South Carolina is rich with notable restaurants, but sometimes that notoriety is about more than the food. Shrimp and grits with a side of chills? Barbecue and a cold brew with a boo? You get the drift. Haunted eateries are raising hairs among diners and restaurant staff who report strange doings and weird apparitions. If you're hungry for a spirited dining experience, sit down at one of these restaurants where some believe the patrons aren't always of the earthly persuasion.
Blind Tiger Pub, Charleston
Named for the illegal drinking establishments that cropped up during the Prohibition Era, this popular pub opened its doors in 1992 on Broad Street in the former location of an 1800s speak-easy. The area is known as a hotbed of paranormal activity, so it stands to reason that otherworldly high jinks have been reported at Blind Tiger.
Specifically, the haunting comes in the form of a mysterious woman dressed in black, who is thought to have lived during the Roaring Twenties. She's not too friendly, however, and has been said to sometimes pull the hair of patrons. But don't let the risk of messing up your hairdo cause you to miss out on Blind Tiger's terrific burgers, brunches and bloody marys.
Brentwood Restaurant, Little River
Here's a restaurant that embraces its reputation for haunted dining. This gracious 1910 Victorian was a boardinghouse for fishermen before it was moved to its current location in the 1960s or '70s. Spooky stuff abounds here, and diners are invited to delve deeper into the building's paranormal occurrences by attending one of the ghost dinners and tours offered several times a year.
Moving shadows, faces in windows, orbs caught on camera and even the spine-tingling sound of sighs issuing from the walls are some of the happenings that have been reported by patrons and staff. Ghostly stuff aside, Brentwood's proprietor is Chef Eric Masson, a classically trained French chef, so the dining here is top-notch and a reason in and of itself to make a reservation.
CQ's, Hilton Head Island
Sometimes moving isn't enough to exorcise the spirits from their lodgings. Such is the case with CQ's, which was constructed in the 1960s from components of two Harbour Town houses. Once the homes of area lightkeepers, these structures were first suspected by their former residents to be haunted by a woman dressed in blue. She is thought to be the ghost of Carolina Fripp, who lived her life in mourning after her father, a lighthouse captain, died of a heart attack while struggling to keep the lighthouse lit during a hurricane in 1898. Tragically, the young woman pulled his lifeless body from the ocean, a traumatic event from which she never fully recovered.
Her attachment to the house she shared with her dear father became disturbingly evident when CQ's was constructed and people began hearing unexplained footfalls and rattling sounds. Staff have reported water faucets and radios turning on by themselves. Photographs have picked up their fair share of orbs, as well. Many believe the source is the Blue Lady herself, though she is only sensed and remains unseen. It's important to note, however, that CQ's most impressive legend comes on a plate in the form of lobster pasta, clam chowder, bread pudding and other fresh seafood dishes that, fortunately, you can see just fine.
Poogan's Porch, Charleston
Sweet tea and specters - there are plenty of both at Poogan's Porch. One of Charleston's most beloved restaurants, Poogan's serves Southern comfort food in a cozy, two-story house. Built in 1888, it was once home to devoted sisters, Zoe and Elizabeth. When Elizabeth died, Zoe took it particularly hard and her subsequent mental decline landed her in the hospital, where she lived out her remaining years. Many people believe she has once again taken up residence at her former home on Queen Street, thanks to multiple accounts of sightings and bizarre happenings. Radios, water faucets and lights that turn on without human assistance have been reported. A staff member claims to have seen the visage of Zoe in a mirror and others swear they've seen her walking the hallways. Experts in haunted history report more than 200 sightings - this ghost gets around.
But perhaps the restaurant's most famous inhabitant is the spirit of a stray neighborhood dog, who eventually settled on the famous porch as his permanent post. The beloved pet passed away in 1979 and is memorialized on the restaurant's grounds. His name was Poogan, and his visage has been spotted by several incredulous patrons and staff members. It wouldn't be far-fetched to think the pup continues to be drawn to the aroma of Poogan's tantalizing fried chicken and homemade biscuits.
The Bowery, Myrtle Beach
This boardwalk mainstay, a favorite of the beach crowd since it opened in 1944, might be most famous as the former home base for country supergroup, Alabama, but the legend of Barman Joe adds a quirky touch to the restaurant and bar's notoriety. According to some accounts, Barman Joe was sitting at the bar happily imbibing when he unexpectedly died. As his body grew cold and his skin turned blue, the late bar patron suddenly sprang to life in his bar stool and drained his glass. Though no one is sure about his eventual fate, visitors and staff say they sometimes hear Barman Joe singing away near the bar area.
While Alabama and the crooning barman lay special claim to The Bowery, this hopping establishment is also home to perhaps its biggest draw: the "Eighth Wonder," a towering burger topped with a steeple of onion rings. The disappointment of leaving Myrtle Beach without experiencing this monster burger might well haunt you all the way home.