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Jestine's Kitchen

251 Meeting St., Charleston, SC - (843) 722-7224
Posted By Michael Stern on 4/25/2014 3:20:00 PM
Jestine’s is a relatively new restaurant (opened in the 1990s) with recipes that go back many decades. Some were contributed by the kitchen staff, but most were bequeathed to proprietor Dana Berlin by Jestine Matthews, the African-American woman who raised her and for whom the café is named. Ms. Mattews passed away in 1997 … at the age of 112.

A hospitable Meeting Street storefront with a soundtrack of old-time jazz singers and decor that includes vintage cast iron skillets, flour sifters, and juice squeezers, Jestine’s has a homey feeling that attracts more tourists than locals. “This is my all-time, number-one restaurant,” boasts a young seaman from the nearby naval base to his date one afternoon as he guides her to a booth and chivalrously unwraps her silver from the clean green washcloth that serves as a napkin, then orders a pound of spiced, steamed shrimp and a basket of corn bread for them to share.

“Lunch, Dinner, Supper?” asks the menu. “Whatever you call it, we serve it all day.” That can range from the so-called Blue Collar Special of a peanut butter and banana sandwich to a big pork chop plate, fried seafood platter, or half-pound slab of meat loaf. There isn’t a nicer table anywhere to taste the time-honored coastal delights of shrimp and grits or shrimp Creole, as well as such stupendously seasoned Lowcountry vegetables as okra gumbo and red rice or the deep-south delight, deep-fried green tomatoes with sweet pepper relish. Even common side dishes are uncommonly delicious: mashed potatoes pack eye-opening zest, macaroni and cheese is threaded with chewy strips from the top of the casserole. Vegetarian vegetables (cooked without ham bone or hock) are also available. You can drink beer or wine, but the proper beverage to accompany Jestine’s powerfully flavored food is listed on the menu as "Jestine’s table wine” – cool, sugary tea served in shapely tumblers.

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Scorecard

3 - Overall: Excellent - Worth a Detour
Overall: Excellent - Worth a Detour
fried chicken
Meat Loaf
Coca Cola Cake
fried green tomatoes
Collard Greens
Banana Pudding
Midnight Magic Cake
Coconut Pie
Pork Tenderloin
Pickles
Macaroni & Cheese
Shrimp Creole
collard greens
Smothered Cabbage
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

What a good combination: honey-glazed ham atop a field of creamy grits.
"What a good combination: honey-glazed ham atop a field of creamy grits."
Michael Stern





Amazing!  The best fried chicken I have ever had.  Can't say any more than that.
"Amazing! The best fried chicken I have ever had. Can't say any more than that."
Mukur Hazari


When you order a basket of warm cornbread, you also get some pats of butter drizzled with honey. The cornbread arrives hot, so the butter and honey melt right into it.
"When you order a basket of warm cornbread, you also get some pats of butter drizzled with honey. The cornbread arrives hot, so the butter and honey melt right into it."
Michael Stern


Jestine's is a friendly urban cafe that serves a daily blue-plate special AND a green-plate special.Our favorite day is Sunday, when shrimp and grits is the star of the show.
"Jestine's is a friendly urban cafe that serves a daily blue-plate special AND a green-plate special.Our favorite day is Sunday, when shrimp and grits is the star of the show. "
Michael Stern


To start the meal, every table gets a dish of cucumber pickles. On the right is the silverware, wrapped in a washcloth that serves as a napkin.
"To start the meal, every table gets a dish of cucumber pickles. On the right is the silverware, wrapped in a washcloth that serves as a napkin."
Michael Stern


Barbecue-sauced pork tenderloin is an immense hunk of sweet meat. It comes with porter-stewed collard greens; and I chose fried okra (excellent) as another companion vegetable.
"Barbecue-sauced pork tenderloin is an immense hunk of sweet meat. It comes with porter-stewed collard greens; and I chose fried okra (excellent) as another companion vegetable."
Michael Stern


A close view of the porter-stewed collard greens. Note how liberally laced with meat they are.
"A close view of the porter-stewed collard greens. Note how liberally laced with meat they are."
Michael Stern


I never can resist ordering banana pudding when I see it on the dessert menu. While Jestine's is perfectly fine, I much prefer the restaurant's chocolate cakes.
"I never can resist ordering banana pudding when I see it on the dessert menu. While Jestine's is perfectly fine, I much prefer the restaurant's chocolate cakes."
Michael Stern


Jestine's offers two kinds of fried chicken -- regular, as shown here, and a pecan fried chicken breast. The latter looked mighty good, but our table went with the classic variety and we were not at all disappointed. Mac 'n' cheese and collard greens are in the background.
"Jestine's offers two kinds of fried chicken -- regular, as shown here, and a pecan fried chicken breast. The latter looked mighty good, but our table went with the classic variety and we were not at all disappointed. Mac 'n' cheese and collard greens are in the background."
Michael Stern


There was much debate at the table over which was better -- the Coca Cola cake, pictured here, or the Midnight magic cake. I found the Coke cake to be more super-chocolaty and goopy, almost (but not quite) too rich to finish.
"There was much debate at the table over which was better -- the Coca Cola cake, pictured here, or the Midnight magic cake. I found the Coke cake to be more super-chocolaty and goopy, almost (but not quite) too rich to finish."
Michael Stern


Dark and devilish, midnight magic cake is intense but somewhat more sophisticated than the alternative chocolate dessert, Coca-Cola cake.
"Dark and devilish, midnight magic cake is intense but somewhat more sophisticated than the alternative chocolate dessert, Coca-Cola cake."
Michael Stern


Always in good taste, coconut pie at Jestine's is a pleasant little wedge of cool, smooth comfort. I wouldn't rank it among the best, but neither did I leave a crumb of it on the plate.
"Always in good taste, coconut pie at Jestine's is a pleasant little wedge of cool, smooth comfort. I wouldn't rank it among the best, but neither did I leave a crumb of it on the plate."
Michael Stern


Two sizes of meat loaf are available: 4 and 8 ounces. This is the bigger; and after corn fritter and fried green tomato appetizers, it proved too large for the normal eater who ordered it. By the way, those are excellent mashed potatoes at the upper left of the plate.
"Two sizes of meat loaf are available: 4 and 8 ounces. This is the bigger; and after corn fritter and fried green tomato appetizers, it proved too large for the normal eater who ordered it. By the way, those are excellent mashed potatoes at the upper left of the plate."
Michael Stern


To get taste buds at attention, Jestine's offers each table a bowl of crunch pickles to start the meal.
"To get taste buds at attention, Jestine's offers each table a bowl of crunch pickles to start the meal."
Michael Stern


Every Wednesday's blue-plate special: Shrimp creole. It is a festive bowl of firm shrimp and vegetables atop a bed of white rice.
"Every Wednesday's blue-plate special: Shrimp creole. It is a festive bowl of firm shrimp and vegetables atop a bed of white rice."
Michael Stern


Smothered cabbage is not listed on the regular menu, but was a special the night we dined at Jestine's. It is supremely tender and hardly spiced at all.
"Smothered cabbage is not listed on the regular menu, but was a special the night we dined at Jestine's. It is supremely tender and hardly spiced at all."
Michael Stern



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