Where to eat in Charleston, part 2
There are so many great restaurants in the low country, and the competition is high. Restaurants have to reach deep to be creative, and to serve meals that the public wants to eat, but that are creative, different and yet familiar enough, and well done with fresh ingredients. Most of the well-known restaurants are downtown, but my all time favorite place to eat is actually in North Charleston, on Ashley Phosphate. Nigel’s serves low country food in the soul food style with the very familiar meat and three type foods, as well as shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and plenty of seafood choices. If you are feeling adventurous they offer more creative meals like my favorite, the Low Country Ravioli. From the menu, this is the description of the meal; Low Country Ravioli…Grilled Chicken, Bacon, Collards Greens, Black-eye Pea & Corn Relish & Cheese stuffed Ravioli tossed in a Whiskey Cream Sauce for $11.95. This is my all time favorite meal found in the entire state of South Carolina, so far anyway.
Nigel is the owner and chef, and in 2007 he won first place with his Oyster Stew in an Oyster Recipe contest. He has worked at several of the restaurants in town, and now has his own place, creating and cooking with attention to detail.
Nigel’s motto is Nigel’s good food, just what your soul needs. This is reflective of the menu, since most of the recipes come from what would be called soul food. Soul food is defined on Nigel’s web site as “a selection of foods traditionally in the cuisine of African Americans.” The idea behind soul food was good, cheap and easy to find ingredients that produced filling food that lasted for a long day of hard work. Soul food is traditional southern cooking full of collard greens, black eye peas, pork, corn, lots of fat, and flavor. Soul food originates from slaves trying to create meals from what was given to them, and what could be found. Many of the vegetables and cooking styles have origins in Africa, with okra and rice playing an important role in the meals.
As I mentioned the Low Country Ravioli is my favorite meal, but I also have tried the Geechie chicken sandwich, fish and chips, and another favorite, shrimp and grits. When I had the chicken sandwich I asked the waiter what geechie was and he said it was a special seasoning that gave a lot of flavor. Geechie is another name sometimes used for the Gullah culture found in SC, and so I assume the seasoning is something from this rich culture.
Every once in a while a rich southern meal is good for the soul, although you can also get healthier choices in the restaurant, if you wish. All I know is I love to eat here, but after dinner I feel like I need to walk at least 10 miles. I could always save some of the food for the next day, but somehow that never happens, it is just too good!