Q: I have a dear friend who will be visiting Myrtle Beach next month. She won't have time to visit Charleston, and I won’t be able to go to Myrtle Beach. Where is the best place to have lunch in Georgetown?
A: When this question first arrived in my inbox, I didn’t have a clue how to answer it. So I took a trip to Georgetown.
It was a day trip, I should add. I’m sure there are plenty of restaurants serving more elaborate dinner entrees, but I was narrowly focused on lunch (which may have been for the best. I overheard a man seated at one of the alfresco dining spots along Front Street ask his server for a steak. “Cooked well,” she said confidently. He managed to talk her into medium-well.)
And because I didn’t stay for multiple days, I missed out on restaurants with schedules that didn’t coincide with mine: I’ve heard good things about Alfresco’s Taqueria, but now know you shouldn’t go to Georgetown on a Tuesday if you’re after chilaquiles.
So I’m looking forward to hearing from readers about other Georgetown restaurants to try on my next visit. In the meantime, though, two standouts emerged from my sampling tour around town. So long as you’re OK with a casual setting, either of these women-owned restaurants would make an ideal backdrop for a reunion with your friend:
The most reliable indicator that a restaurant owner isn’t fibbing when she says everything is made from scratch is her willingness to disclose what’s store-bought. “I pretty much do about everything except the clam chowder,” Deborah Scott of Deborah’s Kitchen volunteered when I complimented her meatloaf. “I can buy it better.”
Clam chowder is served on Fridays, along with fish. The 18-year-old restaurant sticks to a weekly schedule that features pork chops on Wednesday (fried one week, and then prepared barbecue-style the next.)
Fried chicken is always on the buffet, which is dominated by homey renditions of Southern vegetables. The selection when I visited included stewed tomatoes; resoundingly bitter greens, shredded and simmered; taut lima beans and mac-and-cheese that benefited from the same broiler know-how that put a perfect crust atop the fantastic meatloaf. For dessert, there’s peach cobbler.
What passes for decor at Deborah’s are plaques honoring the fraternal groups that meet at the restaurant, plus the American flag they salute. The low-slung building’s exterior is similarly unadorned; save for a neon “restaurant” sign that was unlit when I arrived. Apparently would-be customers often mistake the restaurant for closed: I’m beseeching you to press ahead. (Deborah’s Kitchen, 1926 S. Island Rd., Georgetown; 843-545-5548; 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday)
Eve’s Caribbean Soul Food is a much newer addition to the Georgetown lunch scene. Eve Knowlin opened the counter-service restaurant two years ago, earning instant acclaim for her oxtails and ginger tea. “They buy it by the gallon,” she told me.
Charleston has its share of Caribbean restaurants but nothing quite like Eve’s, which melds the dishes that Knowlin knew as a girl in Sampit, S.C., with dishes she learned to make after moving to New York and marrying a West Indian man. The seasonings don’t cross (although a lifetime knowledge of rice informs Knowlin’s terrific peas-and-rice), but the daily menu draws from both traditions.
For example, the side dishes I was offered to accompany my vibrant goat curry included mac-and-cheese, potato salad and collards. Not yet aware of the restaurant’s back story, I instead ordered the steamed cabbage-and-carrots. Later, when I found out that Knowlin previously owned a Southern restaurant in Andrews, I told her I should have tried the potato salad. She laughed in a way that signaled I was right. (Eve’s Caribbean Soul Food, 1171 N. Fraser St., Georgetown; 843-325-2725; evessoulfood.com; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday)