Forget fine attire and forks for every dish -- “sleeves-up” cuisine is served at places that are really, really casual. Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood.com list their top three casual places to eat. If none of these restaurants is in your state, scan the list of everything Jane and Michael have mentioned on The Splendid Table over the years.
1. Bowen’s Island
Have you ever eaten at a place that brings your food on a shovel and dumps it on your table? At Bowen’s Island in Charleston, S.C., you pay one price and they will keep bringing just-roasted oysters on a shovel and dumping them on the table as long as you want to eat them. There are limited menu options and few amenities. If you want melted butter to dip your oyster in once you open it up, it’s BYOB -- bring your own stick, they will melt it for you.
2. Fuel City Tacos
Fuel City Tacos is a gas station and the finest car wash in all of Dallas -- with the largest selection of beer in all of Texas. But along with all of that, Fuel City Tacos serves tacos 24 hours a day from a window. The tacos -- barbacoa, chicken, or meatless topped with fresh lime juice and cilantro -- are less than $1 a piece and are spectacularly good. It’s the kind of taco that a finer, urban restaurant might charge $6-$10 for.
3. Track Kitchen
Aiken, S.C., is where all the “horsey” people go to exercise their thoroughbreds or fox hunt. The Track Kitchen, located next to the exercise track, is so informal, you might forget to pay. We walked out and 15 minutes later, we realized we had forgotten to pay because it’s that kind of place -- people pay weekly, monthly, or sometimes by the day -- it’s that casual. The Track Kitchen serves a wonderful breakfast -- grits, country ham, and biscuits -- at long, communal, mess-hall-style tables. Everybody who eats there knows everybody else.