Lowcountry Food: The Upper Crust, Beaufort's neighborhood pizzeria
By Alyssa Hudspeth | Traveling over the Woods Memorial Bridge, as I do daily, I still fail to deviate my eyes from it’s view of Beaufort and Lady’s Island. The spectacle is somewhat magnetic, willing your vision to wonder from one direction to the other. Photographers -amateur and professional alike- can be seen wielding tripods with cameras in hand as visitors congregate to seize a glimpse as to what all the fuss is about. More probable than not, most anyone can be seen transfixed at the sights, sounds and smell of Beaufort from this bridge. This being particularly accurate when visitors are left utterly gobsmacked by the deep sultry colors produced by a Lowcountry sunrise or sunset.
Brimming with hunger and the realization that I’ve been daydreaming into the setting sun, my thoughts give way to reality as my hunger pangs direct me over the Woods Memorial Bridge for a special treat. This evening’s feast comes on a particularly fine night. It just so happens to fall on my birthday. Being a mother of 3, this will be the first birthday I have celebrated publicly in years -yes….years, people.
So, I am quite delighted to be visiting with the hospitable folks at The Upper Crust.
Let’s get real here; we all have a craving, a fixation, a dependence. I’m here to tell you, my soul’s happiness is dependent on the amount of cheese I am able to consume on a daily basis. I preface with this admission as somewhat of mortification insurance for subsequent articles that will presumably divulge my attachment to cheese.
As I approach the tidy brick exterior, I notice a group making their exit. As the door swings open, out tumbles a delicious essence of seasonings and spices that takes me by the hand, seducing me to step inside. I feverishly oblige to the grips of the aroma as I scout out one of the last remaining tables in the dining area. The table tops are adorned with neatly arranged spices and a personal pizza pedestal. This place is the picture-perfect example of a neighborhood pizzeria.
We are quickly greeted and given menus for review. The Upper Crust’s bountiful menu strives to satisfy and accommodate even a large group or family. The variety of offerings is immense. After a moment we make a cohesive decision on a selection (or ten) to satisfy our hankering and place our order.
In a very short time, an appetizer of Fried Cheese is presented to our table in all of it’s golden glory. Topped with grated Parmesan cheese and served with a side of marinara to gratify even the heaviest of dunkers. I gnash through my first bite, crunching down on the perfectly golden fried shell and my anticipation is met by a massive pocket of -yes- stretchy, gooey, cheesy goodness. There is nothing more disappointing than biting into an overcooked shell of what should have been a satisfying encasement of cheese only to find an empty, cheeseless shell.
Halfway through our appetizer, I notice that our entrées are being ushered toward our table. It’s always an example of good service when your food is made fresh and served quick. I have to be honest, I’m also rather impressed with the number of plates our waitress was able to juggle at once.
Quite ravenous and eager to begin tasting everything spread about the table, we dug in.
I begin with my dish of Eggplant Parmesan. On a bed of spaghetti, this entrée features thin cutlets of Italian breaded eggplant that have a divine exterior crunch, balanced with an impeccably tender center. The eggplant cutlets are then cloaked in provolone cheese and smothered in a savory marinara sauce sure to excite your taste buds. Their Eggplant Parmesan is served with a fresh side salad.
In between bites, I notice my gaze recurrently floating across the table in an attempt to examine my next casualty of this evening’s meal. Atop our pizza pedestal splay a foxy 12“ pizza dripping with cheese, based in a red sauce and thoroughly decked out in green pepper, onion, and pepperoni. Needless to say, it held my attention well and grew more tasty with each bite.
My husband ordered the Gyro Wrap and I have to tell you, this was unequivocally brilliant and by far “Best In Show” when stacked against competition. I have quite strong opinions when it comes to the proper texture and chewiness of pita bread. I cannot accurately communicate my disdain for dry, flavorless pita bread that too often resembles sandpaper upon being over cooked.
In this case, The Upper Crust handcrafts their signature homemade version of the pita, getting my seal of approval for unrivaled texture and flavor satisfaction. The wrap is pleated with a gyro meat so tender that it melts in your mouth. It’s then stuffed with lettuce, tomato, onion and feta cheese, followed by a hearty smearing of tzatziki sauce. We will be talking about the Gryo Wrap for weeks to come, I’m sure.
Last, but certainly not least, we are presented with a plateful of The Upper Crust’s newest menu item- Cinnamon Knots. These bite-sized devils are packed with buttery, cinnamon flavor and finished off with a sweet striping of icing. They are a must! I especially enjoyed getting the remainder of the knots to-go and later creeping into my kitchen for a midnight snack.
We were happy to learn that the restaurant has been serving folks for twenty-five years now; and we can certainly understand why. Supporting the local community is important to the restaurant and owner, Dave Blake. The Upper Crust supports local schools in just about every way possible, and offers a daily after school dollar value menu for area students on weekdays during the school year.
Being so pleased with the service provided and the quality of food, we cannot wait to come back and enjoy our next meal at The Upper Crust.
You’ll be pretty darn glad that you did.
Our Lowcountry Food writer, Alyssa is a no non-sense, food obsessed blogger who is smitten with Lowcountry fare and tradition ever since she got here from Rock Hill, SC. With influences steeped in Gullah, Creole & traditional Southern cuisine, she discovered a deep adoration & comfort in cooking (and eating), eventually creating her own blog to share her experiences, ideas & love for food. Follow her on Instagram @ alybythesea. In her down time, she can be found at one of Beaufort’s local restaurants or the kitchen with her husband who is, coincidentally, a local chef, along with their 3 children.
Photos by Alyssa Hudspeth for ESPB