Happy Hour Heaven

June 2013
Written By: 
Denise Mullen
Photographs by: 
Christopher Nelson

Salt Water Creek Café’s early bird offerings pack a punch




Road-weary from running errands and lunch deprived, we ended up rolling into the parking lot of Salt Water Creek Café in the late afternoon, hoping it would be ready at that time to serve dinner.

Strangely enough, we had a difficult time finding an empty space in front of the beach house-inspired café shaded by the spread of an enormous old oak tree dripping with Spanish moss and strings of lights.   
The host was on point to seat us. The place was packed. Glasses of wine were pouring as fast as the carafes of ice water set on every table. As we were seated at a back booth, I glanced toward the front door to see a line-up of guests filing in.     

We were to learn, right then and there, what insiders have known and enjoyed for quite some time: Salt Water Creek Café has one of the best early bird menus and offerings on the Grand Strand.     

We’re talking about cut-above, down-home cooking and good $3-a-glass vino that puts the “V” back in value.     
The menu runs the gamut from burgers, wraps and paninis to crispy duck, crab cakes, pineapple-ginger braised ribs, fish tacos and rack of lamb.      

But wait a minute—this dining room looks like a UFO convention with the number of pizzas floating through the air and landing upon tables everywhere! Turns out, we popped in on Wednesday’s Blue Light Special: all pizzas for $6, including the Mason Dixon topped with homemade pimento cheese, tomatoes, bacon and mozzarella and the Sun Kissed Margharita featuring sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. Pssst: The Blue Light Special on Saturday is a pound of fresh lobster for $17!     

Feeling consumed by the Early-Bird-Blue-Light excitement, I ordered from the “4–6 p.m. only” menu: Six oyster shooters ($6) and a pair of grouper medallions  Francaise-style, dipped in a parmesan batter with rough-mashed potatoes and honey glazed carrots, all for $13.      

Even though the shrimp on a fried grit cake with creek gravy and potato skins loaded with pimento cheese, bacon and sour cream screamed for my appetizer attention, you just can’t go wrong with fresh oysters in a shot glass with a splash of pepper vodka and homemade cocktail sauce, now can you?

Rather than the usual dip and dredge coating, the grouper was actually battered before it hit the sauté pan, bringing home a fluffier pancake-style finish.      

I would have bet money that my husband would have ordered the filet mignon ($13.50) or the shrimp scampi over angel hair pasta ($12.50), but instead, he ventured to the regular dinner menu for the fried pork chop drenched in a house-made leek and mushroom brown gravy with a definite punch of curry.      

All of Salt Water Creek’s entrees are served with a house salad and choice of freshly made dressings like buttermilk chive or ginger, or you can swap out a salad for the soup du jour—which happened to be scratch beef stew that day.

Salt Water Creek also offers a roster of half-pound sterling silver chuck burgers like the Yumburger with creamy goat cheese and sweet chili sauce. And, for the youngsters, kid’s meals range from $5 to $6, including a rainbow sherbet pushup and drink.     

A green span of salads take up the cause for light bites and includes the Mandarin chicken with ginger dressing and salmon on spinach with dried cranberries, sunflower seeds and mandarin oranges drizzled with honey lime dressing.

“Other Good Stuff” on Salt Water Creek’s menu offers up quesadillas, the Big Daddy Mac ’n’ Cheese bubbling with gouda, cheddar, parmesan, bacon and ham and a Buffalo chicken taco plate.

At the risk of never being lucky enough to get a table right away again or missing the last plating of a Blue Light Special, I have to highly endorse Salt Water Creek Café as one of the best places around to eat, drink and be merry before the sun goes down.

Salt Water Creek Café
4660 U.S. 17 Bypass
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576  
(843) 357-2433
Hours: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Serving brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.