Somehow I slept through the opening of Swig and Swine a few months ago. I discovered it at just the right time, however, smack dab in the middle of Charleston Restaurant Week and first-ever Charleston beer week. Here’s the link to today’s post on The Permanent Tourist Charleston:
Here’s a picture to whet your appetite so you’ll understand what I’m talking about!
Also, many thanks to Stephanie Smith at The Wandering Eye for her favorable review of The French Cook – Soups & Stews. Here’s an excerpt:
“…Classic bisques, stews and what might be the best French Onion Soup recipe I have encountered, are described in terms that will enhance your confidence when trying the recipes on your own. Beautiful photography by Chia Chong allows you to see how each dish should appear. Stylist Libbie Summers, also a photographer, styled the dishes into beautiful arrangements. The nice gloss of each page should help to repel spills, because you’re going to want to keep this book close by when you’re in the kitchen.”
As always, bon appetit and happy cooking!
It took me three drive-by’s and lots of recommendations to finally take the proverbial stab at The Crab Shack on Tybee Island. With all of its endearingly cheesy fishing kitsch (complete with an alligator pond and a giant red crab at the entrance), it just smacked of one of my least favorite two words: tourist trap.
So, finally, on a crystal clear blue sky, perfect late summer afternoon, I took the scenic drive along Highway 80 East from downtown Savannah out to historic and beautiful Tybee Island. The tide was so high it hugged the road, just a sliver at times, so tightly it almost felt like I was steering a boat rather than a car.
Even though The Crab Shack bears the same name as a local Charleston restaurant chain, it actually has a lot more in common with celebrated Bowen’s Island. It’s near a funky beach community, its on a dirt road off the main highway, there is a large sign off the main road to let you know it’s there, there are magnificent water views, and the food is fabulous.
Like Bowen’s, The Crab Shack began as a fishing camp, though much more recently. It’s owned by former fisherman Captain Jack Flanigan. The entire place ambles along like an old, covered, pier and is decorated with lots of colorful love, from the upside down wooden crate lamps to whirring fans and mist machines. Food comes out on styrofoam plates and an ample supply of paper towels while seabreezes from water so close you can practically touch it with your toes seasons the space with salty air.
Lowcountry staples like a chunky Lowcountry boil with corn so sweet it tastes like its been basted with buttered sugar, and huge chunks of corn and sausage, snow crab, Alaskan king crab, blue crab, Dungeness crab and stone crab platters form the backbone of the sizeable menu. Surprisingly, The Crab Shack also turns out some amazing smoked in-house, barbecue ribs, chicken and pork platters. Plastic fork tender and steeped in flavor, all come as a surprise bonus at a seafood shack, in particular the ultra-tender, smoky chicken.
I was in a delicate appetite mood, so opted for the shrimp salad (pictured above). As you see, it was full of fat, absolutely local Wild Georgia shrimp, that was simultaneously sweet and briny in each bite. It was barely cloaked in mayonnaise and strongly seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning enhanced with the crunch of the occasional bite of celery. Truly delicious and reasonably priced ($12.99) it was enough to easily feed two hungry souls and offered definite proof in the authentically local seafood pudding.
The Crab Shack attracts a diverse crowd, from blue-colored workers to little old ladies and boisterious tots, that all share in the fun together. That’s what eating at The Crab Shack feels like – pure, unadulterated fun that grows on you with each delicious bite and each Jimmy Buffett tune that cranks from the sound system. Give the shack a crab crack or two!
While you’re in this part of town, you also want to be sure and check out:
The Sundae Cafe (lunch/dinner – dinner reservations recommended)
Ele Fine Fusion (dinner only – reservations recommended)
As always, bon appetit, Savannah style!
“Famous” has lost its meaning of late in the haze of “reality” t.v. and constant celebrity seeking in everyone from pet poodles’ parents to crooning toddlers with mediocre talent who manage to find their moment of “fame” on You Tube and the internet. Recently, a friend of a friend even asked me if I was famous, to which I replied, “If you have to ask, you probably know the answer”.
Fortunately, a barbecue aficianado friend of mine didn’t tell me about the “famous” part of Moose’s Famous BBQ monicker, when he lured me up into the outer reaches of North Charleston/Moncks’ Corner to sample the pig at Moose’s. I probably would have written it off as hype, especially since it’s the first time I’ve heard of the place after eleven years of living in greater Charleston. But, I trusted his word on ‘cue, having proven his pork muster in the past.
Moose’s Famous BBQ is not to be missed. I dare say it is the best pig I’ve ever sampled in these parts. Owner Mark Moose, a native of Gastonia, NC, has been “cooking since high school,” spreading his love of barbecue all over the South including pork and beef smoking junkets in NC, GA, KY, and SC. Moose’s has been open for five years on a sleepy stretch of Highway 17 A, where it sits, like the best of most barbecue places, mostly unadorned and very easy to miss. Unless, you sniff for the smoke.
Hickory all but billows from the two, hickory wood-fired pits behind the friendly, grey building. Inside, framed puzzles form the pictures into the country soul of the place and a steaming buffet table whets the appetite of all who enter with unrestrained yet unintended cruelty. Forget about diets here. They are simply not going to happen. A prominent sign reads “If you can’t smell the smoke, the BBQ’s a joke”.
No joke here, save Moose, wielding his knife merrily about as he prepares to personally cut the crusty, moist, 12-hour smoked brisket to order for all who pass through the buffet line. “What would you like, hon?” he asks with soul-warming sincerity. The skinny sliced brisket, complete with a crusty, black, caramelized crust gets dressed (if you take Moose’s suggestion, and I suggest you do) with an airy, tomato puree, or a “sweet red sauce,” as he calls it. It’s a beautiful interpretation of a NC tomato/vinegar sauce and smacks to the high heavens of sweet/tart flavor to further enhance the pink, smokiness of the beef.
For “pulled” pork, Moose plunges his gloved “paw” (he’s got big hands) into the moist, 12-hour smoked Boston butt where it falls effortlessly in pink, tan and brown, unctuous shreds, like a shower of ‘cue goodness, onto your plate. This is best paired with Moose’s “old slave sauce”, a steaming bath of rendered pork fat so heavily peppered and seasoned with enough mystery spices he jokes it will render your butt hairless. It took him “years” to get the recipe from a friend, and you’ll want to thank him personally for doing it.
Most ‘cue joints (even the “famous” ones) serve up a side or two of mac ‘n cheese, slaw, beans, and the like, but Moose throws in heart-breakingly delicious casseroles – his specialty (unless you count the sauces and the smoked meats). He puts his personal touch and love into the sweet potato and hash brown casserole (a gooey marriage of hash brown and oodles of cheese), both of which are served daily. On alternating days, try the Brunswick stew, squash casserole, and red rice casserole. The whisper thin strands of yellow squash that weave their way through cheese-whipped custard in the squash casserole are like a Southern souffle. Sheer decadence! The hush puppies, nutty nuggets of savory doughnuts and ham-studded baked beans, alongside anything your Styrofoam plate (the health department mandates a fresh plate at each pass) can handle at Moose’s will make it your new favorite ‘cue stomping grounds.
If not officially famous yet, perhaps Moose’s soon will be. It certainly deserves fame, accolades and all of that, but I’d hate to risk taking the country bloom off this already perfect ‘cue rose. There is a web site and a new Summerville location looming in the near future and he wants to set up as many as 10 stores in greater Charleston in the coming months/years.
Moose is THE place in Charleston to get your pig on. All you can eat lunch plates are just $10.50 (plus tax) and dinner a modest $11.50 (plus tax). It’s spotless, friendly, and the parking is easy. Get it while you can!
Moose’s Famous BBQ
1440 South Live Oak Drive, Moncks Corner, SC 29461
Thursday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
NOTE: NO CREDIT CARDS! Cash only.