Challenge: Can you eat on $40 a day vacationing in South Carolina?
Food Insider Gwen Fowler took that challenge and set out on a statewide pilgrimage. Fourth stop: Myrtle Beach
Whether you're craving lazy days soaking up the sun on wide, sandy beaches or plan to stay active on the golf course or in the water, the Myrtle Beach area offers something for everyone.
As many as 15 million visitors each year come to the Grand Strand for its beaches, shopping, about 100 golf courses and, of course, its restaurants. With almost 2,000 restaurants between Little River to Georgetown, you'll find all types of cuisines.
Here are three reasons you must visit Sea Captain's House on your trip to Myrtle Beach: One, in a new city with few old buildings, the Sea Captain's is relatively old. Two, it's one of the few restaurants on the oceanfront, expensive real estate most often claimed by high-rise hotels. And three, you can always count on the food to be good.
The oldest part of the restaurant was built as a beach cottage in 1930. In the mid-1950s, Nellie Howard bought it and turned it into a guesthouse. She served three home-cooked meals daily, beginning the tradition of great food all day long. In the early 1960s, new owners bought it with the plan to eventually tear down the beach cottage to make room for a hotel on the site. But the owners decided to run it as a restaurant for a while first. It has remained a restaurant ever since.
We went for breakfast, but Sea Captain's also is a great choice for lunch or dinner.
A popular choice for breakfast is a buffet for $8.95. It includes an omelet station, grits, bacon, sausage, fruit, biscuits and more.
I ordered off of the menu and had French toast, which was served with bacon, juice and an orange slice. My husband had ham, eggs, grits with cheese, toast and juice. Our meals were $7 each, and we both added coffee.
What I spent: $11.76 (including tax and tip)
You might not notice Ciao Italian Restaurant because it's tucked away in a strip mall on U.S. 17 Business, but it is quite a find. It's a cozy, quiet spot for an elegant meal, and the food is delicious. It's a family owned restaurant that has built up a loyal following, so reservations are recommended for dinner.
Ciao is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, and we chose to visit for lunch to take advantage of lower prices.
I ordered spinach ravioli that was stuffed with ricotta cheese, spinach and walnuts and served in a creamy marinara sauce with fresh spinach and prosciutto ham. The creamy marinara sauce was so delicious that I wanted to eat it with a spoon when my ravioli was finished.
My husband ordered spaghetti carbonara, also delicious. Our meals were $9.95 each.
What I spent: $13.10 (including tax and tip)
When you're visiting the beach, you get hungry for good seafood. One of my favorite spots is Mr. Fish because I know the seafood comes from the Mr. Fish seafood market next door. There's always a wide variety of fish cooked any way you want it, and the servings are generous.
On most visits, you'll see Mr. Fish himself, Ted Hammerman, who has worked in the seafood business for years.
This is a casual spot, packed with families and regulars. It's a cheerful place where you often get into a conversation with the people at the next table. Mr. Fish is perfect after a long day on the beach when you don't feel like getting dressed up. Feel like going out in shorts and a T-shirt? That's perfect for Mr. Fish.
I ordered one of my favorites, fish tacos. You can have them made with shrimp, tuna, catfish or mahi. I chose mahi, and the tacos were served with black beans and rice, with tomato, lettuce, salsa and sour cream on the side.
My husband picked a fried seafood combo, with shrimp and oysters, served with cole slaw and fries. He also ordered an appetizer of calamari.
What I spent: $13.17 (including tax and tip)
My total for the day: $38.03
Other places to check out: For breakfast, there are pancake houses on almost every corner, almost as many as there are beachwear stores, and most of them are good. Eggs Up Grill is another good spot for breakfast, and there are several locations. For a different breakfast on the south end of the Grand Strand, try Applewood House of Pancakes in Litchfield Beach. It has one of the most interesting breakfast menus you'll find.
A few fine-dining spots to visit in Myrtle Beach are Aspen Grille, Thoroughbreds, Collectors Café and Gallery,Croissants and Flamingo Grill. Another is Cagney's Old Place, where you can see lots of artifacts rescued from the fine old Ocean Forest Hotel before it was destroyed.
Of course, there are lots of casual places to grab a burger or snack. One favorite is River City Café, which has several locations.
Armchair travelers will be right at home in the Myrtle Beach area too, because your favorite franchise restaurant probably has a location here.