In the Lowcountry where Southern soul food is king, temptation lurks around every corner, and everyone has his or her own go-to sinful spot. And after a long work week we all deserve a little bit of indulgence, a stick of butter here, a biscuit or five there. So go and indulge. Just don't waste it on Zaxby's new brownie batter milkshake. Instead, head to one of Charleston's restaurants known for down-home Southern cookin,' and prepare to loosen your belt.
82 Queen is marking 30 years of Southern cooking, and what better way to celebrate than by digging into a big pile of slow-cooked beef. For his Carolina brisket with collards and mac and cheese, Chef Steven Lusby cures the brisket overnight and slow braises the meat for over eight hours, letting it simmer in all its delicious juices. The brisket is finished with a blackberry bourbon barbecue sauce. The mac and cheese is made with shell pasta and a trio of white cheddar, yellow cheddar, and pepper-jack cheeses, and the collards are sautéed with ham hocks, bacon, and onions ($27).
At Lucky's Southern Grill on Folly Road, we'd opt for the country-fried steak served with mashed potatoes, sawmill gravy, and seasonal vegetables ($15). Owner John Davis says they pound and cube a 10-oz. portion of steak, which then gets battered and deep-fried for a classic version of this heart-attack-on-a-plate. The steak is topped with traditional white gravy made with pepper and onions. It's so good "you'll wish your grandma made gravy like this," says Davis. Pour it over the steak, mashed potatoes, and yellow spring squash for a truly down-home experience.
Everybody knows about the grits at Hominy Grill, but what about the porterhouse pork chop? The Lowcountry purloo? Chef Robert Stehling takes a massive porterhouse pork chop and encrusts it in ground Southern pecans, giving each bite a nutty crunch. A spiced brown peach sauce made in-house using Southern peach preserves is ladled over the meat; the cinnamon-clove spice giving the pork a deep, savory flavor ($14.95). The Lowcountry purloo, a classic red rice casserole with sausage, ham, fried shrimp, and barbecue chicken leg quarters, provides another seriously hearty option. The red rice has a spicy tomato sauce and comes served with a blend of veggies like okra, eggplant, and tomatoes, all flavored with onions, pepper, and garlic ($15.95).
Out at Rosebank Farms Café, Chef Chris Hyler says the popular fish and grits dinner is an excellent choice from their menu. "It's killer," Hyler says. "I sell about 20 of them a night." A local 7-oz. flounder gets a dip in Geechie Boy cornmeal before being fried up in a pan and laid over grits made fresh daily with a generous amount of butter and salt. Sautéed shrimp and a homemade pecan pesto deglazed with a bit of white wine finish the plate; fresh chargrilled tomatoes add a pop of color and flavor ($18).
Chef Jason Murphy supper menu at Virginia's on King features a crab-stuffed flounder served with Carolina Gold Rice, broccoli, and a dill beurre blanc ($17.99). The 8-oz. flounder is butterflied and stuffed to the gills with a crab-cake type stuffing. "There's so much crab that it is actually spilling out of the fish," says Murphy. The flounder and crab are cooked together before being plated up with the fresh veggies and rice.