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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In addition to its famous bone marrow bread pudding, The Macintosh serves pork confit on tots, a perfectly cooked slider, and a PBLT — all at happy hour prices.
At Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, inventive biscuits such as cinnamon and black pepper bacon are paired with sweet and savory butters, jams, & spicy pimento cheese.
A fried pork chop to feed a family, pimento cheese fritters with tomato jam, & ham-dusted (!) ribs are a few Lowcountry favorites at Charleston's Poogan’s Porch.
Made-to-order sandwiches on house-baked bread, a copious salad bar & a rainbow of Mennonite desserts make Barnwell's Country Cupboard a South Carolina best.
Aiken's thriving horse community gathers at the Track Kitchen for handsome omelets and exquisite baked bacon. Help yourself to coffee in the kitchen.
The Village Cafe is a casual restaurant where food is a cut above: BLTs with smoked salmon added; house-cured pastrami; sophisticated salads & espresso drinks.
A true taste of New Jersey in Myrtle Beach, Jersey Bagels' bagels are dense, chewy, and full flavored. Overflowing sub sandwiches are also a specialty.
Myrtle Beach's best breakfast is a full coffee shop repertoire, including inventive variations of southern favorites. Don't miss the corned beef hash!
Pulaski Deli is a Myrtle Beach anomaly: homelike, old-world food in a quiet, personable market. The Polish Sampler plate gets you some of everything.