AOL PICK from our Editors
Boston is famous for lobster; Maryland for crab and Louisiana for their crawfish, but if it’s seafood of any sort you crave, some of the best places to eat it are in Myrtle Beach restaurants. After all, what else would be famous along 60+ miles of coastline? The best place to get your fill of fresh fish, clams, oysters and mussels is in Murrells Inlet
, known to many as the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina.” Some of the best Myrtle Beach restaurants and bars surround major resort areas, and it’s a general bet that anything along the water is going to offer a high-quality fresh catch of the day. Despite its casual atmosphere and family-friendly vibe, a number of fine dining destinations do exist, particularly in the steakhouse genre, likely due to the male-heavy clientele that comes during golf season. Expect most Myrtle Beach restaurants to fall into the “moderate” price range, although there are certainly bargains to be had, particularly if you’re willing to forego ambiance. Expect lines at the more popular places anytime after 5PM, particularly on weekend evenings. Many of the restaurants listed offer reservations, and it’s a good idea to make them a couple of days in advance, especially if you have a large group.
Neighborhood: North Myrtle Beach Price: Expensive
Tapas might not be your typical beach fare, but they’re done right at Sea Blue. One of the area’s trendiest dining destinations, you’ll find a sophisticated “South Beach meets Myrtle Beach” ambiance and fusion cuisine to match. Come for dishes like Kobe beef sliders, truffle mac n’ cheese and SeaBlue “Lunchables,” a playful twist on the childhood fave made with Parma ham, brie and crackers. Acclaimed by local media and the recipient of an AAA Three Diamond award, you’ll find a heavier emphasis on flavor and presentation here, with a predictable prevalence of locally-sourced ingredients and organic and sustainable produce used wherever possible.
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Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
Part of the Divine Dining Group restaurant chain, Divine Prime draws high praises from locals and critics alike for its steak-heavy menu. Trendy, lounge-like décor encourages a smart, sexy and sophisticated clientele, and a glowing red steel entrance door helps to capture the vibe—this top Myrtle Beach restaurant is exclusive—with prices to match. Although the menu offers some seafood selections and by-the-pound lobster choices, the highlight is the steak. Take your prime cuts with sides to share such as caramelized onions, creamed corn and six (count ‘em) varieties of mashed potatoes, including blue cheese, lobster and crème fraiche and wasabi. Dress it up with accompaniments of king crab legs, sautéed shrimp or lobster tail for surf n’ turf variety. To drink, order from one of the area’s most extensive wine lists (including more than 15 types of Champagne and sparkling wine) or signature house martinis.
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Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
If it’s a clubby, Old World steakhouse you crave, Thoroughbreds is your place. This top Myrtle Beach restaurant has a somewhat incongruous location (in the middle of a shopping strip), but don’t let that put you off—inside you’ll find a classic country club atmosphere and a standard yet thorough menu of steaks, chops and seafood. Start with escargot in garlicky butter sauce or Oysters Thoroughbreds, a play on Oysters Rockefeller. Wash it down with a Manhattan or martini, then move on to the 18 oz. ribeye or chateaubriand for two. Service is attentive and the food is predictably tasty. This spot is perfect for golf groups or large parties.
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Neighborhood: Georgetown Price: Moderate
For more than 25 years, locals and travelers alike have headed to Georgetown’s River Room Restaurant, a moderately-priced fine dining establishment offering top-notch Southern fare and seafood. Since owners Sid and Sally founded the restaurant in 1984 with $7.95 seafood platters, not much has changed except the décor—the food is still home-inspired and fresh off the boat, and the guests still return year after year. In the restaurant’s wood-paneled front, you’ll find photographs of the area through the years. We recommend the spicy crawfish dip and the shrimp and grits, a house specialty. If it’s landlubber fare you’re after, the pan-fried Santa Fe Chicken, topped with corn and black bean salsa, is our favorite item on the menu. As you dine, watch the fishing boats roll in and feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
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Neighborhood: North Myrtle Beach Price: Moderate
One of the most popular restaurants in Myrtle Beach is located inside the Island Vista hotel. Think “Low Country cuisine” with an upscale twist—for example, founder and crab are prepared with tomato-olive relish and served with a side of haricots verts. We also recommend the lamb, which is prepared with a fennel crust, roasted and then served alongside a chive gnocchi. The by-your-design menu means that you have the option of picking not only your entrée, but also how it is prepared and what side you would like it to come with. Just save room for dessert—the pecan pie with bourbon crème anglaise and apple tartlet are both standouts. Reservations are suggested, but if you arrive early, we’d suggest you grab a cocktail and head for the resto’s wraparound porch: the perfect place to view the sunset over the beach.
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Neighborhood: Garden City / Surfside Beach Price: Moderate
If you’re looking for a seafood platter, you’ve come to the right place. Just off the Garden City main strip sits local fave Sara J’s, a family-owned-and-operated seafood restaurant that prides itself on fresh-caught Southern cuisine. Sit inside or opt for a table on the porch to enjoy peaceful views of the marsh. Call at least three days ahead for reservations or you'll wind up waiting for over an hour, especially during summer weekends. Start your meal with hush puppies on the house, a fried cornmeal treat that’s made even better when dipped in fresh sweet butter. Skip the healthy fare and head straight for the seafood platters, which you can order fried, broiled or blackened (don't worry—you can walk off those calories on the beach later). These blends of local scallops, flounder, shrimp and oysters are some of the area’s best.
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Neighborhood: Garden City / Surfside Beach Price: Budget
Sun, sand and ice cream—what’s a vacation if you can’t cut loose and indulge a little? Locals know that Painter’s Homemade Ice Cream is the only frozen treat worth the calories. There’s usually a line, but it moves fast—after all, how complicated can a cone be (wait … don’t answer that, we've all ended up behind the person who orders "sugar free with sprinkles, whipped cream, in a cone—no, a cup, with a cone and just a dab of strawberry on top" and then changes the order again). The flavors and toppings are fairly standard—the mint chip is our personal fave—and a few sundae options, including a traditional brownie and banana split, round out the menu. Eat at one of several tables inside or take it “to go."
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Neighborhood: Garden City / Surfside Beach Price: Budget
Family-owned and operated, Nibils Restaurant is a local gem. This is the best Myrtle Beach restaurant out there for breakfast, (lines run out the door if you arrive past 8AM in the summer). The atmosphere reminds us of Cheers and a wait staff is so seasoned that they’ll likely know your order better than you do, even if you're a first timer (don't ask us how). The menu is simple—French toast, eggs and ham, grits and omelettes—but it’s fresh, fast, and cheap, with most items running under $10. Expect crowds of families who’ve been coming for breakfast for as long as they can remember and a turnover speed that doesn’t encourage you to linger … but why would you? Just glancing out the windows to panoramic views of Surfside Beach reminds you that Nibils is only the first of many stops that day. Thankfully, it’s an enjoyable one—we can’t imagine anywhere else where we’d like to break our fast.
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Neighborhood: Murrells Inlet Price: Budget
Two words: Fried Pickles. Otherwise a standard dockside bar, the fried pickles turn this burger-n’-brew joint into a budget-friendly standout. Located at one end of the Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk
, the rustic nautical atmosphere invites one to kick back and order a round or bucket and relax. Go on Sundays as that's when local DJ Gary Brown broadcasts “shag” music live on the Marsh Walk—you may even find a friendly local willing to show you the steps. Get your mind out of the gutter—the shag is a traditional South Carolinian dance, similar to swing. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, prepare to chow down—po boys, seafood platters, and the aforementioned fried pickles are the menu standouts.
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Neighborhood: North Myrtle Beach Price: Budget
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There’s something to be said for ordering food from a walk-up shack when you’re on vacation. Hot Diggity Dogz is a classic example of such an establishment. Not surprisingly, it specializes in one thing and one thing only—hot dogs. From morning till the wee hours of the evening, you’ll find a line nearly around the block to score a Sabrett’s hot dog with fixin’s like chili, cheese, cole slaw and kraut … but don’t you dare ask for ketchup! Kidding, they’ll give if to you if you ask, but you won’t need it. Perfect for a mid-afternoon snack or a late night craving after a dance session at the Spanish Galleon
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