Eleven years after being forced out of business by the lethal trinity of health problems, declining customer traffic and a rent hike, soul food legend Alice Warren has opened a restaurant in North Charleston.
My Three Sons, 1910 E. Montague, is named for the progeny of Warren's longtime kitchen accomplice, Lorraine Smalls. "We brought everything over here," Warren says of her crew and menu, familiar to many Charlestonians from her days at 486 King St.
"We've got the baked chicken, fried pork chop, okra soup, mac-and-cheese, everything," says Warren, who's also serving her distinctive deviled crab, a peppery seafood zeppelin with a pastry-like crust surrounding the stuffing and foil shell in which it's seated.
Since opening two weeks ago, the restaurant has been welcomed many of Warren's loyal fans. "It's been doing pretty good," she says.
BJ Dennis, a chef dedicated to upholding the area's culinary traditions, remembers the diverse crowd that Warren drew to her King Street restaurant. "On any Sunday, you could walk in and see the mayor with his family; at another table, a family from North Charleston," he wrote on Instagram. "City council members; working-class folks; "Charleston elite" black and white: All at her establishment at any given time."
According to a recent profile in The Charleston Chronicle, Warren started cooking professionally in 1967. She ran the kitchen at The Ladson House on President Street until 1983, when owner Edward Ladson bequeathed the restaurant to her. She kept up The Ladson House for another two years, and in 1987 opened Alice's Fine Cooking at the corner of King and Cleveland streets. The restaurant was wrecked by Hurricane Hugo, but Warren managed to reopen in 1990. She relocated to 486 King St. in 1994, closing in 2003.
Warren spent most of the 2000s dealing with various health crises, including a three-month spell of blindness. By last year, though, she was well enough to return to restaurant work; she took a job cooking at Ike's Hot Chicken, Fish and Gullah Food, which shuttered in September. Gullah Cuisine in Mt. Pleasant also closed this fall, further depleting the local dining scene of the seafood rice, fried fish and greens that define Lowcountry cooking.
All of those items are available at My Three Sons, along with smothered shrimp, broiled oysters, turkey wings, fried gizzards, lima beans and bread pudding.
"It's ours," Warren says. "Everybody worked hard to put it together."
The restaurant is open Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 12 noon-6 p.m. For more information, call 202-0189.