One of the constants of my life is my affinity for fried shrimp. It’s one of the first meals I can remember eating out as a child, and although my tastes have wildly expanded since then — I love beef tartare and soba noodles with abandon — there always comes a time when I say, “I’m craving fried shrimp.” Despite our local, beautiful, fresh, sweet South Carolina shrimp in abundance during the season, when that craving hits, I used to have to scour my brain for a good fried shrimp fix. So I started making a list a while back. Now I share it with you.
Feel free to add to it with some of your own, granted the spot’s fried shrimp meet the following requirements: shrimp must be sweet and plump, lightly breaded, flash fried, and served hot. Size doesn’t matter, and sides don’t matter, although if there are fresh french fries, that’s always a bonus. Don’t go for too greasy, don’t let them sit and get cold, and whatever you do, don’t warm them up as leftovers. There is no other time than the present for a plate of fried shrimp.
Dave’s Carry Out
42 Morris St. #C
This carryout locale does have a couple of tables, but it isn’t the place to bring your party of eight for a night out. It is, however, a place that holds a special spot in the hearts of those who visit, not only for its food hot out of the fryer, but for the love in which it’s dispersed. The last time I visited here for a Styrofoam container of goodness, I not only got fresh, lightly breaded shrimp, but a side of “How’s your momma doing?” to go along with it. It doesn’t get more Southern than that.
10 Hayne St.
Hank’s Seafood doesn’t need to see itself on any hot lists to still be crowded every night. That’s because the people that know, know that Hank’s has consistently good food and a good, fun crowd (especially if you sit at the bar) to go along with it. Although there’s a lot of hubbub about the crab cakes or other Lowcountry classics, don’t let that stop you from also ordering the fried shrimp. Served tails on, the breading is light and flavorful but delicate enough to let the sweet shrimp flavor shine through.
1219 Savannah Highway
The chalkboard reigns here since everything is always rotating at Chris Stewart’s restaurant, but if you see fried shrimp on the menu, snap it up. Stewart is an avid fisherman and whiz with the cast net, so he knows fresh shrimp (though he’s catching them for his family, not the restaurant). He also knows what to do with them to make them the star of the plate, and when it comes to frying them, it means hot oil, light dredge, and quick to your table.
807 Folly Road
This isn’t the first time that Roadside has shown up on The Lowdown list, but I actually paused before including it again since I have such a hard time getting a table these days at the James Island restaurant. However, writing about fried shrimp and not including Roadside would be a seafood sin; it’s Southern cooking done right with the sweetest small to medium shrimp served sans tails, but hot out of the fryer and so delicious, I eschew a dip in tartar or cocktail sauce.
Blackbird Farms & Market
1808 Bohicket Road, Johns Island
I’m bookmarking this list with another carry-out (well, mostly) place, this one on Johns Island. This market uses local shrimp whenever they’re available, and the portions are generous, the breading light, and there’s an added bonus of being able to shop local for all kinds of other goodies as well while you wait for your order. If the scent of your fresh fried shrimp is too much to make it all the way home, there are a few covered picnic tables outside where you can eat.