Monday, September 26, 2016

Small Town Indiana Hamburgers

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Indiana


Today's post is a few years in the making. Regular readers know I love checking out the old school Midwest spots and many of the time this means burgers. People on the east and west coasts can claim all they want but if they try and say the burgers are better well you know they haven't explored the Mighty Midwest when it comes to that. No matter which state we're talking about, there's some great burger spots nearby. Today we explore five from Indiana. All of them worth a stop if passing through.
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Hinkle's Hamburgers

This legendary 24 hour (Sat. & Sun.) slider shack has long been on my list and I finally got to cross it off a couple years back. While down in Louisville we went over to Cincinnati for the day thus the chance to stop in for some came. Unfortunately the part of the Ohio River Scenic Byway from Louisville to Madison was pretty boring but the entire drive is something I'd love to take one day as there's certainly no shortage of both Rustbelt cities and historic towns along it. Madison was really pretty but I only got to shoot thru as this was a detour that was already taking longer than anticipated.

Madison, Indiana

Hinkle's is a major part of the town as it's fed a few generations and counting. As the name suggests they serve sandwich classics like grilled cheese and tenderloins and also offer breakfast but it's all about the hamburgers which are served in slider form. I got a seat right at the end of the counter right where the action was taking place so I got to watch the grillman and his partner churn out one after another as orders for them can come by the dozens. It obviously wasn't their first week on the job.

Men at Work

The patties come pre-smashed and lose quite a bit of their size as they cook down. Standard toppings are grilled onions and pickles. Result? Fantastic. As good as I remember Powers Hamburgers over in Fort Wayne to be. Since I was en route to the Queen City I held my order to two which I ended up regretting the rest of the ride there. These have been on my want list ever since that last bite.

 Slider Perfection
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Crimaldi's

Next spot takes a look into old Elkhart. To a time when RV's were all the talk amongst middle aged white men and a young Shawn Kemp was throwing down windmills at Concord High School.

Elkhart, Indiana

Crimaldi's has been around these parts since 1980 though from it's looks it seems much older. That's
because there was a differently named bar in the same spot before Mike Crimaldi took over. On my visit this past Spring there were a few regulars and not much else going on. But the beer was cheap and they're said to make a damn good burger so we decided to stay.

a peek inside

The house-named burger is said to be best in the area so I wanted to give it a try. It's a 1/3 pound patty of fresh grilled locally butchered beef that's topped with griddled ham as well as Italian spices mixed with American cheese on a well toasted bun. An interesting set of toppings that I thought worked well. Certainly better than I remember Heinnie's Backbarn (featured in Hamburger America) to be. Worth a stop if passing thru and aren't vegan and or gluten free.

The Crimaldi Burger
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Leroy's Place

Next stop up takes us to Madison County. This place which now goes by Leroy's has been serving burgers since the 1920's. That according to the menu I read while waiting for my order.

 Elwood, Indiana

The name has changed over time but the way the burgers are prepared remains the same. Smashed balls of beef with onions smashed into them and a couple slices of cheese for max cheesiness. 

 a peek inside

These burgers were a tad bit dry from the smashing but the overall product was still better than 90% of burgers out there. You could really taste the flavors from the grill which has had years of seasoning put into it. You cant open a new spot and mimic these flavors. They take years to achieve.

 Cheeseburger with Grilled Onions

This being Middle Indiana there's also pie. In this case they had some slices of the official state pie of the Hoosier People. Sugar Creme Pie is "a typical dessert of the western European countries of Northern France and Belgium, the Canadian province of Quebec, and Midwestern United States states such as Indiana." I haven't had many pieces of sugar pie but did enjoy this homemade piece after my burger.

 Sugar Creme Pie
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Sandwich Shop 

Next stop up is a place doing the classic style of burger that I love so much. I dont have an exact date on how long this place has been around but the menu says 70+ years in business. I believe it.

 Delphi, Indiana

Located not far from Lafayette, everything about the Sandwich Shop is old school. As soon as you walk in you feel like you've done some time traveling. On my visit on a weekend day the place was packed with families enjoying what must be one of their favorite meals in town. I say that because this is a small town and these burgers are fantastic.

 a peek inside

The old school attitude from here translates to the food and also the prices. A double cheeseburger will set you back just $3.50 and an order of fries is a dollar and change. The latter of which are excellent fresh cut specimens. The burger itself is a classic example of a double cheeseburger. It's everything that made people fall in love with this style of burger. Thin patties supplied fresh from the local butcher that taste like real beef. All in all this is a fantastic little spot worth checking out if in the area and you share a love for burgers.

Double Cheeseburger
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The Lemon Drop

Just last summer I was finally able to pay a visit to a place long on my Roadfood list. Regular readers know I love me some old school hamburgers and this place had been on my radar forever.

Anderson, Indiana

I'd heard of this classic 50's style burger spot straight from the source. Despite it's very popular lemon shake and also the bowl of hard lemon candy at the cash register the place is named after the original owner who's last name was Lemon. He opened the place in 1954 and sold it to the current owner in 1972. Upon entering you get a big whiff of onion and the looks of a place where not much has changed. As you can see on the outside of the building they advertise Toasted Cheeseburgers, OnionBurgers, and of course Tenderloins too. My reason for wanting to try the place has always been for the OnionBurger which would end up being worth the wait.

OnionBurger with Everything

The Hell? What's so onion-y about that you ask? Well not the raw onions that come included when you get everything on one. It might take you until after your first bite to realize that these arent made in the same way Onion Burgers out in Oklahoma are made. Here the onion comes inside the beef. Big deal right, diced onion in beef, lots of people do that. Not quite. This is a thing of beauty.

The inside of the hamburger patty

At the Lemon Drop they take a thinly sliced fully intact onion and mold the ground beef around it. The burger than gets a nice crisp cooking on the flattop while the onion steams away inside. It really is a fantastic old school burger and maybe even good enough to make it into my all time Top 10 in that category. However they might be better served on toast with nothing but cheese.

Onion Burger on Toast

I thought this one was a bit better because it was all about the beef mixed with onion and cheese and when squeezed in-between some toast this is sure to be a good thing. It was better than any grilled cheese I've ever had and comparable to the long gone gyro melt from CND Gyros as far as onion power goes. Seeing as how Anderson is only about 40 minutes Northeast of Indy I will try to get back here when the chance to do so comes again.

Classic Signage
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Hinkle's Sandwich Shop
204 W Main St
Madison, IN 47250
(812) 265-3919

Crimaldi's Restaurant & Lounge
117 W Jackson Blvd
Elkhart, IN 46516
(574) 522-9125

Leroy's Place
1537 S A St
Elwood, IN 46036
(765) 552-9051

Sandwich Shop 
112 E Main St
Delphi, IN 46923
(765) 564-6252

Lemon Drop  
1701 Mounds Rd
Anderson, IN 46016
(765) 644-9055

Friday, September 23, 2016

El Rey Del Pollo Asado

-Grubbing in Chicago (land)
Lake County Favorites

There was a time when I'd find myself in the odd area of Waukegan from time to time. Despite lots of exploring of the area I found it to be somewhat lacking in the food department. While there are a bunch of taqueria's and such, most of them just weren't anything special. With the exception of one spot. El Rey Del Pollo Asado is the kind of place I've long endorsed. A spot that specializes in something and in doing so turns out a real good specialty type product. Here that product is grilled chicken. Housed in an old fast food building this is anything but fast food, though it does come out pretty quick. Due to the fact it's always busy the grilled chicken is pretty much always cooking.

Locals Favorite in Waukegan

Salsa is one of those things you can use to get a good clue on the rest of the food at a Mexican restaurant. In my opinion if the salsa is good, the food will be too. The other way around, not so much. Well it just so happens that El Rey Del Pollo Asado has one of the best salsa bars in all of Chicagoland. It's not as abundant or overwhelming as the selection at Pollo Vagabundo but they make five different salsas fresh each day and they're all fantastic. My go-to's being the extra spicy pico de gallo as well as a creamy guacamole and a deceiving batch of red. I say deceiving on that because it looks like the old school tomato, onion, cilantro based salsa found at many Americanized Mexican restaurants and it is, but it's also an 8/10 on the heat scale so it's not mild by any means.

Salsa Trio

Chicken is the showcase on the menu here. While they do have steak tacos, tortas, and even a carne asada meal, I've never ordered anything but poultry. I knew this spot was legit when I first tried one of their chicken tacos. It's as good as you can make a chicken taco without cheating by frying the meat in pork fat or something like that. Tiny chopped pieces of well charred meat go great with their creamy avocado salsa. This is a chicken taco that's actually worth eating, a rarity indeed.


Recently when I had to go out to the Northshore to get my car fixed I made the decision to drive a loaner up the road and get lunch. It's about a 20 minute drive but that's how much I like this place. I cant go when I'm in the city, too far, but when in Highland Park I'm as close as I'll ever get. So why not? Last trip in I finally tried the chicken quesadilla. If you go during lunchtime hours there's a handful of lunchtime specials. All of them include rice and beans as well as a fountain drink. The ranchero beans are whole pinto beans cooked in broth with onions, peppers, tomato, bacon, wieners, and other fun stuff. Both the beans and the perfectly executed classic Mexican rice recipe are as good as anywhere. Not exactly a reason to jump into your car and take a ride but something you can appreciate when the chance to eat here does come. The quesadillas are better than they have to be. Chopped white meat mixed with diced onion and red bell pepper mixed with cheese. I liked them.

Chicken Quesadillas

Then there's the grilled chicken. The thing about these Mexican grilled chicken spots is the chicken itself is very much the same at most of them. The best indication of a good product in my experience has been the flow of traffic as far as customers. Because of the constant traffic this place gets, there's a drive-thru that's most always in use, the chicken is always grilled fresh. Combine that with the more than fair prices, top of the line sides, and a first rate salsa bar, and you got a pretty great spot. Especially for this neck of the woods where the other options are slim pickings. Still, this place would be wonderful no matter where it was located. The type of spot we all wish we had in our 'hood.

Grilled Chicken Lunch Special

El Rey Del Pollo Asado
505 S Green Bay Rd
Waukegan, IL 60085
(224) 656-5260

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dog Day Afternoon

-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day

While trying to avoid some traffic I made a turn down a residential street and came across a new to me hot dog shop. It caught my eye because it's basically a trailer although it's technically a brick building. This is a piece of old school Chicago. With the recent closing of Sam's Red Hot's in Bucktown, places like Dog Day Afternoon become more rare. Located right on the edge of the city in Elmwood Park it's a popular spot for the neighborhood people to walk over to.

Locals Favorite in Elmwood Park

This is a typical Chicago stye fast food shop. I say that alot and that's because we have alot of places like these. Hot Dogs, Italian Beef, Pizza Puffs, it's all on there. For the purpose of this series I stopped here to document a hot dog. I waited while the guy o=in front of me had his order prepared as he and the guy working had a conversation about the Cubs. It was a classic Chicago exchange with accents and all. The hot dogs here are from Red Hot Chicago which I dont have a problem with so long as they're natural casing. That they are though the fries are frozen. Not bad. I'd go back if I lived down the block.

Hot Dog and Fries 

Dog Day Afternoon
7183 W Armitage Ave
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
(773) 745-7557

Monday, September 12, 2016

SmallFry

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Chi


The stretch of Milwaukee avenue in-between Fullerton and Diversey is seeing some new life. That part of Logan Square is really booming like pretty much everywhere else in the neighborhood. One of the new spots to pop up is a burger and fry joint opened up by a guy with prior experience at spots like Chicago's Dog House and Bohemian House. Adhering to the neighborhood they're bringing a late night eating option of what they call elevated fast food. Burgers, Fries, Chicken Sandwiches etc

 Newly Opened in Logan Square 

SmallFry probably wouldn't be the same if it were in a different neighborhood. What I mean by that is they really took on the feel of a Logan Square eatery and ran with it. They commissioned local artists to put murals up announcing their arrival and then when open they showed off some stuff on the inside. It's a pretty small space but it feels pretty open. there's a couple communal tables and then some seats up against the windows where you can watch hipsters biking by. The hours are late on weekends and they're a byob and I've already seen some locals taking advantage of that fact.

 a peek inside

I've been in a few times and in those visits been able to try all of the basics. The menu is small with one part being the regular everyday menu and another part being what's on special these days. The everyday menu is burgers, fries, and a chicken sandwich. The most interesting part of the menu is the fries section where they have all sorts of special dips and dust to coat your spuds in. Options like cool ranch, umami dust and some others as well as a bunch of aioli dipping sauces. The fries are fresh fried and good though I'd like to see them cooked a bit longer and turn crispier. The burger is crave worthy due to some homemade cheese spread they use that gets nice and potent when melted making for a big cheesy flavor. One worth having now and then when the urge for something cheesy comes calling. The specials menu always looks good from the pics I see on instagram. This is a nice place to have as a neighborhood option for lunch, dinner, and late night snacks. They should fit in well.

Cheeseburger and Fries

SmallFry
2489 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-1365

Monday, September 5, 2016

Eating BIG in Charleston

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
 
- Heavenly Eats in the Holy City

I'd long heard good things about this charming Southern city called Charleston. Then one day in the middle of June 2015 a horrendous act happened and with it many a worm came out of the woodwork. Said worms made me uncomfortable with South Carolina as a whole. Though I knew that neither they nor he represented the state as a whole, I wanted nothing to do with a place that still fly's the flag of a loser. Well eventually that flag came down and most everything went back to as normal as a place with so many scars from it's past can be. I started warming up to the idea of checking it out.

Charleston, SC

We finally did check out Charleston last May having the chance to do so on a return trip from South Florida which I drove down to for the month. Not visiting a place like this would be dumb as there's so many spots that deserve your business. Charleston might have a checkered past but I sincerely felt that this most recent incident made the city even more unified and stronger. It's not the way you want that to happen but I felt it to be alot less segregated than many Midwestern cities. It doesn't mean that much has changed (See Walter Scott) but there's plenty of good going on here as well.

Moment of Silence for the Fallen

The good pretty much starts with the food for those of us that love to eat out. Charleston is one of just a few US cities that can claim it's very own cuisine(s). This alone has long made me intrigued with the city and it's people. To truly experience the city's magical culture you have to check out the Gullah spots that still remain. Gullah Cuisine is the food of the ancestors of people from West Africa brought to Charleston against their will. Stolen for their knowledge of rice preservation in hot and humid areas, these people, like all others, brought their recipes with them. Eventually said recipes were also stolen and came to be identified as Southern cuisine when in fact most all of the food favorites in these parts are linked back to the Gullah people and their culture.

Ravenel Seafood

This was my first planned stop as we were coming into Charleston through the small town the family seafood shack is named after. Ravenel Seafood is run by a family that's fished these parts for a long, long time. Their shops sits about 30 minutes from Charleston and it reminded me alot of Chicago's old time shrimp shacks. Places like Calumet Fisheries and Hagen's. Just different product.

Mural on the Side

They do Gullah style food made on-site as well as fresh seafood you can take home. Small space with maybe three booths and such. I was here for the garlic crabs which I immediately ordered upon entry. As I waited, and then waited some more, I watched as many of locals came in to pick up their phone orders. After what felt like forever I quickly forgot about the wait as soon as the first whiff of garlic crab started rushing my respiratory system. I was officially in Gullah Country.

Garlic Crab

Those that love the garlicky bagged seafood that's taken cities like Chicago by storm will love this dish just as much. Potent amounts of garlic with tons of spices mixed in. All of which goes great with the sweet succulent crab meat awaiting inside each shell. I took some advice and made sure to have a roll of towels and a few waters to wash our hands down. To go with the crab I got an order of red rice which is one of the most common sides in Low Country cuisine. Just like Mexican Rice there's countless recipes for this dish but the basis of it remains the same. Rice, tomatoes, and pork fat. Who cant get down with that? This would be the best version of this dish I tried on the trip.

Red Rice

Helluva first meal and a place I'd highly recommend, you just might want to call your order in ahead. Get what I got and maybe some garlic shrimp to go with it and you should be good. In we rolled to Charleston where it was just about time for Happy Hour, one of our favorite things to do while traveling.

The Darling Oyster Bar

Aside from cocktails, Happy Hours were meant for oysters. Especially in towns where they're abundant. The Darling was said to be a popular HH spot and that it was. Empty early but pretty much packed half-way in. Charleston's space is small and their tourism is big so you can pretty much expect all of the food stops to be popular.

Happy Hour Oysters

I forget where they were from but these HH oysters weren't from SC waters but they were still enjoyed with a few fresh punch of the day's. Being towards the end of May the weather was really heating up and this place made some extra refreshing drinks. They were equally good at frying fries as an order of their spuds was definitely the right call. What I liked most about this spot was the design of the place on the inside. In no way is that a knock against the food I just thought it was as nice of a designed restaurant as any I've drank in.

Fantastic Fries

After some walking around the downtown area it was time for me to refuel. We drove over to Hannibal's which wasn't far at all. This report is all in chronological order so in many cases the places posted before and after each other are relatively close in distance. Though we did have a car so as always I was all over.

Hannibal's Kitchen

Nice mixed crowd here both taking out and eating in. I wasn't expecting it to double as a bar but that's what it did. There's some seats up front by the cooler of booze and where you place/pick up your order and then some dining booths up in front of all that. I really wanted to try the Gullah favorite known as crab rice which is the literal ingredients of this dish. It's just fresh picked meat from local crabs that's heated and thrown over a bunch of white rice. Simply delicious.

Crab Rice

After walking around some more I wanted to get away from the downtown area and eat some seafood somewhere so Roadside Seafood it was. This is a place that's made a common transformation similar to so many other popular dining destinations across the country. It's a food truck turned brick and mortar. Off we rode to James Island for some grub.

Roadside Seafood

Located right off the bridge into town and not far from the water is this extra popular laid back spot. It's all about freshly fried seafood and beer. Their fried shrimp is said to be some of the best in Charleston and that's saying something because they take their fried scrimps in these parts as serious as anywhere. I guess I forgot to snap a pic but the basket of shrimp was fantastic. Some of the best you'll ever have. All locally caught and as sweet as the peaches next door in Georgia. Shark Nuggets (local black tip) are another popular (seasonal) bite and I enjoyed some tacos with those.

Shark Nugget / Fried Shrimp Tacos

That was it for day one. We were pretty full and even more so tired having driven up early morning from South Florida. Rise and Shine. Day two would prove to be equally delicious. I got mine started right away with an early rise and walk over to Callie's for a Hot Little Biscuit.

Callie's Hot Little Biscuit

Hidden amongst some other businesses this is a small space that does most of it's business via takeout. There's a few places to stand and eat but most folks are taking their biscuits to go. The menu is equally small with 3 or 4 biscuits choices changing daily. I got a sausage, egg, pimento cheese because that's what you're supposed to do when you're in South Carolina. Although it's something I only recently (last ten years) started eating I happen to love Pimento cheese and that's probably due to fact I love Merkt's cheese spread. Like a char burger with Merkt's this biscuit was a little bit of a mess to eat but man it was deliciously decadent.

Sausage, Egg, Pimento Cheese

Callie's also has a spot in Atlanta which is the trendy thing to do in the Southern hospitality industry these days. You'll find spots from New Orleans in Nashville, and spots from Charleston in Atlanta and so on. Send some our way! Back to the hotel to pick up the fiance before heading off to a Charleston classic for breakfast.

Hominy Grill

This place is pretty much a planned stop for any first time visitor to Charleston. They'll search for where to find the best shrimp and grits and most results will point back to here. But what made me want to check it out was the fact that it's a weekly stop for many residents of Charleston. It's one of the city's signature restaurants and loved by most everyone.

Comp'd Boiled Peanuts

Complimentary boiled peanuts to start. Something I've liked since first trying them and then became addicted to while spending the previous few weeks down in Florida where they had them at my local gas station. Already starting to feel why people love this place.

Gumbo from the daily specials board

Although I prefer my gumbo made with a deep brown roux this gumbo was still delicious and worth ordering again. The tomato presence made for a Charleston presence as far as style. But what we were really there for are the shrimp and grits. Hominy Grill is most always the answer when one asks "Where can I find the best shrimp and grits in Charleston?" and so it was a no-brainer for a first timer like myself. Best ever? Who knows. Delicious? F-ck yeah. Everything about the product was top shelf from the local ground grits to the local fished shrimp. Plus there was bacon. It might be touristy, but you know what? Pretty much all of Charleston is. There's only so many spots.

House Special Shrimp & Grits

When it comes to good food we're all one in the same. Fans of it. Some of us are bigger devotees than others and will go anywhere to find it. As mentioned I had a car and was willing to go wherever as long as the place had fans. Off to North Charleston for my next stop.

Bertha's Kitchen

Bertha's looks like a mixture of a Northwoods Wisconsin Tavern and a New Orleans Snoball Stand. It sits in an old house and has some pretty vibrant colors. I love that all these Gullah spots give their places a unique feel with art.

Waiting in line for lunch

Bertha's does daily menus and on this day they had everything I wanted to try. Although I think all three of the items I tried might be available daily while some other things are not. I post this picture of the lima beans below knowing that it isn't all that photogenic but to remind me and tip to others that it was one of the best sides dishes I ever had anywhere. Deep smokey flavors with the perfect texture that made them just slide right down like soup. Who doesn't love them some home cookin'?

Lima Beans

I'm guessing most all of it here is good but the two things that I kept seeing mentioned were the fried chicken and okra soup. So those were what I went with and both wound up being delicious. The bird was well seasoned and expertly fried with a still juicy breast which isn't easy to do. Must've been fresh from the fryer because it took some time to cool down. The okra soup was a new one for me and just like so many other soups born out of scraps it was extremely comforting. This is one of those dishes that many in these parts have a recipe for and Bertha's was a winner. It's a dish that's long been synonymous with the city.

Okra Soup with a Side of Fried Chicken

'Let Boston rave on pork and beans
To such a mess I would not stoop;
Gumbo's the dish for New Orleans,
But Charleston murmurs, 'okra soup!'
Charleston News & Courier, Nov. 17, 1914

Charlie Brown's Seafood

Sticking in North Charleston I wandered over to this local seafood shack that Steve Drucker mentions upthread. The pic of the fried crab alone was enough to get me there on top of the fact he said a return visit had happened. I didn't get back but I wish I had. Super friendly people, that know how to fry up some crab! I got three of them and couldn't resist so I tore open the bag and ate them on the hood of the car in the 90 degree heat. Use your teeth to crack the shell and then suck all that juicy sweet crab meat out while some cornmeal crusted slurry falls into your mouth with each bite. What a treat.

Fried Crab

After a walk thru the famous Charleston City Market it was time for some Happy Hour Powered AC. It was a hot ass week and a margarita in a cooled area was what we needed to refresh ourselves.

Minero

Minero is the Mexican inspired restaurant of well known local chef Sean Brock of Husk. It sits on the second floor of a building on Bay street and like pretty much every other chef driven restaurant in town it's beautifully designed. The cocktails are also well crafted. The original house margarita was on happy hour and it was a damn fine representation of the classic. I always try to check out the taco scene of wherever it is that I'm traveling so despite a nice looking menu we were there to taste the tacos.

Fried Catfish / pickled green tomato tartar, cabbage, red onion

Just like they do over at Husk they pretty much work with only the best when it comes to ingredients. They took the tortillas very seriously which in my mind is the first thing you need to do when opening one of these chef driven taco spots. Two types of locally produced corn is used as well as one from Mexico. The Green Chorizo with Potato taco was the best chef driven taco I've ever had. Perfectly constructed and full of true Mexican flavor. I would eat them weekly if I lived anywhere near there. And surprise, surprise, they have a location in Atlanta at the trendy Ponce City Market.

Green Chorizo / potato and grilled onion

After that we started walking down the street and happened to pass a place we hadn't planned on stopping but it was hot and it was Happy Hour so why not.

Amen Street

Lots of tourists, many of them over 50, at this place but they have a great happy hour so I'm guessing there was some locals hidden in there as well. I liked these oysters better as they were Ace Blades from Ace Basin, SC and so we were told they were really good at the moment. I concurred.

Happy Hour Oysters

Back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation before dinner. I wanted to do at least a couple nice dinners out and the options in Charleston are excellent. Usually I'll just browse menus and wait until something catches my eye. That was the case with The Grocery. Not to be confused with The Ordinary which is where we walked to at first. Luckily The Grocery wasn't far.

The Grocery

Lively night but we were able to snag a table via reservation over the phone the day before. Menu is seasonal with New American fare with different Southern Accents. I like eating regionally and when I saw a Low Country Seafood Pilau on the menu I wanted to try it out. Made with Carolina Gold Rice (the best), local shrimp, clams, and fried flounder fish this wasn't cheap ($54) but was enough to feed two. If you like a good paella than you'll enjoy a pan of Pilau because they're pretty similar in preparation though a bit different in seasonings. The Carolina Gold Rice is said to be best used in dishes like Paella and Pilau. All of the seafood was prepared to near perfection. I definitely felt like I picked right on this night.

Low Country Seafood Pilau

Another day complete. At this point I was really starting to embrace Charleston as a whole. The next morning I woke up and took a ride into Mt. Pleasant to take a look around Boone Hall Farms. Definitely worth a stop if you want to bring back some Carolina Gold Rice, Geechie Boy Grits, and other locally produced stuff. Unfortunately breakfast wasn't ready for another half hour so I wasn't able to eat at their cafeteria. Instead I opted for another Mt. Pleasant breakfast favorite.

Page's Okra Grill

Lots of good reviews out there on this place which was in the area so I scooted over for breakfast. Massive space that seemed to be at near capacity. Half the town must've been dining there. I was able to secure a stool at the diner counter and waited around for someone to come and take my order. One of their most popular items ordered is the shrimp and fried grits which is what I went with.

House Baked Biscuit

I chose the biscuit over toast and that should be a no-brainer. This extra fluffy, and extra brittle biscuit was excellent. if I had wanted to make some sort of sandwich out of I would've been SOL but as just a biscuit it was near perfect. When my order of shrimp and grits came out it wasn't exactly what I was expecting as far as looks. I must've mixed up the description bc I thought there would be fried shrimps when instead it was the grits, along with cheese, that came fried on this plate. It was almost like a fried pie as far as texture. I didn't love that part of the dish but the smoked andouille sausage gravy mixed with local scrimps was 100% southern.

Shrimp & Grits

After that I went back into the city and did some walking around of Rainbow Row which is a street on the water with lots of colorful, million dollar homes. After that it was off for a snack.

Dave's Carry-Out

More times than not a quick snack in Charleston is an order of fried shrimps. Dave's was on my radar long before I knew I was coming here so I made sure to clear some time for a stop. This place is a fan favorite for it's fried seafood and soul food takeout. Not much on the inside. Just one table though the hosts are as friendly as any. Some regulars were mixing it up with those behind the counter and Game 1 of the NBA Finals had been the discussion. I saw they had lima beans on the soul food sides menu and made sure to get an order.

Lima Beans

Again, not pretty, but oh so good. My favorite side on offer at most all of the Gullah joints. The customers talking to the friendly lady behind the counter basically wrote off the Cavs claiming LeBron was done. The lady who I believe said she was the widow of Dave told them "LeBron aint losing again" with so much conviction I should've known to place a call and make a wager. She knew what she was talking about. She also knew how to fry all sorts of love into some locally caught scrimps. Slightly salty but the sweetness of the shrimp still overpowered everything else.

Fried Scrimps over Red Rice

Seeing as how there was a small amount of people outside when driving by 167 Raw we decided to have the second part of our lunch there. The Cape Cod style seafood bar has a location here and also one in Nantucket. At the time of our visit this was the city's most popular dinning spot. Most all of our bartenders rec'd it and it always had people waiting outside.

167 Raw

Small Space so seating is at a premium. I'd guess they can sit about 40 max between inside and out. Seats in the AC were at a premium but seats outside could be had right then and there. So we ate in the sun. Tuna Burger and a Taco of the Day were both good but not anything I would feel an absolute need to return and wait in line for. But if you can get seated right away there's some good stuff going on here. Not cheap but fresh seafood rarely is.

Tuna Burger / Taco of the Day

Seeing as how it was our last day in town I needed to make sure I got all my must stops out of the way. After some more exploring of the city I rode over to Nana's for some seafood and soul.

Nana's Seafood and Soul

Most of these Gullah joints do most of their business via takeout. I think this spot had one or two tables but I was just going to nibble on some food so I took it to go. What was supposed to be a nibble or two turned into an all out feast. The days menu didn't feature the legendary garlic crab many of their customers swear by but that might've been a blessing bc instead I got what ended up being the best damn fried pork chops that money can buy.

Fried Pork Chops

These were super. The coating was heavily spiced, just right, and full of crunch. Yet the meat was somehow juicy and as tender as a pork chop can be. As addicting as each bite was the sides might've been better. I opted for the Low Country classic Rice and Peas dish that goes by Hoppin' John and with that some hot cabbage and a piece of corn bread. I'll tell you what. There's alot of chefs out there that are trying to bring certain food cultures into the mainstream scene but none of them are f-cking with this. I dont care what culinary school you went to or who they worked under. None of them are recreating this. It's not possible. These recipes are all in the family and took generations to perfect. A visit to Charleston with your sous chef just isn't going to do it.

Hoppin' John, Cabbage, Corn Bread

All full from food we took a stroll around town and stopped into some shops before the lady decided she wanted to relax for a little bit. That left me to do as I please and since I'd wanted to check out Jack's Cosmic Dogs I decided to do so.

Jack's Cosmic Dogs 

This is a colorful little hot dog stand owned by a guy who obviously takes great pride in his craft. It's kind of like a Southern style Hot Doug's I guess. Alton Brown of Food Network Fame put this place on the worldwide food radar when he named the Cosmic Dog the "best thing he ever ate". It was for a show so I know it was a shout-out to one of his many favorites but I was intrigued to try one for myself. First up an order of perfectly done fries.


Fresh Cut Fries

The Cosmic Dog isn't the first one listed but it is their most well known. Alton Brown isn't their only fan as this place is continuously mentioned for best hot dog in the city. I dont love blue cheese unless it's with buffalo sauce so I wasn't sure how I'd like the blue cheese slaw topped dog but it was damn good. Quality wiener and the slaw worked well with it.


The Cosmic Dog 

Well it's about that time. Happy Hour. We rode over to Edmund's Oast as I wanted to check out their beer scene. They brew quite a few beers on-site and stock those next to some international options.

Edmund's Oast

I'm not a big beer geek. I just like a good product. While I cant remember which two house brewed beers I tried they were both very strong yet also refreshing. Even better was this little potato, bacon appetizer off the happy hour menu. We didn't get to check out the dinner menu but this is a place I'd put on my return list.

Happy Hour Food & Drink

Onto the next HH. We walked by 492 when strolling down King street. I had remembered seeing their special color changing drink and decided to stop in. Like every other bar/restaurant in town this place was really well designed. It was a great space and the Happy Hour menu was calling our name.

492

The menu here is seasonal New American but nothing really stood out to me so we stuck with Happy Hour offerings. The signature drink here is a Pisco Sour that changes colors as you drink it. That's done using butterfly pea flower that's frozen into the ice used in the drink. As it melts the drink changes colors. Not bad actually even if a tad bit sweet.

Disco Sour

They love pickling stuff in these parts and they also like to fry stuff up. So it's no surprise that they like to fry pickled vegetables. Okra gets a bad rap for often being too slimy, and sometimes it is, but pickling okra and preceding to fry it is delicious as I learned from a nice plate off the HH menu.

Fried Pickled Okra

I wanted to do dinner/sunset at an old SC favorite. Bowens Island is a somewhat off the beaten path place where many folks from around this way have celebrated one thing or another. It has that signature feel of a classic seafood restaurant nestled on the shores of the ocean. This place is all about the immediate surroundings. The restaurant itself has the feel of the cafeteria at a camp in the Northwoods.

Bowens Island Restaurant 

You walk up and place your order and then they come find you when it's ready. There's seating throughout the building and if it's a weekend you can bet most of it will be taken. Which just makes the fact they can find you so impressive. We took some seats on the deck overlooking the river that leads into the ocean. The menu features mostly fried seafood and fresh local steamed oysters when in-season.

Mountain of Oyster Shells overlooking a Sunset

The fried shrimp is supposed to be fantastic but I was there to try a signature SC dish. Frogmore Stew is what they call a Low Country Boil in these parts. It's a simple one pot seafood dinner that's made with shrimp since that's whats abundant in these parts. Add some potato, corn, and lots of seasoning and you got yourself dinner. The shrimp is obviously the star.

Frogmore Stew

I didn't get any of the highly praised fried shrimp at Bowen's Island as we had plans for a meal later that evening once the sun went down. FIG is considered Charleston's original farm to table spot. It's a place that has to be given some credit as far as the city's fine dining boom of the last decade. They've been around here since 2006.

FIG

FIG stands for 'Food is Good' and if all I said was the food here was good I'd probably being selling it short so instead I'll say it's really good. I'm not uncovering any type of gem with this once as FIG is a place many people in search of good meal make it into. The menu is seasonal but one thing that most always remains on it is the signature dish of Ricotta Gnocchi and Lamb Bolognese.

Ricotta Gnocchi and Lamb Bolognese

I would say that this dish is a must order for any first time visitor such as myself. Everything was above average from the pasta to the sauce. A candidate for one of the best things ate on this trip. No longer on the menu is a zucchini pasta that we decided to order after tasting how good the previous pasta dish was. Once again we were pleased with the product.

Zucchini Pasta

That was it for our final full day in town. It was time to head back to the hotel and prepare for the push back to Chicago the following day. But not before I crossed off a few more spots. Early morning on our day of departure we got up and walked the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The 8 lane cable-stayed bridge with twp diamond towers was opened in 2005 and it crosses over the Cooper River, connecting downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant, SC. The views are post card material and the structure itself is proof we can still build beautiful things here in America.

Crossing over Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

While riding back to the hotel (there's free parking for the bridge on the Mt. Pleasant side). I happened to pass a "farmers market" unlike most others. I saw a sign directing to turn into the lot for fresh caught shrimp directly from the source. Seeing as how I had a cooler and we'd be in Chicago the next day I immediately made the decision to bring some Carolina White back home with me.

Saturday Morning Shrimp Market

They had about four different guys selling shrimp caught that morning. All of them from families who've shrimped these waters for at least a couple generations. These really were some of the best shrimp I've ever cooked with. The next two days at home were fantastic as far as dinner goes. I think jumbos without the head were running around $8/lb with the head on's being even cheaper. Time to visit a legend.

Martha Lou's Kitchen

Seeing as how Charleston is the Holy City lot's of these spots are closed on Sunday's including Martha Lou's. So make sure you get here before your last day other wise you're out of luck. Most everyone knows the story by now, if not here's the quick rundown. This local treasure was said to be close to closing for good before local chef Sean Brock gave it a ringing endorsement and tourists started flocking here. On my visit it was empty when we got there (around opening) but while waiting for my order it became fully packed. Pretty sure every table was tourists but it was an eclectic mix of people. Old, young. Black, white. Everyone wants a taste of Martha Lou's.

Giblet Rice, Lima Beans, Collard Greens

I got the fried chicken dinner (served with three sides) which is on the daily menu each and everyday. If you've never been here before that's what you're here for. Everything about this was phenomenal. The sides were all seasoned in a way only those from down here know how to do while the fried bird itself was some of the best I ever had in that department. Top 5 All-Time in my Fried Chicken Game. She gave it the rarely applied two thumbs up as in lets get another order. We both thought it was that good. Call your order in ahead of time if in a rush as they fry to order. On this day Martha Lou's was magnificent.

Poultry Gold

On the way out of town we decided we'd try a chicken sandwich spot that I showed her. Boxcar Betty's has two locations and they serve aforementioned chicken sandwiches with southern style sides.

Boxcar Betty's

We got the namesake fried chicken sandwich and a side of fried pickles to go with it. I thought the toppings on this distracted from the chicken itself and the bun wasn't as soft as I would've liked. I guess in this case the fruity slaw was more of a distraction than it was at Jack's Cosmic Dogs. The side of fried pickles were exactly the way I like them.

Boxcar Betty Chicken Sandwich (Pimiento Cheese, Peach Slaw, House Pickles, Spicy Mayo) with a Side of Fried Pickles

Near Boxcar Betty's was a Snoball stand and it seemed like the right thing to do. I'll always be down for a frozen treat when the weather is hot and humid. Good stop if you got kids but nothing like those in New Orleans.

Pelican's Snoball Stand

Final Stop! I dont even know if this was on the way out or not but I wanted some scrimps for the road. The original plan was to stop here on the way in but our order at the first stop took so long we decided just to get into town as opposed to further delaying our arrival. That said they didn't have ant soft shells when I called upon arriving but they did on this day when we were leaving.

Fishnet Seafood 

Located in the town of Johns Island this is a local seafood spot where they fry to order or sell it to you fresh. Lots of nice stuff behind the glass but nothing more beautiful than the live soft shell crab. Despite it being the season we didn't see much of it on any menus so i was happy to see it here. They removed the eyes as the poor guy was alive and then dropped him in their seasoning coat and threw him into the deep fryer. He died for a good cause. A little hot sauce and some cheap white bread and you got as fantastic sandwich.

Fresh Soft Shell Crab

The fried shrimps were just as good. Probably the best I had on this trip and thus some of the best ever. Hard to think of many spots that fry up scrimps in the same league as Charleston. I pity those with a shellfish allergy.

Fried Shrimps and Red Rice

So I'm happy to say that despite some negative outside perceptions, Charleston is a true All American history, and that means there's both some good and bad. But the good far outweighs the bad these days. Just don't forget to pay your respects to those that paved the way as far as the local cuisine goes.

See ya next time...
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Ravenel Seafood
5925 Savannah Hwy
Ravenel, SC 29470
(843) 889-9500

The Darling Oyster Bar
513 King St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 641-0821

Hannibal's Kitchen
16 Blake St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 722-2256

Roadside Seafood
807 Folly Rd
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 754-5890

Callie's Hot Little Biscuit
476 King St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 737-5159

Hominy Grill
207 Rutledge Ave
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 937-0930

Bertha's Kitchen
2332 Meeting Street Rd
Charleston, SC 29405
(843) 554-6519

Charlie Brown's Seafood
4726 Rivers Ave
North Charleston, SC 29405
(843) 747-1999

Minero
153 E Bay St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 789-2241

Amen Street
Rainbow Market, 205 E Bay St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 853-8600

The Grocery
4 Cannon St
Charleston, SC
(843) 302-8825

Page's Okra Grill
302 Coleman Blvd
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
(843) 881-3333

Dave's Carry-Out
42 Morris St # C
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 577-7943

167 Raw
289 E Bay St
Charleston, SC
(843) 579-4997

Nana's Seafood and Soul
176 Line St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 937-0002

Jack's Cosmic Dogs
2805 N Hwy 17
Mt Pleasant, SC 29466
(843) 884-7677

Edmund's Oast
1081 Morrison Dr
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 727-1145

492
492 King St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 203-6338

Bowens Island Restaurant
1870 Bowens Island Rd
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 795-2757

FIG
232 Meeting St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 805-5900

Martha Lou's Kitchen
1068 Morrison Dr
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 577-9583

Boxcar Betty's
1922 Savannah Hwy
Charleston, SC 29407
(843) 225-7470

Pelican's SnoBalls
1723 Ashley River Rd
Charleston, SC 29407
(843) 291-7343

Fishnet Seafood
3832 Savannah Hwy
Johns Island, SC 29455
(843) 571-2423

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