Saturday, March 10, 2012

Harold's Country Club

We had wanted to go to Harold's Country Club since September.  While leaving Beaufort County on our east coast trip, we got lost - not a good start for embarking on a 3500-mile journey.  It was seven in the morning, and somehow, we had ended up on a back road in Yemassee, South Carolina needing ice and directions.  We pulled into the only establishment for miles.  From the outside, Harold's looked like a vacant, old country store with dried up gas pumps out front and antique grocery signs hanging on the sides, but it had an ice cooler and an open light by the door, so we pulled in.

I checked my iPhone again still hoping for a signal.  Yes, we had counted on technology for guidance, but in the backwoods of Carolina, just an hour on the road, it had already let us down.  Cussing at the nonexistent GPS and the road, in general, Greg slammed the door as he headed in for a bag of ice and the location of I95.

With my stomach growling for something more than the bananas and granola bars in the bag beside me, I hopped out after Greg.  As I rounded the family truckster, he was exiting the building with an enormous smile on his face (too big for someone who had been letting a few choice words fly just seconds earlier.)

"Did you get directions?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied still grinning while pulling a bag of ice out of the cooler.
"Did they have any biscuits?" I asked walking toward their front door.
"No, but they have draft beer, if you want one."  I stopped and stared at him, clearly thinking this was an odd offer.

As we returned to the car (No,  I did not want a beer at 7 a.m.), Greg explained that Harold's Country Club was not a store; it was a bar, pool and dance hall with a restaurant that serves steak on Saturday nights and, apparently, has regulars that come in early on a Friday morning because when Greg walked in the door, the bar lady didn't bat an eye.  She grabbed a fresh glass and readied it under a tap asking, "What can I get you?"

As we pulled out -heading in the right direction- for a family field trip of a lifetime, all my husband could say was, "I can't wait till we get back.  We've gotta go there!"  Greg was intrigued.  That's how finding a kindred place is... you know you're going to like it even before you've been there.

Five months later, we officially went to Harold's Country Club for steaks, dancing and just hanging out.  Our friends, Bill and Kelly, had (finally) come to visit for the weekend and we thought:  Who better to share this hole in the wall treasure with than them?   They like steak.  They like dancing.  They like country.  Win-Win-Win.

Our first clue that Harold's would be a different experience was the 7 a.m. beer offering.  Our second clue was making reservations.  The website emphatically stated, "Reservations are for steaks, not tables."  Now, I was intrigued.  Were we to eat standing up?  I was also worried.  I knew I'd have a hard time cutting steak in my lap, but how do I attempt it standing up?  Maybe Greg and I could work out some arrangement: I'll cut your steak if you cut mine...

When I called and made reservations, I probably should have asked about the seating plan of the restaurant, but it was so loud and I wasn't prepared to answer how each person wanted their steak.  Asking the lady to hold while I hollered up the steps, "How do you want your steak?" seemed to be pushing it already, so I didn't question how I would cut my steak while standing.  Luckily, it all made sense when we got there.

Here's a brief description of our evening at Harold's Country Club:

We pulled up and quickly realized you park wherever and enter through the front door near the old gas pumps.

As we entered, the huge bar was on the right and the dance floor and pool hall on the left.  Coolers lined the wall beside the bar where I think you self-served if you just wanted a coke.  Straight back was a hallway which led to the kitchen and dining hall.  Since we had reserved STEAKs, we stopped at the cash register and paid ($18 each- great deal for all you get!) and they handed each of us a Chinet plate and silverware.  Next, we entered the kitchen where incredibly nice ladies that I swear went to my grandma's church asked us, "How did you order your steak?"  I responded, "Medium rare, please, " and they plopped a perfectly cooked to order ribeye steak on my Chinet and told me to grab a baked potato wrapped in foil on my way out.

Heading into the dining room, I understood why you reserve a steak and not a table.  Most of the tables were school cafeteria long with nice floral tablecloths and groups of folks sitting scattered all around.  There were four or five private tables in the room.  We headed to an empty one of these in the back, dropped off our steak plates, and returned for salad, grilled onions, steak sauce, rolls and sweet tea.  Seated and ready to dig in, we smiled and said in unison, "Good Call, Greg!" (Well, Greg didn't say the Greg part, but you get the idea.)

After enjoying the delicious dinner and fine conversation with old friends, we ventured into the bar/dance area.  Kelly and I were hoping for pressing our husbands into service with Karaoke, but the microphones were down so we had to settle for a little dancing and a lot of people watching.

As with all our travels this year, this proved extremely educational.  For example, we learned that Steve Earle's Copperhead Road has a line dance to it now.  Even the guys got up to stomp in time with the bass drum and mandolin.  We also realized that Harold's is THE cool place to go for girls' night out.  A group of ladies had even rented a stretch limo to bring them all the way from Hilton Head Island.  People watching confirmed that some things never change.  Twenty-something guys still love to play pool and twenty-something girls still stand around and watch them.  The only difference from my younger days was that the guys playing and the girls watching all had tattoos.

Harold's Country Club is a hidden treasure in the middle of nowhere.  Our finding it proved to me that there are no mistakes in life. It is a wonderful thing when you realize you found something special because you were lost.

Big Thank You to our Tattoo-less Friends for enjoying Harold's as much as we did!

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