Your Guide to Authentic Regional Eats
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380 East Columbia Avenue
Chris Ayers & Amy Briesch
January 17, 2009 11:22 PM
Apparently my youth in South Carolina was at least partially squandered, for I’d never heard of Shealy’s. Thanks to our Roadfood comrades Nancypalooza and Julie, we now know that Shealy’s is the premier bar-b-que house in central South Carolina—possibly in the entire state—and has been since 1969. Buffet style is their modus operandi, which means you stand in a lengthy but fast-moving queue of hungry folks, wash your hands (you meet a sink before reaching the register), pay one price, grab a plate, and feast on just about every Southern specialty you can shake a stick at.
Now comes the hard part: what do you choose for your first plate? There are two types of BBQ: a tangy mustard-sauced style that’s indigenous to the Palmetto State, and a piquant vinegar-sauced style that’s more frequently attributed to North Carolina (bottles of both sauces are for sale). Then there’s Shealy’s famous fried chicken, carved turkey, fried fish, and a huge compendium of sides: cheese grits, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, milk and giblet gravies, green beans, lima beans, creamed corn, collards, fatback, chicken livers, gizzards, hushpuppies, BBQ hash, white rice, and the list goes on.
After finding seats, our server came by, took our drink order, and asked how many pulley bones we wanted. A regional delicacy, the pulley bone is the fist-sized mass of white-meat chicken that surrounds the wishbone, and you can order as many as you want. There are only long tables at Shealy’s, and we sat next to a large local family with three generations represented. All the food was excellent and cooked perfectly, and our favorites were both BBQs, green beans, limas, chicken livers, sweet potatoes, and those wonderful pulley bones.
If you still have room for dessert, there’s a separate buffet with two cobblers, banana and chocolate puddings, cakes, and pies. Unlimited sweet tea, sodas, and coffee flow freely, and the service is with a smile and an unmistakable Southern drawl. As outstanding as the food is, Shealy’s is the place for local color and hospitality, and you’d be hard pressed not to see grandparents, mothers and fathers, teenagers, toddlers, and high-chaired babies at every long table, eating their fill and enjoying each other’s company.
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