Had Edgar Allan Poe, the legendary writer of tales of mystery and the macabre, been born in modern times, he would likely have been recruited by the notorious National Security Agency (NSA), not to spy on Americans, but to work in its cryptography department. While Poe didn’t invent cryptography, he certainly popularized it in his short story The Gold Bug, the most popular and most widely read of Poe’s works during his lifetime. In the story, he used a substitution cypher to reveal the location of treasure buried by the infamous pirate Captain Kidd, estimated by the narrator to be worth a million and a half dollars.
The setting of The Gold Bug is Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina where Poe had been stationed for thirteen months while serving in the Army. Described as “a laid-back, sun-splashed playground for residents of the Lowcountry,” Sullivan’s Island had a significant impact on Poe’s life, providing the setting for at least three of his stories. It’s only fitting therefor that Sullivan’s Island is home to a very popular eatery and imbibery named for the enigmatic writer.
As you cross over the white picket fence onto the restaurant’s patio, look down and you’ll see an ornate gold bug inlaid onto the concrete preceding the steps into the restaurant. Look to your left and you’ll espy a thin mesh resembling a spider’s web extending from the corner of the roof to the fence. Everywhere you turn, you’re reminded that Poe’s Tavern was named for a one-time Sullivan’s Island resident. Step into the tavern and the sullen, sunken eyes of the abstruse one gaze down upon you from dozens of caricatures and paintings. In the restroom, walls are papered with Poe’s writings.
Perhaps indicative of my advancing geriatric progression (but more likely attributable to avaricious hunger after wandering around Fort Sumter), I didn’t immediately notice all the scantily clad feminine pulchritude on the premises. Poe’s Tavern is a very popular hang-out for nubile young sun-worshippers and brutish troglodytes either ogling them lustily or attempting to win them over with such sophomoric displays of their “manhood” as uttering obscenities and belching loudly.
Youthful clientele aside, Poe’s Tavern is actually very highly regarded for its culinary fare. In 2012, Southern Living magazine named Poe’s one of the best purveyors of great burgers in the Carolinas. Not surprisingly, all burgers are named for the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. You can, for example, order The Gold Bug, the Amontillado, the Pit & The Pendulum and the Tell Tale Heart. All burgers are half-pound of certified Angus Chuck beef, ground in-house and cooked to order. Best of all, they’re charbroiled which imparts a high quality flavor and texture.
Southern Living magazine recommended the Annabel Lee, a burger topped with a Charleston style crab cake and fresh vegetable Remoulade sauce. This is a very audacious burger in that it forces two dissimilar elements–beef and crab–to coexist. It’s been my experience that such forced relationships don’t often work well. Past experiences be damned! This is an outstanding burger. It’s skyscraper tall with both the beef patty and the crab cake both being thick and tall. You’ll either have to mash down on it or unhinge your jaw in order to take a bite; don’t dare eat the crab cake separately! Both the beef and the crab cake are moist and delicious, as delicious a surf-and-turf combination as you’ll find anywhere. Forget mustard, ketchup and mayo. The vegetable Remoulade sauce is all you need.
All burgers and sandwiches are served with your choice of hand-cut French fries, potato salad or marinated bacon-bleu cheese coleslaw. Opt for the latter because everything goes better with bacon or bleu cheese. Together they’re an unbeatable combination especially if salad cream is used only lightly. The coleslaw is fresh and crisp.
May is National Hamburger Month. To celebrate the momentous month in 2014, Business Weekly “conducted painstaking journalistic research to figure out the very best burger in every state, from mom-and-pop joints to celebrity-chef restaurants and everything in between. The Palmetto State’s very best burger was the aforementioned Annabel Lee. No surprise there.
Edgar Allan Poe’s favorite food was reputed to be lasagna, but had he tried the burgers at the tavern named for him, it’s likely the Annabel Lee would surpass lasagna in his estimation. It’s a memorable burger!
2210 Middle Street
Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina
LATEST VISIT: 13 April 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: The Annabel Lee with Marinated Bacon-Bleu Cheese Coleslaw