It’s always grits, never grit. It’s always butter and salt, never sugar, and it is sometimes a vehicle for cheese or cream or bacon—or all of the above. Grits are milled from corn, and they can be coarse or fine, yellow, white, Jimmy Red, or even blue. In Charleston, grits are most commonly discussed when nestled under the plump shrimp and dark gravy of the iconic shrimp and grits. But grits grace the plate here much more than just with shrimp; grits come to the table with everything from scrambled eggs to fried quail, and sometimes they even come stag as a side. Proper grits should have a bit of toothiness, a true corn flavor, and yet, a creamy overall texture that isn’t too runny.  

Since there are scores of places and variations on grits, I tried to stick to generally purist interpretations, allowing for cheese because c’mon. This is about grits in all their corny glory, which admittedly can get a bit lost if there are too many other flavors at the fete.

The Winner

Marina Variety Store and Restaurant

Located at City Marina on Lockwood, it’s a short drive from hospitals and medical offices, and more than one local mentioned the grits at this all-day spot being a treat after treatment. So it was a really big deal when management recently decided to alter the grits and go for a combo of Geechie Boy Yellow and Jimmy Red Corn varieties. What was already delicious is now even bette.: Flecks of brick red are mixed with yellow kernels still swathed in the creaminess created from the expert slow cooking and of course, butter and a little salt.

Runners Up

Poogan’s Porch

This house restaurant kind of looks like you think your Charleston grandmother’s would, and the Lowcountry classics are the stuff of that iconic ideal as well: fried chicken, fluffy biscuits, and white corn grits from Adluh Mills. They are a slight bit thinner in consistency than some others, but the creamy factor is through the roof. If you sit up straight and mind your manners just like you would at Granny’s, you won’t drip a drop of buttery goodness.

Hominy Grill

“Regular” in the mornings, and cheese for lunch and dinner, the lines are often long at Hominy but the grits are always creamy. Go purist at brunch or breakfast and get a side with anything you choose —or just follow the lead of everybody else that you’re in line with and get some as a side with the Charleston Nasty Biscuit (see above: fried chicken, sausage gravy, cheddar cheese) so the sausage gravy drips on the grits.

Husk Restaurant

Chef Sean Brock has an ear of Jimmy Red Corn tattooed on his arm, and he was also instrumental in bringing that heirloom corn and the work of Greg Johnsman of Geechie Boy Mill to the attention of chefs and diners. The man he knows his grits. And if he wants to bake ‘em, add cheddar then offer as a side dish for the table, then fine. He and his staff know how to bring the richness of Southern classics with an edge of refinement.

The Glass Onion

The Geechee grits (yellow corn) at this popular spot in West Ashley are a lot stiffer than the usual grits consistency, but they have an intense corniness that pairs well with a sandwich in place of chips and is a delightful counterpoint when served with crispy fried catfish or sweet seared scallops. A few drops of Red Clay Hot Sauce—available on the table—can elevate it all even further. 

And more honorable mentions:

Slightly North of Broad

Magnolia’s

Early Bird Diner

ACME Lowcountry Kitchen

Middleton Place Restaurant