Johns Island. 842 Main Road. 559-9999
Open Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Lunch served 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
When Charlestonians want to savor fresh local produce at a restaurant, they head to FIG, Hominy Grill, or another one of the numerous sustainability-friendly eateries scattered throughout the Lowcountry. When they want to cook up fresh local produce at home, locals know that it’s time to head to the islands. Johns and Wadmalaw islands, that is, where small plots like the Ambrose Family Farm dot the fertile landscape.
After the tomatoes, melons, sweet onions, red potatoes, butter beans, crowder peas, squash, and countless other fruits and veggies have been harvested from the Ambrose farm, husband-and-wife owners Pete and Babs Ambrose haul the goodies straight to the Stono Market, at 842 Main Road on Johns Island.
“We bought this building in 1987,” Babs Ambrose says. “We were doing you-pick … and eventually we decided we would buy this place and sell our shrimp and vegetables from here.”
The Ambroses have watched their farm, which they bought in 1976, grow from 60 acres to 190, in no small part thanks to their familial teamwork: while Babs was running the Market, Pete was out catching fresh shrimp for the large coolers that sit in front of the lunch counter.
If you head to the Stono Market to pick up veggies, be sure to take some time to stop for lunch — Blondell Brown, the head chef and Babs’ longtime friend, whips up some of the finest tomato pie (made with a biscuit crust!), squash casserole, desserts, and homemade pimiento cheese to be found anywhere in the Lowcountry.
Though she was reluctant to divulge the secrets of her famous Stono Market tomato pie, Babs Ambrose was more than happy to let Dish readers in on how she makes her spreadable, dippable, irresistible shrimp salad.
1 lb. shrimp (with no preservatives)
1/4 c. sweet onion
1 small clove garlic
1/3 green or red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
A pinch of Old Bay
Duke’s mayonnaise (Duke’s is the only acceptable mayo for the shrimp salad, Ambrose says)
Any extra seasoning, while not necessary, is up to personal preference
First, cook the shrimp by bringing a pot of water to a boil, then toss the shrimp in and remove them JUST before the water starts to boil again. Drain the shrimp in a colander, but don’t leave them in there — instead, spread them out on a plate or paper towels or ice them down. Ambrose mentioned that it’s always a good idea to put the seasoning on the shrimp after they’re cooked, both to save seasoning and to intensify the flavor. To make the shrimp salad, coarsely grind the boiled shrimp in a food processor, then add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Pulse everything together until nicely ground but still kind of coarse. Add salt and pepper, Old Bay, and Duke’s (the amount of mayo is up to you). Stir to combine. Serve chilled.