Southern cuisine meets its energy match.
Our Eat & Burn series showcases destinations through their cuisine and inviting ways to burn off the calories.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Lowcountry cuisine is not fussy and pretentious. It’s roll-up-your-sleeves-and-eat fare with quirky names like hoppin’ john, she-crab soup and huguenot torte. Fun to say, sure, but more importantly the stuff tastes great.
It is not generally, however, low calorie.
So if your goal is to feast like a famished tourist for a few days while visiting the area but then fit into the same size pants when departing that you wore upon arrival, it’s a good idea to plan an itinerary that gets you up and away from the table.
Florence, South Carolina has got you covered on both fronts.
To bring the outdoors in, Red Bone Alley Restaurant & Bar boasts a two-story open atrium, walls bear building facades, tables are tucked under umbrellas, and balconies with additional tables hover over main floor seating. Owner Dale Barth is committed to serving the freshest food possible, so ingredients are sourced directly from local farmers, beekeepers, fishermen, ranchers and more. A local favorite, the menu showcases regional dishes including shrimp & grits (with the unusual twist of fried shrimp), pecan chicken and other delights.
Victors, located at Hotel Florence, was voted “Best Restaurant” in Florence and has been named “Best of the Pee Dee: Fine Dining” for the last eight years. Considered one of the area’s most upscale and elegant restaurants and awarded a AAA 3 Diamond rating, it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu offerings, attentive service and refined presentations confirm that recognition was deserved. Victors is helmed by South Carolina Chef Ambassador Cooper Thomas. Don’t miss the shortrib ravioli.
The Pee Dee State Farmers Market is one of three regional state farmers markets in South Carolina. Drive your car right on inside the center aisle, visit rows of booths, and stock up on whatever is in season, from fresh produce to plants, homemade salsas, sauces, breads, cakes, pies, soups, and much more. The market is open year-round, Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Julia Belle’s Restaurant, located at the market inside the big red barn, serves daily blue plate lunch specials like oven roasted chicken or barbecue meatloaf with a choice of two sides—veggies are purchased at the Farmers Market—and a buttermilk biscuit. Don’t miss the innovative BBQ egg rolls.
Young Plantations is a pecan outlet and general Southern foodstuffs store. Sample pecans and pecan candies like double-dipped chocolate pecans and sugar-and-spice pecans. Shelves are laden with jams, jellies, salad dressings, ciders and other Southern specialties. At the deli counter you can get sandwiches, ice cream treats and coffee drinks to order. Be sure to pick up a few bottles of Blenheim Ginger Ale, a local favorite and Southern tradition that dates back to the 1800s. The soda was created by Dr. C.R. May, who advised his patients suffering stomach ailments to drink local mineral water; when folks complained about the strong taste of the water, Dr. May added Jamaican ginger to conceal the mineral taste. Blenheim was soon in high demand. South Carolina’s Blenheim is the oldest continuous independent soda bottler in the world.
Lynches River County Park is so spectacular it may have you questioning what your home county has done for you lately. Odds are, nothing like this 676 acres in Florence County. Located on the Lynches River (which is named for Thomas Lynch, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence), the park has three ecosystems to explore—the river swamp, upland plain, and sand hills—all with distinctive trees and plants. Stop by the Environmental Discovery Center for trail maps, hands-on activities, informative videos, and more. Then get out and kayak or canoe (rentals from $30/hour), hike, explore the gardens, try your hand at archery, brave the suspended bridge in the tree canopy, and more. (Cabins and campsites are available to rent for overnight stays.) Odds of Encountering Children: Varies based on day, season, activity and other factors. Note that the park does periodically host moonlight canoe trips that are adults-only. 21 Plus Salute!
Starting in Lynches River County Park, the South Carolina Revolutionary Rivers trail follows the scenic Lynches River for 66 miles, offering paddlers the opportunity to float through swamps traversed during the American Revolution’s Southern Campaign. Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion and his band of militia were able to “disappear” into the river’s cypress swamps, earning him the nickname Swamp Fox. When paddling these waters today you’ll feel your stress disappear along with some calories; time spent in nature can do that. Designated a National Recreation Trail in 2014, the trail features a series of short excursions and overnight rustic camping with five different guide companies and multiple itineraries, including…
RiverRats Kayak & Canoe Rentals, offers a range of paddling trips including guided tours from one- to eight-hours as well as some overnight trips (near Pamplico and Johnsonville, which is where the Lynches River joins the Pee Dee River). With more than 100 boats, RiverRats is one of the area’s leading river guide companies and specializes in the Lynches River. Certified guides lead paddlers through waters edged with cypress and tupelo trees, identifying wildlife and sharing regional factoids from the past and present along the way. Time paddling with RiverRats is well spent and is sure to be a highlight of your visit. Odds of Encountering Children: Varies, but kids under four aren’t permitted.
– Photo Credits: kayakers courtesy Visit Florence; remainder © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.