Now that the world is (somewhat) back open again, my family and I took a vacation to the “Low Country” for a few days of relaxation. We spent a day and a half in Charleston, three days in Hilton Head Island, and one in Savannah, Georgia.
I will say, I was shocked to learn that the Low Country has some of the best food and beer that I’ve seen in this great nation. Of course, we’re spoiled here in the Northeast; I’m within access to the best Italian food, pizza, and New England IPA’s in the country.
But the Low Country stacked up pretty well in the food & beer scene. If you’re heading out that way anytime soon, take a look at my experience in each city.
Pearlz Oyster Bar
Downtown Charleston (East Bay Street)
Pearlz was recommended by my oyster-loving grandparents; they’ll stop at nothing in each vacation town they visit to find the best oysters.
I can’t remember for the life of me what kind of oysters we had that night, but I split this gem of a platter with my mom & dad. Full disclosure, I can’t tell the difference between oysters if my life depended on it. But, I could tell this platter was a great sample of local South Carolina oysters…they were fresh, a good size, and easy to go down (aka, not fishy).
The beer is Hazy Like a Fox, a popular selection from Atlanta-based brewery New Realm. Got a 4/5 for me…a solid choice to pair with seafood.
For dinner, it was a fried shrimp platter with cornbread poppers. My expectations were pretty high, and the plate delivered. The shrimp was crispy, the cornbread was warm, and the chips were seasoned to perfection. The broccoli slaw (top right of my plate) was a little disappointing, as I think they might’ve been overdoing it a bit with the raw (maybe blanched?) broccoli.
Overall, pretty good food that delivered on high expectations. A more diverse beer list and some more non-seafood options would’ve taken Pearlz to “elite” territory, but I’ll definitely be coming back the next time I’m in Charleston.
North side of Charleston
There is truly nothing on this earth like a great barbeque joint, and Lewis BBQ was simply the one that was recommended the most. It was certainly off the beaten path; we had to drive a few miles north of the city to get there.
And, before you ask…I would’ve driven another 20 miles for it.
Lewis has you order the meats by the pound, and their recommended serving size is about ½ pound per person. For our large party of 6, we ended up with a few pounds each of brisket, pulled pork, and ribs. Pile on the sides of beans, collard greens, mac and cheese, coleslaw, and pickles, and you’ve got yourself a feast.
I’m a fan of North Carolina barbeque, so I knew this Charleston-style BBQ would hit the spot, too. The ribs were fallin’ off the bone, the brisket was the most tender I’ve ever had, and the pulled pork had a sweet & tangy sauce. I was blown away.
I was also shocked at the beer list…great selections from local powerhouses like Edmunds Oast were calling my name. The Baby Bubble BBQ was a great pairing (as the name suggests), and the Orange Creamsicle was a great palate cleanser.
This would be an easy 9.5+ if there weren’t a ton of flies in the outdoor seating section.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND
Side Hustle Beer Company
Coligny Plaza neighborhood
We just had Mike Palmieri and Lee Holyoak, the co-founders Side Hustle, on “Beers, Business, and Balls” to discuss their awesome new beer brand. Two award-winning homebrewers that left their high-paying jobs to chase their dreams of starting a brewery? That was a place I needed to check out…and as such, my family caved on my many asks.
Side Hustle’s geographic location can’t be beat. It’s right off the William Hilton Parkway, just off the main strip of shops & strip malls that are PACKED on a rainy day on Hilton Head Island. Their physical space is for production and can sales only, so it doesn’t necessarily appeal to large crowds. But if sitting outside is your vibe and you like good beer, this is a must-hit. I had “And There’s Your Father,” a new beer in their sour collection, and a Refraction, their take on a New England-style IPA. Both ranked up really solid, easily in the 4-star territory.
I will be back at Side Hustle the next time I’m in HHI…and when I’m back, hopefully their demand will be too large that they’ll have no choice to be in a bigger spot!
Pope Ave, in between Long Cove and Coligny Beach
This was an excellent surprise – Chow Daddy’s has three locations throughout HHI, so it’s easy to dismiss a chain when out on vacation. But, for lack of a better term, this place SLAPPED. I started with a “Classic” (yes, that’s the name) farmhouse ale from Blackberry Farm Brewery, a newer Tennessee microbrewery. After that, it was a Vanilla Coke…but not out of the soda gun…it was their house-made vanilla spice rum with a splash of Coke. I may or may not have been feeling pretty good on the way out.
Chow Daddy’s is branded as “Tex-Mex,” for which I am self-proclaimed lover. I skipped the tacos this time and went straight to the Hot Bowls, and my decision paid off. I went with the Smoked Fried Chicken Bowl with sriracha aioli. This is easily one of the best bowls I have ever had – a generous serving of chicken, a solid serving of rice, and just the right amount of sauce. Give me Chow Daddy’s all day, people!
Moon River Brewing Company
West Bay Street (near Plant Riverside District)
I will say…of the three cities (is HHI a city?!) we traveled to, Savannah was the one that stole my heart. I described Savannah to my parents as the final product if you put Boston in the south. Great food, great drinks, great shopping, beautifully green parks, and the city-feel…only with palm trees and Southern Comfort all over the place.
A quick search of breweries led us to Moon River, and once we found out they had food, it was where we decide we’d have lunch.
The first shock? The flights were TEN beers each – typically a far cry from the “normal” serving of 4 or 5. My dad and I made the decision to split each taster, so we each had about 25oz of beer…equivalent to around 2 full pours each.
I was a bit let down by the quality of the beer. Moon River had enough good reviews that warranted a visit, but it was a far cry away from some of the beer we had in Charleston and HHI. The highest-ranked beer I gave was a kettle-soured Gose called “RIP Current Tiki,” which was casked and dosed with pink Himalayan salt…3.75 was the rating.
The food was fine, but nothing to write home about. I had a Bratwurst and a rice blend they called “Low Country rice,” essentially a Mexican rice with a Cajun kick.
The pub-style vibe saved this rating, but the food and beer just didn’t cut it for me. I’m not opposed to trying it again, though…