One of the Grand Strand's most popular regional delicacies is Calabash seafood, a distinct style that involves lightly battered, deep fried and freshly caught seafood harvested from the Atlantic Ocean and inlets along the Carolina coast. The combination of freshness and crispy crunch attracts seafood lovers to local restaurants and buffets that serve Calabash dishes.
The style is named for the nearby Carolina border town of Calabash, NC, the self-proclaimed “Seafood Capital of the World” where the unique brand of seafood preparation all began. The famous recipe has spread its way south to Myrtle Beach, where dozens of Calabash-style establishments bring the small-town flavor to the big-city masses. Here are five of Long Bay Resort guests' favorite places to find Calabash-style seafood in Myrtle Beach without making the 15-mile drive all the way to Calabash:
* Bennett's Calabash: The Bennett family name is synonymous with Calabash-style buffets on the Strand, with three locations to choose from. There are two just a short distance from Long Bay — one on Restaurant Row and another at the corner of 29th Avenue North and Kings Highway — so you can dine at Bennett's whether you are headed north or south to go out on the town for the night. Featuring 170 items on the buffet, Bennett’s serves traditional Calabash shrimp, oysters and fish along with other local favorites such as Lowcountry boil and raw-bar fare.
* Giant Crab: Located on Restaurant Row, this Calabash-style buffet serves a wide selection of seafood and “land food” favorites for parties who crave both. Giant Crab offers a variety of Calabash items, as well as local recipes like seafood pie and deviled crab. Pay the extra charge for the all-you-can-eat crab legs and enjoy your fill of Alaskan crab claws. Giant Crab also has a bountiful kids’ buffet for picky eaters, featuring items such as popcorn shrimp, chicken nuggets, pizza and desserts. The Sunday brunch offers even more selections.
* Mr. Fish: With a name like Mr. Fish, you better know your way around the seafood kitchen, and that's the case for this locally owned and operated establishment. Named after longtime local fisherman and co-owner Ted Hammerman, this sushi bar and restaurant serves a wide variety of seafood and styles, including Calabash. Order local shrimp, crabs, oysters and the fresh catch of the day prepared Calabash-style, or go easy on the fried food and have it grilled, broiled, blackened or even raw. The sushi is some of the best on the Strand, and the hot, homemade hushpuppies are as good as you will find in any Calabash eatery.
* The Original Benjamin's Calabash Seafood: Captain Benjamin has two Calabash-style buffets in Myrtle Beach — one on South Kings Highway in downtown Myrtle Beach and the “Original” Benjamin's on Restaurant Row. Both are close to Long Bay and worth the short drive, although many swear the “Original” is the best in town. The restaurant serves 170 items on the buffet, including country-style vegetables, house-made breads, desserts and lots of “land food” options, but the stars of the show are the Calabash-style fish, shrimp and shellfish. Visitors can also enjoy the on-site aquarium and nautical museum before or after dinner.
* Sea Captain's House: This Myrtle Beach establishment is considered a must-visit for many seafood lovers. Serving great local seafood for more than 60 years, this former boarding cottage now hosts big crowds looking to sample Southern-style seafood at its best with a beautiful oceanfront view. The seafood platters can be prepared in many ways, but the traditional Calabash style is still the crowd favorite. Other popular items on the menu include the award-winning she-crab soup, shrimp and grits, and lump crab cakes.
After stuffing yourself full of tasty local seafood, head back to Long Bay Resort for a post-feast nap. After all, you still have more Calabash-style restaurants to visit before your vacation is over.