On the wall in the front room of DeShawn’s hangs a bell with a long chain on its clapper. First-time customers who have enjoyed their meal are encouraged to ring it. When they do, a dining room full of happy eaters applauds them. DeShawn’s is the sort of place that inspires exultant loyalty among both staff and customers.
It is not hard to see why seafood lovers are enamored, even putting aside the restaurant’s signature splurge – all-you-can-eat crab legs — really big, meaty ones — for about $40. There are so many good crustaceans and flatfish to eat, most meals less than half the price of the crab-legs blowout. Fried shrimp are taut and sweet and encased in vividly spiced breading’ Flounder is skin-on flavorful, also sheathed in a full-flavored crust. There are robust catfish (whole or filleted) and scallops and oysters and a whole menu of broiled seafood and even a real low-country boil of shrimp, potatoes, sweet corn, and sausage.
As for fish-frowners, note the full name of the restaurant. No afterthought, DeShawn’s splendid chicken is breaded and fried to crispy-crunchy succulence with the same expertise that graces the seafood.
Both fish and chicken are terrific, but a person could make a meal of nothing but side dishes. Foremost among them is hot baked potato salad, rich with cheese and mayo, radiating the flavor of superabundant bacon laced throughout. Mac ‘n’ cheese is deeply cheesy, ranging from custard-soft center to chewy edge. Turnip greens contain as much turnip as greens; they are pungent and intriguingly bitter. Collard greens, on the other hand, are soft and earthy with full-bore vegetable character.
Aside from offering excellent food that is well priced and served fast, DeShawn’s earns warm feelings from its clientele because it is so resolutely casual. No airs or pretense here. It is an eating hall unceremoniously made of cinderblocks painted ocean blue with a wood floor that is battleship gray and the usual array of nautical nick-nacks hanging on walls and from a ceiling where overhead fans spin. Waitresses wear shirts that say “Let’s Get Crackin’.” Tables are available either normal height or at high-chair level; they are made of polished wood-grain material that is easy to wipe clean.
The only negative thing about DeShawn’s is that it has earned a large army of loyal fans, which means that on a weekend night, the wait for a seat inside can be up to an hour. Do note that DeShawn’s is closed Monday and Tuesday and closes at 5pm on Sunday.
Finally, a fun nugget of knowledge: Deanna Brown Thomas, who owns the place with her husband, Shawn Thomas, is the daughter of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. Brown grew up just across the river in Augusta.