Imagine eating a full dinner of North Charleston soul food at Bertha's Kitchen at 5 p.m., zipping across the Ravenel Bridge for fried shrimp and okra at H&R Sweetshop in Mount Pleasant, then finishing the night a few blocks away with she crab soup, scallops and Key lime bread pudding at The Wreck.
You probably wouldn't eat for several days ... unless you were traveling with the Glee Club. Then you'd just be getting started on a weekend of Lowcountry Roadfood heaven.
The Glee Club, one of several groups that link up via the forums at roadfood.com, organize Presidents Weekend extravaganzas each year. Members drive or fly to a location, then together visiting as many of the local culinary hot spots as possible.
Nancy Floyd, assistant director of the Office of Institutional Assessment & Compliance at USC, has been reading and posting on the roadfood.com forums for years. She joined the Glee Club for the first time this year and came away impressed - as much with the eaters as the food.
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After the big Saturday lunch at Gullah Cuisine in Mount Pleasant, she was stuffed and ready for a nap.
"I looked at those guys and said, 'You're not tired of food yet, are you?'" Floyd said. "Their forks dropped and it got quiet."
They couldn't believe anyone gets tired of good food.
The first year, the Glee Club explored Tennessee barbecue. This year, they enjoyed the wide variety of Lowcountry cuisine. And they REALLY enjoyed it.
Read their forum entries, and you'll feel like you gained five pounds without eating. In addition to the loving descriptions, they post photos of the food. It serves the true purpose of roadfood.com, tipping others to great places to eat.
The original Glee Club agenda was to go to Sweatman's Barbecue in Holly Hill for Friday night dinner, Gullah Cuisine for Saturday lunch and Bowen's Island at Folly Beach for Saturday night dinner. Some arrive early and try to squeeze in several other stops, and they didn't let a once-a-decade snowstorm stop them.
Here are a few highlights from the Glee Club forum posts by a character who goes by the tag Chi Town Diner:
Bertha's Kitchen (Thursday, shortly after arriving in Charleston at 4 p.m.): We had, by the way, pork chops, fried chicken, greens (very good), mac & cheese, red rice, bread pudding, sweet tea, french vanilla cake and the single best item - lima beans. They were so good, almost soup-like with a liquid made by the gods and lots of meat chunks floating in the bath!
H&R Sweetshop (Thursday night): The surprise of the night was a request for tartar sauce. The chef/owner said no problem, and went back in the kitchen to whip some up. What we got was the best tartar sauce I've ever experienced. He wouldn't name all the seasonings, but it had a rich blend of flavors similar to Old Bay plus relish, onion, and other finely diced, chunky items. Phenomenal!
The Wreck (Thursday night): The best ever fried green tomatoes! THE BEST EVER! The seasonings in the light, tempura-like batter were exquisite!
Hominy Grill (Friday morning): The hit for me was my main course ... best meal of the trip so far, perhaps my best Roadfood item ever, and one of my favorites of all time! The plate begins with a simple rendition of cheese grits cooked to perfection. I am not a grit lover, and I loved these. Firm, not watery, and delicious. The cheese grits were topped with sauteed shrimp, scallions, mushrooms and crumbled bacon. The sauteed shrimp had a very light sauce - not a heavy country or sausage gravy, but a light almost white wine-like. The combination was one of the best items I have ever eaten! The plate almost required no further dish washing ... it was that clean!
Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room in Savannah (Friday lunch, after short stops at Carolina Cider Company in Yemassee and Blackstone's Cafe in Beaufort): Our table was set with 22 different bowls or plates of food ... snap beans (my favorite), mashed potatoes, brown gravy, creamed corn, black-eyed peas, white rice, rutabagas, sausages, baked beans, cold macaroni salad, butter beans, stuffing, yams, fried chicken, bbq pork slices, beef stew, stewed okra and tomatoes, collard greens, English peas and noodles (my second favorite), potato salad, cabbage, biscuits and sorghum and at the very end, number 23, a bowl of fresh sliced cucumbers with vinegar, salt and pepper.
Sweatman's Barbecue in Holly Hill (Friday dinner, after stops at Sgt. White's Restaurant in Beaufort and Morrison's Burger Hut in Hollywood): It's white meat, the moist inner, dark meat, the crisp outer, skin, crisp and quartered and ribs. Traditional sides as well as two different sauces, Carolina mustard and a variation of a traditional red. (A Glee Club member who goes by the tag "Northcarolina") was last to arrive, and they were literally locking the door so as to allow employees a chance to finish up and get moving before the snow made roads impassable. We got out and it was a 30 mile-an-hour drive back to Charleston. As cars were beginning to have troubles on the road, we decided to call it night.