Edisto Island: Food Worth Leaving France For
Trip Start Jul 05, 2006
19Trip End Jul 26, 2006
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Before I get into the culinary delights to be had on Edisto, just a quick note about the island itself. According to the Edisto Island Chamber of Commerce website, "Edisto Island's historical legacy began with the imprint of the Edistow Indians-its first known occupants. The Spanish arrived in the 1500's, followed by English settlers in the 1600's. The English remained, first living off the sea, then cultivating money crops of rice and indigo. By 1790, planters turned to a long staple cotton, known as Sea Island cotton-one of the finest cottons ever produced. It was this crop that brought the great wealth to Edisto Islanders. Many of the elegant houses and plantations remaining today are reminders of that affluent age." Edisto Island has been my family's summer destination of choice for the past fifteen years ever since my grandparents bought a timeshare condo when I was in my pre-teens. This gem of an island getaway has 1 Piggly Wiggly grocery store, 2 gas stations, 0 fast food restaurants (Buger King tried about ten years ago and failed), 0 hotels or motels, and endless acres of marsh, twisting creek inlets, dirt roads shaded by arching branches of live oak draped in stately Spanish moss, white sand beaches boasting a higher population of loggerhead turtle eggs than human bodies slathered in oily sunscreen, and a dizzying array of marine life
Edisto also boasts two restaurants worth traveling hundreds of miles to visit: 'Po Pig Bo-B-Q and The Old Post Office Restaurant. While both offer mouth-watering delicacies, the two restaurants could not be more opposite in ambiance. 'Po Pig shares a building with a gas station while Old Post Office inhabits (you guessed it) a renovated historical post office. 'Po Pig's southern gourmet spreads across the classic "all you care to eat" buffet table - warming lamps, chafing dishes, and all. Old Post Office's fare comes individually prepared on delicately balanced white plates. A meal for four at 'Po Pig will set you back a whopping $40. Quadruple that (including wine) at The Old Post Office. Yet on the walls of both restaurants hang framed articles of acclaim from magazines like Food & Wine, Gourmet, and The New York Times--the culinary equivalent of a big red X on a treasure map.
The Old Post Office draws crowds from Charleston and Savannah (both about an hour away) on a nightly basis
If the grits at Old Post Office constitute an addiction, then the food at 'Po Pig Bo-B-Q constitutes an epidemic. We can't get enough of their barbecue and buffet selections. In fact, we now plan our vacation around when 'Po Pig is open: Wednesday through Saturday. That means if we want to eat at any other restaurant on the island, we simply plan on visiting those establishments on Sunday through Tuesday. Easily overlooked among the other typical sea island restaurants, 'Po Pig Bo-B-Q seems like an afterthought addition to the Horizon gas station. Beside the convenient store flooded with antiseptic fluorescent light, the small dining room seems like a space typically occupied by a revolving door of renters: perhaps a nail salon, souvenir shop, take-out pizza joint, struggling insurance company, or island bike rental shop
The menu at 'Po Pig allows for some variety of taste. You can order a ham barbecue or beef barbecue sandwich. Fries are an option. But really, the only menu item worth considering is the "All You Care to Eat" buffet. There it spreads before you: ten feet of my-sides-are-splitting-but-yes-I-will-go-back-for-one-more-helping-of-barbeque-and-hash heaven. A daily soup selection starts off the line, and unless you're a soup fanatic, we recommend skipping this course and saving all available stomach real estate for the dishes to come. Next on the buffet are the cold salads--potato, pasta, vegetable--followed by the crowning glory (worth a 1/4 of the space on your plate) of freshly marinated pork barbecue. The tender, juicy strands, while delicious naked, can also be tastefully dressed with the hash options next in line. Hash, which I believe counts as a vegetable on the Southern food pyramid, is a vinegary kick of a gravy sure to delight anyone's taste buds. The buffet has just gotten started. Still to come are chittlins', green beans, steamed okra, butter beans, creamed corn, tuna casserole, macaroni and cheese, honeyed yams, carrots, hush puppies, buttered cabbage, and more
So were we ready to leave France? No. And yes. How can we recapture the sun-warmed apricots, the tangy olives, the unidentifiable fish that drips from the bones, the black velvety coffee, or the yeasty crunch of a great baguette? Then again, how could we not leave for a taste of Edisto? I guess once bit by the wanderlust bug, there will always be another place calling to me. The irony is that I can never experience it all at once. At least I have yet to find a place on this wide earth that serves up a savory plate of barbecue next to a freshly baked croissant. If you find it, let me know. Until then, I'll be travelling.