Shrimp & Grits in Charleston

Some cities outright own a particular dish.

Boston? Clam Chowder. Austin? BBQ — beef brisket to be specific. Atlanta? Fried chicken. Santa Fe? Green chile stew.

In Charleston, it’s shrimp & grits.

You can order shrimp & grits in any city these days — Southern food is a hot trend — but in Charleston, it’s not a trend. It is breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it is woven into the very fabric of this historical city. There is hoity-toity shrimp & grits, down-home shrimp & grits, and everything in between.

Here is a look at six Charleston restaurants and their version of the dish that defines this gracious Southern city.

1. Husk: Bon Appetit magazine’s Best New Restaurant, Husk, serves their seasonal shrimp & grits (above) in a bowl with a roasted tomato broth ladled over Anson Mills grits, with artisan sausage, lardons, and plump, jumbo shrimp. (here is the recipe in NYT.)

2. Jestine’s Kitchen: Rachael Ray, Anthony Bourdain and Roadfood’s Jane & Michael Stern all had a hand in putting Jestine’s Kitchen on the national radar for home-cooking Southern grub like meatloaf, fried chicken and of course, shrimp & grits (above). Jestine’s version features soupy grits with a meaty tasting brown gravy, onions and roasted red peppers. Very basic and delicious, although the shrimp were a tad overcooked.

3. Southend Brewery’s shrimp and grits (above) is more akin to cheese soup with tomatoes, Tasso ham and oh yes, shrimp and grits. The tomato wedges didn’t add much — it would have been better had they been diced, but the shrimp was perfectly cooked. Pair it with the hoppy Castle Pinckney Pale Ale.

4. Marina Variety Store: (left) There is always a line at this kitschy, seafaring restaurant overlooking the marina, but it moves quickly. Ask to sit in the front room for the marina view. MVS serves up a whopping plate of plain white grits topped with a modest amount of sauteed shrimp, cooked just right.

The fried green tomatoes pictured on the plate are optional. Adding a dash of hot sauce is not.

5. Poogan’s Porch: (right) uses yellow, coarse ground grits, thick and sturdy, along with a generous helping of onions, scallions, ham, sausage and tail-on shrimp, sauced in a blue crab gravy. I loved the rough and firm texture of the grits. I did not love having to take the tails off the shrimp.

6. Hominy Grill: I saved the best for last (below). Nothing fancy about this shrimp and grits plate. But everything in this dish has a purpose. The grits were firm but creamy. The shrimp were spiced and perfectly cooked. Bits of salty, smoky bacon and meaty mushrooms provide the supporting cast. Green scallions and a spritz of lemon, and this dish is everything I could ask from this humble, Lowcountry dish. If you love this dish as much as I did, pick up a copy of the recipe booklet. It includes the recipe.

 

Details:
All six restaurants are located in the historic district of Charleston.
Husk
76 Queen Street
843-577-2500

Jestine’s Kitchen
251 Meeting Street
843-722-7224

Southend Brewery
161 East Bay Street
843-853-4677

Marina Variety Store
17 Lockwood Drive
843-723-6325

Poogan’s Porch (next door to Husk)
72 Queen Street
843-577-2337

Hominy Grill
207 Rutledge Avenue
843-937-0930

14 replies
  1. Linda
    Linda says:

    Happy you mentioned this post in class tonight, somehow, I’d missed it!. I’m gonna order me that cookbooklet from the last picture of shrimp and grits! Sounds amazing. As I told you, we had a plate of S&G here in Phx for Dave’s birthday in early Oct and they were NOT good, as in bad, so I feel I need to make it up to him and make some good S&G! Thanks for the great post! xoxo

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Oh Ken, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize that or I would have mentioned. I must have eaten there on a Sunday, or perhaps they change it since I was there.

      Reply
  2. Donna
    Donna says:

    During our last trip to Charleston in November, I found my favorite shrimp and grits at the Black Magic Cafe at Folly Beach.

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Donna, thanks for sharing. I didn’t make it to Folly Beach on my trip but I’ll be sure to get there next time to try Black Magic Cafe!

      Reply
  3. Kristina
    Kristina says:

    Homing Grill’s S&G are amazing. I’m from Charleston originally but now live in Denver and love to make them for my friends. On my latest trip home in November my parents took me to Okra in Mt. Pleasant. Their S&G are also fantastic and the most creative and unique I’ve ever seen. The grits are formed into cakes then fried, then served in a pink gravy with sausage and the shrimp. Delicious!

    Reply
  4. Sally Mims
    Sally Mims says:

    The very best shrimp and grits are made at Page’s Okra Grill. The gravy is outstanding and the grits are in a fried wedge. Absolutely outstanding.

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Thanks for commenting Sally! I hope to make it to Page’s Okra Grill someday to give those grits a try. They sound amazing. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

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  1. […] did a round-up of six Charleston shrimp & grits dishes here. I thought I’d eaten a lot of shrimp & grits, but that was nothing compared to this […]

  2. […] dish that represents my city best is shrimp and grits and Firefly Vodka mixed with lemonade is my city’s signature […]

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