The south is generally famous for food. Not pretentious uptight food either, good soul and belly filling fare. I knew the moment that I was asked to come to Charleston for a month, that I was going to get my lips around some serious gastronomic goodness.
I arrived in Charleston late on Monday evening and got checked into my hotel. It was 8ish and I was tired and hungry. After checking in I inquired at the desk for someplace decent to eat. The clerk said that there was a restaurant a block away called California Dreamin. Uh oh… I should say that I am generally not a fan of what I call “Themey” restaurants. You know the type, silliness on the walls, large laminated menus with unnaturally pictured neon food with EXTREME crazy names for simple food. Every time I eat at one of these places (usually not because I want to) I am reminded of the movie Office Space, where the Chotchkie’s waiter says “So can I get you gentlemen something more to drink? Or maybe something to nibble on? Some Pizza Shooters, Shrimp Poppers, or Extreme Fajitas?” You get the point. Anyway Cali Dreamin sounded like just such a place and because I was tired and wasn’t in the mood for searching for someplace better I went. I had it a little wrong. It seemed more like The Keg and a little less like Chotchkie’s. Dark, not too loud but it did have the food I was talking about. After looking it over I decided I would get a Po Boy sandwich. I have never had one, although I have seen them on TV many times and knew at some point I would need one of these. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are this, crusty bread or roll, filled with tarter sauce, lettuce tomatoes and a mound of deep fried shrimp or oysters. I chose shrimp. One thing I liked (but didn’t order) was that they had drinks by the pitcher and seemed like a much more reasonable way to drink. A pitcher of margaritas was $12 and change.
When my waitress came I ordered the Po Boy and asked if I could substitute the fries that came with it, for a small salad. She said no but that I could buy a small salad. There’s a surprise, you mean you will let me buy an additional salad? Wow cool. So I say fine yes, I will get a small dinner salad. She asked if I still wanted the fries and I said no. You should have seen the look on her face. It was if I just turned down a winning lotto ticket. She said “Sir you can chose between 4 other sides” I asked what they were. They were 4 different types of potatoes, baked, mashed, waffled, and scalloped. Again I declined her offer. Her reply was priceless, “ARE YOU SURE?” I am positive that she has never in her life had someone from Charleston turn down potatoes. I kept waiting for her to tell me she would need clearance from her boss to create a dish sans potatoes.
The Po Boy came and although I am not sure how it stacks up to famous mom and pop Po Boy stands around the south, it was great. Crunchy bread, crisp shimp, deelish! I finished my sweet tea and Po Boy and with belly full, hit the road thinking of where my next meal might come from. California Dreamin wasn’t too bad. I have vowed to not eat anywhere here twice but if I were tired and hungry, I would consider hitting this place again and maybe try the oyster Po Boy, but only because its a few hundred feet from where I am staying.