Not an expert on South Carolina food but I did grow up in Oklahoma and Texas which does mean I have sampled a few soul food dishes. After reading about the great restaurants in the Charleston area, wanted to report on a place called Gullah Cuisine.
Ambiance: Strip mall cafeteria, but clean and proud.
Clientele: Locals and families with the rare visitor brought by locals.
Price: Very reasonable $6 and change for buffet; $10 and change for shrimp and hominy; $5.95 for She-Crab Soup
Would drive how far to eat there: 30 miles
First, this was a lunch visit and we only had the buffet. It was great. Okra gumbo, sweet potatoes, baked or fried chicken, three kinds of rice, mash, mac 'n'cheese, fish stew, collards-- everything was sincerely Southern with the exception of the mac n cheese which tasted a bit dry and bland. But I chalk that up to the buffet style serving more than any fault of the kitchen.
One item that my local companion insisted on was the She-Crab Soup and we both felt is was among the city's best. Rich, creamy with plenty of crab and just the right amount of Sherry.
How is Gullah different from Louisiana cuisine or southern soul food? Less spice for one thing, more use of the bone in stews and vegetables and more of a nod to French origins I think. Where the sould food in Oklahoma and Texas is heavy on bay leaf, peppers and onion, Gullah was a bit more subtile.
Charlotte Jenkins runs the place and has quite a pedigree. She hails from New York and has a degree in culinary arts. Want to open a couple of more places in Atlanta and elsewhere (forgot the other city).
The address is 1717 Highway 17 North
Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
Love to hear how the sit-down dishes are for dinner. But for a southern lunch buffet, I can't remember better... well maybe Nelson's Buffeteria in Tulsa comes pretty close.