We love greasy food as much as the next Johnny Bellybuster — things like double-chili cheeseburgers and scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, and topped hashbrowns — but the time and place to eat those things is during much cooler months, like, say, during football season. During the summer, we want food that’s light and fresh and doesn’t instantly make us feel like lardos. Which is why when we’re hitting up the area beaches, we go in search of snacks that won’t cause us to bust a seam in our boardshorts and bikinis.
Nestled in Folly Beach’s Center Street bar strip, the laid-back Drop In has a reputation among good-timin’ locals for serving fun drinks, cold beer, and killer sandwiches, soups, and burgers. The lunch and dinner menus include gut-filling classics like the meatball sub, the “Pholly” cheesesteak, and the blackened grouper sandwich on kaiser rolls. It also features lighter and vegetarian fare. If they have marinated tempeh on hand, the Tree Hugger wrap ($7.99) with lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic aioli can be quite satisfying. If that’s not your thing, try the Ophelia pita sandwich ($6.99); it’s always a winner. The sandwich is a fresh mix of housemade hummus, cucumber, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. Try it with extra black beans and a side of parmesan-accented pasta salad, and wash it down with a citrusy pint of Allagash White ($5) or a tall glass of Cherry Limeade ($5.50), a fruity but not overly sweet specialty cocktail made from 3 Olives Cherry Vodka, lime juice, grenadine, and a splash of Sierra Mist. —T. Ballard Lesemann
While most of the bars and eateries on Folly Beach cater to the happy-hour and late-night crowds, the colorful and friendly Lost Dog Café attracts morning and lunchtime diners. Located just off of Center Street behind the Folly Beach Library, the Lost Dog specializes in fresh salads, breakfast burritos, bagels, specialty sandwiches, healthy soups, and gourmet coffee. One of their stand-out lunch items is the sizable Tasty Thai Wrap ($8.99), a zesty burrito made with a spicy peanut sauce and shredded cabbage inside a jalapeño-cheddar tortilla. Try it with their lightly sautéed shrimp or grilled chicken. Their delicately sweet and vinegary cucumber salad (with thinly sliced red onion and red pepper) makes a great side dish. One of their fruity Mason Jar Mimosas ($6.25) — made with sparkling white wine and your choice of either orange, peach, cranberry, pomegranate, or peach-mango juices — complements the spicy earthiness of the sauce and tortilla. —T. Ballard Lesemann
Taco Mamacita may not be Charleston-born — the restaurant came here from Tennessee — but they know the way to our hearts. The lunch special may be one of the best on Sullivan’s: You get any two tacos from their extensive, creative menu, plus a side. We suggest the Thai-inspired General Homeboy ($3.99), panko-breaded shrimp topped with fresh radish, cabbage, green onion, cilantro, and chili sauce, and the Loaded Gyro ($3.99), because the only thing that could make a gyro better is if it’s a taco. Taco Mamacita will recommend you wash it down with a Passion Fruit Sangria ($6 glass/$15 carafe) made with red and white wine, orange liquor, and passion fruit and other juices. —Susan Cohen
As long as you promise to throw away all of your trash, Sullivan’s Co-Op provides a great to-go option for beach picnicking. The almost overwhelming chalkboard menu is covered with salads ($4-$8), sandwiches ($7-$8), and wraps ($7.75). Keep an eye out for the changing daily specials. They’ve also got plenty of prepared items, from sushi to dinner-sized portions of lasagna if you’re heading home from the beach instead of to it. And while you’re not legally allowed to drink on the shore itself, the Co-Op’s coolers are stocked with bottles of wine and a nice beer selection. —Susan Cohen
This cozy, second-floor eatery on the front beach of the Isle of Palms offers more than a few delicious Lowcountry dishes, from velvety she-crab soup to spicy collard greens, but Hucks’ delicate seafood tacos are among the lightest and tastiest fare on the lunch menu. The Baja Fish Tacos ($12 for two) are especially delicious. Two crispy tempura-battered fish filets are arranged on flour tortillas with fresh shredded cabbage, zesty pico de gallo, mild chipotle crema, and a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese. Couple it with a side of their thinly sliced cucumber salad and accented with a creamy vinaigrette, cumin, and fennel, it’s a terrific summertime lunch. And pair it with one of the Co-Op’s Ultimate Bloody Marys ($8) — made with rosemary and peppercorn-infused vodka and garnished with green olives, celery, lime, lemon, and cucumber. It’s nice and peppery. —T. Ballard Lesemann
About a year ago, Acme Cantina changed its name to the Acme Lowcountry Cantina, and they expanded their breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus as well. They still fry up plenty of hot wings and specialty burgers, but they’ve added numerous seafood dishes, omelettes, sides, salads, and wines. Chef Frank Kline has started featuring more locally grown produce and locally caught fish, shrimp, crab, calamari, and oysters. One of the most surprisingly light dishes on the lunch menu is the Shrimp Tacos ($9.50), made with juicy grilled shrimp, shredded red cabbage, chipotle sour cream, pico de gallo, peppery microgreens and cilantro, and a crumble of Mexican cheese. One dish includes two tacos in sizable flour tortillas with a side of salsa. A cold pint (or two) of New Belgium’s hoppy Ranger IPA ($4.50) pairs quite well. —T. Ballard Lesemann
Sometimes we just can’t resist indulging our inner sweettoothy child. Especially when it comes to Rita’s Captain Crunch French Toast ($8), which is a regular item on their brunch menu. When we ordered the item, our server eyed us doubtfully. “I’ve never seen anyone finish it,” she said, jotting down the order. The open-air eatery, just a block off the beach, is better known for its juicy burgers and fruity cocktails, but we simply couldn’t pass up the dish featuring our favorite childhood cereal. It came out of the kitchen looking somewhat manageable: three thick slices of bread were tossed in a batter made with crushed Captain Crunch and then grilled. Although the cereal gave the dish a fun, colorful look, the flavor was far more subtle, but we still only ended up eating about half of it. As for a drink, we sure could’ve used a tall glass of milk. Next time. —Erica Jackson Curran