Reminder — seefare articles don’t always coincide with our current travels but are places we’ve enjoyed along the way.
If you are planning a stop in Beaufort, SC and like great food, you’ll find it here. We can also highly, highly recommend staying at Port Royal Landing Marina. Dockmaster Michele (our very own Wench with a Wrench) along with Rion the GM and their crew take exceptional care of their boaters. Their new Bellingham concrete docks are incredible – we like to call the main dock where we stayed the Port Royal Mega-Dock! They also have a courtesy car and bicycles to borrow. And if you need a diver that’s a real pro, Michele’s husband Gene, of Port Royal Scuba, is your guy.
Beaufort (BYOO-fert) is recognized as one of the most livable small towns in the country. It is beautiful and historic and it was one of the first cities in the deep south to be held in Union hands. Because of this, much of the architecture was spared from the destruction that happened during the Civil War. One of the many notable things about this area, called Lowcountry, is the abundance of fresh, local seafood.
On my first trip to get fresh fish, I wanted a real local feel. Michele volunteered to take me while A.J. stayed onboard to manage some work. She said we absolutely must go to Sea Eagle Market. As we drove the main road I kept scanning for water, waiting to see the fishing boats lined up and unloading all of their delicious bounties…but it seemed like we were driving away from the water. After getting off the main road we began winding down a dirt road with large potholes filled with water – which was the only water I could see. We moved slowly as to not cover the hood of the car from the splashing. Large Southern Live Oak trees were dense and blocked the sky. Spanish moss hung down like fingers waiting to snatch you up if you got too close. Old shacks and cars were peppered behind broken fences. There were even some folks wandering aimlessly along the roadside. As the bumpy road wended farther along and it felt like we were getting deep into nowhere, I wondered if when I said I’d just die for some fresh local seafood that Michele had taken that literally! As we hit a large pothole, the front end of the car almost became submerged and when the wipers cleared the muddy water, we had come upon a place bustling with activity.
Two fishing boats were pulled up behind a building and for a moment it was as if they were sitting on land – but no, there was a waterway back there. Lowcountry baby! Iced coolers sat out in front of the store filled with freshly caught seafood. Yellowfin Tuna, Grouper, Red Drum, Soft Shell Crab, Diver Scallops, Oysters, Shrimp of all size…and more.
I wanted it all. It was a seafood junkie’s delight and I started picking out my fresh fish. The last item I was drawn to — the 16-20 per-pound shrimp — were priced at $11.99. Yes, $11.99 a pound for freshly caught, big, beautiful Lowcountry shrimp. I started getting all Bubba Gump. I could make shrimp gumbo, green curry shrimp, garlic shrimp, barbeque shrimp, shrimp ceviche, shrimp jambalaya, shrimp dumplings. Michele jumped in with, “you gotta make shrimp and grits!” Somebody stop me before I consume too much iodine! The one thing that didn’t come to mind was shrimp burgers but thanks to the fine folks in this entry they will now be something I will always crave.
The Dog House
As we left with my many pounds of fresh seafood and got back on the main road, hunger set in. Oh yes, and the way back seemed much, much shorter. Potholes!? Who cares, I’ve got a trunk full of fresh seafood. As we passed a bright and festive little roadside joint called The Dog House — as our dear friend Sandee from Canada would say, it’s a wee little place – we decided to turn around and give it a shot.
It’s a bright, clean and charming space with a few indoor seats and some outdoor seating. They have a serious variety of hot dogs (obviously), but on one of the signs we saw when passing, it said Shrimp Po’ Boy. I love a great Shrimp Po’ Boy so we eagerly went in and were greeted by the owners/culinary team, Vicky and Blake (former Ohioans which made me feel right at home).
The menu had a tasty variety of food and suddenly we weren’t sure what to get. Vicky was terrific and told us that if we wanted to try something popular, we needed to get the shrimp burger. They made them right there and they were grilled out back by Blake. She said we wouldn’t be disappointed. She was right!
The shrimp was chopped, not ground, so you could taste the sweet chunks and there wasn’t a lot of breading. There was an almost Imperial Sauce quality to the mix but in truth, I couldn’t put my finger on it but the seasoning was nicely balanced. It was grilled so perfectly that you would get just a bit of crunch, a slight grilled char so you knew it was there, and then the burst of the juicy, fresh shrimp. Fresh Lowcountry shrimp is truly exceptional. The soft bun was lightly toasted with pickled red onion, lettuce and that special sauce (not too heavy, thank you very much!). The side of fries was perfectly fried, hot and nicely salted. It was one of the best shrimp burgers we’ve ever had. Thanks, Vicky and Blake, we can’t wait to get back…do you ship!? Side note: There was a fella there named Hoss, a young captain on a barge that ordered one of their specialty hot dogs heaped with the works – a favorite of his – and it looked like they had put everything but the kitchen sink on it!
Lowcountry Produce Market and Café
We went to Lowcountry Produce Markey and Café for lunch and not only was the staff warm and welcoming, the food was delicious. The location used to be a United States Post Office and they did a brilliant job turning it into a welcoming space.
Their menu offers some of the best choices I’ve ever seen, from a Ribeye Sandwich to Lobster Club, Cuban Sandwich to Shrimp and Grits and so much more. Everything looked tempting.
A.J. chose the Carteret Chicken Sandwich. Why so boring, you may ask, with all of those delicious offerings? Sometimes a health-conscious guy like A.J. just needs a perfectly grilled, lightly seasoned chicken breast on a toasted bun (normally served with melted Monterey jack cheese but he skipped the cheese to make the rest of us feel even more unhealthy!) with a tangy lemon aioli, red onion, tomato & mixed greens. His side was a wheat berry salad with red pepper and marinated raisins. The chewy texture of the wheat berry, the crispness of the pepper and the softness of the raisins made this flavorful, layered salad a favorite.
Poppa (A.J.’s dad was visiting) and I chose…wait for it…the Shrimp PO’ BOY. Why fried you may ask? Because sometimes two health-conscious guys just crave some large, tender and perfectly fried, not-greasy-at-all panko dusted Lowcountry shrimp. It’s that simple. Besides, we’d do a few situps when we got back to the boat and all would be right with the world! Set on a soft hoagie with lettuce, tomato, and a very flavorful house-made tartar sauce made with real mayo, it was a treat. We both chose the beluga lentil salad with fresh corn, carrots, and onions and it was a mélange of zesty flavors.
It’s not always easy to get “simpler” foods right. But, when they are done right, you can bet that the same care and effort that went into making them will also go into the more complex items on the menu. Both The Dog House and Lowcountry Produce Market and Cafe are two places that do it right!
Until we eat again, Sláinte! — your seafaring Admiral
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