Bowens Island Restaurant
1870 Bowens Island Road, Charleston, SC 29412
Recognized as an American classic by numerous media outlets and publications, Bowens Island restaurant has been serving the best seafood since 1946. A recipient of the prestigious James Beard Award and ranked #4 in Best Seafood Restaurants by USA today, you won’t have to travel far for casual low country dining and good fellowship at its best. Famous for its legendary locally harvested, roasted oysters and lightly battered shrimp, locals and travelers alike will find themselves immersed in a panoramic view of rivers, abundant wildlife and spectacular sunsets. A simple place with traditional fare and an unforgettable ambiance, come and join Bowens Island Restaurant - an island, a restaurant, a state of mind.
1870 Bowens Island Road, Charleston, SC 29412Get Directions
HoursTues-Sat • 5:00 pm-9:30 pm
Dining InformationFull Service Bar
Gluten Free Options
Heart Smart Options
Take Out Meals
Additional ServicesOn-Premises Catering
Payment DetailsAmerican Express
History of Bowens Island Restaurant
Sarah May (1908-1990) and Jimmy (1898-1986) Bowen purchased the island in 1946 when they started a primitive fish camp. Their chef was a Navy man John Sanka (1912-1985). Early on they used cast-iron skillets to cook their fishing customers' catch. The use of the skilelts continued until Mrs. Bowen's death in 1990. In addition to fish, they served roasted oysters, fried and boiled shrimp, homemade crabcakes, fried chicken, hush puppies and small sweet pickles. No french fries, salad or ketchup were available initially.
Jimmy or John steam-roasted the oysters on an outside open pit. In the late-1950s "the Oyster Room" was constructed with a permanent pit inside. Locally harvested oysters were dumped onto a sheet of steel and covered by wet burlap sacks. A blazing wood fire the pit did the rest. No customer was permitted into the Oyster Room who was not eating oysters.
May developed a technique of a very lightly battered fried shrimp. Many old timers swear that her fried shimp were the best anywhere. The old skillet was part of the secret.
The restaurant has had to modernize, especially after a fire in the 2006. (Now we have a great ramp up the new dining room and deck in addition to steps. Kids love the ramp!) However, the tradition of the roasted oysters and perfectly battered shrimp contintues today. Robert Barber, one of May's and Jimmy's grandchildren, operates the restaurant today. Having grown up in the restaurant, the former practicing attorney, continues the Bowens' practice of simplicity in preparing some of the best seafood anywhere, still served on paper palates and the coldest beverages anywhere, along with an unmatched sunset and spectacular views from the new deck.