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Iconic Eats: Myrtle Beach

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Creamy, crabby and sherry-studded She Crab Soup is a house specialty at the Sea Captain’s House.

The Grand Strand might be a celebrated seafood destination, but there’s so much more to the coastal food scene. Sure, seafood is a draw—for good reason—with fishing towns like Murrells Inlet and Little River sourcing some of the freshest and finest fish and shellfish from South Carolina waters. While restaurants run the gamut from fine dining to beachy casual, some visitors return to the same restaurants year after year to enjoy dishes that are part of the culinary fabric of the area.

Before a food can be considered iconic, it should be distinguished by both staying power and a solid, unwavering fan base. It also helps to be offered in a historic setting, though that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Some local culinary traditions have a definitive quirkiness, while others are more no-nonsense. Deliciousness and personality—the ability of a dish to shine on its own merits—are givens. With that said, if you want to truly eat like the locals, read on. Here are 10 signature foods to try when visiting Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand.

Angelo’s Steak and Pasta 
Iconic dish: Sizzling steaks
Angelo’s has been catering to vacationers for more than 40 years and is a favorite of families who love their Italian buffet. But even locals show up looking for the beef. Ribeye, New York strip and porterhouse aged steaks are hand-cut on site and seasoned before hitting the grill. And “sizzling” isn’t just a gimmicky descriptive. Before you lay eyes on it, you will hear your steak approaching the table, sizzling on a piping hot cast-iron platter. Though it arrives in a cloud of smoking glory, it’s the taste that confirms this isn’t just theatrics but a technique that makes Angelo’s “sizzlers” a legendary dish in Myrtle Beach.

Big Mike’s
Iconic dish: Collard Greens
Big Mike’s is THE place in Myrtle Beach to get an authentic soul food fix. Owner Michael Chestnut began honing his cooking chops at age 12, inspired by his mother’s knack for serving up fresh vegetables, delectable meats and more. While it’s hard to choose a favorite here (the fried chicken and mac-and-cheese are to die for), cooking collards is a sacred art form. At Big Mike’s, you’ll never be served frozen, mushy greens as Michael is a stickler for continuing the family tradition of using fresh, tender collards. The collard green dip is pretty darn tasty, too.

Bimini’s Oyster Bar
Iconic dish: Oyster roast
For three decades, this oyster bar has been a family-friendly favorite. This is no-frills dining and proudly so. Oyster roasts are served steaming hot with 42 juicy bivalves and all the necessary accouterments, including slaw and hush puppies billed as “so good you might cry.”

Chesapeake House 
Iconic food: Fish stew
This restaurant has been racking up satisfied customers since 1971—and that’s no tall fish tale. There’s a lot to love about the experience here: pond views, complimentary cinnamon rolls, homemade salad dressings. But it’s Uncle Bill’s savory fish stew that’s garnered ceaseless accolades among diners. Everybody gets a taste, with a cup served—gratis—with each meal. Still made with fresh flounder and seasoned with bacon, the stew is made using the same family recipe that was first passed down more than 40 years ago. Come get a taste of tradition.

Lee’s Inlet Kitchen
Iconic dish: Creek Shrimp, Calabash-style
Think fresh, sweet, local creek shrimp coated in a light, flavorful batter, then fried until lightly golden. One bite and you’ll fall in love with the Calabash style of seafood, distinctive for its delicate crust with a hint of saltiness and just the right amount of “grease factor.” Lee’s does it right and Calabash seafood lovers know it. Don’t miss this locally beloved treat from one of Murrells Inlet's time-honored seafood houses.

Little Pigs BBQ
Iconic dish: Barbecue
This hotspot for barbecue has been delivering hickory-smoked goods since 1998. Few in the area do it better than Little Pigs. If you love South Carolina ’cue or are curious about it, this is the place to indulge your craving or discover some of the most lip-smacking smoked meat anywhere. Pulled pork, ribs and more fit the barbecue bill and are always smoked slowly for ultimate flavor. Slather your pork with your choice of sauces: hot, mild, mustard-based or vinegar-based. It’s all good.

Nance’s Creekfront Restaurant 
Iconic dish: Steampots
Steampots brimming with oysters, clams, shrimp, crab legs and appointments of corn on the cob and red potatoes put this seafood joint on the map and it has been there since 1967. Roasted oyster and seafood platters won’t disappoint, but there’s just something special about sharing a steaming pot of fresh shellfish with a seafood-loving friend. This Murrells Inlet institution invites you and yours to dig in.

Peaches Corner
Iconic food: Foot-long hot dogs
If you want to experience a bit of old-school Myrtle Beach, take a seat at Peaches Corner and order up a footlong. Operating on the corner of 9th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard since 1937, this busy grill has seen a lot of history and made it, too. Of notable legendary fame is The Bruiser—a beer-battered foot-long hotdog wrapped in bacon and topped with cheddar cheese, onion and homemade chili. Eat one as you enjoy some of the best people-watching in town.

River City Cafe (multiple locations) 
Iconic food: Burgers
Fresh, big and juicy—when it comes to a burger, those qualities are everything. On the Grand Strand, nobody does burgers better than River City Cafe, which has been pattying up ground beef for decades for its creative array of offerings. The Palmetto cheeseburger topped with homemade pimento is one you might choose. Take it over the top with the Fried Mac and Cheese Burger, Nacho Crunch Burger or Peanut Butter Banana Burger. Or eat one the way the locals do with a Carolina Chili Cheese Burger smothered with homemade chili, cheddar, mustard, onion and slaw. Their most famous dish—baskets of peanuts for shucking—are on the house.

Sea Captain’s House 
Iconic food: She Crab Soup
Once a 1950s beachfront guest cottage, Sea Captain’s House managed to keep all the vintage charm as it ascended to the heights of local restaurant stardom. One of the reasons for its consistent popularity is the She Crab Soup—a Lowcountry staple made with blue crab, cream and a drizzle of sherry. Fresh seafood and ocean views don’t hurt either.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.