The south is known for its friendly accents, laid-back people, humid temperatures and feel good food. Incorporating food into a Hilton Head vacation is part of the Lowcountry experience. Southern food is just as much about the people as it is the recipes. The food culture dates back to agriculture, slavery and multicultural regions which have shaped what people now describe as comfort food. To truly enjoy southern cuisine, one must put aside the fixation on calories and turn their focus to taste and gratification.
Generally, southern food takes on its own flair depending on who is stirring the pot. A universal southern dish often begins in a skillet. Bacon lovers will rejoice because there is no other location on the planet that bacon finds its way into more entrees, appetizers, side dishes, and desserts; and yes, even adult beverages! Here are a dozen favorite local dishes to try while here in the Lowcountry:
1. Brussels with Bacon – crisped hickory bacon, shallots, butter and garlic cooked in a skillet and served alongside any entree.
2. Brunswick Stew– Chicken or pork flavored with lima beans, corn, potatoes and a touch of BBQ sauce make a thick and hearty meal.
3. Handpies-Sweet or savory, these single serving pastries, home-made and easy to eat.
4. Lowcountry Boil– Fresh shellfish catch of the day with vegetables, sausage and cajun flavor cooked in a large pot.
5. Oysters- Baked, roasted, grilled or raw with toppings such as bread crumbs, butter, spinach, onion and cheese.
6. Shrimp n Grits– This southern staple can vary from place to place but generally it is made with tender shrimp, bacon and peppers served over cheesy grits.
7. Mac ‘n Cheese– Several cheeses combined with milk and eggs smother the fresh macaroni. And yes it may include bacon!
8. BBQ- Pork, chicken, or ribs slow-cooked and usually served with a mustard-based sauce that includes brown sugar and vinegar.
9. Okra– Southerners like it fried but it can be pickled or stewed, and even tossed into gumbo.
10. Fried Green Tomatoes– Tomato slices are dipped in egg batter and cornmeal, then tossed into an oiled skillet.
11. Collard Greens– Synonymous with the south, these leafy greens are slow-cooked with smoky bacon, vinegar, onions and garlic
12. Boiled Peanuts– The traditional southern snack food, the green or raw nuts are boiled in salty water for hours over an outdoor fire. The shells turn soggy and the peanut takes on a fresh flavor.
While on Hilton Head, go and sample the countless restaurants with southern influences. Most at least give a friendly nod to the south by offering a few menu options that are truly southern classics. Who knows, perhaps the food is the reason people in the south are seemingly friendlier! One thing we know is that southern food is very satisfying. It creates food memories that keep us coming back for more. A little southern advice…always remember to cover your plate in gravy and dump plenty of sugar into your tea! Some local restaurants to visit are: Rockfish @ Bomboras, British Open Pub, Crazy Crab, The Jazz Corner, Nick’s Steak and Seafood, Relish Cafe, Skillets, Bistro 1, Carolina Crab Co. Reilley’s, Aunt Chilada’s, and the newly reopened Alexander’s.