Jestine's Kitchen in Charleston

By:Megan Sexton

Date:1/7/2012


Cha​rleston is a foodie's paradise, with some of the country top restaurants and chefs.

But sometimes the inspired cuisine in the city's excellent restaurants can be a non-starter for kids. If that sounds familiar, you can't miss with Jestin​e's Kitchen (for kids AND adults).

The first thing visitors might notice at Jestine's is the line that seems to always be present along Wentworth Street, next to the restaurant at Meeting and Wentworth streets downtown. (They even sell T-shirts proclaiming "I survived the line at Jestine's Kitchen.")

We arrived a little late (about 1:45 p.m.) on a recent weekday for lunch, hoping to escape the long line. We didn't. (Actually, I did the waiting, while my husband and sons strolled around downtown for about 30 minutes.)

Once inside we found a treasure of traditional Southern home cooking -- from the largest pieces of fried chicken I've ever seen to fried shrimp po boys and fried green tomatoes. There were sweet “ice-box” pickles on the table soon after we sat down, and we ordered a basket of cornbread to start the meal. The meals are washed down with Jestine's "table wine" -- sweet iced tea.

Only one of us could think about desert (my oldest son, who had to try the peach and berry cobbler). The other decided to stop in Jestine's Sweet Shop next door for a brownie to eat on the drive home.

The restaurant is named for Jestine Matthews, who was born in 1885 in South Carolina's Lowcountry. Her mother was a Native American and her father was the son of a freed slave who was farming land on nearby Wadmalaw Island. In 1928, she began working for the Ellison family in Charleston. Dana Berlin, the owner of Jestine's Kitchen, is the daughter of the Ellisons' only child. She says the restaurant is a way to share the style of home cooking and warm atmosphere that Jestine Matthews always provided.

From the menu:

"Jestine died at the age of 112 on Dec. 18, 1997, but her legend lives on. We invite you to share a meal that could have come from her kitchen -- traditional veggies, seafood and fried chicken -- and raise a glass of Jestine's table wine in a toast to her memory."

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