Seafood Capital Of South Carolina

The village of Murrells Inlet, on the South Strand, is billed as the “seafood capital of South Carolina” with its several dozen restaurants; the town of Calabash, North Carolina (on the North Strand), is credited with inventing Southern-fried seafood; and the stretch of U.S. Highway 17 between Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach has been dubbed Restaurant Row because of its historical concentration of eateries. The opening of Broadway at the Beach and downtown Myrtle Beach establishments and their efforts to be competitive have brought even more restaurants into the mix.

Don’t think even for a minute that the phenomenal number of restaurants or the incredible choices of cuisine are Johnnycome-lately ventures for tourism’s sake. The dining heritage of the Grand Strand goes back 200 years and is deeply entwined with the ghost stories, pirate adventures, and folklore of this historic strip.

Hush puppies, the deep-fried and seasoned dollops of cornmeal served with most Southern seafood dishes, are delivered as baskets of delicious little Ping-Pong-ball-size treats. The tasty morsels were invented more than 150 years ago, when it was fashionable for families to let dogs sleep under the table while they were eating. It was at one particular Murrells Inlet plantation that the cook decided to do something about the dogs that weren’t sleeping as much as they were begging for treats from the table—especially when the meal was full of the aroma of fresh cooked fish. This cook decided to take some leftover breading, add a little sugar, and make some quick-fried dough balls to set in baskets on the table. The idea was that when the dogs began begging, diners would toss a couple of dough balls under the table to “hush” the puppies. Of course, it wasn’t long before the humans at the table took a taste, and soon the dog pacifiers were “hushing” people, too.

Over the years many seafood restaurants nationwide have offered hush puppies, but it is only in Murrells Inlet that the original sweet-flavored treats retain that unique plantation recipe. The cook at one Inlet restaurant today claims that his hush puppy recipe was handed down through eight generations. Even restaurants along the North Strand are often baffled by the South Strand flavor that seemingly no one has been able to duplicate.