Friends don’t let friends eat imported shrimp, declares the ubiquitous bumper sticker in coastal South Carolina, where the shrimping industry is threatened by cheap farm-raised imports.
One bite of the native crustaceans and you’ll know why. They’re sweet, briny, and firm, but they rarely make it beyond local seafood purveyors.
To eat fresh Carolina shrimp, you have to come during shrimping season, which runs from May to December. Buy directly from the trawlers that line Shem Creek in the old town of Mount Pleasant, or sit down to a feast a few steps away at the Wreck of Richard and Charlene, an unmarked restaurant that rose up on the docks where Hurricane Hugo upended a fishing boat. Just look for the red buoy, and be prepared to wait. Your reward is a sunset view of the marshland, peanuts to snack on, and the tasty crustacean — fried, grilled, or boiled.
“Shrimp is so much a part of this culture,” says Cindy Tarvin, whose family owns the shrimping boat Miss Paula at the Geechee Dock. “Folks like to see working boats in the water and know that the tradition survives.”
Farther south beyond the Charleston Peninsula, locals dig into Frogmore stew, a one-pot wonder of unpeeled shrimp, corn on the cob, potatoes, and sausage at Bowens Island Restaurant, a third-generation-owned shrimp shack on the banks of Folly Creek.
This article, written by Margaret Loftus, appeared in the October 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler, on newsstands now.