National Geographic Traveler‘s creative director, Jerry Sealy, took the magazine’s advice, making the trek out to Pawleys Island to go on one of the “Best Summer Trips.” While there are plenty of top-tier restaurants in the South Carolina Lowcountry, you can find great eats for dirt cheap, too.
Here are Jerry’s picks for the best of low-brow Lowcountry cuisine:
Highway 17, just south of Pawleys Island
Ignore the bare-bones interior (your basic jail-cell cinder-block) and dive into a giant-sized platter of BBQ. Tender and delicious ribs (the full slab is a gracious serving, plenty for two) served up with zesty coleslaw and a side of not-bad-at-all mac and cheese. Wash it all down with sweet tea and get ready for a nap. Looking for (relatively) lighter fare? Order the fried shrimp — they’re addictive.
1717 N. Highway 17, Mount Pleasant
This quaint, unassuming restaurant serves delicious meals that honor and celebrate the local Gullah culture (Lowcountry African-Americans). The lunch buffet — a steal at $6.99 — is the best way to sample the cuisine. Load up your plate with fish stew, rice and peas, succotash, okra and moist, crispy, fried chicken. “It’s food that’s good for the soul,” says owner and chef Charlotte Jenkins.
Old Fish House
807 Front Street, Georgetown, SC
Otherwise known as “Big Tuna,” this casual, waterfront hangout — choc-a-bloc with vintage signs, photographs, and painted murals depicting hometown scenes — serves up tasty local fish and seafood from 11:00 a.m. until midnight on the weekends (until 10:00 on week nights).
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Grab a seat at the bar and order a bucket of briny local oysters or a po’ boy — and wait for the friendly, no-attitude staff (and parrot) to chat you up. Feeling fancy? Grab a seat on the back deck and dig in to delicious yellow-fin tuna with ginger, sesame, and wasabi dressing.
12223 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island
This modern box-car diner (“It ain’t much to look at honey, but the food’s dang good,” said one customer) has been plating artery-clogging southern breakfasts since 1968. Locals like the pork chops and eggs (with grits), but don’t be a snob: order the scrumptious chicken-fried steak with white pepper gravy instead. Lowcountry eating at its best.