There's an old saying: "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. But give a man fish and chips, and he'll eat like a king for a day." Well, that's not exactly how the proverb goes, but a tour of South Carolina's best fish and chips purveyors is a royal treat, indeed. Considered by many to be more representative of British culture than the Beatles or the Queen, this "working man's" dish crossed the ocean centuries ago and earned a permanent place of honor among our own culinary traditions.
The simple pairing of battered fish (usually cod or haddock) and chips (french fries) served up after a sizzling dip in the fryer is a mainstay on the menus of the nation's pubs and "chippies" - dedicated fish and chips operations. Accompaniments run the gamut from malt vinegar and a sprinkle of salt to British traditions like mushy peas and gravies. If you find a shop that offers these, be adventurous and give them a try. Here is a sampling of South Carolina eateries with a reputation for stand-up fish and chips.
Six Pence Pub, Fort Mill
Nestled within picturesque Baxter Village, Six Pence offers a respectable version of fish and chips. Beer-battered cod hits the proper crunch factor and the fries are crisp on the outside and tender and steamy on the inside. For a real British feel, belly up to the bar and order fish and chips with your favorite brew. The Irish coffee makes a fine finish.
This bustling little shop serves fish and chips with a decidedly Southern spin. Take your pick from a variety of fresh fish, including cod, flounder and whiting. The fillets are coated in cornmeal, then fried to a crusty, golden brown and served with fries. You won't find mushy peas here, but the Charleston red rice is a nice Lowcountry touch.
The CODFather, North Charleston
British expat, Adam Randall, describes his shop as a "proper chippy." His dedication to authenticity has generated a lot of buzz, resulting in long lines and a packed dining room. Cod fillets the length of an adult's humerus are served wrapped in butcher paper atop a generous heap of thick-cut fries. In the kitchen, cooks are in constant motion working the fryers while counter clerks take orders, gently encouraging curious customers to opt for mushy peas, brown gravy or curry sauce to slather on their fish. No matter your choice of condiment, you'll have nothing but mad love for this grub.
McGees Scot-Irish Pub, Anderson
Pollock is the fish of choice used for fish and chips at this Upstate pub. A member of the cod family, pollock is just as moist and tender as its more famous relative and lends itself well to the batter-and-fry technique. See for yourself when you dig into these generous twin fillets served with fries and slaw.
The Griffon, Historic Charleston
Go ahead and gape at the dollar bills plastered on every inch of the walls and ceiling. You'll soon only have eyes for the fish and chips. A favorite of tourists and locals, this pub serves up twin fillets of fresh cod with skin-on fries and a side of tasty slaw. Pass the malt vinegar and wash it all down with a local beer for a scrumptious lunch or dinner.
British Open Pub, Hilton Head Island and Bluffton
Sink your teeth into fish and chips at both locations of this British-themed golf pub. Picture this: hefty 9-oz. strips of fresh cod loin coated in a lager batter, fried golden brown and delivered to your table with a mound of hot fries. There's slaw and tartar sauce on the side for a cool contrast. Ales and single malt scotch from across the ocean make worthy companions.
Hare and Hound Pub, Landrum
Housed in a vintage brick building in South Carolina's Blue Ridge region, this pub's grub scores positive points for its fish and chips. This version has an American twist, with a foundation of flounder rather than the traditional cod or haddock. One bite and you'll agree that's not a problem at all.
The Velo Fellow, Greenville
The "raw chips" at this "Publick House" are hand-cut, thinly sliced rounds fried to a golden brown for a major crunch. Cod fillets get a dip in Belgian wheat beer batter before hitting the fryer. The result is a toothsome pairing that will satisfy every lover of fish and chips. The dish is served with tartar sauce, lemon, vinegar and slaw.
Old Bull and Bush/McCann's Pub and Eatery, Myrtle Beach
Fresh-cut cod is the calling card of this version of fish and chips, a true interpretation served up in newsprint wrappers for a nice English touch. Ask about mushy peas if you want to push the authenticity envelope a bit further.
British Bulldog Pub, Columba
Two of this pub's three owners hail from Liverpool, so you know there's some true British flavor going on here. This fish and chips dinner begins with hand-battered haddock served traditionally with fries and, for a modest charge, those mushy peas so beloved by the Brits.