Dave’s Carry-Out, a tiny corner storefront with only two tables for eating on premises and a reputation for staying open later than nearly any other place in town, makes a specialty of frying. While nearly every meat-and-three restaurant deep-fries something to anchor its meals, Dave’s does little else.
Not to dis Tuesday’s jumbo turkey wings and red rice or Thursday’s melting-tender Cornish hen with hoppin’ john, but it is Dave’s every-day shrimp that must be eaten — taut pink crescents veiled in a film of crunch so elegant that they put me in mind of the legendary frying done by the long-gone Edisto Motel. It is hypnotic to watch the cook (Dave’s son) bread every single one individually, tossing them into a fry basket that gets dropped into hot oil above the pieces of fish and pork chop that sizzle down below. Yes, everything goes into the same hot soup, and everything comes out with its own flavor — pork, fish, chicken — haloed by a multi-flavored zest that is the hallmark of Lowcountry cooking.
A few years ago, Dave’s moved from its original oil-saturated disreputable location to the current corner storefront, which is fresh and ship-shape. While purists bemoan the cultural elevation, the current Dave’s is a restaurant where anyone will feel welcome, any time of night. As the name suggests, it is designed mostly for the take-out trade. Still, when it’s crowded, as it inevitably is late at night, you can wait up to an hour for your food to be cooked and plated (in Styrofoam). Everything is cooked to order, order by order.