877 Sea Island Parkway (Route. 21)
Saint Helena Island, SC
We spent one of our first days in SC visiting the Penn Center, a Gullah museum and research center dedicated to the African-American populations of the coastal lowcountry. The Gullah cultivated a unique culture with a distinct language, and of course a distinct cuisine, so we figured if we were in Gullah country we should definitely try some Gullah food.
Gullah Grub is located in an old wooden house on a somewhat busy road, right before the turnoff that leads you further out to sea (and the Penn Center). There’s no AC, but the place managed to stay relatively cool, courtesy of overhead fans working double time. As we entered we were greeted to a cozy interior dotted with knickknacks and mismatched tables and chairs – reminiscent of the living room of a southern Grandma. Perhaps best of all, as soon as we sat down, a plate of free cornbread (and excellent cornbread at that) was plunked down in front of us. Both of us ordered Sweet Tea ($2) to accompany our lunches, which came served in Mason jars with unlimited refills.
The menu consisted of mainly Southern favorites. Fried chicken and BBQ ribs seemed to be popular choices, but the menu boasted some more unusual items as well, including a fried shark-n-shrimp dinner ($17.50). Sharks are not uncommon in these coastal parts, we suppose. Not in the mood for shark, L ordered the BBQ Chicken ($8.50). It came with a side of potato salad and a generous slathering of red, vinegary Carolina -style sauce. Despite the heat, M was feeling the soup, and he asked our waiter if he would recommend either the gumbo or the She Crab Soup. He replied that “Well, they are both good, but the gumbo is healthier.” M therefore, made a beeline for the she-crab soup ($6 for a medium bowl/$9 for a large). True to our waiter’s word, the She Crab soup was creamy, filling and delicious.
We had heard that the service was especially slow, however, our meal moved along at a good pace, even with a big party table ordering right ahead of us. The vibe of our late lunch was laid back and friendly, the food was good and this was the only place we’ve ever actually had drinks out of jelly jars. Eating in the little wooden house, sipping on Sweet Tea, we felt completely transported.