I have lived in Charleston for eight years, and I am sad to say I have only been to Bowens three times. Ben took me for the first time on my birthday two years ago, and I was pleasantly surprised. Ben's sister Sarabeth treated us to a night out last week, and we decided on Bowens Island, where the experience was exponentially enhanced by steamed oysters. Read on.
Bowens was originally a one-story cinderblock building, but it burned down and they rebuilt on stilts. The current place is a super basic structure built totally out of wood, now covered in marker graffiti.
People don't just come here for the food. The view is one to write home about, especially at dusk. There is plenty of outside seating, which tends to be more pleasant in the summertime, since there is no air conditioning inside.
It was packed on the Thursday night we went, so I was tasked with saving a table while Ben and SB stood in line to order. Most excellent people watching ever.
They ordered a tray of oysters (!!!!!!!!!!) which we quickly shucked and demolished while we were waiting on our food. There was a little bit of wait for the food, which seemed longer than normal, probably due to the crowds. I was in good company though, so it didn't much matter.
My honey loves some steamed oysters. He slips into oyster coma and savors every stinking bite. I can't blame him though, they are salty, perfect goodness. These were some of the best I've ever had; piping hot and juicy.
My favorite way to eat steamed oysters is on saltines, dipped in cocktail sauce, and spritzed with fresh lemon. Which is probably what I will be thinking about during labor. Just being honest.
They serve their cocktail sauce in re-purposed Gatorade bottles. It is a bit runny and not horseradishy enough for me, but I still slurp it down with no complaints. They don't have saltines or lemon, at least that I know of.
I really hope my midwives aren't reading this.
I ordered the small (1/4 pound) shrimp platter, which I think runs for $11. This picture is deceiving, it is so much food and I can never eat it all. The shrimp are lightly battered, and they taste like shrimp, NOT like a fryer. Their hush-puppies (the two round things on the right) are also really delicious. I'm not a huge fan of their coleslaw (top right in the cup), but as you can see you only get about two forkfuls of that. And who cares about coleslaw anyway?
SB and Ben ordered the seafood platter and fried oyster platter, respectively. They swapped things around, and I know they both agreed that the fried oysters were out of this world. No one commented on the crab cake, but I can tell you from past experiences that it isn't the best. (Disclaimer: I am from Maryland).
They also have Ginger Ale in their soda fountain, which gets me excited every time.
A must-go for anybody visiting Charleston, Bowens Island is only about 15 minutes out of the city, but on the way out to Folly Beach. Do yourself a favor and skip Hymans (downtown on Meeting). Super-duper overrated.
For directions and a little more history, you can visit their website. Their hours are non-traditional so be sure you check to see that they are open before you head out!