In honor of Bowens Island and The Anchor Line, we put together this list of the best fried seafood left in town. In a health-obsessed yet overly obese society, these places represent a dying art -- big, fat, fresh seafood, battered, dipped, and dropped into hot, bubbling oil until lusciously brown. These are the real places, overflowing with greasy goodness and heart disease. Big hearty portions and that indescribable smell drift from the doorways at all hours of the day and night. Bowens may be slowly rebuilding, but these guys will help you get your fried seafood fix -- alongside red rice, collards, and fried chicken -- until seafood nirvana returns.
West Ashley. 3832 Savannah Hwy.
Lunch and Dinner
There is fried seafood and then there is Fishnet fried seafood. This run-down little shack next to the Dodge's Fried Chicken gas station down in Red Top serves up some of the tastiest (and freshest), rib-sticking, fried grub in the entire Lowcountry. They slap that seafood with a side of religion, offering "Jesus Crabs" rather than "Deviled Crabs" and a room full of inspirational messages, but we go mostly for the soft-shells. Get there in season and they will cut the eyes off a live crab and plunk him down in the grease right before your eyes. Two pieces of white bread later and you'll swear you're in heaven.
Downtown. 42-C Morris St.
Lunch, Dinner, and Late Night
Dave's constitutes the original late night 'hood location for grease bombs and flying bullets. Tucked way up in the emerging fringe among college flats and a gentrified landscape, they pump out a splendid array of breaded items from both surf and turf. Perhaps the ultimate catch is the hot and spicy fried pork chop sandwich -- because when your pork chop sandwich has a bone hanging out the side, you've found the right spot.
Downtown. 16 Blake St.
Dinner (closed Sun.)
Hannibal's rules the Eastside soul food scene, producing a steady lunch crowd just behind the Trident Tech campus. It is true soul, pushing the envelope, so to speak, with new-age Lowcountry versions of fried chicken wings and fried rice indicative of changing tastes among the clientele. On weekends they offer an abbreviated menu of local favorites, and the fried fish sandwich should not be missed.
Seel's Fish Camp
Mt. Pleasant. 536 Belle Station Blvd. 856-8545
Lunch and Dinner
A newcomer on the block with a noticeable "new car smell," this Mt. Pleasant original should weather just fine in the coming years. They put out an impressive array of solid grub in the form of crawfish, catfish, shrimp, and oysters in several preparations. They also have some fine soups and the best collard greens east of the Cooper.
The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene
Mt. Pleasant. 106 Haddrell St. 884-0052
Welcome to some of the finest platters of fried seafood in the greater Charleston area. The Wreck has the crispy crunch, the impossible-to-find location, that authentic shabby milieu, and the tattered shrimp boat just off the creekside rail. You go to "The Wreck" for one thing only -- the best deep-fried platters in town (they serve other stuff, but who orders that?). They've been doing seafood since Hurricane Hugo grounded the eponymous trawler on the site and they've been doing it well. The actual shipwreck is long gone, but the remembrance lives on at the end of the world along Shem Creek. We keep worrying that the shrimpers will disappear, and along with them, The Wreck, victims of another gentrifying condo project. Until that day, you can bet that the fryers will be hot, dispensing shrimp, scallops, oysters, flounder, and other local fish. Get good directions before you go; we still get lost trying to find the place in the dark.