Bowens Island Restaurant
Bowens Island is a local classic. A fire destroyed the old Oyster Room a few years ago, but Robert Barber has rebuilt and carries on the tradition started by his grandmother in the 1940s. The dining areas on the back deck and the dock may not (yet) have the ambiance of the decades of collected bric-a-brac and patron graffiti that charmed the old place, but the food hasn’t changed. Steamed local oysters are served by the shovelful on newspaper-covered tables along with plenty of fried fish, fried shrimp, and crab cakes. In 2006, Bowens Island won a James Beard award as an American Classic Restaurant. Take a drive out Folly Road and you’ll see and taste why.
The Glass Onion
The Glass Onion was founded by a couple of expatriates from New Orleans who landed in Charleston after Hurricane Katrina. After a stint in the kitchen at downtown legend FIG, they opened their own place out on Savannah Highway. The result is a fusion of the Lowcountry and the bayous, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients and old Southern preparations. The menu is chalked up on the big blackboard next to the counter where you order, and it changes daily. Entrées might include sweet-tea brined fresh ham with grits and greens, slow-braised pork shanks, fried quail, and soft-shell crabs when they’re in season. Cajun treats like boudin and gumbo appear with regularity, and the hand-cut fries and bearnaise are legendary — a basket is de rigeur for your table. The Glass Onion is a local foodie favorite, and it’s well worth the short drive south on Highway 17 from downtown for their soulful lineup of Southern favorites. The Saturday brunch is a good choice too.
If you are heading out Highway 61 for a tour of the plantations, your best bet en route is to stop off for breakfast at the Sunflower Cafe. It’s not much to look at from the road: a modest blue and yellow storefront in an old strip mall. The décor is pretty basic inside, too, but the down-home food and friendly service makes it one of the city’s hidden treasures. Breakfast favorites like eggs benedict with country ham or crab meat and fried green tomatoes will get your morning off to a fine start, and the filet mignon and boursin cheese omelet is so sinfully rich it’s hard to believe the $9 menu price isn’t a misprint.