Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bowens Island Restaurant (Charleston Oyster Tour)

Oyster cooks at Bowens Island Restaurant
steam local oysters one batch at a time. 
You can't make a reservation. You have to stand in line for food. You often have to share a table with strangers. And your oysters are cooked as fast as a couple of steam pots will allow. In the end, you'll start planning your next visit.

Founded in 1946, Bowens Island Restaurant is a classic Southern seafood dive about a half hour from downtown Charleston, SC. It ain't fancy, but it is familiar … and you can't beat the views. Inhabited by a couple of homes, a kayak purveyor, and the restaurant, Bowens Island hosts a classic oyster and seafood restaurant that regularly makes the Top 25 oyster restaurants in the country. For new customers, the experience can be a little confusing, so Bowens Island offers a list of FAQs. Here's a few excerpts, as they are written:
  • Food orders are taken until 9:30pm
  • Local steamed oysters are served usually between September and April (depends on water temp.)
  • We DO NOT serve raw oysters.
  • Sorry, we do not have melted butter.
Simple enough. New visitors, here's the drill: doors open at 5p, but the line starts earlier. Find a spot in the willy-nilly parking lot and walk up the large ramp to stand in line to order food. No one in line is in a hurry to go anywhere and everyone's in the mood to chat. In true Southern style, the family in front of you will end up inviting you to their beach house the next time your in town. We arrived around 6p and waited in line for about an hour. The restaurant closes at 10p, and as the rules above state, you have to order by 9:30p. A tray of oysters rings in at $14.75/tray, or take advantage of the all-you-can-eat option for $27.50. 

Customers climb the long switchback ramp
to wait in line to order food at Bowens Island Restaurant.

After you order, stalk a table on the main floor or walk down the stairs to the Oyster Room, where you'll find family-style, well-loved oysters tables. 

The Oyster Room at Bowens Island Restaurant

Oysters are steamed in small batches and served until they run out. Cooks work for tips. You may have to wait in another line to get them hot. 

An oyster cooks steams local oysters
in pots heated over propane tanks.

No matter what you order, time your visit for sunset. It's spectacular to see the sun go down at the end of the earth. Bowens Island is a bit out of the way - but isn't that where you find what matters?

Sunset at Bowens Island

Bowens Island Restaurant is part of Oyster Stew's Ultimate Oyster Tour of Charleston. Click here for details about the two-day tour.

Bowen's Island Restaurant
1870 Bowens Island Road
Charleston, SC 29412

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