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Nothing finer than dining in Carolina

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Some people come here for the sand and surf, others for the world-class golfing. But never forget that this is also part of South Carolina's famous "Low Country," with one of the most unique and delicious cuisines on the continent. This heavily touristy spot may seem to be wall-to-wall chain restaurants and indeed there are 2,000 places to eat along the stretch of highway they call "The Grand Strand." But if you look closely, there are some gems.

Friday night

CITY BAR (7604 North King's Highway, 843-449-7013): This new dining destination is sleek and sophisticated enough to be at home in any big city. Low lighting, cozy booths and a well-chosen wine list set the scene for a relaxed evening, but it's the food that really delivers the goods. Largely based on the popular "tapas" style of dining, you pick an assortment of small plates to fit your mood.

The local seafood is well-represented by superb shrimp and grits as well as some heavenly baked oysters. Carnivores will enjoy the seared beef tenderloin and anyone with a sweet tooth will love the bread pudding, which changes nightly.

Saturday morning

AKEL'S HOUSE OF PANCAKES (6429 North King's Highway, 843-449-4815): Want to know where the locals in Myrtle Beach come for breakfast?

This is the place. (It's also renowned as the favourite late-night choice after some serious partying.)

There's nothing fussy about it, but the service is friendly, the coffee hot and plentiful and the banana-nut pancakes worth a visit on their own. Others swear by their "loaded" omelettes, which looked big enough to feed a family of four.

Saturday afternoon

CAROLINA ROADHOUSE (4617 North King's Highway, 843-497-9911): Just the kind of fun, casual place you want to find on a beach holiday. It has a relaxed vibe which switches subtly from "family fun" during the day to "party central" after dark. The menu is eclectic and pleasing, with yummy baby back ribs, but its major claim to fame is "The Killer Dog." It's a foot-long kosher wiener, covered with french fries, cheese, chili and chopped onions ? kind of the Carolina version of poutine. It costs $8.95 (U.S.), but, believe me, one is more than enough!

Saturday night

THE FISH CAMP BAR (10880 Ocean Highway, Pawley's Island, 843-237-8757): Pawley's Island is a more upscale bedroom community about 30 minutes south of Myrtle Beach, but it's well worth the drive, especially to dine here. The Fish Camp Bar is the more casual, outdoor cousin to Louis's, one of the region's renowned culinary landmarks.

It's a wonderful place to relax, unwind, and enjoy things like Shrimp Three Ways, which includes BBQ, Deep-Fried and Spring Rolls.

They also make an awesome She-Crab soup, and their Oyster Poor Boy and Fish Tacos are superb. And please save room for the Peanut Butter Cup, which is one of the most decadent desserts I've ever eaten.

Sunday morning

CHESTNUT HILL RESTAURANT (9922 North King's Highway, 843-449-3984): Come 10 a.m. on a Sunday, the lines start forming here for their award-winning brunch and it's easy to see why. Besides all the usual breakfast suspects, they offer wide and delicious assortment of Low Country specialties including grilled quail, country ham, smoked sausage, wild rice and grits.

The atmosphere is pleasant, the price not too steep (all you can eat for $18.75, less for children and seniors), and the quality impressive.

Sunday afternoon

BIG D'S BBQ BARN (350 George Bishop Parkway, 843-236-4666): You can't leave the Carolinas without having at least one barbecue meal and this is one of the favourites of those who live here year-round.

You can hit the all-you-can-eat buffet, for massive portions of dishes like Brunswick Stew, Chicken Bog and Liver & Giblets. Or maybe you'd be better off settling for one of their famous pulled-pork sandwiches with a side of cornbread.

Either way, you're guaranteed to leave stuffed and contented.




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