Along with New Orleans and Savannah, Charleston ranks among my favorite cities to visit and experience exquisite Southern cuisine. The South Carolina lowcountry has been a getaway destination for my family for 30 years now. Though there is an overflowing plate of dining possibilities in historic downtown alone, my visit to Charleston is not complete without a lunchtime stop at Hyman’s Seafood.
A line of hungry guests begins forming just before 11 a.m. most days at the Middle Street restaurant, just about a block off the northern end of the old market corridor. But with an extensive old wholesale goods facility now fitted for restaurant seating, Hyman’s handles the crowd pretty well.
It’s not a place where you can really savor the experience of lowcountry dining without spending a little bit of money on multiple courses. And it’s worth putting down a few extra dollars to get the complete package.
For our family, that starts with an appetizer of fried okra, which comes crunchily breaded and with a taste so fresh it leads you to believe it was grown and picked right there on the grounds, carried into the kitchen and fried just minutes before reaching your table. There are other local delicacies available as starters as well, such as boiled peanuts and fried green tomatoes.
My typical main course always seems to be shrimp and grits. It’s a dish and city pairing that are, in my opinion, among the most iconic in the country. There’s no better place to eat shrimp and grits than in Charleston, S.C., and Hyman’s has my favorite. It’s a hearty bowl of the creamiest, hottest grits, covered with what seems like 20 large, plump, tasty shrimp. To make the most of it, you must top your dish with cheese and bacon for full effect.
A visit to Hyman’s means fried oysters for my dad, and the seafood specialty is among his favorite in town or anywhere. Hyman’s offers a large variety of broiled and fried seafood items and combinations, including a daily specials board of fresh fish options, all served with delicious side items.
One of the best things about Hyman’s Seafood is that it offers choices for people who aren’t big seafood eaters. You can even order from the menu at Aaron’s Deli, a companion restaurant right next door.
With so many chic new places in such a culinary city, it’s difficult to visit Charleston in a short period of time and try all of the hot spots. Hyman’s is my go-to spot because it’s a city institution where you can eat a variety of delicious iconic dishes special to the region. If you give it a try, pay particular attention to where you sit and which celebrity’s name is on a plaque at your place, and be sure to visit at a time when you’re not in a hurry to best surf the crowd and enjoy the experience.
215 Meeting St., Charleston, S.C.