We love funky old restaurants and this one is just down the road from us, hunkered among the pines of the Francis Marion National Forest. It is a humble little cement block building on the highway, but you can’t miss it — it’s painted the brightest sunny yellow you ever saw with hand-carved sun rays on the old-fashioned double screen doors, usually open to catch a breeze.
The McClellanville Diner opens early for breakfast and the parking lot stays full until it closes right after lunch. It’s been pretty much the same for 17 years, offering Southern cooking to travelers, families after church, fishermen off the boats, and a few regulars who work on crossword puzzles, visit with each other at the big community table, and hardly miss a day.
The kitchen is tiny, the decor folksy/southern eclectic kitsch alongside framed ocean-themed art, perhaps by someone’s grandchild. The walls are faded green, the linoleum floors well-worn, the refrigerated showcase in service since the 1970s.
The help-yourself pop cooler might well have been around since the 1950s.
The printed menu is a well-worn page in a plastic sleeve but you won’t need it; the good stuff is handprinted on the chalkboard each day — locally-caught seafood and traditional Carolina dishes like shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, fried or baked chicken, country-fried steak, collard greens, butter beans, red rice, oysters, sausage gravy, mac & cheese.
I tell you, a bowl of their she-crab soup and a side of the best-anywhere melt-in-your-mouth collards is pure heaven.
If you still have room, there are usually a couple just-baked desserts available like coconut, lemon, or chocolate strawberry mousse cake or sweet potato pie if you get there early enough.
Really, who could resist this??
There is one thing that earned the diner a negative review on Yelp. That is the restroom, um, situation. The reviewer was obviously from Somewhere Else because this is not that uncommon here.
The rest rooms are entered from outside the building and it looks like they have upgraded the facilities recently maybe. Or they’re keeping some spares handy in case of emergency!
And here’s a little Southern Cookin’ music to brighten your day.