Restaurant Reviews: Jestine's Kitchen
Enjoy Lowcountry Cooking During Your Charleston Travel
Jestine's is one of those places in the South that everyone knows for its good, low-country home-cooking. It is featured in any Charleston guide available. The place isn't fancy, it's homey with bare wooden tables, old style diner ads, road signs and framed write-ups of the restaurant. I walked inside; it was a bustling place, even though it was off-season for tourists. Jestine's Restaurant is a great example of casual Charleston dining. I was welcomed with a smile and immediately seated at a table and asked if I wanted some sweet tea. I had to say yes. Now, for those who don't know, sweet tea is the icy, cold drink of choice in Charleston and probably the rest of the South. Every restaurant offers it. There's even a cocktail made from it mixed in with vodka, Sweet Tea Vodka.
I looked around and everyone had a smile on their face and was enjoying their meal. The servers were busy coming to and fro, making sure that everyone had what they needed. Thoughtfully they offered me a copy of the local Charleston community paper with the menu. As I perused the menu, I knew immediately what I wanted, the Fried Chicken Basket that came with coleslaw. As a non-southerner, my experience with southern fried chicken had to do with either KFC or Popeye's and I wanted to taste the real thing.
As the basket was set before me, I looked at it with anticipation. The fried chicken was breaded and served with nuggets of fried okra and coleslaw on the side. You knew that it just came from the fryer and had been put aside for a bit to let the extra oil soak out. I bit into the fried chicken, it was crisp but not greasy, the breading was just right and not thick and adhered to the chicken and gave it that satisfying crunch feeling when you bit into it.
The chicken was moist and the seasoning was perfect, it didn't need hot sauce or any kind of sauce to give it flavor. My taste buds were dancing, my mouth was doing the rumba. It was a little taste of nirvana. It made you want to hold on to that piece of chicken breast with both hands so that you can bite another good mouthful. No wonder they gave you a green washcloth instead of one of those formal white cotton napkins. Good fried chicken is not for the dainty of heart and you have to use your hands during the meal.
Tools You Can Use
I popped a fried okra nugget in my mouth and it tasted delicious as well. Now okra, is one of those vegetables that I've never liked to eat, because the way it's been prepared normally, it was kind of slimy. But at Jestine's, the okra was cut into nugget-sized pieces and dipped in breading and then fried. I had no trouble enjoying Jestine's fried okra nuggets. The basket came with some coleslaw and it was a refreshing taste that complemented the entree. The nice waitress refilled my glass with more sweet tea and said “Make sure you make room for dessert.” And I nodded enthusiastically. I already had my eye on the pecan pie.
Again, my experience with pecan pie was limited to the Entenmann's line of baked goods and as far as I was concerned, that is not real pecan pie. I took a good forkful of pecan pie into my mouth and thoughtfully chewed. Oh-my-lord! The pecan was chopped into small pieces but not so fine that it was like paste, it gave the mouth a satisfying crunch and the filling was a taste of caramel and pecan goodness. By the time I had finished, I thought they would have to roll me to my hotel.
Now the folks at Jestine's didn't rush me, as I ate my meal, they just made sure that I was okay and that my glass was always full of sweet tea. As I left, I requested a cup to take my sweet tea with me, but they kindly gave me a new cup of sweet tea for the road. Now if that's gracious southern hospitality, I'm sorry we don't have more of it in the rest of the country. I recuperated the rest of my afternoon at my hotel, very satisfied that my Charleston travel is going along so well.
Jestine's Kitchen is located at 251 Meeting St. Charleston, SC. Inexpensive. My chicken basket was $9. My pecan pie was $5. Sweet tea with refills was $1.50.
- Travel Review: Three Days in Historic Charleston
A travel review of historic Charleston. Stroll past gracious homes, a bustling crafts market, and enjoy one of the most charming cities of America.
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