The closest thing to a taste of old Folly Beach  is the Lost Dog Café (106 W. Huron St., 843/588-9669, daily 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m., $5–7), so named for its bulletin board stacked with alerts about lost pets, pets for adoption, and newborns for sale or giveaway. They open early, the better to offer a tasty, healthy breakfast to the surfing crowd. It’s a great place to pick up a quick, inexpensive, and tasty meal while you’re near the beach.
Taco Boy (15 Center St., 843/588-9761, Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., $5–15) is a fun place to get a fish taco, have a margarita, and take a walk on the nearby beach afterward. Though no one is under any illusions that this is an authentic Mexican restaurant, the fresh guacamole is particularly rave-worthy, and there’s a good selection of tequilas and beers hecho en Mexico, with the bar staying open until 2 a.m. on weekends.
Fans of the legendary Bowens Island Restaurant (1870 Bowens Island Rd., 843/795-2757, Tues.–Sat. 5–10 p.m., $5–15, cash only), on James Island just before you get to Folly, went into mourning when it burned to the ground in 2006. But you can’t keep a good oysterman down, and owner Robert Barber rebuilt. Regulars insist that this institution, which began in the 1940s as a fishing camp, remains as old-school as ever.
A universe removed from the Lexus-and-khaki scene downtown, Bowens Island isn’t the place for the uptight. This is the place to go when you want shovels of oysters literally thrown onto your table, freshly steamed and delicious and all-you-can-eat. The fried shrimp, flounder, and hush puppies are incredible too. The understated setting—a nondescript building, little to no signage—only adds to the authenticity of the whole experience.
To get there from the peninsula, take Calhoun Street west onto the James Island Connector/Highway 30. Take exit 3 onto Highway 171 South and look for Bowens Island Road on your right. The restaurant will be on your left in a short while, after passing by several ritzy McMansions that in no way resemble the restaurant you’re about to experience.
Set within the renovated Holiday Inn Folly Beach Oceanfront, the spacious Blu Restaurant and Bar (1 Center St., 843/588-6658, www.blufollybeach.com , daily 7 a.m.–11 p.m., $10–20) specializes in sustainable local seafood like the pan-fried grouper and signature cocktails like the Tru Blu Martini.