Bowen’s Island

All-You-Can-Eat | Lowcountry | Seafood
legendary
Worth driving from anywhere!
Save

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 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.

If there happens to be an oyster frowner in your party, no problem. Bowen’s Island’s menu also includes 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.

What to Eat
Bowen’s Island, Oysters (All You Can Eat)
Oysters (All You Can Eat)
Must-Try
Cooked oysters at Bowen's Island are not what most people would consider beautiful. But once you pry open a few shells and savor their briny-sweet luxury, suddenly there are few sights more beautiful than a trayful.
Bowen’s Island, Frogmore Stew
Frogmore Stew
Must-Try
Frogmore stew is a Lowcountry slumgullion of sausage, shrimp, corn, and potatoes, named for a fishing community on St. Helena Island off the Carolina coast. It also sometimes is called a Lowcountry boil.
Bowen’s Island, Hush Puppies
Hush Puppies
Must-Try
Four-star hushpuppies accompany four-star seafood.
Bowen’s Island, Shrimp (fried or broiled)
Shrimp (fried or broiled)
Must-Try
As you might expect along the South Carolina coast, the fried shrimp are elegant. The hushpuppies, still made from May Bowen's original recipe, are cream-rich inside their dark, crunchy skin.
Directions and Hours
closed now
SundayCLOSED
MondayCLOSED
Tuesday5 pm - 9:30 pm
Wednesday5 pm - 9:30 pm
Thursday5 pm - 9:30 pm
Friday5 pm - 9:30 pm
Saturday5 pm - 9:30 pm
Roadtrips
This restaurant is featured in the following eating tours.
4 stops | 124 MILES | 2 hr 47 min

Both Savannah and Charleston are culinary Meccas; between them is a paradise of good eats. Meandering up the coast, have breakfast at Blackstone's Cafe (shrimp & grits, please!) and unique Gullah cuisine at Gullah Grub. Stop for fresh peaches and blue-ribbon pies at George & Pink's produce stand and climax the day with an endless…

Information
Price
$
Seasons
Open Year Round
Meals Served
Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
No
Alcohol Served
Yes
Outdoor Seating
Yes
Website

Other Nearby Restaurants

  • Codfather

    North Charleston, South Carolina

    A proper English chippy in North Charleston, SC, the Codfather offers gorgeous fish & chips, savory pies, mushy peas, and pints of top-shelf stouts and ales.

  • Fishnet Seafood

    Johns Island, South Carolina

    Point to the fish you like and Fishnet fries it to order. Especially good are devil crabs (here called Jesus crabs) and big milky fillets of Carolina flounder.

  • Leon’s Poultry & Oyster Shop

    Charleston, South Carolina

    Casual, immensely hip and urban-popular, Leon’s doesn’t lose track of its mission: to serve great Carolina chicken & oysters and lots of beer & wine.

  • Jestine’s Kitchen

    Charleston, South Carolina

    Jestine’s offers a wide selection of Lowcountry specialties with downhome Dixie atmosphere that makes it a tourists’ favorite. **CLOSED**

  • Evo

    North Charleston, South Carolina

    Evo is a modern pizzeria in the trendy Park Circle neighborhood of North Charleston that employs a wood-fired oven to cook superb pizzas using local ingredients.

  • My Three Sons of Charleston

    North Charleston, South Carolina

    A humble soul food / Gullah gem in North Charleston, My Three Sons serves emblematic southern comfort food, from 4-star fried chicken to creamy banana pudding.