What’s good here?
If quantities are any indication, the 200 gallons of sweet tea and lemonade and the 40 gallons of hot dog chili sold weekly testify to the fact that those three items are hits with customers patronizing Blackmon’s Little Midget Drive-In in Camden. A preferred appetizer – jokingly referred to as southern caviar – is Blackmon’s pimento cheese. Customers also purchase the pimento cheese in large quantities weekly – for sandwiches, to spread on crackers or to top burgers.
Owner Allen Blackmon says folks in Camden like to sit on their front porches and enjoy their pimento cheese in the afternoons. Most everything is made from scratch – including the sought-after chicken salad. There is slow-roasted barbecue, Philly steak and chicken subs, no-fillers hot dogs with Blackmon’s “famous” chili, fresh ground chuck hamburgers, wings, triple decker clubs, and other favorites such as BLTs, flounder filet sandwiches and grilled chicken subs.
There are also patty melts: choose your meat to go with American and Mozzarella cheese, grilled onions and tomatoes. Accompanying orders are such sides as French fries, tater tots, chili cheese fries, pimento cheese fries, onion rings, mushrooms and slaw. Six salads are served, including the Palmetto Grilled Chicken Salad and the Teriyaki Salad.
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How did Blackmon’s get its start?
Allen’s parents, Ira and Evelyn, bought what was a small hot dog stand in 1958; the Blackmons have been serving a full menu of quality southern food ever since. Allen’s wife, Delaine, ran it for many years after his parents stepped aside. She lost a battle with cancer a few years ago. Her loss prompted Blackmon, who had a career working for the state of South Carolina, out of retirement to manage his family restaurant. His son, Ethan, also assists. “I am training him to one day be the third generation of Blackmons,” says Allen.
What does the place look like?
As its name, Little Midget, implies, the restaurant is small. There is seating for about 30, with many customers pulling up to the drive-in window or walking in to purchase take-out orders. On every wall is a trompe l’oiel mural by artist Wanda Gardner, Delaine’s sister. The art depicts natural scenes of trees, a squirrel, shrubs, flowers and topiaries. There are large open windows; carved paper towel holders on every table sport the restaurant’s name.
Who eats here?
At least two generations of regulars enjoy Blackmon’s. Allen says those who are passing through to visit the local museum, where there is a new historic gun collection, or to attend equestrian events and re-enactments, often learn about the food through word of mouth. Many will seek out Camden’s oldest family owned restaurant if they visit occasionally. Columbia residents, he says, will drive the 20-plus miles periodically just to enjoy their favorites. Blackmon’s does not offer full-scale catering, but provides special orders for select clientel, including wings – as many as 2,000 – for the Carolina Cup, a steeplechase race.
Blackmon’s Little Midget Restaurant and Drive-in
1012 Market St. in Camden
PRICES: $1.59 for a chili bun up to $12.95 for a shrimp/flounder combo. Most prices are in the $5.99 to $6.99 range.
HOURS: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Closed Sunday.
INFO: (803) 432-3011
Deena C. Bouknight, Special to Go Columbia
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