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Lunch Break: Five Cafes in Historic Conway

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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The gas light is on, the kids are squirming and you could use a few minutes to stretch your legs. Waiting to hit the Myrtle Beach city limits is not an option. On top of that, it’s past lunchtime and everybody’s starving.

Though the miles between you and the Grand Strand have fallen into the low double digits, a pit stop is imminent. If you’re traveling U.S. 501, the city of Conway is the perfect place to take a lunch break and do some refreshing and refueling. With a charming downtown and serene Riverwalk dotted with cafes, restaurants, retail shops, parks and more, there is plenty to commend it.

The historic Southern town is one of the oldest in the state, having been established in 1734. Protected live oaks, aka Conway’s “oldest citizens,” add a picturesque quality to downtown, as do the historical markers, architecture and works of art appointing the streets. Take a walk on the historic Riverwalk and through downtown featuring murals that show off Conway’s artsy side. Most stunning is the train mural in Kingston Park on the corner of Main and Fourth streets. It pays homage to the city’s glory days when the railroad zipped right through the town’s center. Stop in at the vintage Papa’s General Store where an icy cold bottled soda and a Simply Southern tee are calling your name. Parking is free and lunch options offer a variety of tempting cuisines, whether you have kiddies in tow or you’re looking for something a little more refined for you and your honey.

Here are five downtown Conway restaurants that cater to the lunch crowd. No matter if it's a spontaneous stop or you’ve planned ahead, great meals await you in this historic river town. Now stretch those legs, get yourself something good to eat and do a little exploring. After all, you’re on vacation, so if you’ve got to make a stop, might as well make some memories, too.

Smoke meets water and a little bit of Mexico at this rustic, sizzling barbecue taqueria overlooking Conway’s scenic Riverwalk. Fill your belly with tacos stuffed with house-smoked meats, a helping of nacho pie, or keep it between the buns with a traditional, mouthwatering pulled pork sandwich. Kid-size meals hit all the right spots, too. For a special treat, nosh on the barbecue-spiced pork rinds with queso or end with sweet, crunchy churros. If the weather is fine, dine outside for views of the ethereal Waccamaw River, a boating thoroughfare with a shady boardwalk you can stroll after you eat.


The Trestle
Take a step back to simpler times at this nostalgic cafe and bakery. The menu is brimming with old-timey classics like the open-faced roast beef, grilled cheese sandwich, BLT, tuna melt and homemade chicken salad. Gourmet sandwiches, soups and salads are delicious, too. Get your selection either made on or served with the house-made sourdough. After lunch, get something sweet from the cafe’s bakery just steps away to eat now or take with you to the beach. 


Rivertown Bistro
This award-winning restaurant honors the culinary traditions of the region with inspired, seasonal dishes served in a classy, inviting atmosphere. Begin with the hot crab dip for a sample of the fabulous flavors to come. Pimento cheesecake, fried goat cheese salad, and a duck confit melt are some of the creative dishes you might find. There’s shrimp and grits and sushi, too—all skillfully executed. Blue plate specials are designed to comfort and satisfy with favorites like fried pork chops, meatloaf, and a Big Fried Chicken Biscuit with egg, bacon, tomato, American cheese and Neese’s sausage gravy. You’ll need your fork and knife for that one.


Pickled Cucumber
When in the South, eat like a Southerner. In these parts, that means heading to a meat-and-three, a homestyle diner where you pick a meat and three sides to round out your plate. That’s what you’ll find at the Pickled Cucumber. Anchor your meal with an entree of fried chicken, country fried steak, beef stew, chicken bog (a regional chicken-and-rice dish) or hamburger steak, among others. Complete your order with the South’s favorite vegetable – macaroni and cheese – or other rib-sticking sides like fried okra, squash casserole, collards, rice and gravy, field peas and more. There are burgers, sandwiches, salads, and wraps, too. Wash it all down with another Southern tradition: a glass of sweet iced tea.


Caribbean Jerk Cuisine
Spice things up a bit with something savory from this Jamaican eatery. You’ll find authentic island flavor here with freshly prepared dishes made with Caribbean ingredients and spices. The jerk chicken is on-point as is the curried goat, crispy fried Escovitch fish with spicy sauce, beef patties, oxtails, fried plantains and myriad other toothsome dishes. Pair your meal with a ginger beer and finish with Jamaican rum cake.

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.