Cliff’s Seafood & Grill
Review by: Michael Stern
Memorable | One of the Best
“Does prepackaged tartar sauce disqualify a restaurant from being Roadfood?” asked my friend Dr. Judith Hoover. “If not,” she said, “I’ve got a gem for you.” She directed me to Cliff’s Seafood & Grill, telling me to pay no attention to the bars on the windows, because the very unassuming roadside joint is as friendly as can be. More important, she assured me, the seafood is superb.
I do like interesting, from-scratch tartar sauce, but with shrimp and scallops and oysters and flounder and catfish as flavorful as that served at Cliff’s, even the best tartar sauce would be superfluous. Cliff’s fried seafood exists as an unimprovable duet, wanting no condiment. Shattering-crisp crust melts into taste-buds luxury at first bite, enrobing shrimp that are firm and butter rich or scallops that are ocean-sweet, or big, succulent oysters that flood the tongue like gentle ocean waves. Although you are a good hour from the beach, a visit to Cliff’s is like an edible vacation.
While it is fried seafood that stars, I also became an instant fan of what’s billed here as Beaufort Stew. It’s a variation of the traditional Lowcountry boil, aka Frogmore stew, containing shrimp, sausage, and a length of corn on the cob, with the added attraction of succulent crab legs, the whole shebang glistening with a delirious mix of butter and spice. Another unique dish is Cliff’s Rice: slightly sticky grains of rice, skillet-fried with carrots and bits of broccoli, laced with pepper and a jot of soy sauce. It reminds me of Gullah rice but without exotic pyrotechnics.
As Judith noted, Cliff’s looks like a rugged roadside shack, but it has a heart of gold. The mismatched interior includes a helter-skelter array of such piscatorial cues as fishnets containing plastic crustaceans; and by the front door, a stick of incense smolders to pleasantly perfume the air. Customers are a wide array of locals, blue-collar guys and blue-hair grannies, as well as savvy travelers midway between Charleston and Augusta.
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|