Whoa. The restaurant scene has really gone uphill since I lived in Mount Pleasant in the 1990s. Maybe it’s a logical result of having Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Boone Hall Market, and a huge local farmer’s market in town. Meanwhile, the population has more than doubled over the past 20 years to some 72,000 people. As in Charleston, there’s a general interest in eating well and dining out—and outside, many restaurants offer patio and deck seating now. Or even dockside—communities east of the Cooper River from downtown have long been involved in fishing and shrimping, particularly on Shem Creek, and that’s where many restaurants are clustered. Downtown chefs have opened second locations in East Cooper, and every shopping center and neighborhood has its share of eateries—all the way up to Awendaw, and on Sullivans Island and Isle of Palms, too. Here are a few favorite spots.
One of those surprises-in-a-plaza places, Bacco serves octopus and clams, just-baked breads, pizza, and other delicious Mediterranean fare from their wood-burning oven. While chef Michael Scognamiglio cooks, his father, Luigi, is often the host. House-made pasta and mozzarella are menu favorites, and wine-soaked dinners are like taste-tours of Italy.
Brighter, lighter and beach-ier than his wildly popular Wild Olive on John’s Island, Chef Jacques Larson is drawing East Cooper crowds to new digs on Sullivan’s Island that features local ingredients and plates to share—seafood, pizza, oysters. Some of my faves (so far) are the Frogmore Chowder and Lowcountry Shrimp Roll.
Page’s Okra Grill
A town-gathering place, the parking lot of Page’s Okra Grill is full breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the mayor of Mount Pleasant, Linda Page, is an owner. Huge slices of cake are on display near the entrance, and the value-priced menu includes shrimp & grits that I’d rank as tasty as pricier versions downtown.
The burger, the burger. I don’t know if writer Edgar Allen Poe ate much beef when he was stationed at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island in the 1820s, but when we go to Poe’s Tavern, we get one thing, the half-pound burger—sometimes with a crabcake and remoulade on top.
Old Village Post House
There’s such a great vibe at this old house on Pitt Street in the historic Old Village, along with one of Charleston’s favorite chefs for decades, Frank Lee. Special dinners feature local ingredients—peaches, crabs, or shrimp, in season. It’s also a favorite for Sunday brunch, followed by a walk to the harbor.