Ah, the era of health-consciousness. Smoking is banned in every building in the country except the RJ Reynolds plant (or at least it seems that way), and the selection of low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sugar, low-carb foods grows by the day. But fortunately, there is a counterculture to be found. It's a segment of society that cares not for the chaste semi-pleasures of dietary piety, and instead says, "I want it all, I want it now." We, um, I mean, "those people," shun the calorie counters and Nicorette chewers and instead enjoy life as it was meant to be — smothered in cheese and piled high with bacon. Side of ranch please.
There are, thankfully, still those eateries that cater to those who cannot be bothered with details like serum cholesterol and waistlines. Places that smile, wink, and bring on the not-so-good-for-you with aplomb. Here is a casual survey of a few. Go. Eat. Drink. Take a nap. Repeat.
Exhibit A: Madra Rua, North Charleston's little slice of Ireland up on East Montague, where the bar munchies menu features "Smothered Fries." This is a whole lot of eating for under seven bucks. Your basket comes piled with very tasty hand-cut fries, but the joy here is in the smothering. Bacon, lots of bacon, comes suspended in a layer of cheese that seems like it's an inch thick, sprinkled with a couple of garnish-level chopped veggies. It's supposed to be "finger food," but you will need the supplied knife and fork. The side of ranch dressing sounds superfluous, but you will find yourself asking for a second to finish off the whole glorious mess.
Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ offers the BBQ wrap, another over-the-top dish that at first glance sounds a bit revolting, but ultimately satisfies. I first heard of it offered as an appetizer special at the new Sullivan's Island location in eggroll form, but was only able to sample it as a wrap. The bulging wrap is stuffed with pulled pork, sauce, slaw, mashed potatoes, and, yes, creamed corn. I heard it contained collards as well, but by the time I had taken a couple of bites, the riotous mishmash of barbecue-joint goodies could have contained almost anything. Order greens on the side just to delude yourself into thinking you are eating a healthy lunch.
Mozzo Deli is a relative newcomer in Mt. Pleasant, and their offering requires a stout daytime constitution, as the restaurant only serves lunch. The Monster Mozzo Burger is $18, but can be had for the low, low price of free. Caveat: it is free only if eaten by one person in under 30 minutes. Be prepared to pay for it. Six — count 'em, six — 8 oz. burger patties, laid out in all their splendor on two 10-inch sub rolls and buried with essentially everything they have in the deli that might go on a burger. Two cheeses, bacon, barbecue sauce, onions, lettuce, pickles, mayo, ketchup, mustard, and so on and so forth. Served in two sections on a half-sheet pan with a pile of shoestring fries in between, this is an intimidating sandwich-palooza. Two contestants have managed the solo experience in the allotted time (out of 12 tries), but the genius of the mondo Mozzo could be found in the sharing. Cutting it up between the patties yields six still-huge burger-ettes and enough fries for six mere mortals to share, all for under 20 bucks.
I have saved what I consider the best for last. Not the best as in fancy ingredients, nor the best in terms of precise kitchen technique, but head and shoulders above it all for ingenuity, tastiness, and pure junk-for-the-buck. I submit to you the Recovery Room's "Tater Tachos." They are available in small and large — I must admit that I copped out and went for the small. Small, my ever-widening ass! Served in a dish big enough to contain a Nerf football, a layer of crispy tater tots are bathed in all your favorite nacho toppings — cheese, tomatoes, cheese, onions, cheese, jalapeños, cheese, and cheese. Salsa and sour cream are wisely served on the side, preserving the crispy tot texture and allowing the dipping of wads of cheesy tots bite by bite. This "small" version was gigantic and — get this — $3.95. I shuddered at the thought of taking on the large as I ate until I could see the word "tachos" on the back of my cardiologist's new yacht. I gave up two-thirds of the way through and was presented with a tab for $4.23 including tax. There is no doubt that the low price will leave me more money for my first Lipitor prescription.
To be sure, other nooks and crannies of the Lowcountry hide similar gems of excess, and brave adventurers will certainly continue to create them as well as seek them out. Armed only with a pack of Camel straights, an appetite, and a few bucks, that adventure can be yours today.