A Dining and Adulting Weekend in Myrtle Beach

Eclectic food choices and beautiful natural surroundings make for a gourmet Myrtle Beach weekend full of adult adventures when you’re staying at an SPM Resort.

It’s possible to enjoy hours of scenic hikes and bike rides, because Myrtle Beach is in the middle of a 60-mile stretch of South Carolina coastline that starts at the North Carolina border at Little River and extends south to Georgetown. It’s called The Grand Strand, and the name is fitting. Many area visitors opt for shopping and shows, but others think the area’s wildlife and landscapes are far grander.

If you’re in the mood for great food and lovely places to walk off the feasts, here’s our version of the perfect Myrtle Beach area adult weekend.

Friday night

You’ve just arrived in the Myrtle Beach area and checked in at your resort. If you had to leave after work on Friday, it may be late. If you’re hungry, there are several restaurants that stay open late.

Foster’s Café & Bar, 6307 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, (843) 449-7945

Kitchen stays open ‘til 1 a.m. (and sometimes 2 a.m.)

The surroundings are humble, but the pizzas are great. It’s a locals’ hangout that’s busy late at night with people who work in the service industry.

Soho Cafe & Bar, 407 21st Ave. N., Myrtle Beach, (843) 443-9441

Open until 1 a.m.

Sushi is a specialty along with Japanese and Mediterranean dishes. The rooftop bar is a great place to eat and enjoy some nightlife, including frequent live music.

 

Saturday morning meal

Johnny D’s Waffles and Bakery, 3301 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, (843) 448-6789. Open daily from 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

An extremely friendly and talented family own and operate Johnny D’s – there really is a Johnny D, and his daughter, Jamie Saunders, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who specializes in baking and pastries.

Choices are vast, and a few breakfast standouts include Cinnaroll and Red Velvet Waffles, Crabcake or Seafood Benedict, Chipotle Bacon Skillet, French Toast made with challah bread that’s dipped in vanilla bean custard, and Churro French Toast. For lunch enjoy a Brisket Burger, Grilled Prime Rib Sandwich, Mediterranean Turkey Melt, Build-you-own Grilled Cheese and Strawberry Almond Salad.

Johnny D’s also offers gourmet coffees and has a full bar for Bloody Marys and Mimosas.

Toffino’s Italian Bakery & Deli, 550 Farrow Parkway, Myrtle Beach, (843) 477-1598. Open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Toffino’s Bear Claws, Cheese Danish, Fruit Danish and many more pastries are legendary in the Myrtle Beach area. The bakers also craft fresh breads for Breakfast Sandwiches, and they can whip up an omelet. If you like bocce ball, Toffino’s has two well-groomed regulation-size outdoor courts. They also serve great dinners and lunches, from pizzas to deli sandwiches.

 

Saturday morning activity

Myrtle Beach State Park, 4401 S. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, (843) 238-5325

Surf Diner and Toffino’s are close to Myrtle Beach State Park, which has one of the few remaining maritime forests on the East Coast. The nature trail is only about a mile long, but it has interesting plaques identifying many of the enormous old-growth trees.

The park has a pier that’s nice for strolling or grabbing an ice cream cone from the shop, and they rent fishing tackle if you’d care to dip a line. The nature center has many family-style education seminars, but if you’d like to be alone on the beach, here’s a tip: Drive into the park and turn right at the pier. Go all the way to the end of the road, to the last oceanfront wood pavilion, and park. At this location, there is a long expanse of beach with no development and hardly any people most of the year. It’s like the beach of your childhood dreams – nothing but dunes, sea oats, sand, shells and waves.

Admission to Myrtle Beach State Park is a few bucks per person, but if you have a South Carolina State Park Pass, it’s free.

 

Saturday lunch

The following restaurants are located in Murrells Inlet, between Myrtle Beach State Park and the suggested Saturday afternoon activity at Huntington Beach State Park.

Wicked Tuna, 4123 Highway 17 Business, Murrells Inlet, (843) 651-9987

An incredible inlet view is enhanced by grilled seafood and beef specialties, and a wide variety of sushi choices. They cut their own fish – it’s local and fresh off the boats!

Salt Water Creek Cafe, 4660 Highway 17 Bypass, Murrells Inlet, (843) 357-2433

Enjoy southern specialties like She Crab Soup, Grilled Shrimp on Fried Grit Cakes with Creek Gravy, Fried Green Tomatoes, Fried Oysters, House-made Pimento Cheese, or Oyster Shooters from the full bar.

Graham’s Landing, 5225 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet, (843) 947-0520

It resembles a well-heeled fish camp, and it’s located at the extreme south end of the waterfront in Murrells Inlet with a gorgeous natural view. Graham’s Landing is a quiet spot where you can sit indoors or out on a waterfront deck to enjoy a variety of oyster choices, Parmesan Fried Scallops, Cajun Fried Grouper Bites, Po’ Boy Sandwiches, Pulled Pork Barbecue and Fish Tacos. They have a full bar.

 

Saturday afternoon activity

Here are two choices: Huntington Beach State Park or Brookgreen Gardens. They are located across U.S. 17 from each other, and they have a linked history.

Huntington Beach State Park, 16148 U.S. 17 (which is also called Ocean Highway), Murrells Inlet, (843) 237-4440

Huntington Beach State Park is known internationally for bird watching, nature photography, walking trails and bicycling. As you enter the park, you’ll drive over a causeway with an inland marsh on both sides. On the right side look for wild alligators sunning themselves on tiny islands. On both sides are migrating birds, from different kinds of herons and ducks to even tundra swans. You can park your car at the end of the causeway and walk back along its walkways for closer looks and photos.

If you turn right at the end of the causeway, you’ll come to a beach access with handy outdoor showers for washing off sand, a restroom, the visitors center and a few picnic tables. There’s also a Moorish castle that was built during the Great Depression by the property’s owner, wealthy New York industrialist Archer Huntington. The castle is called Atalaya, and it was the Huntingtons’ winter home. Archer’s wife, Anna Hyatt Huntington, was a prominent American sculptress, and in part of Atalaya visitors will see her sculpting studio where she kept bears, horses and other wildlife that she used in her artistic process. The Huntingtons donated the land for the park.

If you turn left at the end of the causeway, you’ll come to a parking lot with a restroom. There is another beach access here, and if you go to the beach and turn left, you’ll walk along some gorgeous and pristine coast. The walk ends at a long rock jetty. Also beside the parking lot is one end of a forested walking trail that meanders around a freshwater pond. Bird watching observation points are set up in several places around the pond.

Brookgreen Gardens, 1931 Brookgreen Dr., Murrells Inlet, (800) 849-1931

Brookgreen is also a legacy from the Huntingtons, and it is the world’s largest outdoor sculpture garden. It has more than 9,000 acres of former rice plantations abutting the Intracoastal Waterway and more than 1,400 sculptures dating back from the early 1800s to the present.

This natural showplace has manicured gardens with gorgeous flowers, glorious indigenous trees, a natural “zoo” with native animals, boat tours and more. If you like art, nature and history, Brookgreen Gardens will thrill you.

Brookgreen also has a terrific culinary staff in its restaurants. My favorite place to eat there is the Old Kitchen, which is an actual old plantation kitchen.

Tickets to enter Brookgreen are $14, and they’re good for one week’s worth of admission. Wear comfortable walking shoes!

 

Saturday supper

Going a little farther south from Murrells Inlet is Pawleys Island, which has many fine dining options.

Frank’s Restaurant and Frank’s Outback, 10434 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island, (843) 237-3030

While maintaining quality in every aspect of the Frank’s experience is of utmost importance to owners Salters and Woofie McClary and longtime executive chef Pierce Culliton, seafood is a particular point of pride. Their shrimp comes from Bull’s Bay, and fish is fresh off the many boats maintained by Seven Seas Seafood in Murrells Inlet.

Locally sourced ingredients and the chef’s deft touch have created legendary dishes such as Pan Fried Cornmeal and Black Pepper Encrusted Grouper with Shrimp over Fried Johnsonville Grits in Creamy Dijon Three Peppercorn Sauce; or Sautéed Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Risotto, Broccolini and Whole Grain Mustard Aioli.

Frank’s Outback is literally “out back” of Frank’s, and is a dramatically romantic alfresco restaurant. In cool months a mammoth fireplace and several heaters keep diners comfortable.

Outback has the same exacting culinary standards as Frank’s. A few dishes are repeated from the Frank’s menu, but the majority of offerings are uniquely Outback, like gourmet pizzas with scrumptious toppings.

Bistro 217, 10707 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island, (843) 235-8217

You enter Bistro 217 at the courtyard, where wrought iron tables are ringed by painted brick walls and sheltered by sturdy reinforced canvas. The space can be enclosed with zippered plastic drops, or opened to allow balmy beach breezes. Well-maintained plants add color, ivy crawls along the walls, and diffused natural light provides a Zen-like aura.

Inside the restaurant are banquettes and booths, a well defined bar area and nifty little nooks for business meals or pleasurable privacy. Fresh flowers are a given.

At night the chef’s deft mastery of flavor combinations is shown off in amazing dishes that change seasonally. If you enjoy Pimento Cheese, be sure to try their version served with a basket of breads and crackers baked in-house. For entrees, expect treats such as Herb-encrusted Grouper, Braised Short Ribs and Horseradish-encrusted Pork Schnitzel.

Of course the chef has dessert surprises, including house-made ice creams.

Quigley’s Pint and Plate, 257 Willbrook Blvd., Pawleys Island, (843) 237-7010

Like craft beers? Quigley’s brews their own and also takes pride in their menu designed to complement their beers. A few locals’ favorites dishes include Ale Poached Clams, Blue Crab Dip, Fries & Gravies, Chicken & Waffles, Grilled Pork Chop, Shrimp & Grits and Pan Seared Scallops over Bacon Cheddar Grit Cakes with Creamy Crawfish Succotash.

 

Saturday night activity

Several spots in Pawleys Island have live entertainment most weekends, and these are a couple of lively ones.

Island Bar and Grill, 10744 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island, (843) 235-3399

During the summer there’s frequent live music in a cozy courtyard, and in the off season the calendar is full of karaoke, football and other special events. The menu is a crowd pleaser, from Ahi Tuna Nachos and Wings to Subs, Sandwiches, Quesadillas, Salads, Burgers and Wraps.

Pawleys Island Tavern, 10635 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island, (843) 237-8465

Known for jumbo lump crab cakes and take-out pimento cheese, Pawleys Island Tavern has a sprawling outdoor area with a band stand in a pretty natural setting under ancient live oak trees. The music usually has rock roots, but expect anything from bluegrass to blues.

 

Sunday brunch

Gulf Stream Café, 1536 S. Waccamaw Dr., Garden City, (843) 651-8808

This restaurant’s westward-facing waterfront view of Murrells Inlet is entrancing.

At the buffet, a chef is standing ready to make customized omelets. Other buffet choices include Blueberry, Banana Nut and Poppy Seed mini muffins; a variety of Bagels; Scrambled Eggs, French Toast, Fresh Fruit Salad, Cheese Grits, Hashbrowns, Sausage and Bacon.

The a la carte menu is exquisite with choices including Oyster Shooters with Absolut Peppar vodka, Fresh Fruit with Vanilla-Honey Yogurt, She-Crab Soup, Stuffed French Toast, King Crab Omelet and Black & Blue Tuna salad.

10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays – Full Bar – Bloody Mary Bar – Buffet and A La Carte

Chestnut Hill, 9922 U.S. 17 N., Myrtle Beach, (843) 449-3984

Located beside a small pond where there’s a resident alligator, the lavish brunch at Chestnut Hill is one of the area’s longest-running Sunday dining traditions.

The number of dishes offered is impressive; just a small sampling includes Poached Salmon, fresh Local Shrimp, Waldorf Salad with apples and walnuts, fresh fruits, Oysters on the Half Shell, Eggs Benedict, Corned Beef Hash, sweet and savory Cheese Blintzes, Certified Angus Top Round of Beef au jus, Baked Virginia Ham with honey mustard sauce, Southern Fried Chicken, Chicken Teriyaki, Grilled Quail and tenderly moist Barbecue Ribs. Desserts are a specialty at Chestnut Hill, like Homemade Bread Pudding, Chestnut Hill’s signature Fruit and Nut Cobblers and Cheesecakes.

10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sundays – Full Bar – Buffet

The Chemist – Craft Cocktails & Modern Cuisine, 300 9th Ave. N., Myrtle Beach, (843) 445-7077

End your weekend with a memorable visit to a chemist’s laboratory where all the experiments are delicious! Sunday brunch choices include Blueberry-Lavender Stuffed French Toast, Caramelized Shrimp and Cheddar Grits, or a Monte Cristo Sandwich served with house-made Strawberry Compote. The full bar includes craft cocktails that steam and foam, many craft beers and a special Sunday Bloody Mary Bar.

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays – Full Bar – Bloody Mary Bar – A La Carte