Since we have technically meandered into the south with our visit to the only Atlantic Coast state with “South” in its name – South Carolina – we decided it was finally time to partake of some real southern cooking (read “deep fried”). Our sources told us the place to go in Charleston was a place called Jestine’s Kitchen. The place is tiny and our research told us that the people in line often dwarf the number actually seated and eating, in fact, they even sell “I survived the line at Jestine’s” shirts inside. What a reputation indeed.
Luckily, the line is not a problem for us, since we usually eat an early dinner with the blue-hairs between 5 and 5:30.
Jestine’s is known for its low-country cuisine which is traditionally associated with cooking along the South Carolina Georgia coast. While similar to more traditional southern cooking, its location, economic and cultural history, and even physics have made its culinary character different. It’s rich with seafood and features spices and flavors similar to those found in New Orleans and Louisiana’s Cajun culture, all with a bit of a Caribbean and African influence.
When we were finally seated, we were greeted by a very friendly waitress who brought us a small bowl of their pickled cucumbers – or “ice-box pickles” that Jestine’s is famous for. Not your typical fare, the cucumbers are sweeter than store bought pickles, but also have a bit of spice. I ate most of them, and as an appetizer, we munched on fried green tomatoes – one of Kimmer’s childhood favorites.
For dinner we ordered the fried chicken with macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes – the nightly special – as well as a fried crabcake, fried okra and black eyed peas. Though the food was standard fare, it was all unique in that it featured a slightly different style of breading and spice. The fried chicken was crisp outside and extremely juicy inside, as it should be, but I must admit my mother-in-law still makes the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.
Budget conscious as we are, we normally pass on dessert, but today we just had to shove in at least one more southern specialty – the rich Coca-Cola cake. The waitress described it is between devil food cake and a brownie, and it did not disappoint. Though the coca cola was thoroughly disguised, primarily used as a fluffing ingredient, it was delicious!
This reasonably priced restaurant is the best southern cooking we have found and a must-eat on our list. Check out some other reviews here.