If whiskey was a sound, it would bounce, bellow and echo off the rafters, like the ones stretched high above the dining room at The Whiskey Fish. You can almost hear it buzzing through the packed dinner tables and the happy patrons lining the bar at happy hour.
But here, primarily, you get a real taste for whiskey. You can sip and sup on whiskey— become a whiskey fish yourself on the nearly 50 varieties on their whiskey menu or order foods doused in their house whiskey sauces and glazes.
The bar and restaurant is new to the north end of the Murrells Inlet strip of restaurants and is making their presence known, loud and clear, in a building that housed a series of bygone restaurants where Business 17 and the ramp off 17 Bypass merge. When you move near bars with raucous names like Suck Bang Blow and Beaver Bar, it’s always a good idea to stand out and be heard. And they do.
Parking spaces are limited, but free, friendly valet parking is offered, which is a brilliant service. Wind past the massive deck and sound stage shaded under a live oak that’s probably been there for centuries, past the outdoor bar, climb a flight of wooden stairs onto the second floor front porch complete with a few iron patio tables, and step inside.
Rustic marries modern upstairs, which was exactly the vision of the five owners. Flat-screen TVs and cool under-bar lighting in the dining room come together with 300-year-old reclaimed wood salvaged from Windsor Plantation (circa 1758) on the banks of the Black River in Georgetown and now built into the walls and bar. Vintage whiskey barrels are rolled onto a thick ledge above the bar with hanging Edison light bulbs and iron lanterns. I’m hooked on the design school vibes The Whiskey Fish is swimming in.
I brought the entire family, including my wee one that rules in a highchair, and felt completely comfortable amidst fellow families sitting, laughing and breaking bread at bordering tables, along with a melting pot of clientele: co-workers rolling up their dress shirt sleeves after five, golfers and clusters of retirees.
Although busy, the servers still managed to juke through the table layout and back and forth to the end of the bar on this shift like a well-choreographed football team. I can imagine the floor manager’s locker room talk earlier, complete with instructions on smiles and direct eye contact. Ours executed her play like a champ.
After ordering a couple of craft beers and Sprites (no whiskey with kids in tow tonight), we also put in an order for a happy hour appetizer that was $4 less than the regular-priced app on the menu. The Cheeseburger Dip was a deconstructed dish I wish I would’ve thought up myself: a bowl of melted cheese swimming with ground hamburger, pickles, bacon, ketchup and mustard that you scoop up with tortilla chips. Dip-licious.
Moving on to the first course, I went with the namesake Whiskey Fish Sandwich. How could you go wrong when the restaurant’s name is slapped on it? The sandwich arrived on a toasted hoagie roll, with two grilled mahi fillets glazed with their house whiskey barbecue sauce and topped with melted cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato. The fish was a bit dry, but the flavor was rescued by the sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, an interesting twist to pair with fish. My husband ordered the Honey Whiskey Glazed Chicken, two chicken breasts grilled in a creamy, honey-infused whiskey butter sauce and paired with a side of grilled asparagus. It was a good dish, but seemed a little lonely without a good ol’carb on the side, too—maybe their mashed potatoes?
The Whiskey Fish menu boasts many promising selections for our return visit, such as the Duck Wontons appetizer, six duck bacon deep-fried wontons; the lobster bisque; Shrimp Scampi Mac & Cheese; and the Boilermaker Shrimp & Grits, topped with all of the traditional ingredients, then topped with beer cheese. They even serve up daily soups and a dessert menu of luscious cheesecakes.
The Whiskey Fish will whet your appetite for this unique take on cooking, loving and pouring whiskey—and the owners’ thirst for bringing the Murrells Inlet culinary community something wonderfully different.
The Whiskey Fish
3415 U.S. 17 South, Murrells Inlet
Open daily, 11 a.m. to midnight