Myrtle Beach Restaurants and Dining on the Grand Strand
How to get a taste of the territory
Myrtle Beach is overrun with fast food joints and national restaurant chains that offer the same fare they’re serving in Denver and Philadelphia. In many cases they’ve imported their cuisine from the Caribbean or New Orleans or Italy or Mexico, and while this is probably great food it is not a culinary experience representative of the South Carolina coast.
To really get the flavor of the low country, you’ll have to find an eatery that serves local cuisine, and that could mean driving past some very enticing propositions. Seafood is a given in this place where the land meets the sea, and you’ll find different dishes available at different times of the year. Those big-rig fishing boats you see offshore bring in redfish and flounder year-round, red snapper, cobia, tarpon and shark in the summertime, and king mackerel, black bass and grouper in the fall. From a quick shrimp burger from a local sandwich shop to five star cuisine, there’s no shortage of fresh South Carolina seafood.
She-crab soup is made from the roe of a female crab in a creamy concoction that might occasionally involve a dash of sherry or brandy. Oysters are a huge favorite September through April, and if you’re lucky you might find a place that serves steam pots (sometimes called steam buckets) loaded up with oysters, clams, shrimp, corn on the cob and crab legs, all thrown in with some rather kicky spices. A variation of this dish is known as a low country boil.
Shrimping has been a big South Carolina industry since the 1920s and the usual practice is to catch shrimp offshore in trawl nets. Something about a procession of shrimpers with their nets up, parading out to sea, has the strange feel of a line of veiled women moving solemnly toward some sort of religious observance. White shrimp season runs May and June and brown shrimp runs June through fall. White shrimp clearly prefers cooler water, and returns in August, September and October.
Calabash is a term you might see on a local menu, and to the uninitiated it might sound a bit exotic (perhaps Jamaican). Calabash is a small fishing community just across the nearby state line that calls itself the Seafood Capital of North Carolina. The name sounds musical and resonant with folklore and heritage, but what it really means is seafood lightly breaded and fried, not much differently than anywhere else.
A dish known as bog is another local favorite. It’s a hot competition in these parts, with professional chefs and individual cooks laying claim to the supremely secret ingredients of this dish, some of which usually include rice, chicken in very fat broth, onion, celery, green pepper, and some variant of bacon or smoked sausage. A couple tricks that have escaped the cloak of secrecy are sloooooowww cooking, very little stirring, and keep the lid on the pot at all costs.
This is the South so there shall be barbecue, and the secret herbs and spices are here again closely guarded family legacies. A truly polite person of the genteel persuasion won’t even ask.
In the summertime the local produce stands line the streets, and the best chefs in town are early bird customers. Strawberries start in April, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and watermelon in June, peaches in August, corn in September, apples in October, sweet potatoes and beets in October and November. In the wintertime look for collards and kale.
For the purposes of the following restaurant listings, we send our apologies to the hundreds of fine restaurants that are not listed. It would be impossible to include them all.