Kitty’s Fine Foods: Classic Charleston Soul Food [CLOSED]

  • Home
  • Soul Food
  • Kitty’s Fine Foods: Classic Charleston Soul Food [CLOSED]
Restaurant Sign Charleston

Kitty's Fine Foods popularity predates Upper King's recent revival.

A faded Coca-Cola sign greeted us at Kitty’s Fine Foods on an industrial stretch of town, across from the International Longshoremen’s Association and down the street from the Port of Charleston. Feline figurines and a Siamese cat painting pay homage to the original owner, Kitty Proctor, who opened her soul food restaurant in 1963. After 18 years with David Runey at the helm, Martha Grant took over Kitty’s Fine Foods in 2006.

Restaurant Charleston

A “Martha’s cooking in the kitchen” banner hangs behind the counter, sporting a flaming skillet.

Martha Grant graduated with a culinary degree from the Charleston campus of Johnson & Wales University, which relocated to Charlotte in 2006. She previously owned Soul Food by Grant in North Charleston. Martha was front and center in her restaurant, taking orders, then disappearing into the kitchen to make sure things were prepared to her standards. She said she grew up across the Cooper River in Mount Pleasant, where she learned to cook from her Grandmother and Grandfather. She said doesn’t use their recipes, but credited them with her initial love of cooking.

Soul Food Charleston

My brother ordered the country ham breakfast special ($5.50) featuring a boneless steak browned in a pan, with the signature intensely salty flavor. The outside was rimmed by pleasantly chewy hog fat. The ham came with two scrambled eggs, buttered toast and jelly. He chose hash browns over grits, a generous pile of shredded potatoes that were moist and flavorful without utilizing much butter.

Soul Food Charleston

My sister-in-law ordered Salmon Patty ($4.95) with toast and the same choice my brother faced. She opted for hash browns as well. She said that her grandmother used to make great salmon patties growing up, but after her first bite of Martha’s version, said, “This is better than Mimaw’s.” It was crisp and brown outside, with onion-studded shredded salmon inside.

As tempted as I was by Liver Pudding, I was about to board a plane, so I opted for the more conservative Shrimp and Grits ($6.50), a definitive Lowcountry dish. Martha asked whether or not I wanted onions. I deferred to her soul food wisdom. The version of shrimp and grits wasn’t one I was familiar with, since it was topped with pepper gravy that was flecked with carrot, bacon and onion. The white grits were clean tasting, the shrimp were fresh and firm, and the dish was a success. Improbably, I forgot to take a photo of the dish, which is a Food GPS first.

Pie Charleston

After we finished, I asked Martha if she had any dessert. She said until after the New Year, all she’ll have is sweet potato pie. That was all I needed to hear. My slice arrived nice and hot, with a soft crust. The pie wasn’t overly sweet, and was a little chunkier than normal, leaving no doubt that it was homemade.

Before we left, Martha asked us to sign her guest book, reserved for out-of-towners. I wrote, “Terrific Southern breakfast. Can’t wait to return for lunch.” Looking at the menu, there’s no doubt I’ll return for fried chicken, collard greens, fried squash and cabbage.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Leave a Comment