By Becky Billingsley
This IS Myrtle Beach after all, and throughout the entire Grand Strand area we have a lot of great seafood restaurants. There are so many I had to increase my number of top picks, which means more for you to enjoy.
Let me explain my reasoning behind my choices, because I am sure some locals are looking at the list and thinking, "What about [this or that restaurant]?"
- If a restaurant has received lower than an A on its health and safety inspection from the S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control within the previous year, it's not on the list.
- If I think a restaurant charges too much for what you get, it's not on the list.
- If I know the chef orders from a few premium local seafood vendors, then they probably are on the list.
- If I've had a bad (or just mediocre) meal or service from the restaurant during the previous year, it's not on the list.
- If I think a restaurant is too pretentious, it's not on the list.
In fact, some of these restaurants are the farthest you could get from stuffiness on the pretension-o-meter. You could even say a couple of them are holes in the wall. But they are clean holes that serve fresh and tasty fish.
Restaurants with asterisks in front of their names are located on the waterfront.
39th Ave. Bar & Grille, North Myrtle Beach - Succulent sushi. That's all you need to know.
Aspen Grille, Myrtle Beach - The chef/proprietor is painstaking about using fresh local seafood. The ambiance is like a cozy upscale bistro, and they have live entertainment several nights per week.
Bistro 217, Pawleys Island - Only the finest ingredients are used here, including plump and succulent scallops that the chef treats exceedingly well.
Bliss Restaurant, Murrells Inlet - Oh my goodness, try the local seared flounder at this new restaurant. If you're into a rustic-yet-nice ambiance and locally sources foods, you'll love this place. It's open daily, three meals per day.
The Blue Crab(renamed to Pawleys Raw Bar), Pawleys Island - They have a lot of seafood; a couple of my favorite picks are Bangin' Shrimp and Crab Flatbread Pizza. Love the rustic fish camp decor and the playground for antsy children.
Bonefish Grill, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, North Myrtle Beach - They do fish well. Hey, how can you argue with the place that gave us Boom Boom Shrimp?
Capt. John's Seafood Grill, Pawleys Island - John Venuti has a loyal local following for his Ipswich whole belly clams, fresh haddock and Maine lobster rolls.
Chive Blossom Cafe, Pawleys Island - Fresh succulent seafood gets Lowcountry flair, and it's served in a funky and cute old house-turned-into-a-restaurant.
Cypress Room at Island Vista, Myrtle Beach - An award-winning chef creates beautiful food, like some of the best Oysters Rockefeller you'll ever taste and incredible flounder/crab creations.
*Dave's Dockside, Murrells Inlet - A nice piece of fish cooked on a high-heat grill and enjoyed with a fine glass of wine while you gaze at a spectacular inlet view. Doesn't get much better than that.
*Drunken Jack's, Murrells Inlet - The pirate theme is done well here (it's not tacky, trust me), and the fresh local fish is a dependably delicious choice.
*Fibber's On the Water, Little River - The chef gets whole fresh fish right off the dock the restaurant overlooks.
*Flying Fish Public Market and Grille, North Myrtle Beach - It's a restaurant and a market, so if you want you can pick out a fresh fish and the chefs will cook it for you. But first the fishmongers will toss it around, so be sure to bring your camera.
Frank's Restaurant and Frank's Outback, Pawleys Island - Frank's seafood is legendary, along with most of the rest of its menu. One of its most famous dishes is Pan Fried Cornmeal and Black Pepper Encrusted Grouper with Shrimp over Fried Johnsonville Grits in Creamy Dijon Three Peppercorn Sauce.
Goodfella's Seafood Hut, North Myrtle Beach - I recently discovered this little diner, and am so glad I did because the staff is so so so friendly. They have grilled seafood, but they're known for their fried seafood platters. If you need to be cheered up, visit here.
*Greg Norman's Australian Grille, North Myrtle Beach - Whether it's pan-seared, wood-grilled or blackened, the seafood choices here are excellent.
Lee's Inlet Kitchen, Murrells Inlet - They've been serving fried seafood platters for about 60 years, so I reckon they're doing it right. They've never let me down, anyway. Historic note: The building used to be a gas station where customers could visit ladies in an upper room for "special service."
Litchfield Beach Fish House, Pawleys Island - This is a good old honky tonk sort of place with dependably tasty mid-priced seafood. Bonuses: a children's playground and live entertainment.
*Ocean Fish Market, Conway - You can either get your seafood to carry out, or you can eat seated at one of the picnic tables outside under massive ancient live oak trees. Either way you're going to enjoy some exceedingly fresh seafood like the house specialty of a fried spot on white bread.
*Ocean One, Pawleys Island (http://austinsatthebeach.com/) - If I had to pick one word to describe Ocean One, it would be glamorous. The chef has got it going on, and the oceanfront view is gorgeous.
*River Room, Georgetown - At dinner their grouper and flounder entrees are terrific, and they're famous for shrimp and grits. History buffs will also enjoy the lovingly preserved old building with lots of artifacts you can check out.
Rivertown Bistro, Conway (http://www.rivertownbistro.net/)- The chef changes the menu seasonally, so whatever seafood he is serving is fresh and in season. He is known for fusing classical and Lowcountry preparation methods to create unique recipes.
Salt Water Creek Cafe, Murrells Inlet - Once again we're talking sushi, which is served after 4 p.m. But they also have other great seafood dishes like She-Crab Soup and Lemon Pesto Salmon.
*Sara J's, Garden City - I'm getting hungry thinking about their seafood stew. Others swear by their fried seafood.
SeaBlue - A lot of the seafood is local, and other succulent treats are flown in from around the world. Try the Dover sole, branzino or U12 day boat scallops.
*WaterScapes at the Marina Inn, Myrtle Beach - If you want a piece of fish that will make you fondly remember the meal for the rest of eternity, go to WaterScapes for lunch or dinner. The chef goes to the docks to personally select the best local fish, and his preparation methods are spectacular treats.
*Wicked Tuna, Murrells Inlet - The food is a bit pricey, but the seafood is top quality. They get in fresh fish daily and cut it themselves - I know this for sure because I know the chef who cuts it. It's in a gorgeous waterfront building that received a $1 million renovation in 2013.
Who decides the lists? Becky Billingsley: a local food and restaurant journalist who has been covering the Myrtle Beach area restaurant beat for local, regional and national publications for 15 years.
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List updated on December 1, 2014.