Beach brain: The not-so-scientific term for the condition which develops when you’ve been sitting in the hot sand too long, the sun baking your mind and the salty air leeching the water from your pores. You’re dazed and confused, but also so very hungry and thirsty. Beach brain won’t let you research or reason your own way to sustenance. So we’ve got you covered. Bring this guide with you on your next trip to the shoreline, and you’ll have a definitive list of destinations for any time of day at all three of Charleston’s area beaches — no thinking required. Bye-bye, beach brain.
Obstinate Daughter, Eggs Benedict
Is eggs benedict ever a bad idea? Nope. The folks at Obstinate Daughter, however, have seriously evolved ideas when it comes to the Benny. After brining pork loin for three days, cooking it sous vide, then thinly slicing it, Sous Chef Will D’Erasmo lays it atop a buttery, grilled English muffin. He tops that with 63-degree eggs (the perfect temp to yield sunny yolks and tender whites) and cloaks the whole thing in house-made tomato hollandaise. Mic. Dropped.
Home Team BBQ, Smoked Chicken Wings with Alabama White Sauce
and Death Relish
The wings are rubbed with Home Team’s signature dry-rub and smoked for two and a half hours to yield meltingly tender, slightly spicy, slightly sweet morsels of chicken goodness. The fruity, kickin’ Death Relish lends the heat, and the Alabama white sauce — a mayonnaise-based, vinegar-y dressing — cools things down.
This iconic Sully’s spot isn’t breaking any new ground, but sharing a couple of rounds here is a pleasant way to while away the afternoon. Bring your pups and sit outside at the salt-baked picnic tables.
Poe’s Tavern, Annabel Lee
Chances are if you’ve hit the beach at Sullivan’s, you’ve probably stopped at Poe’s and you know the drill. But for the uninitiated: each dish at Poe’s is named after an Edgar Allan Poe story, and the menu is basically dedicated to burgers/chicken sandwiches coiffed with varying degrees of whimsy. The Annabel Lee is one of the more creative offerings — the crab cake/chicken sandwich is a tasty combo, but’s it’s that remoulade that’ll put stars in your eyes.
High Thyme, Lighthouse Lemonade
High Thyme is an unassuming, breezy place, and it’s a fave among locals. The Lighthouse Lemonade (Honeysuckle vodka, house-made raspberry-lemon purée, and champagne) is a summery little concoction that’s perfect for sipping out on the restaurant’s large wooden deck. Plus, we’re fans of anything involving raspberry-lemon puree.
Beardcats, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Gelato Sundae
Olive oil ice cream sounds weird, right? But Beardcats takes a cream-based gelato and emulsifies it with oil and sea salt, making for a less sweet and more complex profile. The gelato is finished off with another drizzle of oil when it’s served to bring out the grassy, fruity flavors. Pop a helping of that onto a chocolate chip cookie and finish with a healthy dollop of caramel sauce, and you’re in dessert nirvana.
Isle of Palms
Sea Biscuit Cafe, House-made Corned Beef Hash with Eggs, Home Fries, Biscuit
The corned beef at Sea Biscuit is brined for three days and baked in-house, then chopped and mixed with peppers and onions on the grill. We like to douse it in hot sauce and mop it up with a flaky Southern biscuit, but to each his own.
Long Island Cafe, Cracker-meal Breaded and Fried Combo of Flounder, Scallops, Shrimp, and Oysters
OK, so a fried seafood platter may seem like a bit of a cop-out for a “must-go” list, but humor us. They do it right here. The cracker-meal breading makes for a densely crisp, well-seasoned exterior, and the seafood is reliably tender — not chewy or dry.
The oceanfront view from the back deck can’t be beat, and there’s a steady line-up of live music. Depending on the day and time, you might get perky, friendly service, or you might get a very cranky bartender. But it’s all part of the experience, so just drink it in and smile.
Acme Lowcountry Kitchen, The Pioneer
There’s a whole section of the Acme dinner menu devoted entirely to shrimp and Adluh Grits with 10 riffs on the Lowcountry classic. (FYI: Adluh grits are a stoneground grit from Allen Brothers Milling Co. in Columbia). We like the Pioneer — fried shrimp and braised short ribs over grits with a sweet onion port demi-glace — because the sweet, silky demi-glace lacing the grits marries nicely with the crunch of the shrimp and the velvety short ribs. This dish is supremely soul-satisfying.
Boathouse at Breach Inlet, Carolina Colada
Stipulation: You must enjoy drinks from the rooftop deck at the Boathouse. Around sunset, preferably. You probably won’t be paying that much attention to your beverage; The Boathouse is situated on an inlet that allows for panoramic, breathtaking waterfront views. Our drink of choice: the Carolina Colada, Stoli Vanilla, Malibu rum, pineapple juice, and coconut milk.
Coda del Pesce, Butterscotch Budino
The airy, light-filled Coda del Pesce has a lot to offer. It’s gorgeous inside and out, with oceanfront views from floor-to-ceiling windows set into walls treated with natural materials and reclaimed wood. The swoon-worthy menu is devoted to authentic Italian, (mostly) seafood dishes, and service is well-polished. Not surprisingly though, the sticker price is high, particularly for someone wanting to take advantage of primi and secondi courses. A good way to experience this one is to head over for desserts instead — they won’t break your bank. Their butterscotch budino ($9) is a rich, creamy Italian custard with some seriously tasty, burnished caramel notes.
Lost Dog Cafe, Huevos Rancheros Grande
Lost Dog takes huevos rancheros and bumps them up about 12 notches, swapping out plain tortillas for a quesadilla and topping the dish with everything but the kitchen sink — peppers, onions, black beans, tomatoes, jalapeños, Colorado pork, green chiles, and two fried eggs served with salsa and sour cream. This is stick-to-your-ribs, hangover-banishing cuisine that, at around $11 a plate, won’t leave you destitute.
The ‘Wich Doctor, Schezuan Pork Belly sandwich
They don’t do wrong at The ‘Wich Doctor. The menu ranges widely from Neapolitan pizza to pan-Asian inspired sandwiches, a gap that could be a source of consternation if the team didn’t have things so well under control. They grind all the spices for rubs and marinades, cure their own bacon, and even make their own mustard. And it shows. The pork belly is perfectly seasoned and succulent, with a toothy bite that pairs well with the crunch of the toast. Only drawback is the limited hours; they’re only open Thurs.-Mon. from 12-8 p.m.
Jack of Cups
The beer menu at Jack of Cups is a thing of beauty. Any brew-lover will be giddy with choices that often stray refreshingly from the beaten path. An Argus Tepache Pineapple Wine or Boulevard Tell Tale Tart (a sour wild ale) will go down smooth in the sunny back courtyard.
Jack of Cups, Red Curry Mac
Jack of Cups is the only restaurant (more pointedly, “saloon”) to grace this list twice. That’s because it’s baller. The painstakingly-crafted menu is made-from-scratch daily then prepared to order during service, and each entry is truly interesting, from the Peanut Ginger Soup to this little gem of a pasta dish called the Red Curry Mac, featuring al dente pasta shells in a spicy red curry cheese sauce, topped with diced pickles, tomatoes, cilantro, parmesan, and black pepper. Where else are you going to get red curry cheese sauce?
Rita’s Seaside Grille, Orange Crush
The adult answer to a Sonic run, these slushies don’t disappoint. Rita’s has lots of flavors, from Black Cherry Lemonade to Jolly Rancher, but we like the tried-and-true Orange Crush, orange-infused vodka, triple sec, fresh-squeezed OJ, and a splash of lemon-lime soda. The OJ and orange-infused vodka have us crushing pretty hard.
Blu, Vanilla Crème Brulee
There are two kinds of people in this world: those with crème brulee-mania who compulsively order it anytime it graces a menu, pretending intentions of sharing but then solo-gobbling it down like a starved beast, only to fill nauseous and guilty afterwards until the next hit … and those who seem to have sidestepped the addiction. We belong in the latter category, so even though this dessert choice is a little — well, vanilla — it’s well executed at Blu and is a consistent hit. We’ll leave it to you junkies to fight over who gets to crack it with a spoon.