Martha Lou Gadsden, Charleston Soul Food Icon, Has Died

The lowcountry legend was 91.

Martha Lou Gadsden, a legendary figure in the Charleston food scene, died on Thursday morning. She was 91.

After working at a number of restaurants throughout the city, Gadsden opened Martha Lou's Kitchen in 1983.

Martha Lou Gadsden
The Washington Post/Getty Images

"I said, 'Well, I'll make a soul kitchen, somewhere that you can feel like you're home'" the self-taught chef recalled to Southern Living in 2020.

The little pink restaurant on Morrison Drive quickly became a culinary destination, celebrated for upholding Gullah Geechee cooking traditions. People traveled from all over the experience her famous fried chicken, cornbread, lima beans, and "roll-your-eyes-it's-so-good" mac and cheese. Gadsden always credited her fresh from-the-garden approach as the secret to her success.

After 37 years serving up some of the best soul food around, the family-run restaurant closed in September 2020, allowing Gadsden to fully retire at the age of 90.

WATCH: Kardea Brown Honors Gullah Cuisine and Her Family's Traditions

"Right after it closed initially, she felt some kind of way, but she was enjoying herself" in recent months, Gadsden's granddaughter Melanie Alston told The Post and Courier. "She was pretty much in good health, so this is devastating. It does not feel real."

According to Alston, family members suspect the matriarch died following a fall.

Our hearts are with Gadsden's family, friends, and devoted fans.

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