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.
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.
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.
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.