It was a bleak and dreary rainy afternoon, perfect for an oyster roast at Bowen’s Island. For some reason, grey skies pair nicely with roasted oysters.


On Saturday, hungry adventurers took the shuttle from soggy downtown to Bowen’s Island out near Folly Beach for a very special Charleston Wine + Food Festival event. Southern Foodways Alliance was showing two films made by Joe York, one featuring oysterman Victor “Goat” Lafayette and the other chronicling the history of Bowen’s after a fire destroyed the original building about five years ago. There was also an exhibit of Cramer Gallimore’s photographs of Bowen’s. The City Paper was rather honored to be a sponsor of the event.


As soon as we stepped off the bus and grabbed an oyster stout from COAST Brewing Co., local clusters were shoveled onto the hot plate, covered in wet burlap, and steamed to perfection (that is, just barely popping open with plenty of liquid left inside). Veterans bellied up to the table with towels, knives, crackers, and cocktail sauce, while newbies were initiated into the ritual by the friendly locals.


Owner Robert Barber introduced Goat, an oysterman with a lot of personality, who had plenty of family on hand to shuck his oysters and giggle at him as he sang “I Got A Woman” (the Ray Charles version, not the Kanye sample).


A good bit of Barber’s family were in town for the event, including his parents Bob and Cile Barber, who live in Newberry. His wife, Lanelle, was there too, and we talked about their house fire, which destroyed their home a few months back. So sad, but they were able to move across the street into the senior Barbers’ home while they rebuild.

Victor Goat Lafayette with Robert Barber

After we watched the movies, Barber put out another spread. This time we were treated to Frogmore Stew and banana pudding, which went nicely with the Froggy Ridge Cider.


The best part of the afternoon was talking to people who’d never been to Bowen’s Island — particularly the folks who work at national and regional media outlets — and witnessing them fall into a Bowen’s state of mind. I think they will go forth and spread the gospel, and I can’t think of a place more deserving than Bowen’s Island.

GOAT from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.