The day began clear and sunny. Shem Creek was described as “serene.” Then around 10 p.m., the eye of Hurricane Hugo, a Category 4 storm, passed over 106 Haddrell St. in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant. The creek rose 8 feet, and a North Atlantic-style trawler, the Richard & Charlene, was lifted from the water with such force as to uproot its moorings, reverse its direction, crumple the decking like an accordion and impale the trawler on the site that now immortalizes it: The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene.
The Wreck of Richard & Charlene
Cuisine: SeafoodCategory: Neighborhood FavoriteLocation: 106 Haddrell St., Mount PleasantPhone: 884-0052Hours: 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5:30–9:30 p.m. Friday-SaturdayFood: 2 1/2Atmosphere: 3 1/2Service: 3Price: $$-$$$$Costs: Soups $5.95-$7.50; entrees $11.25-$25.95; a la carte seafood $7.99-$8.99; sides $2.50-$4.25; desserts $3.95-$6.95; fresh fish MPVegetarian Options: Only if one eats seafoodBar: Beer and wine only; no alcohol served on Sunday.Decibel Level: ModerateWheelchair Access: YesOther: No reservations or call-in lists; no children’s menu; no split checks; 20 percent gratuity added to groups of eight or more; private events on the dock; weekly oysters roasts in season; closed some holidays, call ahead to confirm; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.wreckrc.com.
Fred and Pat Scott owned a storage locker for bait and shrimp. That locker now houses the restaurant. The extended family continues to manage the restaurant that originally began with breakfast, then added lunch and dinner. Today, only dinner is served.
This year Southern Living magazine nominated it as one of the “10 Best Seafood Spots in South Carolina.” Locally, it joins Bowen’s Island, Seewee and the Crab Shacks in this honor.
You will find it on the “shrimp alley” of Haddrell Street with Geechie Seafood, Captain Magwood Shrimp and Wando Seafood flanking the approach. Look for the bright red “nun buoy” 106 moored in front of the restaurant that bears no visible sign.
The ramshackle Wreck embodies all we want in seafood shacks: worn, weathered and bare bones. Dimly lit and decorated with the accolades and communications of previous diners, including Giada DeLaurentiis, who enjoyed the deviled crab cake ($17.95-$19.95) of Henry Shaffer fame, the Wreck holds no pretenses.
No air-conditioning in the summer months and two fireplaces to remove the damp chill of fall and winter. They bring new meaning to “paper or plastic,” the materials on which the food and beverage are served.
The menu has been fairly consistent through the years. Stone crabs in season ($25.95, $20.95), a special fish of the day (MP) and a dismissive approach to the one meat entree, London broil ($11.25).
Sides include red rice, slaw, hush “pup” and fried hominy square. A vegetable side ($2.50) and fried green tomatoes ($4.25) also are available.
Warm bowls of boiled peanuts come your way as well as the menu sheet and a red Sharpie pen. Make your selections and hand both to your server.
Order the Richard sized-portion if you are very hungry; otherwise, the Charlene is more than adequate.
You can choose the cooking method, fried, grilled, boiled and broiled as the kitchen deems appropriate. For example, oysters are fried only. This is a batter-free establishment and the finfish and shellfish are gently veiled in seasoned crumbs that allow the sweetness of the sea to percolate through the flesh of the fish.
At the time of our visit, we found the shrimp, flounder and oysters to be top-rate in freshness. The briny salinity of the oysters bathed their flesh in flavor. The shrimp, over a dozen, in a triple combination platter, were sweet, tender and nicely sized.
Scallops, which all too often are tough, tasteless or both, were quite good. Quickly fried, a thin sleeve crusted the exterior of the opaque flesh with flavor and texture, yet the tender muscle maintained its supple form. The flounder was not fried as skillfully but its flesh was fresh.
The sides were not as enjoyable. The hush pup and the hominy cake cooled their “heels,” so to speak, in a warming bin. They cooled just long enough to allow the gloss of oil to rise up to their crusted surfaces. The red rice could use some seasonings and be purged of its starches before cooking.
The slaw, however, was spot on. Red and green cabbage along with carrot strands were tossed in dressing that was seasoned with skill and balanced with sweet and acid. Its crunchy goodness was the best foil for fried.
The New England-style clam chowder ($5.95) was plump with tender clam bits, over-seasoned with thyme and to my taste, soup in a paper bowl just does not cut it. She-crab soup ($7.50) with a side of sherry was not tried.
Desserts are made in-house by the extended family of the Scotts. They use family recipes and will not disappoint. We tried the key lime bread pudding ($3.95) that is more like French toast than a bread pudding. Two slices of bread are steeped in a batter, seared to a crispy crust, browned and served with sweetened whipped cream. It was just the right sweet-tartness to cap off a meal.
Servers are friendly but easily distracted as the restaurant filled up on a recent weekend visit.
Prices have crept up. But eaters also need to adjust their monetary compasses to the fishing and shrimping industries on our coast. The cost of fuel, labor and seasonal policing of the catch have risen, and so we pay more for the pleasure of dining on local finfish and shellfish.
The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene gives you a sense of place and in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s fury, a sense of the power of nature and recovery.
The Wreck retains its salty allure and just like that red nun buoy (red, right, returning), you will find yourself turning right and returning to the Wreck.
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