Across Charleston, bowlfuls of shrimp-and-grits often come saturated with scads of butter and a heap of heavy cream. But the locally-traditional version of the breakfast dish is made with brown gravy, a custom Orrin Mallard upholds at his new seafood take-out in North Charleston.
Mallard maintains he’s selling one of the county’s best she crab soups at Shipwreck Seafood, which opened just before Thanksgiving. It’s possible: I missed the soup on my visit. But I was very impressed by the shrimp and grits, featuring thick, rich gravy; fat, sweet shrimp and bits of sausage, all layered over a canvas of coarse yellow grits.
“I make my gravy from scratch,” Mallard says, adding customers have traveled to his seafood counter from as far away as Columbia and Beaufort: “They don’t have shrimp and grits up there.”
Other items on the menu include blackened catfish; deviled crab; po-boys and fried flounder, oysters, shrimp and scallops. Mallard is purchasing his seafood from Crosby’s, and says he’s using local product whenever possible.
Now 35, Mallard has been working in restaurants since he was 14: He started his career as a dishwasher, and last worked at the Crowne Plaza hotel near the airport.
“The pilots from Southwest would come in and ask for me,” he says.
Despite the years spent at the Noisy Oyster and Sunfire Grill & Bistro, Mallard says much of his kitchen training came from his grandmother.
Because he’s slowly building up his business, Mallard hasn’t yet acquired a permanent sign. The restaurant is also operating without any tables and chairs.
“A lot of people come in expecting to eat here and they’re like, ‘oh man,’,” Mallard says. “But they still leave happy.”
Shipwreck Seafood is located at 5117 Dorchester Road, Unit D. The restaurant is open Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information or to place an order – “call ahead for faster service: food is cooked to order,” the menu advises -- call 724-9259.