On the beach - that's where great al fresco dining adventures often begin. Pop open a shade umbrella, snap out a blanket and gather your sun-kissed brood 'round the picnic basket. No need to get all fancy - simplicity is your best friend when it comes to picnic planning. Forget cooking, too. You can grab tasty, freshly prepared choices at a number of local eateries.
Here's a list of six picnic darlings, along with suggestions for where to find them along the Grand Strand. Pick your favorites and mix and match, but don't forget to keep cold foods cold and eat hot foods ASAP. Just one more thing: Do dine with your back to the wind or you'll get a side of sand with your sandwich.
Cold, creamy, crispy - a good salad blends textures and flavors for ultimate summer picnic noshing. Pick up a pint of your favorites at any area grocery store deli or buy them in individual servings sizes to avoid having to dish them out. For fresh eating with pizzazz, head to the kitchen at Bay Naturals Healthy Market in Myrtle Beach. Get a taste of summer nirvana with cucumber quinoa salad, red bliss potato salad, beet slaw with carrots, green apples and pecans and more. There are lots of vegan and vegetarian options here, and dressings are house-made, too. At Kindbelly, also in Myrtle Beach, you'll find tasty, good-for-you salads to perk up your picnic basket. Dig your fork into a mound of deliciously dressed micro greens with goodies such as pine nuts, apples, chick peas and avocado, or get your salad bundled up in a wrap for neat beach eating.
2. Italian Charcuterie
Cured, spiced Italian meats and cheeses make lip-smacking, no fuss finger foods for picnicking. Head to Lee's Farmer's Market in Murrells Inlet for a variety of imported dry salamis and an impressive array of cheeses - more than 200 types. Don't forget the bread and olives. Toffino's in Myrtle Beach is also a good choice for Genoa salami, soppressata, provolone, antipasta and more. For dessert, bag a dozen or so Italian almond cookies from the bakery case.
3. Local Shrimp
It would be a picnic sin to come to the South Carolina coast and not partake of our local bounty. When it comes to freshly caught shrimp, there are myriad options. Two favorites on opposite ends of the strand are Get Carried Away in Pawleys Island and Eugene Platt's Seafood in Cherry Grove. With advance notice, Get Carried Away will prepare a Lowcountry Boil Bucket - a local traditional dish featuring spiced shrimp, sausage, potatoes and onions - for your picnic pleasure. Orders must be placed at least 24 hours in advance and pick-up isn't until 5 p.m. Plan to get yours the day prior to the picnic and refrigerate overnight, or enjoy an early beach supper. For an appetizer, try one of their decadent dips or place an order for their famous Palmetto Cheese pimento cheese spread to slather on crackers. At Eugene Platt's, spiced, steamed shrimp is the way to go, picnic-wise. Decide how much you need and the steaming's free. If you want to do some beach fishing, you can stock up on supplies here, too.
Grab a bone and start gnawing - outdoor eating is easy peasy when you're serving up ribs. Smoky and savory, ribs are one picnic food you can really sink your teeth into, no utensils needed. A slab from any of these smoke houses is sure to please: Bar-B-Que House in North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach, Pop Pop's in Myrtle Beach, and Moe's in Pawleys Island. If you're picnicking with a crew, each offers family-size meals-to-go. Save yourself some trouble and ask to have your ribs pre-cut. Don't forget extra sauce and a gallon or two of sweet tea to wash it all down.
Hats off to the 4th Earl of Sandwich for inventing this tried-and-true mainstay of the picnic basket. With an endless array of fillings and breads, that sky you're seeing over Myrtle Beach is truly the limit when it comes to sandwich options. Make a basket full if you have the wherewithal and a kitchen at your disposal, or save yourself the trouble by ordering from any one of a host of Grand Strand master sandwich-makers. Go dainty or indulge in a two-fisted monster stuffed with your favorite sandwich-makings. For a neat package that's easy to handle, try the paninis and wraps at Z's Amazing Kitchen in North Myrtle Beach. You can easily go meatless, too, with delectable vegetarian options such as the roasted portabella panini or seared veggie wrap. Fans of New York-style pastrami and corned beef sandwiches will be giddy with the offerings at the deli at Lee's Farmers Market, as well as Manny's or Kaminsky's, both in Myrtle Beach. Or build the sub of your dreams at either the Myrtle Beach or Surfside location of Dagwood's, a local deli tradition where the bread is baked fresh daily and tastes like it, too. Note: Get giant subs cut into fourths for a more user-friendly picnic experience.
6. Fried Chicken
And so we reach the pinnacle of picnic food offerings: fried chicken. When all that body surfing awakens the hunger bug, it's sheer ecstasy to be handed a crispy, meaty leg and a cold beverage. Being that you're in the kingdom of great fried chicken, your quest for a bucket should be a cinch. Mosey up to any chain chicken operation - and there's a lot of them - and you're done. But don't be afraid to look beyond the bucket of bird in the sky. If you're in North Myrtle Beach, seek out Boulineau's IGA in Cherry Grove, a hometown grocery store known for its magic touch with chicken, which is hand-battered and just-right crunchy. Look for the large lighthouse façade on the front. Famous fried chicken can also be found at Piggly Wiggly in Myrtle Beach at the Market Common. Call ahead or go online to order Mrs. Mac's Picnic Basket, a convenient haul of perfectly seasoned fried chicken, hot and cold sides, rolls and iced tea. Don't forget the wet wipes.