Hasell and Meeting streets
Today: Sticky Fingers Ribhouse
Yesterday: Lemon’s Restaurant, 1873-1879
On the menu: Green turtle soup (Oct. 25, 1875)
At Lemon’s, the bottled beer came from Vienna, and the oysters came from Bull’s Bay.
Very little is known about Lemon’s Restaurant, including the name of the saloon’s proprietor. But in the mid-1870s, he (presumably) “wanted everybody to know the place to get Bull’s Bay Oysters is at Lemon’s,” according to newspaper ads. He also “wanted everybody to know that (Lemon’s) receives fresh oysters every day.”
Lemon’s started plating oyster soup daily at 11 a.m., but its shucker arrived hours earlier to fulfill orders from customers who weren’t much for a proper lunch. They apparently had quality standards for their oysters, though, since Bull’s Bay was long considered the leading name in local shellfish.
“Up goes the fork,” when a tray of Bull’s Bay oysters arrives, The Evening Post noted in 1905. “It lingers in the air. The eye of the fortunate mortal is feasting on the symmetry of the Bull’s Bay oyster … it is the overwhelming sense of pleasure that the nostril is gathering.”
In 1887, a few years after Lemon’s served its final oyster, a group of civic leaders banded together to form the Bull’s Bay Oyster Company. The firm’s creation was hailed by The News and Courier as proof that “life and energy is stirring in every part of South Carolina,” which was on shaky economic footing after the Civil War. The company’s purchase of a steamer was considered as promising a sign of recovery as the opening of a broom factory in Bishopville and a shirt collar manufactory on Meeting Street.
Bull’s Bay Oyster Company experimented with salting shrimp and shipping them north, “but they are not to have believed to have been very successful,” the paper reported sadly. Yet within a year of its founding, the Magwood-helmed operation had planted 35,000 oysters behind Shark and Moon banks.
There still are Magwoods in the area’s seafood industry. But Bull’s Bay Oyster Company was forced to sell off its oyster land holdings at the turn of the century, spelling the end for a branded version of the product that was once the lifeblood of Lemon’s.
— Hanna Raskin