The Beach is Booming

June 2017
Written By: 
Paul Grimshaw

Summer 2017 will feature several new Grand Strand restaurants and attractions

It didn’t come as much of a surprise in late March 2017 when the Census Bureau and the headlines proclaimed that the greater Myrtle Beach area was the second fastest growing metropolitan region in the United States, just behind The Villages in central Florida.

Not only do the number of permanent residents continue to grow, so do the number of tourists, now exceeding 15 million annually. With all this growth comes opportunity and need for new business, new infrastructure and lots of big changes at a pace rarely seen.

Here’s a very brief look at what’s new this summer under the Grand Strand sun.

Let’s Eat!

Sure, food helps drive the tourist economy, but locals love to dine out too. With some 2,000 places to eat between Georgetown and Little River, some would say “enough is enough!” But hold on, enough is almost never enough, and dozens of new eateries open each year along the Grand Strand. 2016 saw a dazzling array of new restaurants, and 2017 will be another banner year for foodies. Here are some of the new buzzworthy spots already opened or just about to.

Dave & Busters
Broadway at the Beach
29th Ave N. at U.S. 17 Bypass, Myrtle Beach

Few spots along the Grand Strand have seen as much recent and dramatic change as Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach. The Celebrity Square dining and entertainment district has already welcomed the all-new Hard Rock Café, which opened in October of 2016, followed by the razing of the iconic pyramid late last year. Broadway at the Beach also welcomed club Oz (formerly Revolutions), Wahlburgers, American Tap House and Rooster’s. Celebrity Square will roll out the red carpet for the new big kid on the block, Dave & Busters, in June.

Billed by some as a Chuck E. Cheese’s for grownups, the Texas-based Dave & Busters has more than 80 locations around the U.S. and focuses on high-tech video games, skill games, food, a full bar and late nights all in a Vegas-worthy nightclub/bar atmosphere. The new Myrtle Beach location boasts a warehouse theme within 40,000 square feet of space on two floors. D&B will be open daily for lunch and dinner.

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen
Broadway at the Beach
29th Ave. N at U.S. 17 Bypass, Myrtle Beach

An all-new, large-scale, celebrity-driven restaurant, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, takes the spot on Lake Broadway once occupied by Carlos and Charlie’s, and, before that, UNO Pizzeria.

The $4 million, two-story, 21,000- square-foot family-style restaurant is scheduled to open in June. The restaurant will be open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and will feature family-style Southern cooking specialties requiring lots of butter, from Paula Deen, the queen of Southern cuisine. Chicken and waffles, bananas foster French toast, sweet piggies in a blanket, country ham, creamy hashbrown casserole, fried chicken, pot roast, spare ribs, pork chops, breaded catfish, butter cake, banana pudding, seasonal cobbler, and as much Southern sweetness as y’all can handle.

1210 N. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach

This three-tier, 17,000-square-foot oceanfront restaurant and bar, complete with rooftop dining, will steal the show for many downtown Myrtle Beach visitors and raise the bar for other oceanfront restaurants to come. Located on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, the new entertainment complex is loaded with open-air decks and floor-to-ceiling glass, affording unparalleled views and modern sophistication. This ain’t your mama’s beach bar. Live music from soloists mid-week and bands on the weekend will further add to the appeal. Owned by the restaurant group behind Wicked Tuna, Goodtime Charley’s, The Beach House Bar & Grill, American Tap House and high-end eateries in Charlotte, RipTydz promises to deliver a new oceanfront experience and set a new standard for “beach cool.” At press time, it was scheduled to open in June.

Carolina Ale House
2915 Hollywood Drive, Myrtle Beach

It was a bit sad to see the iconic Hard Rock Café pyramid and Planet Hollywood’s big blue ball both leveled, but change is inevitable and “change” is the buzzword for Myrtle Beach in 2017.

The Carolina Ale House, part of a growing chain with 27 stores in six states, will open in June at the site of the former Planet Hollywood, which occupied the corner of 29th Avenue North and U.S. 17 Bypass. The new restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, with an emphasis on craft beer on tap (and by the bottle) and a sports bar theme. The Carolina Ale House menu offers a large selection of appetizers, soups and salads, burgers, pizzas, tacos, sandwiches, wings and a fairly extensive entree menu with chicken and ribs, fish and chips, a shrimp platter and a BBQ platter.

Hickory Tavern
1580 U.S. 17, North Myrtle Beach

Opened last December, Hickory Tavern has a pure sports bar/neighborhood pub motif with the feel that it’s one of a kind and not part of a corporate chain. With regular events, live music each Saturday night, and too many big screens to count, this new tavern has already gained a loyal following on the North Strand. Choose from a dozen appetizers, including oysters on the half shell, build-your-own salads, salmon, chicken, crab legs, steamed shrimp, NY Strip, filet mignon and Delmonico steaks. Plus dozens of burger options, wings, sandwiches, tacos and a kids’ menu. Add in craft beers, signature cocktails and even healthier “skinny plates” and everyone leaves happy.

Hook & Barrel, Croissants Bistro & Bakery at Grande Dunes
Corner of U.S. 17 Business and 82nd Parkway, Myrtle Beach

Cookbook author, local chef and SC Restaurateur of the Year (2011) Heidi Vukov will realize her long-talked-about dream of a second location for Croissants Bistro & Bakery, plus an all-new restaurant concept, Hook & Barrel, both expected to open in June.

The Hook & Barrel is described as a “fish & wine house,” focusing on responsibly harvested and sustainable seafood with Lowcountry dishes, oysters at the raw bar, filet mignon, pork tenderloin, roasted chicken and as much “locally sourced produce as possible,” says Vukov. The new concept will feature multiple wines on tap (and by the bottle), as well as craft whiskeys and beers, items you might find in a barrel. Something Vukov calls “eater-tainment,” promises an optional opportunity to get up close and personal with the food preparation. The indoor dining room will seat around 100, a private room seats another 30 and al fresco dining on the outdoor patio means all-weather indoor/outdoor seating for dinner from 4 p.m. daily and brunch on Sunday.

The new, second location of Croissants Bistro & Bakery will serve the familiar fare of the popular original on 38th Avenue North, but here staff will roast the restaurant’s own coffee beans and focus on catering too.

Let’s Play!

New attractions are part of the beach life, and in the past year several new attractions in Myrtle Beach have been making a splash. Here are just a couple of them.

Pavilion Park Ferris Wheel
Broadway at the Beach
21st Avenue North at U.S. 17 Bypass, Myrtle Beach

The 120-foot Ferris wheel opened as part of Broadway at the Beach’s ongoing expansion of the Pavilion Park early in 2017. The park is named for the iconic former oceanfront amusement park that once was the summertime center of all Myrtle Beach tourism.

Twenty-four open-air gondolas afford riders, up to six per car, spectacular views of Broadway at the Beach and surrounding environs. You can bet seats on this new ride will be at a premium on fireworks nights. Whether riding or not, the Ferris wheel’s state-of-the-art LED light show is a dazzling spectacle from any vantage point.

Though missing the oceanfront nostalgia of its predecessor, the Pavilion Park grows each year with new thrill rides and kiddie rides, and at this rate it will soon be as large as the original Pavilion Amusement Park built some 70 years ago and torn down in 2006.

The Track Family Recreation Center
9589 N. Kings Highway (Restaurant Row), Myrtle Beach

After a slow start and a few delays, The Track got the green light in 2016 and opened late last year, seeing the checkered flag for full operations this spring.

The Track features electric go-karts racing on elevated tracks with hills and Grand Prix-style turns, catering to all ages. Kiddie Karts are designed for the youngest drivers, Rookie Karts are geared for the next group up and the Elevated Tracks with two-seater and single Karts are reserved for the serious racers. The enclosed all-weather arcade includes the classic skee-ball, high-tech video games, action games, kiddie games and more. Open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. in season.

Let’s Shop!

Not too many years ago when visitors and locals needed groceries they chose from a handful of stores including Food Lion, Kroger and the Piggly Wiggly. But all that has changed.

In the last decade or so, and especially in the last three years, the Grand Strand has seen an explosion in the number and variety of grocers coming to the market, including four Lowes Foods, seven BI-LOs, two Fresh Markets, eight Walmart superstores, three Publix Super Markets (with more on the way), six Walmart Neighborhood Markets (with many more on the way), and, new in 2017, two Aldi discount grocery stores with a third under construction. Add in the 24 Food Lion stores, 5 Krogers, and the 3 remaining Piggly Wiggly stores of the Grand Strand, and that’s some 70 large grocers serving the region.

Still many ask … where’s the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, sadly absent from the list? With Horry County’s population nearly doubling in the past 20 years, they can’t be too far behind.

Much to the chagrin of some locals and visitors nostalgic for a Grand Strand resembling a ghost town in the off-season, and with manageable numbers of visitors Memorial Day through Labor Day, you can’t stop the future; it’s already here.