Folly Creek Clam Chowder

$5 for petite, $7 for large

EVO Pizzeria

(843) 225-1796

1075 E. Montague Ave.

Available Tues.–Fri, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m. and Sat. 6-10 p.m.

The arrival of cool weather to the Lowcountry invites hearty, warming meals like the Folly Creek Clam Chowder at EVO Pizzeria in North Charleston. The chowder has become a staple on the menu since autumn arrived. EVO owners Ricky Hacker and Matt McIntosh believe emphatically in eating seasonally and locally, and this dish offers an opportunity to do both.

Hacker’s chowder was inspired by the clam farming that takes place almost in his backyard. He lives at Folly Beach, and clam farmer Chaz Green works the surrounding waters daily. Green manages Blanchard Seafood with Tony Blanchard, and they make a living farming littleneck clams. Green estimates that half their clams are sold to local restaurants, and the other half are shipped up north for wholesale.

Hacker buys about 500 clams per week to make two gallons of soup per day. His recipe closely resembles a classic New England clam chowder, which is cream based, rather than Manhattan clam chowder, which is tomato-broth based. Hacker begins his version by steaming clams in beer and water with aromatics like thyme, bay leaf, garlic, and lemon. Next, he picks the clams and saves the steaming liquid to use as his stock. He starts the chowder with applewood-smoked bacon and then goes in with onion, celery, and red bell pepper. To this he adds potatoes, the strained stock, and finally the clams. Separately, he makes a light béchamel (cream) sauce that he eventually combines with the clam mixture along with some fresh thyme A garnish of green onions and California olive oil and — voilá — Folly Creek Clam Chowder.

Hacker says that he has been selling out of the dish every day, and it’s no surprise considering the longtime popularity of chowder. Food historians cite soups as some of the earliest dishes and date chowder back to the 16th century. The word “chowder” stems from the Latin word “calderia,” which means “a place for warming things.” This Latin root eventually yielded the English word “cauldron” and the French word “chaudière” — and from these came “chowder.”

Supposedly, the first published recipe for chowder appeared in the Boston Evening Post in the 18th century, but the early versions focused on economy. Consequently, most called for whatever fish could be caught, salt pork, “sea biscuits,” and water. The first published recipe to call for clams is thought to be from Lydia Maria Child’s cookbook The American Frugal Housewife, which was printed in the 19th century.

Needless to say, clam chowder has come a long way from its rustic roots, but EVO chooses not to veer far from tradition. Hacker and McIntosh believe that a connection to heritage and the land enhances the food they serve. A few weeks ago Hacker spent the afternoon raking clams with Green. Out there he became fully aware of the changing seasons as a cool afternoon working on the water left him freezing and exhausted. It’s easy to imagine how a steaming bowl of Folly Creek Clam Chowder would have warmed him right up.