After cleaning one’s plate at the Red Shed, it is customary to get up from the table and saunter into the room next door to choose from among all the desserts on display. There are too many for the waitress to enumerate, and the array of them is too beautiful not to browse. That’s the worst thing about eating in this happy little roadside stand and diner: no appetite is big enough to sample even half of everything that looks good.
In the dessert case, buttermilk pie with its lightweight, eggy custard and big dollop of freshly whipped cream on top is a must. But so is opulent tuxedo cake, which is a dense chocolate brownie topped with cheesecake. And triple-layer strawberry cake, loaded with fresh berries … and Key lime cake … and pig pickin’ cake … and sour cream coconut cake … and peanut butter pie … and blueberry cream cheese cake … and peach cobbler … and Moon Pie banana pudding … and, and, and …
Not that the meals preceding dessert aren’t terrific in their own right. I love “Angry meatloaf” — a sandwich that contains a half-pound slab of juicy, full-flavored loaf topped with melted pepperjack cheese, jalapeno ketchup, mustard, mayo, lettuce and — in season — slices of garden-fresh beefsteak tomato. Chicken, cooked on a grill out in front of the restaurant, is so tender that it is difficult to pick up a piece without the meat and bone separating. Chef L.J. rubs it with a spice mix that enhances but does not overwhelm the meat. Thursday’s Mississippi pot roast is a study in beef-as-comfort food.
Side dishes are such southern cafe classics as braised cabbage, collard greens, rutabagas, mac ‘n’ cheese, field peas, and a spectacularly flavorful hash on rice. Cornbread that comes alongside meat-and-three meals is extraordinary — not the sweet, cakey stuff that is typical of this region, but rather a tender block of buttermilk-tweaked, earthy savor that is too tasty to be thought of as a merely peripheral breadstuff. It is cooked in a cast iron skillet, meaning its edges get wickedly crisp.
Such a fun place: ramshackle in the extreme, decorated floor to ceiling with vintage memorabilia both culinary and otherwise, staffed with an ebullient team of friendly git ‘er done waitresses. Out front in growing season, customers browse tables of produce: tomatoes, peaches, watermelon, squash, and cucumbers. All, of course, are South Carolina-grown.