aka: Best Greasy Spoons, Drive-Thrus, and Locals' Comfort Food that Don't Break the Bank
Charleston brings to town people from all over the place! And there are some Southern Staples that we locals forget is a novelty for our visitors. Here are the quintessential, quirky, and cheap eats that are fun and atypical.
Southern-Fried, Southern Staples. Great for family picnics and get-togethers. For whatever reason, my family and I lovingly pronounce this with a Spanish accent - "bo-HONG-lace." Sometimes you'll get a little sass from the associates, but it's all in good fun. What to Order:
1. Bo'Berry biscuits = SO SWEET. Perfect mix of crispy yet moist blueberry biscuits drizzled / drenched in frosting.
2. Bo'Rounds = perfect hashbrowns.
3. Chicken supremes = special chicken tenders.
4. Get your Fixin's, The Best Side Dishes! = Dirty Rice, Beans, Collards?
5. Drink: A Sweet Tea, of course. You can make it an Arnold Palmer if you like - just add lemonade.
Make it Extra Special / aka It's Al About: Order the Big Bo' Box of food, and consider reusing the box itself for the kiddos' toy transport.
2. Waffle House
Our late-night fave, post-last-call greasy spoon. The place where Charleston-beloved Chef Sean Brock (of Husk, McCrady's, and Minero) took Anthony Bourdain on an episode of "No Reservations." A place where you come as you are: Whether you were dressed to hear the Charleston Symphony play at the Gaillard, or sweaty from a raucous show at the Music Farm, you'll be welcome.
What to Order:
1. Hashbrowns: Any style, they prepare them 9 different ways
2. Any Breakfast Combo
3. Patty Melt
5. Drink: Coffee
A Breakfast place that tastes best late at night. Bring money for the jukebox!
3. Jimmy John's
A Sandwich Shop with locations in each of the Major Charleston areas. Freaky fast delivery, and the one on George Street in the Peninsula is another post-last-call favorite, with hours going 'til 4am. In my twenties, I have definitely woken up the next morning to find a half-eaten Jimmy Johns #5 Vito in my purse!
What to Order:
1. Unwiches = Sub out any of the Favorites (the bigger sandwiches) the sandwich bread and make it a juicy and refreshing lettuce wrap instead. Ya just want as much foodie goodness in-between that lettuce, ya know? Most refreshing and quenching on a hot summer afternoon. Our repeat-orders: the #15 Club Tuna Unwich, and the #16 Club Lulu Unwich.
2. Whatever strikes your fancy, really. Sizes range from "Little Johns" to "Giant" and "The Gargantuan."
3. Great bag of thin potato chips.
When you Go: Select locations have delivery, dine-in, in-store pickup, and drive-thru. We love the drive-thru option: call ahead or order online on your way there, and pick up at the window from your car.
Ordering Tip: It's hard to tell at first, but "The Favorites" are the larger versions of "The Originals." Not all the numbers correspond to each other. See example below:
"Favorites: (Bigger) #9 ITALIAN NIGHT CLUB® SALAMI, CAPICOLA, HAM & PROVOLONE onion, lettuce, tomato, mayo, oil & vinegar, & oregano-basil. Price for the 8," $6.95.
"Original: (Slightly Smaller/Simpler) #5 Vito: SALAMI, CAPICOLA & PROVOLONE onion, lettuce, tomato, oil & vinegar, & oregano-basil. Price for the 8," $5.59.
"Favorites: (Bigger) #7 Spicy East Coast Italian: DOUBLE GENOA SALAMI, DOUBLE CAPICOLA & DOUBLE CHEESE hot peppers, sauce, onion, lettuce, tomato & easy mayo (GUTTED) Boom. Good as it gets!" Price for the 8," $6.89.
Make it extra Special: We recommend converting any of their "Favorites" (the bigger sandwiches) into Unwiches, with the best ones being the #15 Club Tuna Unwich and the #16 Club Lulu Unwich. The quenchiest and most refreshing thing on hot summer afternoons.
We love those kids that work at Chic-fil-A. At least every location we've gone to, has a sweet-faced young'un, and everyone is so pleasant and nicely presented, closing out your "Thank you" and order with a "My pleasure." Have gone to high school in town, there was always one or two kids we'd know from class who'd be working there.
What to Order:
1. Waffle Fries
2. An Extra Crispy Chicken Sandwich - not on the menu
3. The Chicken Nuggies if you want something light
4. Drink: Frosted Lemonade is unlike anything we've ever had! It's the perfect blend of drink and dessert, not too much of one or the other.
This is great for once you check into your hotel or Airbnb, and you don't care about being fancy, you just wanna get full and zonk out in front of the tv, recooping from all the travel you did. Pick it up on your way home at the drive-thru.
What to Order:
1. The Wings 'n Things.
2. Any of the Zalads. Yes, Salads with a Zee. Your choice of being topped with Grilled or Fried Chicken.
3. Sweet Tea
4. Is it St. Patrick's Day, or their Birthday? They have seasonal shakes that are a seasonal awesome treat.
6. Krispy Kreme
Download the app and you'll be notified when the "Hot 'n Ready" sign is Lit! Tell your friends and watch the waves of jealousy wash over their faces. My husband and his brother would eat a box *each* when they were in high school! So if you have growing boys, be forewarned.
What to Order: 1. A box / One dozen of glazed donuts. Heat them up in the microwave, 10 seconds per donut, and they melt in your mouth so quickly and deliciously. This was the secret to how said hubby would be able to down a box in 15 minutes. They are best warm.
2. If the drive-thru line is long, make it worth your wait and order two boxes / two dozen glazed donuts. ;-)
Make it Special: Did you manage to have some leftovers? Store the donut box and leftovers in your oven -- Don't turn on the oven of course! This will keep any bugs from getting to them and spare you the counter-space.
7. Ye Olde Fashioned Ice Cream and Sandwich Cafe
Longest Restaurant Name, Ever. Lovingly called "Ye Olde." All locals grew up going to this place, and the best middle school rumor was that "the Riverdog Ripple Icecream would turn your (minding our table manners)(in a hushed tone) poop, blue and purple!"
What to Order: 1. Any icecream 2. Why not make it a float? 3. Side of fries to counter the sweetness 4. Water of course! To quench that thirst after ice cream.
8. Cracker Barrel
Country Cookin' with a great Gift Shop. Oldy-timey candies, wooden games, gingham-plaid softgoods for the kitchen, etc. A breakfast place that tastes best for Breakfast and day of the week!
What to Order:
1. Country Fried Steak is my Jam!!! Have you had it before? My order is Country Fried Steak, Scrambled Eggs, Hashbrowns. Coffee, Grapefruit Juice. Anywhere I go, if I see country fried steak on the menu, I have to order it. Just read My Love Letter to Country Fried Steak here.
2. Drink: Coffee and Grapefruit Juice
3. Country Fried Stea .. Oh? I mentioned that already?
9. The International House of Pancakes, IHOP
In writing this article, I had to look up whether it was IHOP or iHop. Thanks a lot, Apple products!
I know IHOPS are everywhere, but this one is exciting because not only is there one on the peninsula, but it is right in the heart of a fancy district! I'm so glad they were able to get thru any of the preservation/aesthetic guidelines and establish something nostalgic and daresay "suburban" and "chain-y" on East Bay Street.
We love Publix and their deals - esp. the famed "Buy One Get One Free." And did you know: in certain stores on those BOGO specials, if you buy just one of those qualifying items, you are charged that one for 50% off -- check your local store for their policies.
In our experience, the stores are clean, presentable, and well-organized. The associates are super friendly, and we love that the company is employee-owned.
What to Get, and These all are at the Deli/Bakery Section: 1. A Box of Fried Chicken
2. Publix-brand Potato salad
3. Publix-brand Spinach Dip
4. Sweet Tea
5. Your favorite pie or cake from the Bakery
6. Create your own sub sandwich
Check out our Opposite Article: "Hey Now, Ain't We Fancy: Your Restaurant Guide for Special Occasions and Nice Nights Out"