With all the hubbub and the people such as myself that do what I do, it can be easy to see downtown Charleston as the epicenter of Lowcountry eating. And it is. But whether you’re exploring the area on a day trip or live somewhere where you don’t always want “to go into town to eat,” there are other options beyond the peninsula. In these outlying areas, navigating beyond the chains or fast food can be tiring, so here are five local options to visit in the ‘burbs, no Yelp reading required.
1. Old Firehouse Restaurant
6350 SC-162, Hollywood
If you’re like many in Charleston, sometimes a day trip to Edisto Island is in order. If so, bring a change of clothes beyond the bathing suit and hit the Old Firehouse Restaurant in Hollywood on the road back. They’re only open for dinner, and these days they’re all about the specials, which include variations on pork chops, fresh seafood, and nightly pizzas (including a Lowcountry boil pizza with shrimp and sausage).
2. Carmen y Juan’s
1118 Park West Blvd., Mount Pleasant
Admit it, we’ve all said something before like “Well, (restaurant name) is good for (peninsula suburb).” That’s not the case for Carmen Y Juan’s — it’s just good, no matter the location. Fresh ingredients, thoughtful preparations, and layering of flavors have provided the neighboring community of Park West a real neighborhood gem, and the rest of us a comforting bowl of posole once we arrive.
3. Tomato Shed
842 Main Road, Johns Island
Maybe I’m technically cheating a bit here with this entry (let’s keep 526 off Johns, OK), but the Tomato Shed Cafe at the Stono Market is good stuff. If they have tomato pie, then that is essential for your order, but if not, there’s still plenty to satisfy a wide range of tastes, from fresh salads to entrees such as crab cakes or Greek Pork Loin. It reminds me a bit of a menu from my Southern childhood, so thus I have to get the Waldorf Apple Salad.
4. Jack's Cosmic Dogs
2805 Highway 17 North, Mount Pleasant
Sure it’s been on plenty of lists, but since a lot of you have moved here since it first opened, a re-recommendation is in order. To me, this is the perfect late lunch with a group of out-of-towners after exploring the Charles Pinckney historic site or coming off the beach at Isle of Palms. It’s kitschy, fun for a variety of ages, and of course, there are the hot dogs. Then there are the hot dog toppings, with the top two on the list being their blue cheese slaw and sweet potato mustard. It’s hard to choose, but you’ll probably have a bit of standing in line to make up your mind.
5. Nigel’s Good Food
3760 Ashley Phosphate Road, North Charleston
I feel the best way to recommend Nigel’s is by a list: wings, mac and cheese, salmon and grits, fried cabbage. Don’t go for Sunday lunch because they aren’t open, but definitely go to enjoy a Charleston native’s take on his home kitchen. Nigel Drayton labored for years in the kitchens of other restaurants in town, and Nigel’s Good Food is his food, his way.
Stephanie Burt grew up in Charlotte on good Southern cooking and lots of books. She received both her BA and MA in English from UNC Charlotte and was a former instructor of English and American Studies there. She has made Charleston her home since 2005. She is the host of The Southern Fork, http://thesouthernfork.com, a weekly podcast of culinary conversations with a Southern twist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.