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Road-Trip Restaurant: Steamboat’s Low Country Kitchen

A new restaurant recreates Southern-style cooking in Steamboat Springs.

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In Steamboat, at least, the south has risen again. Yes, the ski town was already home to a few barbeque joints. But Low Country Kitchen, which opened on Lincoln Avenue this past May, represents the rest of the Southern spectrum: Carolina shrimp and grits, fried chicken and biscuits, gumbo. Such down-home classics are renowned for good reason, but at Low, they’re executed with the deftness of a trained chef.

Low is the second venture from chef-owner Brian Vaughn and his wife Katy. After Vaughn trained with Norman Van Aken and staged with Daniel Boulud, the couple launched Steamboat’s estimable bistro c.v. seven years ago, and also plan an Asian concept, Yama, to open at the ski area this winter. Low, however, pays tribute to the couple’s Southern roots, and it proves just how fresh and delicious these traditions can be when they feature top-shelf ingredients and savvy cheffery.

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One clever starter, the open-faced green tomato B.L.T. ($10), pairs pork belly with arugula, avocado dressing, and pimiento cheese. The cheese spread itself is a revelation to anyone who’s only eaten pasty supermarket versions. This rendition blends actual pimiento peppers with fresh farmer’s cheese, and if you love it as much as we do, you’ll want to also try the grilled cheese sandwich (a $4 kids’ menu item that Low happily serves to adults).

Low’s gumbo is not gumbo—not in the traditional sense. It lacks the velvety mouthfeel imparted by roux or file (gumbo’s traditional thickeners). Still, it’s a knockout of a soup. Sausage, shrimp, rice, and okra present delightfully diverse flavors and a blend of fatty, crunchy textures.

The fried chicken ($15) is about perfect, with a browned buttermilk crust that keeps the inner chicken tender and locks in its flavor. The crowning touch is a few dabs of the house-made jalapeño-green tomato hot sauce (bottles of that, along with a habanero peach blend, grace every table).

But the menu’s shining glory is the shrimp and grits ($20), which features unique heritage grains grown and milled by South Carolina’s Anson Mills. Silky-smooth, yet studded with little toothsome nuggets of corn and white cheddar, the grits provide the perfect vehicle for the shrimp’s intense tomato-bacon gravy.

The only letdown was the banana pudding ($6). Its gorgeous, torch-charred meringue topped a grainy, watery pudding and unripe bananas.

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You’ll also find barbeque on Low’s menu, which offers Carolina-style pork ribs ($21). But at Low, as with the Southern states it represents, there’s so much more to like than just smoky meats.

435 Lincoln St., Steamboat Springs, 970-761-2693

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