Some serious soul food eating is going on in Charleston. Collards, fried chicken, ribs, red rice and so much more. Yes, there are incredible restaurants with amazing food in this city of culinary wonders. But for lip smacking, down home vittles, the soul food in this town is to die for, and the locals know it. Known as Gullah cooking, this cuisine is part of the African culture that goes back thousands of years. The cooking traditions in Charleston’s African American kitchens had their roots in West Africa. Gullah cooking is not just crispy fried chicken and sweet potato pie. It’s a reflection of how African Americans cultivated the land in the lowcountry to grow sesame, sorghum and millet. They brought peanuts, sweet potatoes, okra and collard greens. And boy are you lucky to be able to taste the best of the best right here in the lowcountry. Depending on where you’re staying in Charleston, you may have to drive or Uber your way to a few out of the way places. But what’s a few minutes extra for a whole lot of time in soul heaven?
The fried chicken recipe at Martha Lou’s Kitchen on Morrison Drive was featured in Saveur magazine. That’s not all. This little pink restaurant building has been praised by the New York Times and featured on the travel channel. Jestine’s Kitchen is right in the heart of Charleston and easy to spot by the line that wraps around the building. That alone should tell you just how soulful this little prized spot is.
The neighborhood may not be the best, and the building easy to miss, but Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen is definitely food for the soul. And my, oh my, try Bertha’s Kitchen. Candied yams, baked chicken and lima beans are just the tip of the soul food iceberg at this simple treasure.
Nana’s Seafood and Soul serves up classic Gullah food that goes straight to your heart. The thick okra soup is a wonder, and when in season you’ve got to try the garlic crabs. In a hurry and on the go? How about a convenience store and yummy soul take-out? EastSide Soul Food is the perfect choice here.
A quick drive or Uber and you’re at Gillie’s Soul Food on James Island. You can’t count calories here. Fried chicken livers, mac and cheese and sweet potato fries. Oh mamma. It’s only open for lunch, but The Workmen’s Cafe is soul-licious. There’s no table service here, but who cares? Miss Angie’s cooking is divine.
Ox tails and rice? Geechee wings? Nigel’s Good Food is a local soul food gem in a small shopping center. You can’t be in a hurry here, but hey, you just might end up trying everything on the menu.
Step through the purple door at My Three Sons and the sweet smell of soul-food-heaven will have you dizzy. The chairs don’t match, and the walls are colorful. But who needs fancy when the food is this good.