Charleston, SC soul food restaurant ranks among best in US

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A Charleston, South Carolina restaurant was named one of the best in the nation.

AP

A humble South Carolina soul food restaurant was named one of the best places to eat in the nation.

Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen in Charleston is among the top U.S. restaurants that The New York Times is “excited about right now.”

Hannibal’s was the only South Carolina restaurant to make the list, which the newspaper said was created after sending “critics, reporters and editors around the country to find the 50 most vibrant and delicious restaurants in 2021.” From coast to coast, eateries that serve up a variety of dishes received recognition.

“Some are classics, still great after decades,” The New York Times reported Tuesday. “Others are in their prime, restaurants at their practiced peaks. And still others are newcomers, intrepidly making their way through the roughest stretch the restaurant business is likely to endure.”

Restaurants have been hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic, with some forced to close and now having trouble finding adequate staffing.

Hannibal’s received a nod for its blue crab dish, with meat that’s “pan-fried so it’s crispy but still retains bits of soft flesh, piled generously over white rice.”

In addition to serving crab, the restaurant says its menu has other Gullah-style seafood and Geechee-style meat dishes and sides.

The Gullah Geechee are descendants of enslaved people first brought from Africa to work along the South Carolina coast in the 1700s. Many of their traditional dishes have spread across the region, including gumbo and shrimp and grits, according to the Discover South Carolina tourism website.

Similar to the restaurant’s namesake “Hannibal” Huger — whose name evokes the man remembered for leading an army that delivered the Romans a shocking defeat in the year 216 — the restaurant said it has overcome the odds to succeed.

“Hannibal’s Kitchen isn’t one of those fancy restaurants with an exquisite atmosphere and finery, but it serves some of the best soul food cuisine in the area,” the restaurant said on its website. “Owner L.J. Huger says the family owned & operated restaurant has ‘been feeding the soul of the city’ for more than 40 years because what the restaurant lacks in ambience, they more than make up for in taste.”

It’s not the first time a South Carolina restaurant has made a national list.

Halls Chophouse in Charleston, Jack of Cups Saloon in Folly Beach and Rainbow Donuts in York all made Yelp’s list of top 100 U.S. restaurants this year. For those rankings, the restaurant review website in February said it asked users about restaurants they couldn’t get enough of and evaluated the most popular spots.

This time around, other restaurants in the Carolinas that were named among The New York Times’ favorites were Chai Pani in Asheville and Kindred in Davidson, The Charlotte Observer reported.

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Simone Jasper is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer and real-time news in the Carolinas.

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