menu of scrupulously cooked-to-order Mexican food at reasonable prices in the most informal surroundings makes Restaurante Las Palmas a Roadfood prize.
Saturday is the day to bring big appetite to this country-road grocery store. That's BBQ day, when Waterwheel's slow-smoked meats are followed by peach cobbler.
GoodLands BBQ Restaurant is a buffet in a former gas station, serving hickory-cooked pork, fried chicken, mac 'n' cheese & all South Carolina complements.
Providing lunch boxes to eat here & dishes to take home, A Steller Kitchen features (but is not limited to) low-carb meals. Not to miss: crisp cheese crackers.
Rockaway Athletic Club is a semi-secret Columbia, South Carolina, tavern that fans love for its broad, goopy pimento cheeseburger and vast liquor inventory.