Food Dude Lists Top 5 Myrtle Beach Restaurants That Serve Classic S.C. Dishes
The Food Dude moved to South Carolina 17 years ago this week, and my taste buds have finally made the full transition.
The addition of fresh seafood to my regular diet has been the biggest and tastiest change. But, moving from a country-cooking state like my native Tennessee, I already knew the basics - season it, fry it, eat it.
Poor folks have been cooking up meals fit for a king for generations with that Southern-fried philosophy. In fact, one of our local specialties - the sacred dish of chicken bog - was a peasant dish that allowed a large farm family to feast on one chicken, some rice and sausage and an onion. Whatever, it tastes great.
That's why the Food Dude has created his own South Carolina/Tennessee hybrid version called BBQ Chicken Bog (Hint: It involves ribs). I might even enter the Oct. 20 Loris Bog Off, if non-natives are allowed.
Maybe next year when I turn 18 in S.C. years. Until then, here are the best places on the Grand Strand to get these S.C. classics:
You'll have to go to Loris for the Bog Off to find out who wins bragging rights for the best bog in Horry County, but I haven't tasted any better than at Big Mike's in downtown Myrtle Beach.
That should come as no surprise since "Big Mike" Chestnut is running the show and local soul-food artist Queenie Bowens is working her magic in the kitchen. And nobody wants to get into a Bog Off with Queenie.
The trickiest part of making good chicken bog is getting the right "boggy" consistency, and Big Mike's is consistently perfect, perhaps because they make it in portions for dozens instead of hundreds. And whatever kind of sausage they put in the pot should be required by state law to be used in all batches of bog.
I grew up on grits and the secret to making them taste good is what you put in them - butter, salt, pepper, gravy, you name it. But the thought of putting shrimp in grits never occurred to me.
Good thing some smart Lowcountry soul came up with the Gullah concoction because it's now one of my favorite dishes. I've had many versions along the coast but none better than at Frank's Outback in Pawleys Island.
This covered outdoor eatery uses fresh local shrimp, spicy Andouille sausage and a Tasso gravy over a bed of creamy stone-ground grits, topped with scallions and Cheddar cheese. That's how you make grits taste great.
OK, this may be the Tennessee in me coming out, but real barbecue involves pork slow-smoked over hickory coals, and the sauce is supposed to be vinegar-based, no mustard, as some South Carolinians claim.
So I may be a bit biased when I say that Little Pigs in Myrtle Beach is the best barbecue on the Strand and the best I've had in the Palmetto State. Yes, I've been to Shealey's and Scott's and all points in between.
Little Pigs uses whole pork shoulders for more tender meat, and they chop it into small pieces (I'm a pulled pork man, but tomato, diced tomah-to). The vinegar-based sauce and creamy cole slaw make a perfect sandwich.
My first experience with oysters were Appalachacola Bay monsters, and that was all I ever knew and loved before moving to Myrtle Beach. But I've been converted by the sweet clusters from the S.C. coast.
Although smaller than average, these slightly saltier and tastier oysters come in large clusters with multiple mollusks on each mound. They were even touted by big-time food dude Anthony Bourdain as the best he'd ever tasted.
There are some great oyster shacks down the coast from Charleston through Beaufort and Hilton Head, and I've hit many of them. But Mr. Fish in Myrtle Beach, which gets them fresh from McClellansville, serves the best I've had. Steamed until perfectly popped, these clusters melt in your mouth in melted butter and hot sauce.
I would love to say that no female crabs were injured in the making of this Palmetto State staple, but I'd be lying. Yes, She Crab Soup requires blue crab eggs - sad but tragically delicious.
Prepared with crab meat, heavy cream, brandy and several secret spices, making authentic She Crab Soup has become an artform in the S.C. Lowcountry, one that has been perfected by the folks at Sea Captain's House.
It only took this Myrtle Beach institution a half-century to get it just right, but they have the accolades to back it up. In fact, you might want to get in line now to sample some at the Oct. 9 Taste of the Town.
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