Loving what you eat requires great company, the perfect setting and ambience, and, of course, great food. The Grand Strand’s purveyors of casual and fine dining promise to fulfill these requirements in a food scene that is always evolving, growing and adding to its abundant ranks. There are some 2,000 eateries in the greater Myrtle Beach area with more, it seems, opening every day. And if you prefer playing chef at home, don’t think there aren’t options for you, with great area farmers markets and fresh seafood purchased right out of the hands of the fishermen who supply it.
Corina Whitehead of Carolina Food Tours grew up in Florence but has spent the last 20 years in Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet. She started Carolina Food Tours about a year ago because… “I’m just a foodie; I love food! We have the best coastal cuisine right here on the [South Strand] and I love to eat, meet new people and explore the area.” Whitehead’s food tours vary between Historic Georgetown with four restaurant stops and a little history lesson along the way, to The Drinks of Market Common, A MarshWalk Afternoon, and several others, including a breakfast tour still in the works. The current tours range in price from $59–$109 per person. “We bond over food. It’s just a wonderful experience,” says Whitehead.
carolinafoodtours.com (843) 687-2312
Long before the tourists, snowbirds, and retirees discovered the Grand Strand, area fishermen had developed a connection with the sea and its bounty. Those hardy souls still exist today, and if you know where to find them, it’s still possible to buy fresh, locally sourced seafood the moment the boats tie up.
River Road, Calabash N.C.
The ancient, prehistoric waterfront in the town of Calabash, N.C., has changed little over the years, except for the long wooden dock that sits at the end of River Road and the half-dozen restaurants where “Calabash cooking” first came into being. Picturesque and tourist-friendly, yet still very much a working fishing port, boats both large and small come and go all day and night bringing in shrimp, blue crab, flounder, oysters, red drum, grouper and whatever else is in season. Fresh, uncooked and wrapped to go (or cooked and served while you wait), the Calabash Fishing Fleet and its Seafood Shack are happy to get locally sourced, wild-caught seafood from the creeks and nearby Atlantic Ocean to your table. calabashfishingfleet.com (910) 575-0017
While not technically “on the dock,” several area seafood markets come as close as possible. The most reputable area purveyors will shoot you straight if you ask, “what’s local?” or “what came in today?”
Mr. Fish Seafood Market
6307 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach
(843) 492-0374, mrfish.com/seafood-market
Providing fresh seafood for decades, this family owned and operated seafood market and neighboring restaurant of the same name offer a wide variety of imported and locally sourced seafood with all the fixin’s to take home and create your own feast.
Seven Seas Seafood Market
3467 U.S. 17 Bus. Murrells Inlet
(843) 651-1666, sevenseasseafood.com
This well-stocked market specializes in wild caught Carolina Blue jumbo lump crabmeat—picked, cleaned, cooked and ready to go—along with seasonal local varieties of fish and shellfish.
Ocean Fish Market
302 Kingston St., Conway
This old-school market is one of the best-kept secrets of the region. A small store with a giant bed of ice featuring an ever-changing array of fresh, local offerings, the Ocean Fish Market has been supplying Conway locals with their fresh seafood for some 75 years. Popular for lunch (dine under the live oaks on picnic tables) and late afternoon “to-go” orders, you’ll love the charm of this authentic one-of-a-kind fish shack.
As part of the broader locavore movement, farm-to-table restaurants earn their designation after pledging to purchase produce, beef, poultry, seafood and other items served at their restaurants from local sources. It’s not always possible to get everything on the menu locally or regionally, but the credible commitment to do the best they can keeps these establishments honest in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint while supporting local farmers and serving food made from the freshest ingredients.
1111 3rd Ave., Conway
(843) 248-3733, rivertownbistro.com
Open Tuesday–Saturday for lunch and dinner, this staple of the Grand Strand’s western arm (Historic Conway) serves an inventive menu fusing American, Asian and Lowcountry cuisine with a very approachable yet contemporary flourish. Award-winning, nationally recognized and a gem for any and all stay-cationers.
85 N. Causeway Road, Pawleys Island
(843) 237-1438, chiveblossom.com
The perfect combination of creative Lowcountry, French and Mediterranean cuisines served in a charming and rustic renovated old home. Complete with indoor/outdoor dining options, an extensive wine list, full bar and just the right mix of casual and fine dining accouterments. Open for lunch and dinner Monday–Saturday.
5101 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach
(843) 449-9191, aspen-grille.com
Aspen Grille’s self-described “fresh Carolina” menu comes to life in this cozy, elegant and casual fine-dining establishment. Chef Curry Martin has harnessed his Charlestonian, Parisian and California wine country training to meld with high standards for service in his intimate, locally adored bistro. Here small plates and appetizers reflect Curry’s international flare, yet he brings it home with locally sourced oysters, shrimp, and flounder, organic salads, and entrees to satisfy the most discriminating tastes. Open for happy hour and dinner 4:30 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday.
The Parson’s Table
4305 McCorsley Ave., Little River
(843) 219-3702, parsonstable.com
Get churched at this North Strand staple of excellent food steeped in history and ambience. Originally the Little River Methodist Church, the Parson’s Table dates back to the 1850s. It’s been moved, shorn up, and is now owned and operated by award-winning executive chef Ed Murray, Jr., who brings 25-years of culinary training to serve classic Lowcountry favorites with locally sourced goods from farmers and fishermen. Long a favorite of the region, and for good reason. Open for dinner, 4:30 p.m. Monday–Saturday.
PHOTOS BY CARL KERRIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY, SCOTT SMALLIN PHOTOGRAPHY, CHRISTOPHER SHANE AND COURTESY OF CAROLINA FOOD TOURS