Low Country Kitchen’s coarse, antebellum grits are terrific, creamy as pudding, speckled with fatter-than-normal flecks of corn, and lavished with that holy trinity of Southern cooking: butter, cream and cheese — in this case, aged white Cheddar. They’re the real reason to try the shrimp and grits, especially when you swirl them with gravy whispering of shrimp stock and smoked bacon. They’re also the absolute-must-order item on a list of sides that make grown men weep.
At this point, the benefits kick in. Grits at Low Country Kitchen aren’t just dinner; they’re dinner-as-vacation, each bite transporting you to a place where breezes blow in through moss-hung live oaks and afternoons are spent on covered porches with friends. Who cares if this place is real or imagined, the stuff of your childhood or just books that you’ve read? Grits are a ticket to another lifestyle, and it’s this slow, genteel way of life that’s really what’s on the menu at Low Country Kitchen.
Launched in LoHi this winter, Low Country Kitchen owes its Southern soul to owners Brian and Katy Vaughn, who collectively spent a good chunk of their lives in New Orleans, Louisville, Charleston and along the Carolina-Georgia coast. To them, the restaurant represents a bit of nostalgia. To others, it can seem misplaced. “People come and say it’s funny we’re serving American Southern food in the Rocky Mountains,” says Brian, who spent time in high-end kitchens in Chicago and Florida, including Norman’s, but was ultimately drawn back to casual Southern cuisine. “I look at it as no stranger than serving Thai or Japanese or sushi.” This is the Vaughns’ fourth restaurant, and the second location of Low Country Kitchen; the first opened in 2014 in Steamboat Springs, where they met.
Which is handy, because the fried chicken doesn’t come with sides, not even a few biscuits. This is easy to remedy, though with sides ranging from $4.25 to $7.75 and most entrees in the $20s, such add-ons can add up to a big bill. Okra is cut into irregularly shaped pebbles, dipped in cornmeal and fried until addictively crunchy and golden. Collard greens are dynamite, with lingering smokiness and mellowness from a bacon-onion caramel. Saucy, two-cheese macaroni comes topped with toasted biscuit breadcrumbs, the crunch luring you into taking a few more bites after you thought you were done. Skip the boiled peanuts, as tongue-numbingly salty as water you gargle with, but don’t overlook the buttermilk biscuits, which can be ordered as a starter with fried chicken and pepper jelly or as a side, where they shine with a dab of honey or housemade preserves.
“We ordered no vegetables!” said a woman celebrating her birthday one night, half lamenting, half laughing. “No,” corrected her friend, who, like all the guys at the table, was sporting a gingham shirt straight out of a J. Crew catalogue. “There’s a fried green tomato.” Those fried tomatoes are good enough to order on their own, with a cornmeal crust that holds on as you dip each bite into limey avocado dressing. The shishito salad was not, with melon that was under-ripe, dressing that was over-applied, and peppers that were uniformly green, not blistered. (That salad is no longer on the menu.)
But you don’t go to Low Country Kitchen for salads. You go for fried things, creamy things, cheesy things and boozy things. Above all, you go for the grits...and all of their benefits.
Select menu items:Low Country Kitchen, 1575 Boulder Street, 720-512-4168, lowrestaurant.com. Hours: 4:30-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Buttermilk biscuits $7.50
Fried green tomatoes $7
Collard greens $7.50
Mac and cheese $5.75
Fried okra $7.25
Fried chicken, five-piece $18.75
Shrimp and grits $22.75
Kids’ boneless fried chicken $5.75