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Revolutionary Summer Dining

Sunrise over Charleston harbor

Summer 2020 has proven to be extraordinary in more ways than one. COVID-19 has changed how we’re eating out, and the Black Lives Matter movement has us thinking about all the remarkable Black-owned and operated restaurants in and around the Palmetto City. If you’ve seen Chef KJ Kearney’s #BlackFoodFridays posts, maybe you’ve already come across his map of Black-Owned restaurants in the Charleston metro area. Consider celebrating the Black culinary experience in Charleston while keeping up your social distancing:

Grab some James Beard Award-winning Carolina BBQ from Rodney Scott (don’t forget the banana pudding), and then walk your take-out over to nearby Hampton Park. Not only is it a beautiful place to eat your pulled pork sandwich while keeping six feet away from other humans, it’s also the site of the First Memorial Day celebration – a remarkable moment in which Charleston’s formerly enslaved residents came together to recognize the many fallen soldiers of the long and bloody Civil War. While you’re there, check out the statue of the revolutionary Denmark Vesey. You can use the Charleston Stories QR code located nearby the statue to hear Denmark “tell” the story of his life. 

Head out to West Ashley for some of the Lowcountry’s finest vegetarian and vegan food! Maudell Grayson, matriarch of the beloved Dellz has been serving plant-based specialties to Charlestonians for decades. Her Jazzy Pizzas have earned a cult following from those of us who have been seeking out her healthy eats since our college days. From Dellz, you’re just a short drive from McLeod Plantation, one of Charleston’s most accurate and unvarnished interpretations of what life was like on a typical Lowcountry plantation for enslaved men, women, and children. Prepare to listen, learn, and be moved by stories of the resilience, ingenuity, and revolutionary spirit of these remarkable ancestors. Since you’ll likely be out walking in some significant heat, (and since Dellz is currently only offering food for pick-up), we suggest you check out McLeod first, and then grab your Dellz to enjoy on nearby Folly Beach – or back in the AC of your hotel room. 

Local long-time favorites such as Bertha’s Kitchen and Martha Lou’s continue to offer their beloved Southern home cooking to go.  Dave’s Carry-Out is cooking up it’s fried fish sandwich among a host of other South Carolina specialties. Grab a meal, (you’re not going to go wrong no matter which you pick), and then swing by Graft, Charleston’s only Black-owned wine bar, and recent local pick for Esquire’s Best Bars in America. Snag a bottle of something chilled, and take your picnic to White Point Garden. As you enjoy your feast under the shady canopy of Live Oak trees, pull out that phone and read or listen to this episode of the Charleston Time Machine, which describes a 4th of July tradition long-held in the park by Charleston’s Black citizens called the “Too-a-Loo”.

Unfortunately, none of the monuments in the park itself remark on the lives of Black Charlestonians. So, once you’re done enjoying your picnic  of the Lowcountry’s finest eats, head over to the high battery that runs along the east side of the park. At the end of the walk, right by the Charleston Historic Foundation headquarters, you’ll find a plaque describing the bold and heroic escape of Col. Robert Smalls, from these very waters, to secure the emancipation of his family and fellow enslaved sailors aboard the C.S.S. Planter. The Robert Smalls plaque also has a Charleston Stories QR code, if you’d like to hear Smalls’ story brought to life by his great-great grandson and President of the International African American Museum, Michael B. Moore. 

With a full belly and wide-open imagination, take a minute to absorb the view of Charleston harbor from this vantage point: the waterways into which the first African captives were unwillingly carried into South Carolina. Though still under-recognized in public spaces, the creativity and strength of these ancestors have shaped much of Lowcountry culture and cuisine, and we hope this brief exploration of that history has left you hungry for more!

If you’d like to continue learning about Charleston’s diverse history, sign up for a walking tour! Charleston’s Most Beautiful Walk is running daily, with limited tour sizes and mask requirements for the safety of our guests. Or tune in to our Friday Virtual Happy Hour for a brief look at some of Charleston’s most fascinating historical topics, all accessible from the safety of your living room. 

-Palmer Stowe

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