Restaurant Review: SeeWee Restaurant's comfort food in Awendaw
SeeWee Restaurant is the kind of place that Jane and Michael Stern (authors of "Roadfood") would call a "surprise by the side of the road."
Its exterior wears the patina of its coastal address; a large sign proclaims "Fresh Seafood" and "Good Home Cooking" and a marquee that tells of local music gigs and special events.
The interior of the building, which began its life as a general store in the 1920s, has preserved the shelving and the rambling nature of such an enterprise.
The reclaimed, the salvaged and the weathered have all found a home at this restaurant that takes its name from a Native American Indian tribe that inhabited the area nearly 400 years ago.
Authentic and organic
SeeWee sprawls through two dining rooms, as well as a screened porch and an exterior patio with a sturdy brick fire pit.
Rustic furniture and an eclectic assembly of chairs and tables are united by plastic-coated tablecloths looking more like coastal New England than Lowcountry Carolina, but we won't quibble. The look feels authentic and organic, not theme park.
Servers are quick to bring you a basket of fresh-from-the-fryer hush puppies.
Restrain yourself from devouring these light, hot nuggets of sweet corn happiness. Dinner and dessert await.
A specials board will apprise you of the day's catch, along with additional vegetables, appetizers, entrees and desserts.
Seafood is the star of the show. It can be had breaded and fried, or grilled with Jamaican jerk spice, blackened or "SeeWee" style. (Old Bay Seasoning, lemon, garlic and sherry.)
Take your pick from more than 20 vegetables ($1.95), as most dishes come with three sides.
These are old-timey cooking methods allowing taut collard greens to cook into submissive slippery slivers of earthy goodness; butter beans simmered until their plump insides are released by the jackets of tender skin; red rice plumped with the juice of tomatoes bronzing every kernel.
The gravy on the mashed potatoes looked a little glue-like and the "mac-n-cheese" was on the dry side, but if you were raised up on the low and slow method of vegetable cookery, here you will find your taste memory.
It is in the art of frying that the kitchen shows its true colors. Oysters ($8.95) are fried crisp, yet take a bite and their briny liquor floods your mouth.
Soft-shell crabs ($10.95) still smelled of their sea home and the freshness of their flesh was sealed with the crackle of a gentle batter and well-timed fry.
A combination platter of shrimp and flounder ($17.95) shored up the kitchen's skills, managing to keep seafood tender while jacketing them in a thin film of batter.
Carnivores will find chicken-fried steak ($10.95), pork chops (2 for $11.95), chicken livers ($8.95) and grilled ham steak ($8.95).
Seniors and youngsters will find a value-priced menu ($4.95-$8.95).
The daily specials are where to look: local clams and crab, mahi-mahi from Florida, local zucchini, new potatoes. Let that white dry-erase board be your beacon for the days eats, and especially the day's sweets ($4.95).
The dessert menu is extensive: cakes, pies, cobblers and banana and bread puddings.
We just asked our server what to order for dessert.
Her response: key lime pie.
Why? She told us she had made it that morning at 7:30 a.m. and she made it "with love."
You could taste her sweet embrace from a graham cracker crust to the sweet-tart filling of key lime custard with nary a bit of gelatin. She was right.
Servers were friendly, and SeeWee they take care of everybody. That system worked well on a busy summer evening. You will receive no check: Just go to the register, tell them your table number and ante up a modest charge.
SeeWee is no shrine to Southern foodways. But it is good, real cooking, and if that's what you seek, the food will not disappoint.
Reach Deidre Schipani at firstname.lastname@example.org.