ROADTRIP: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – PART I

Myrtle Beach is a small town deep along the coast of South Carolina.  It is an approximately 14 hour drive from New York City and yet worlds away.  It’s not  just about golf in Myrtle Beach, as the name suggests — they’ve got a pristine beach, seafood restaurants galore and much much more.  Here are our recommendations for a young traveling family.

Seafood Buffets are abundant and everywhere and a real steal for young families.  We had a chance to check out two highly recommended and very different seafood buffets, The Giant Crab and Captain George’s Seafood RestaurantThe Giant Crab is located at 9597 North Kings Highway.  For those who are big on selection, The Giant Crab delivers.  It had over 170 dishes to choose from including an extensive raw bar and a large section of children’s favorite items like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, hamburgers and fries — all without the frills.  Children under 2 are free and while many people had coupons that escaped us, you can print some valuable ones online.  Another great thing was their accommodations for food allergies.  Despite my son being “FREE” under 2, they were happy to grill a separate order of corn for him sans butter for his dairy allergy as well as being incredibly helpful, pointing out safe foods.

On our last day, we decided to get a little fancy for our seafood buffet and Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant came highly recommended by everyone we asked.  We were warned though, the prices were a bit higher than those of other seafood buffets.  What they didn’t factor is that children under the age of 4 are free!  Since we had two under 4, this was a deal at only $5 above other buffets and this time we had a coupon!  We automatically felt upscale the minute we stepped through their doors.  This was more of a Yacht club feel than a sea barge.  Although their selection was much smaller than The Giant Crab what they lacked in selection, they made up for in Quality.  The food was so incredibly fresh.  I almost parked myself in front of the raw bar.  I had no doubt the oysters I was chugging was fresh from the ocean beds.  The most notable thing was the freshness of the crab legs which we consumed in loads.  These were succulent and sweet without the over-cooked, over-soaked salty note which we didn’t notice the difference until we took our first bite.  Of course always a hit, was the dessert bar.  The infant was happy to chew on ice cream cones… definitely not the ice cream and the toddler was all about the soft serve ice cream.  A really wonderful surprise was the balloon lady who walked around making balloon toys for the kids.  All Free, but donations were happily accepted and a portion of her proceeds went to St. Judes. How could I not give her an extra special tip!  The infant happily flew his balloon airplane around while the toddler pranced around with her flower.  And when the play got a little rough, the balloon repaired on demand… Thank God!

My husband and I love discovering that hole in the wall, gem of a local joint — a real dive.  It’s not always easy getting the locals to give up this location.  All too often we’re pointed to some fancy touristy place.  This time I took a completely different approach to discovering the best eateries.  I took my search to the social medium Four Squares and discovered Mr. Fish, also on North Kings Highway at 3401.  It is the most unassuming place, located in the middle of a dead quiet strip mall, next to it’s very own fresh seafood market.  There’s nothing fancy about this place, and decor was very minimal to say the least.  They weren’t trying very hard to impress with computer printed paper menus, but the focus was obviously on the food as we soon learned.  We just beat the rush when we arrived to the empty restaurant at 5:30pm.  While I was skeptical staring at the multitudes of empty tables, this restaurant that had recently expanded into the adjacent store was packed within 20 minutes of our arrival.  Well if you’re going to try recommendations of strangers, you might as well dive right in!  Which is what we did.  Highly recommended on Four Squares was their She-Crab Soup at $6.95 for a bowl, it wasn’t a deep investment.  To say that it was amazing, doesn’t do it justice.  What arrived was a huge bowl, enough to feed all 3 of us (not including the dairy-free baby).  It was chock full of fresh crab and deliciously creamy throughout.  We were completely obsessed with it.  We also tried the highly recommended Boom Boom Shrimp.  It was also delicious, but if you’ve had Nobu or Morimoto’s Rock Shrimp Tempura, it’s essentially the same dish.  On my own plate were two delicious Mahi-Mahi Fish Tacos served with 2 sides and an old favorite chinese peasant dish I’ve never seen served in a restaurant setting, crispy rice.  It made the husband and I nostalgic.  The stand out of our main courses was actually my son’s grilled flounder kid’s meal.  This fish was so moist and tender, it melted in our mouths.  We were dreaming of this fish dish the remainder of our trip.  The baby couldn’t get enough of this fish and almost consumed half the dish by himself.  He might have been able to finish its entirety but we got a little greedy.

Beach is in the name!  Myrtle Beach, while catering to tourists, is much a locals kinda town.  With Kmarts and Sonics weaved through out surf shops and visitor center’s, it’s a strange hybrid of vacation destination and home to it’s natives.  The beach is accessible pretty much at any point along the coast.  What I found amusing was along the hotel row, beaches were accessible with paid parking.  Once you headed up past 30th Street, you hit the residential area and free parking was everywhere you turned.  Same beach, without the $$$.

Broadway at the Beach is no where near the beach but it is a “strip” mall worth checking out.  Catering to tourists, it’s got loads of attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium and Nascar’s SpeedPark with quaint little shops like our new obsession, FantaSea.  If we ever got a vacation home, I just might furnish it with pieces from the sea gem.  Yay for online stores!  Part amusement park, part shopping mall, we noshed on funnel cakes while eating sweets from It’s Sugar while checking out the action from the Dragon’s Lair.  It makes for a nice evening stroll, ending with a ride on the carousel.

If Golfing is your thing, this is the perfect time to head down.  Although deemed the low season, it is the perfect weather for golfing and playing at some of the world’s most beautiful courses for dirt cheap doesn’t hurt either.  Take advantage of special rates arranged with the hotel or you can be as savvy as my husband and make friends on his first course.  He was able to snag local rates and tee times at some of the more sought after courses, not to mention having his 4 all set up for the remainder of the vacation.