During my recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina, we actually stayed about 25 minutes outside of the city in Folly Beach. It's a beautiful drive from downtown. You head through James Island, over a bridge, and you emerge onto Folly Beach. Every time we would cross that bridge, we'd lower our windows and let the salt air blow through.
The beach itself is wonderful. It's long and flat, making it perfect for walking and treasure hunting. The shells on Folly Beach are so different from the ones you find in New England. My whole family went home with bags of shells we had collected throughout the week. Folly is also incredibly dog-friendly, which was really nice to see.
The center of town has a bunch of fun bars and restaurants, including Rita's Seaside Grille. It's red sign is like a beacon in the center of town signaling "amazing food here!"
I loved their island-themed decor, including this pin-up style piece. In my mind, this woman is Rita.
The first time we went was for lunch and we were able to get a table right away. The host seated us on the outdoor patio, which is just one block back from the beach and the fishing pier.
It was a very hot day, so I ordered a spiked strawberry lemonade. This drink was everything you hope it would be - tartness from the lemonade, sweetness from the strawberries, and a light buzz from the vodka.
There were six of us around the table and I had a feeling the food might take a while (just given how busy they were) so we decided to order the trio of dips to start. Our waitress delivered us the salsa, guacamole and queso with a huge bowl of corn chips.
I love queso and was thrilled to have an opportunity to indulge.
For the main meal, my mom decided to have the Grouper sandwich. It came on a perfectly toasted bun and with a side of French fries in a shape we'd never seen before. My sister commented, "It's almost like a French fry married a potato skin." Accurate!
My dad went for the the smoked turkey melt, which was smoked turkey breast, mushrooms, onions, cheddar cheese, and Rita's sauce on rye bread. He made it disappear very quickly.
I opted for the garden burger. Ordering a veggie burger in a restaurant is always a gamble. It either tastes delicious or like a shoe. In Rita's case, their plant-based burger was awesome. It came piled high with lettuce, tomato, onion, alfalfa sprouts, caramelized mushrooms and onions, and Rita's sauce. I had to cut it in half to even have a chance of fitting it into my mouth!
In addition to the delicious food, we also had a lovely waitress. We had both my 93-year-old grandmother and two-year-old nephew with us and she was incredibly patient and kind.
We loved Rita's so much that we wound up going back again for dinner on our final night in town. My dad and I split their nachos, which came piled high with grilled veggies, tons of cheese, and a watermelon pico de gallo. I ordered the Halls chop salad for dinner (their signature dish), which is basically a vehicle for their addicting green peppercorn ranch dressing.
If you're headed to Folly Beach for a week, or even one day, you have to make time to have a meal at Rita's.
*Cover image courtesy of Charleston Guru. All other photography by Molly Galler.