Story and photos by Carol Stigger
Additional photos courtesy of The Parson’s Table and Royal Tiki Charters
Dine as the Locals Do in North Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach has the beautiful beaches, splendid sunrises, and dawn-catch seafood with one delightful difference. The Spring Break crowd doesn’t party here. This is just how the locals and discerning visitors like it. Think fine wines not beer kegs.
Many retired people live in North Myrtle Beach; Northerners winter here. Residents and visitors alike are here for world class golfing, sport fishing, boating, fine dining, and beach time away from rowdy crowds.
I knew there was something special about North Myrtle Beach my first October here. Signs along the main highway display banners: WELCOME CANADA. Who wants to winter in Montreal when you can leave that parka at home and wear flip-flops all winter?
The culinary scene is varied and innovative while offering the Southern staples: hushpuppies, BBQ, slaw, fried green tomatoes, grits, and key lime pie. While most national chain eateries are represented, locals rarely tuck into a Big Mac. If you ask a resident where to eat, here are the most enthusiastic recommendations.
Café de Paris (cafedeparissc.com) on Barefoot Landing, a scenic shopping area on the Intercoastal, has a Parisian ambience right down to wall art of ornamental bikes. They offer a variety of hot and cold coffees, and their hot chocolate is as close to Paris as I’ve found on the East Coast.
Their sweets are decadent, and they even have macaroons. You can order sweet or savoury crepes. Try the shrimp and asparagus crepe with béchamel sauce. For a sweet crepe, order their signature strawberry, banana, Nutella crepe. Dine beside the toasty fire in inclement weather. Enjoy your coffee and sweet on the patio when blue skies beckon. You may be coaxed to share your crumbs with a squawking seagull or, even better, a migrating butterfly.
Insider Tip: After your visit to Café de Paris, visit the Christmas Mouse a few steps away. They have a unique tree decorated with Egyptian glass ornaments along with holiday collectibles and nautical ornaments.
Blueberry’s Grill, (www.blueberrysgrill.com)also on Barefoot Landing, is the local brunch favourite. Their benedicts are among the South’s most delicious breakfast offerings. The smoked salmon benedict includes red onion, tomatoes, and brie on a croissant. The chef’s special crab cake benedict features house made lump crab cake and fried green tomatoes on an English muffin with remoulade on the side. Omelettes and skillets are imaginative, and many selections incorporate local seafood. Grits are available with every order.
The chef created three “blasts.” Pancake, French toast and waffle. These hearty breakfast plates are served with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and bananas then topped with vanilla icing and whipped cream. A small pitcher of warm syrup is served on the side.
Insider Tip: Blueberry’s can get crowded, so if the wait is too long, drive three blocks north to The Kitchen Table(www.beachkitchentable.com). Their brunch offerings are almost as inventive, their skillets are as good, and the scenery is even better. Request a shaded table on the patio overlooking a salt marsh lively with shore birds and marsh critters.
Let Tiffany Light Your Entree
The Parson’s Table (www.parsonstable.com) is worth slipping over the town line to the adjoining village of Little River. The restaurant is an 1850s church. The building retains many of the original elements plus wooden floors, doors, and stained-glass windows sourced from old churches and barns across the South. The main dining room is just the beginning. Charming little rooms and alcoves can be reserved for more intimate dining.
The food combines the best of the South with locally sourced ingredients. Their she-crab soup is the best around. I revealed my Northern roots by asking what makes she-crab soup so special. It’s the roe, of course. No one serves he-crab soup. She-crab soup is a popular starter. The owner and chef, Ed Murry, recommends two popular entrees if you don’t want the catch of the day, which is always imaginative and tastefully prepared and plated.
Roasted North Atlantic salmon filet with asparagus, grape tomatoes, and capers in a lemon butter sauce is a favourite. For landlubbers, Murry suggests cashew encrusted New Zealand rack of lamb with a roasted shallot and Madeira wine-reduction.
Considering the number of excellent Italian restaurants in the area, Murry decided to include a pasta dish you won’t find locally: wild mushroom ravioli tossed with fresh spinach, grape tomatoes, and olive oil. The taste reminds me of Sicily. Steaks are aged to perfection and may be prepared char grilled, peppercorn encrusted, blackened, or espresso encrusted. As for wine, the restaurant offers 250 vintages, mainly California, but some from Spain and Portugal. Murry says fine Italian wines are available at the many Italian restaurants in the area so he does not offer them.
Insider Tip: See if you can identify the Tiffany glass. Ask the staff if you are correct. If not, the prize Tiffany will be proudly identified.
Meander down the intercoastal on a stylish pontoon boat run by Royal Tiki Charters (royaltikicharters.com). You’ll have comfortable seating, shade, and a captain as you float past deserted islands, osprey nests, shore birds, dolphins, and breath-taking coastal mansions. Before casting off, have a seafood dinner delivered by Filets (filetswaterfront.com), a renowned seafood restaurant right by the wharf. Nothing says coastal living more beautifully than enjoying steamed clams, stuffed flounder, and the catch of the day from a pontoon boat piloted by a knowledgeable skipper. The boat has a refrigerator and a head!
Insider Tip: Before you sail, pick up a key lime pie from Platt’s Bait and Seafood Shop (www.boulineaus.com/platts-seafood).Their pie has won awards. Buy enough for generous servings!
Sleep in Luxury by the Sea
If you come to North Myrtle Beach for the beach, be sure to rent an ocean front retreat. For location and amenities, North Beach Plantation (www.northbeachrentals.com) wins the prize. Whether you want a condo unit or private villa, the property has all the amenities of a Caribbean resort: a lazy river, pools with swim up bars, private cabanas, fine dining at 21 Main (www.21mainatnorthbeach.com), spa, fitness center, shops, and concierge services. And, it’s oceanfront.
Insider tip: The best views and greatest privacy are corner units ending in 01. Furnished balconies overlook the ocean and have an unobstructed 180-degree view of the southern coastline that goes on for miles and overlooks two miles of undeveloped beach. The largest units have five bedrooms, four with balcony access, and 4.5 baths.
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