By Becky Billingsley
Saturday, July 10, 2010, Myrtle Beach - The architecture at PierHouse Restaurant and PierView Bar is gorgeous, the view is dazzling and the food is coming right along. This fresh pearl at the southern end of the new Myrtle Beach boardwalk has been open a week and has already injected the ahhhhhhhh factor into hundreds of vacations.
But also since the new structure at Second Avenue Pier has been open only a week, there are some kinks to work out. Parking is a problem, because there isn't enough of it. You locals, just go ahead and park somewhere on Second Avenue South and walk over. It'll be a lot less hassle, plus you can probably find a nearby spot where you aren't confronted by one of the city parking meters installed in the pier's parking lot.
Complex owners Teak and Trent Collins hired the local architectural firm of Mozingo and Wallace to design the building that rises from the sand like a giant beach house. The PierHouse Restaurant is on the second floor, and while the space is gorgeous with the characteristic Mozingo/Wallace minimalism, dramatic geometric lines, exposed ceilings, unique textures and interesting color schemes, it needs some decor accents. Minimalist is fine, but this place is still bare naked with not a single piece of anything hanging on the walls.
Perhaps they feel the view is more than enough to look at, and it is mesmerizing to watch people walk and fish on the pier, stroll the sand and play in the water.
The food is much better than your average touristy oceanfront restaurant, and it was designed to have broad appeal according to Executive Chef and General Manager, Seth Gibson. A Collins cousin, Gibson is a culinary school graduate with extensive experience; before coming to open PierHouse he was dabbling in molecular gastronomy. He is joined in the kitchen by his friend, Chef Andy Yates, who is also an experienced chef whose resume includes a stint at the famed Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia.
Gibson crafted a tight menu that's heavy on crowd pleasers but still manages to provide interesting twists.
A case in point is the coleslaw my dining companion ordered with his Conway Club sandwich ($8). It had a mellowly pleasant flavor and aroma we were hard-pressed to identify. I guessed vanilla, and my friend thought maybe nutmeg. Chef Gibson confirmed it was vanilla, and it works in a soft and surprisingly earthy way.
That club sandwich was also terrific, my friend said. It has ham, turkey, applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese and sharp Cheddar on a choice of white or wheat bread or a wrap. The artisan bread was dense and deliciously chewy.
My Georgetown Grouper Reuben was on a flavorful marble rye. Only the grouper isn't from Georgetown. The $8 price and the thinness of the filet clued me in, and the Collins confirmed it's a frozen product. It's still a succulent piece of fish, and I was impressed with the addition of pickled red onion on the plate.
My side dish was pasta salad made with orecchiette, matchstick carrots, red bell peppers and pesto. The pesto could have used a little more olive oil, but the salad was still appealing.
We also tried the Calabash Crabcakes, which are $10 for a pair of mini cakes. The menu says they're lump crab and served with remoulade. The lump terminology may be stretching things a bit, but they're definitely almost all meat without any cracker or bread filling. The meat's natural sweetness is enhanced by a small amount of minced bell pepper, celery and onion.
Our plate didn't have any sauce as mentioned in the menu description, so we asked for our remoulade. The server brought us mayonnaise with capers in it, which Chef Gibson later said was a mistake. He had to step off the line for a few minutes to receive a food order, and said the line cook wasn't sure what to use.
Other lunch appetizers include Seaside Spinach Dip, Cherry Grove Chicken Rolls, Brunswick Bacon Wrapped Shrimp, Chicora Crab Stickers (deep-fried wontons with cilantro cream and Thai chili sauce) and the Sunset Shrimp Stack, which is fried green tomatoes layered with Creole shrimp salad.
The lunch menu also lists the Carolina Burger, Boardwalk Barbecue Sandwich, Florence Flounder, three salads (The Hook, The Line and The Sinker, each with simple yet tasty ingredients), and the grilled Charleston Chicken Sandwich with basil mayonnaise.
The same appetizers and salads are served at dinner along with three of the lunchtime sandwiches. Dinner entrees ($14-$30) include Seafood Platters; Pan-seared Grouper with Creole crayfish cream; Seafood Pasta where shrimp and mussels are sautéed with tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms then tossed in roasted garlic broth; Bone-in Ribeye topped with tobacco onions; and Socastee Shrimp and Grits with jumbo shrimp, pepperjack cheese grits, country ham and redeye gravy.
Backing up to breakfast, a half portion of Socastee Shrimp and Grits is available for $8, while the $10 orange-crusted Tabor City Toast is stuffed with peanut butter and bananas. There are breakfast sandwiches for $3-$3.50, egg plates for $6-$8 and omelets for $5.50-$7, such as the Cobia Omelet with fresh spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and Parmesan.
The a la carte breakfast list ($2-$3) includes biscuit and gravy, pancakes, muffins, oatmeal and granola. Side dishes are tomatoes, grits, fried potatoes and fresh fruit.
Upstairs at the bar people are sipping $5 Bahama Mamas and enjoying a jaw-dropping view. It's open-air, and even on a 100-degree day a cool sea breeze keeps this crow's nest comfortable.
A futuristic tone is evident in the neon orange and green Jetson-style amoeba-shape barstools, an inset fireplace surrounded by a blue and silver tile mosaic, charcoal gray rattan furniture with white cushions that have an ocean-like flow to their lines, and a variety of green hues in the wall paint and furniture that range from mint and limeade to olive and luminescent sherbet.
The PierView Bar has its own menu ($2-$8) that includes Waccamaw Wings, Surfside Shrimp, Horry Hot Dog and Second Avenue Sliders (one hamburger, one crab) served with slaw and pickled onion.
Rock 'n' roll plays in the restaurant, and it plays louder in the bar. The restaurant opens at 7 a.m. daily, and the bar cranks up at 10 a.m. For more information or reservations call (843) 445-PIER (7437).