The Lowcountry is both a place and a culture. It is made up of the coastal counties of South Carolina, stretching from Charleston in the north down to the Georgia border. This sub-tropical, marshy area and it's unique, seafood and rice heavy cuisine are inextricably linked to and influence by it's plantation past and the Gullah culture.
These descendants of enslaved Africans worked the indigo, rice and cotton plantations on the Sea Islands from North Carolina to Florida. The islands' physical isolation created a unique culture that was heavily influenced by African traditions. It lives on today in their creole language, beautiful crafts, and Lowcountry cuisine.
It is said that these roses woven out of palm fronds were given to Confederate soldiers by their true loves as they were heading out to war. Nowadays, you can find kids and teens selling the ones they've made all over the city.
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Since 1977, this arts festival has brought over two weeks of performing, literary and visual arts events to Charleston. While this festival focuses on national and international talent, the accompanying Piccolo Spoleto focuses on regional artists for the 17 days leading up to the main festival.
This type of grass grows abundantly in the beach communities surrounding Charleston. It produces sharp burrs that drop to the sand or grass, ready to be stepped on by unexpecting passers by. So if you choose to walk to the beach barefoot, keep an eye out for these tiny buggers.
This mud that lines the bottoms of the state's salt marshes gets its pungent aroma from the decaying grasses and shellfish trapped inside. Some say this quicksand like mud, that has been known to steal a shoe or two if you aren't careful, smells like rotten eggs. Others say it smells like home.
These baskets made by Gullah artisans were originally made by enslaved women to winnow rice on local plantations. The baskets are now regarded as works of art, with one of Mary Jackson's pieces in the permanent collection of The Smithsonian. By your own or watch the weavers at work at the Sweetgrass Pavilion or the City Market.
Charleston is much bigger than many realize, including West Ashley, James Island, Johns Island, Daniel Island, in addition to all of the neighborhoods on the peninsula. So when locals say downtown they aren't just talking about the historic districts south of Calhoun Street, but rather the entire on the peninsula.
The beach access points on Sullivan's Island are called a stations, running from 9 to 32 with occasional half stations along the way.
While the name is much nicer than calling them cockroaches, that is all they are. Most of the time they are just your typical American cockroaches that have found their way inside where they aren't wanted, but they also refer to the smokybrown cockroaches that like to hangout under the leaves of palmetto trees.
Burns Pest Elimination
Though it's now on menus across the country, this breakfast got its start in the Lowcountry. This iconic dish was first prepared by enslaved workers in plantation kitchens using creek shrimp caught nearby. For a traditional breakfast version head to Marina Variety Store, while Husk prepares a great fancy version.
Shrimp & Grits
Also called Lowcountry Boil, this dish consists of shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes boiled and smothered in Old Bay. It is best eaten communally in someone's backyard, but if that isn't an option head to Bowen's Island for great food and an incredible view.
This rich soup that is made of crab, roe, cream, a little sherry and some spices, got its name because the female crabs carry the roe that is necessary for this recipe. 82 Queen is famous for the dish and the more casual Marina Variety Store makes a great version as well.
The Lowcountry version of the dish found in many cultures, a purloo is at its core a one pot, meat and rice dish. For a seafood version, get the Lowcountry seafood pilau at The Grocery to share. If you want to try a duck version, head to Poogan's Porch where it is on the menu as pirloo.
This Gullah staple is made by sautéing rice with crab, onion, peppers, celery and bacon. While it sound's basic, you'd be crazy to pass up a plate of it at Hannibal's Kitchen.
A popular side that perfectly compliments Gullah mains is essentially a tomato purloo, with tomatoes and their juices cooked in one pot with rice. Pair your red rice at Bertha's with some fried whiting and okra stew.
In this seafood crazed city, there are many types of local fish on menus that you don't tend to find in other parts of the country. Fried whiting is a favorite and can be found on the menus of many down home eateries. Dave's Carry-Out or Nana's Seafood and Soul are the places to get it.
You may think that boiling green peanuts sounds like a bad idea, but you'd be wrong. If you are headed to a RiverDogs game, enjoy some peanuts with your baseball. If not, try Timbo's Peanuts that he serves from his peanut trailer.
Oysters here are harvested in clusters and thrown into a pot and steamed, at which point you take your knife to the bivalve clusters, slurping down as many as you can handle. The best roasts are in someone's backyard, but if that isn't an option head to Bowen's Island for your own bucket of oysters and an incredible view.
Many of the enslaved Africans in the area worked on rice plantations that grew Carolina gold rice, supposedly the best rice in the world, so it became a staple of the city's cuisine. The advent of instant rice nearly wiped out Carolina gold, but Anson Mills revived it 1998. The expensive rice can once again be eaten in many local restaurants.
Carolina Gold Rice
This rice dish made with shredded chicken, onions, peppers, and often sausage, got its name because a whole chicken is bogged down in the broth and rice, which results in incredibly tender chicken. While this meal is usually cooked in homes, not restaurants, The Shelter has it on its menu.
This tomato based soup got its start in the kitchens of the enslaved before making it onto the dinning tables of white Charleston. This Gullah favorite can still be found today in many local restaurants, including Bertha's.
Like most parts of the African diaspora, Charleston has its own version of beans and rice. This version is made with rice, field peas and seasoned with bacon. While this dish that is traditionally eaten on New Year's day, it always on the menu at Millers All day and both Bertha's and Dave's Carry-Out serve it on Thursdays.
Discover South Carolina
This Southern spread, while not unique to the city, is definitely a favorite. This combination of shredded cheddar cheese, mayo, and diced pimento peppers can be found adorning menu items or simply as a side all over the city. Either order it in a restaurant or pick some up at Burbage’s Grocery.
These iconic Charleston homes are one room wide, with two rooms on each floor divided by a central hallway and staircase. When you enter the first exterior door, instead of being deposited inside you step into the south facing piazza along the side of the house, which captures a breeze that makes the muggy summer more bearable.
You might think you are seeing beautiful porches on the side of the single houses all around the city, but you'd be wrong. Those structures that look perfect for a long sit in a rocking chair are actually called piazzas. The term piazza was used in many of the early American colonies, but the term died out most everywhere except Charleston.
A horrible earthquake in 1886 decimated much of Charleston and left locals scared that it could happen again. To give themselves piece of mind, many homeowners installed reinforcement rods in their walls that were fastened on the exterior of the building with often beautiful bolts that can still be seen in older parts of the city.
Like the single house, it has a side piazza and is one room wide. However, the cottages are only a single story with no hallway or staircase. The rooms simply open up onto each other, often with a fireplace in between. These cottages housed the newly freed African-Americans (for whom they are named) as well as the larger working class.
Many piazza roofs in the city are painted a pale blue known as Haint Blue, which the Gullah people painted on parts of their houses to prevent haints or spirits from coming in. People started painting their piazza roofs the same color hoping it kept mosquitos out too, which it did because the lye used in the paint is poisonous to bugs.
Charleston has a minor league baseball team, the River Dogs, and locals love to go to their games. The River Dog's stadium, Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, is named after the beloved former Mayor, but everyone just shortens it to The Joe.