I hate to say it, but going to the beach for me has historically involved lots of all-you-can-eat buffets. In truth, I’m not sure how this tradition was born. Probably it was due spending the whole day soaking up the sun and not wanting to leave the beach until the evening, when my hunger had reached epic proportions. Enter the AYCE seafood buffets — quantity (and accessibility!) over quality.
But deep down, it’s always seemed like such a shame. When you’re near the ocean, you get this really unique opportunity to eat fresh, local seafood, and here I was squandering it for the sake of volume and then calling it vacation “indulgence.”
So recently, while on a press trip to Myrtle Beach (meaning that my travel and food was generously covered, but you know anything I write here comes from the heart!), I got to have a different experience. We were introduced to the best the area has to offer and with that came an introduction to the local cuisine. Trust me, there’s so much more to Myrtle Beach than AYCE buffets and fast food.
Here’s a look at the highlights from my trip and some tips for navigating beach town cuisine.
My Fresh Catch Experience
Day 1: Dinner at Rivertown Bistro in Conway. After my flight and a walking tour of the beautiful and historic riverfront village on Conway, I was understandably famished … and ready for a cocktail of course. The clementine cosmo at this lovely family-owned restaurant had my name written all over it. The menu was impressive but I went for the special — sous vide pork flat iron, finished on chargrill with bits of fried lobster over local mashed sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus, finished with a porcini madiera sauce. Sounded too good to pass up … and it totally was.
Day 2: Lunch at Croissants Bakery and Bistro and dinner at Aspen Grille, both in Myrtle Beach. After a boardwalk stroll and a few turns around the Sky Wheel, it was lunch time, so we stopped into Croissants for some of what they were known for — quality regional comfort food. I was craving some greens so I went with the chopped cobb salad with shrimp, taking advantage of Croissants partnership with local farmers and fisherman to source the freshest vegetables and seafood. After lunch, we were served a selection of colorful macarons of assorted indulgent flavors — like birthday cake and salted caramel.
Aspen Grille was another fabulous place boasting locally-sourced and organic foods with so many great options. And what’s a trip to the south without some fried green tomatoes? Here they upped the ante, topping them off with pecan smoked bacon and lump crab meat. For my main, it was the local pan seared flounder and shrimp served over roasted potatoes, okra, corn and tomato ragout. And I washed all of that fresh, local goodness down with the most refreshing pomegranate martini.
Day 3: Take-out lunch from Johnny D’s Waffles and Bakery in Myrtle Beach and dinner at Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet. After surfing, we had a full day of exploring to do around the local parks so we opted to grab our lunches to-go. I had cilantro chicken topped with the most amazing strawberry salsa over white rice — high energy, low drag for a busy afternoon. Simple and delicious.
Wicked Tuna was my favorite spot on this trip. It offered waterfront outdoor dining, and they catch all their own seafood. This “hook to plate” philosophy had me psyched to try their ceviche and extensive sushi offerings — all of which paired perfectly with the flamingo cocktail they offered me. Because when you’re at the beach and someone offers you a flaming beverage, you just say “yes!” What a way to finish off an amazing trip to an amazing place.
Tips for Navigating Beach Town Cuisine
- Try new stuff. I know it’s tempting to stick with your favorite comfort foods, but when in Rome… well, that’s a fabulous time to try out what the region is known for.
- Order the special. If it’s good enough (and special enough) to be on the special menu, it’s probably worth it. Also, it probably represents and nicely showcases the seasonal local fare.
- Ask about what you’re eating. Don’t be shy about asking if the foods are locally-sourced. Many restaurants will have their staff tell you freely, but you can always ask.
Do you find yourself engaging in unusually poor eating habits while on vacation, or do you go for the healthy local fare? Tell us about it. —Alison