The Middleton Place Restaurant can be a bit tricky to find because it's tucked away in an unassuming antique building at the Middleton Place historic site, which overlooks the Ashley River in Summerville; but well worth the trip for those who seek an authentic low country cuisine experience. For directions to Middleton Place Restaurant and more information, go to Middleton Place Restaurant
Whether you plan to take a daytrip for the carriage ride in the oldest landscaped gardens in America, see firsthand, the operations of plantation life on a foot tour through the home, stables and former slave cabins or to stay in one of the rooms in the Inn at Middleton Place, plan to have lunch at the Middleton Place Restaurant. Upon entering the old structure, with paned windows and the wide-plank wooden floors, one gets the sense that he or she has stepped back in time. Luncheon diners are led to seating on an enclosed sun porch, giving the impression of outdoor dining while enjoying a climate-controlled atmosphere. Wall to wall large windows give diners a view of the gardens and an occasional glimpse of the exotic live peacocks that roam the grounds as they did centuries ago.
The luncheon menu offers traditional southern fare and is planned in such a way that all luncheons are a three-course meal including an appetizer or soup, a choice from eight main courses and includes dessert all for one reasonable price. The seasonal menu changes in keeping with available local and organic ingredients procured from on-site gardens or local purveyors making the offerings as close to authentic as possible. The well attended wine list changes at least as often to suit the menu and to keep the wine taster returning to experience new selections in vintners, vintages and grapes.
The restaurant manager, Kristy Harvey, attributes their success among so many establishments claiming to have authentic low country cuisine, to the long standing recipes developed especially for the restaurant by "renowned Southern Chef Edna Lewis" who was at one time the Chef in Residence at Middleton Place. These recipes include southern favorites like she crab soup made with just the right creamy consistency, flavor of blue crab and a whisper of sherry to add a special facet to the flavor. Another of the soups, which bears mentioning, is the delicious, West African peanut soup. It brings to mind all the history, having passed at the plantation. This soup is both spicy and sweet offering a subtle peanut flavor with each rich spoonful.
Main courses present southern favorites such as Shrimp and Grits with goodly sized, wild caught domestic shrimp but with a flavorful twist of Tasso ham and thick vegetable gravy over the stone-ground grits. These grits have a large kernel consistency that gives the dish a bit of "tooth" and they are seasoned with a pleasing combination of spices that will entice even the most reticent of tasters. For the true down-home southern fare, I recommend the Low Country Sampler offering a variety of indigenous flavors including smoked pork barbeque, stewed okra and tomatoes with "Hoppin' John" and collard greens and a buttermilk biscuit. This is a sampling that will happily surprise the diner with perfectly cooked, crunchy vegetables seasoned for maximum taste and the pork is cooked slow and long for that sweet and tangy southern barbeque flavor calling to mind one word as it is enjoyed: succulent. Other southern menu favorites include batter-fried chicken and cornmeal fried catfish.
The meal is finished off with desserts made on site following the southern choices in pecan pie, fresh local fruit, key lime pie and my personal favorite, Huguenot Torte.