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A collection of photography and exploration focusing on Upstate South Carolina and beyond.
This is Part One of a three part post…
It was a second Saturday, and time for another Lowcountry Unfiltered outing, the first of 2014. Traditionally this has been our “Swamp Stomp” outing, dating back to when we trod through Congaree National Park in flood conditions looking for Championship Trees. We had several options, but decided upon a biking/hiking trek to Bonneau Ferry Wildlife Management Area.
Originally, I had planned to head down Friday and do some more photography and exploration in Berkeley County. However, the weather was not cooperating. The forecast was for a front to come through, with severe thunderstorms tracking across the coastal areas.
I decided not to drive down on Friday, but did head out early Saturday. When I awoke the sky was lit up with lightening. I was beginning to question the wisdom of this trek. I already had my bike loaded up, so I went ahead and loaded my cameras and rain gear into the car and headed south.
Even on the road I was second-guessing my decision. Strong lightening strikes hit close to the car, almost blindingly so. Rain poured down. As I headed south the rain let up little by little, and on the other side of Columbia the sun even started to peek through for brief moments. Home would be drenched, but we might be OK.
Matt had suggested that we meet for breakfast at a place called Howard’s on Main Street in Monck’s Corner. We’re always looking for unique Mom and Pop places for either breakfast or after-journey repasts, and it looked like this one would fit the bill.
I arrived about ten minutes after the rest of the gang. I don’t know what transpired before I arrived, but the first thing the waitress said when I arrived was, “So, this is the one that hasn’t been incarcerated?” That was just the beginning.
It wasn’t until after the journey that I learned that the waitress’s name is Wanda. Wanda’s mother, Vern, ruled in the kitchen, and one of her sons was also waiting tables. Apparently before I got there, Wanda had been complaining about her underwire bra.
It was painfully obvious that we were from out of town. Everyone else there was local. That only meant that the staff and everyone were incredibly friendly toward us outsiders. Wanda wanted to know about why we were there, and was willing to give us pointers about where we needed to go and the places we needed to check out.
I hadn’t ordered, but the first thing I noticed was that there weren’t any menus. I knew what I wanted, and started just to order, but was interrupted by Wanda. She had a rehearsed spiel that she rattled off without error. I was frantically trying to get my recorder going, and she wouldn’t repeat it for me. Alas.
While waiting for our food, Wanda filled us in on more info on the area. She told us about some sculptures at Mepkin Alley that we really needed to check out. She then offered to take our photos, using all of our cameras, and from various angles so that everyone was included.
The food came out roughly in the order in which we placed the orders. That meant mine was last. I had ordered my standard two eggs scrambled with grits, bacon, and toast. I had no doubt that it would come out as a true Southern dish should. I was not disappointed.
The breakfast was nearly perfect. The bacon was especially tasty. Wanda’s mother, Vern, was presiding over a veritable mountain of the stuff on the griddle.
Wanda’s son came around to refill our coffee cups. I commented on how great the bacon was, and his reply was, “Bacon?!? We got that from a turkey!”
Speaking of Vern, there was a sign over the cash register that read “Vern has 8 yrs 7 mo to go to retire at age 85.”
Wanda came back. When she found out that some of the guys were from Hilton Head, she started to tells us about her other son, the tennis pro. She was trying to convince the guys that her son should stay with one of them on his next tour down that way.
With the weather as it was, we had a finite window of opportunity to explore. As much as it would have been great to stick around and chat, we needed to be on our way. The other son (the waiter) came back, telling us how to bus our own tables. When we didn’t take him up on this, he should up with a tub, into which we loaded our own plates. Apparently he was serious about the bussing, as this Trip Advisor review indicates:
Good food from the 50′s. just what your mother made.
However, this really is a social club that welcomes everyone. Miss Vern oversees the club, and bakes amazing pies (don’t miss the strawberry pie with pine nuts). Miss Wanda is the social director who welcomes you, sizes you up, and will introduce you to other customers. Often times she will grab a local , have them come to your table, and will start the conversation by saying “These people are also interested in…”.
If you prefer, you can keep to yourself and watch the show. Locals come in and start bussing tables, grabbing drinks and silverware, talking with the people cooking at the griddle and eventually settle down to eat. Young men help Miss Vern make 5 gallons of tea at a time.
Come in for breakfast often enough and Miss Wanda will tell you about her secret supply of orange marmalade, and the meaning of “ONE AND ONE”, or “ALL THE WAY”.
We got up to pay, after a most excellent breakfast experience. As we left a train blocked Main Street, so there was no traffic and we could pause to take a photo of the front of the restaurant.
So, if you ever find yourself in Moncks Corner around breakfast time, check out Howard’s. It will be well worth your while.
Next up, we explore plantation ruins and search for a cursed tree…
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