North Myrtle Beach is known as a more laid back version of Myrtle Beach. With an estimated 15,000 residents, and closer to the border of North Carolina, it includes areas such as Cherry Grove, Wendy Hill and Crescent Beach. Ask around and you might be told that it is quieter than Myrtle Beach and that it is mostly full of retirees. Make no mistake though, NMB has its share of nightlife options as well, Barefoot Landing, House of Blues, and Alabama Theatre just to name a few.
Myrtle Beach's neighbor to the north is most notable for two major contributions to our culture: the Shag and Vanna White. While the latter may make a visit home every once in a while, we can depend on the former - the Palmetto State's official dance - to invade the town every winter, spring and fall. Known as the premier event for shagging, the SOS (Society of Stranders) mid-winter, spring and fall gatherings attract shaggers from near and far, who descend on the town and flood the bars and restaurants with their special brand of dance culture.
And much of that action centers on Main Street, which many still refer to as Ocean Drive, or O.D.
But wait, at the end of Main Street, there's an Ocean Boulevard, but no Ocean Drive to be found.
We called upon an expert, North Myrtle Beach Public Information Officer Pat Dowling, to sort things out.
"North Myrtle Beach was formed in 1968 when four small beach towns, Cherry Grove, Ocean Drive, Crescent Beach, and Windy Hill Beach incorporated into one community," wrote Dowling in an e-mail. "Today's Main Street was the main street for Ocean Drive, just as Sea Mountain Highway was the main street for Cherry Grove, and so on. So, you can't drive on Ocean Drive but if you travel down Main Street you are in the old O.D."
Maybe you can't drive on a street that doesn't technically exist anymore, but you can surely go on a pub crawl.
So, come along as the latest in Weekly Surge's Pub Crawl Series focuses on North Myrtle Beach's Main Street corridor (or O.D., if you're a traditionalist), as we take a look at what happens once the shaggers have packed away their dancing shoes and have gone home. Places such as Fat Harold's and Duck's keep the dance alive year round, but others simply sweep up the dance floor and return to business as usual. It may be a little quiet now, but with Mardi Gras, the huge St. Patty's Day parade on the horizon and spring break just around the corner, we take a look at what's hopping on this happening little hub during those in-between SOS times.
And as you'll see, it's more than shagging and endless repeats of "Carolina Girl" on the jukebox.
We'll start of the shaggiest of them all.
Fat Harold's, 212 Main Street
Walking into Fat Harold's is like walking into a Masonic temple for shag. Pictures of the members of shag society, both old and new, cover the walls with various titles of honor and status. The names of different chapters of shag bars and associations are printed on barrel lids and line the tops of the walls. Paintings, pictures and murals all show scenes of shag days gone by, and all the chairs and tables line up to the center of the room to show respect to what brings everyone together...the dance floor.
Whether it's an SOS weekend or just another Saturday, Fat Harold's stays committed to preserving the dance that defines this little section of the beach. In the early hours before the joint starts hopping and the bartenders are setting up for the night, you will find couples practicing and learning their craft as Judy and Jeppy, the in-house instructors, offer their help. When the night sets in, the seemingly well-reserved crowd of shag preservationists floods the floor and re-live the days when shag was king until the wee hours of almost 11 p.m. You may even catch the grand-master himself, "Fat" Harold Bessant, hanging around and overlooking his shrine to shag.
If you've burned a few calories while shaking it up, then you can stop into the front bar and munch on a few grill items such as a cheeseburger or a fried bologna sandwich. Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily, when you can cash in on a $1 discount on mixed drinks or a $2.50 draft, but no matter what, the good friends and good times are always free.
Main Street Musings: "This is my happy hour bar. I meet my friends here seven days a week." -Kathy Kelly, North Myrtle Beach
Check it Out: Opens at 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. Thursday through Sunday. For more information call 249-5779, or visit www.fatharolds.com.
Duck's Beach Club, 229 Main Street
Once upon a time, Duck's Beach Club was home to the most elite shag dancers. Nowadays, while you can still see some of the best at it, you can feel comfortable knowing that Duck's welcomes all types and skill levels of dancers, and all types of music.
Duck's Beach Club has two pub experiences. The main room houses the deejay stand on the wall, the main dance floor in the center and the stage placed in the back. Along the left wall you find the large dimly lit wood bar adorned with brass plates honoring the many friends of this iconic establishment. You might notice that there are no bar stools along the bar and only chairs facing the dance floor, mostly because things can get so chaotic there that the staff wants to make sure that there is a clear path to their customers. Right next door is Duck's Seafood Café, set in a large brick room with rainbow colored awnings over the counter and tables, which offers a full menu and bar. During busy times of the year, dancers overflow from the main floor to the auxiliary floor in the café and all the way out to the sidewalk, which will also have live music.
If you're looking for a Piece of Ass, then this is the place for you. It's a shot, with amaretto, peach schnapps, sour, Triple Sec, and Sprite. What were you thinking?
You can also get a couple other Duck's favorites, such as a Bend Me Over and a Duck Fart for $5.25, or a Cruzan Confusion for $8. Locals can become a VIP member and receive a Duck's card that gets you free cover, and for every $50 you put on the card, Ducks will add $12.50, or for every $100 get an additional $25.
Entertainment Director and in-house deejay Paul Craver wants to keep things fresh by adding an assortment of music and acts to transcend beyond just being your typical shag joint.
If it's SOS time, then he keeps it strict, but during most weekends you can find dancers new and old shagging or just boogying to country, dance, hip-hop and the occasional Electric Slide or Cupid Shuffle.
Main Street Musings: "They bring in fantastic bands, great dance floor, deejays are fantastic and there's a nice big bathroom for the ladies...oh, and they're good to the locals." -Ronni Viola, North Myrtle Beach
Check it out: Open 7 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (winter hours). For more information call 663-3858 or visit www.ducksatoceandrive.com.
Flynn's Irish Tavern, 421 Main Street
Housed in the old North Myrtle Beach jailhouse, the interior of Flynn's has a typical Irish pub feel, however atypical that might be for the area. The walls are decorated with tin beer signs and sports memorabilia, all from the private collection of owner Marty Flynn who was born in Ireland. The crowd is mostly comprised of locals, tourists and golfers, and the tavern is situated further up on Main Street, closer to U.S.17 than the ocean, so it doesn't catch much of the SOS overflow, making it a serene and mellow getaway any time of year.
At the solid oak bar you can pick from 38 choices of Irish whiskey or several different cold Irish stouts on draft for $4.25. If you make it in for happy hour, which runs 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, you can get 50-cent discounts on beers and house liquors. Sit at one of the high-top tables, each marked with a clover embedded into the wood, and try some hearty Irish fare, or just chill at the bar, sample some fine Irish whiskey and watch one of the two flat panel TVs.
You'll find the patrons of Flynn's gossiping over their pints and prognosticating on the upcoming game, only pausing in their chatter to look up at the next person to enter the door, to whom they offer a nod and a greeting, and then return to the conversation at hand. Céad Míle Fáilte is written by the door as you enter, which means "a thousand welcomes to you," and while a thousand welcomes may be a bit of a hyperbole, Flynn's is still an easy place to grab a stout, meet an old friend or chat up someone new.
Main Street Musings: "It's like family in here. I'm a snowbird and it's a great place to renew old acquaintances. A home away from home." -Lanny LaValley, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Check it out: Opens at 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information call 249-6533 or visit www.flynnstavern.com.
Pirates Cove, 205 Main Street
If you've partied into the wee hours of morning, then you can keep the ball rolling by stopping in at Pirates Cove at 8 a.m. for the beer and breakfast menu. If you are not so hardcore then come on in any other time and check out the four giant projection screen TVs and several flat panels for game time. There is also a large dance floor and live music every night, featuring anything from rock to reggae so you can shake it up until your heart's content. Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily including daily specials for pitchers and shots.
Pirates Cove features three bars - the main bar, which is situated to the back of the room underneath an outrigger canoe hung from the ceiling, the Tiki bar in the front, and during the warmer months, the outdoor deck upstairs is open with entertainment as well. Challenge your friends to a game of pool on either of the two pool tables. There is also a foosball table, a dart board, Golden Tee and Silver Strike for you to prove your skills. Pirates Cove is also starting an indoor corn hole tournament; just ask manager Marty Smith for the details.
The building has been here since the 1940s and at one point housed a bowing alley and a movie theater. Now it's a wide open space with plenty of room to mingle and dance. If it's SOS, Pirates Cove is certainly a great place to shag, but on most days it's a fun, laid back bar that offers plenty of good times and entertainment.
Main Street Musings: "Marty is a great cook, known him for years. Got a bunch of new TVs so it's a great place to watch the games." - Stephen Jackson, North Myrtle Beach
Check it out: Opens at 8 a.m. Monday through Sunday. For more information call 249-8942 or visit Pirates Cove on Facebook.
O.D. Arcade and Lounge, 100 South Ocean Boulevard
Just around the corner from Pirates Cove is a little gem of a playground called the O.D. Arcade and Lounge. It's a must hit for the shaggers during SOS, but at any other time the dance floor is covered with tables and an array of games. You can find pool tables, pinball machines, video games, air hockey and, what this pub crawler was most excited to find, a shuffleboard table.
The bar is separated by windows from the arcade, and inside you will find patrons of all ages sitting around talking with each other and razzing the bartender, who fires right back with a sharp wit of her own. You can check out some of the art from local artists, watch some TV or enjoy some of the entertainment; live bands, acoustic acts and karaoke are on tap Thursdays and Fridays. The front end is also open and, especially in the summer time, you can lay back in the sunshine as you re-hydrate from a day at the beach. The arcade is open for dining and welcomes families, so the kiddies can play a few games, too.
O.D.'s offers specials Monday through Friday, such as 35-cent tacos or $1 hotdogs, and lunch specials for $7.25, which include two sides and a soda. Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and you can take advantage of $2 domestics and $3 well drinks. The customers at O.D.'s love their Cherry Bombs and Payday shots too, so don't forget to ask your bartender about those.
Main Street Musings: "They have a lot fun and the bartenders are great. I know a lot of people and it's fun." -Tammy Lee Nance, Little River
Check it out: Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday. For more information, call 249-6460 or visit www.odarcade.com.
International Café, 221 Main Street
Set back just a little off of Main Street you can still easily spot the International Café by the flags waving out front. One of them will always be the Stars and Stripes, but the other two switch out regularly to represent any of our other friends across the pond or elsewhere in the world. Standing in front of the bar you will see the exterior is decked out in a Tudor-style design with tables out front and large glass windows showcasing the clash of cultures design in the interior. Samurai swords, Buddha statues, maps and a large handmade model of Big Ben (the clock tower in the English parliament, not the Steelers quarterback) all give cause to the name International Café.
If you are a beer drinker then try one of the 60 different stouts, pilsners, lagers and ales that are offered from continents such as Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and North America. Yours truly sampled a Brazilian dark called Xingu at the recommendation of the very knowledgeable bartender. It was smooth and delicious.
Other favorites are the Chimay, which you can get for $8, the Delirium for $7 and the Dogfish 90 Minute IPA for $4. International Café also has 40 different sandwiches, a great late night menu and boasts tasty burgers. It also seems that the Ruben is a shaggers' favorite. Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, when there's a 50 cents discount on all beers and well drinks.
The locals sit around the bar and are enthusiastic about the place. The biggest draw, it seems, are the staff members, who are friendly, well-informed and very conversational. It's easy to lose track of the time while you chat and sample your way through the beer list. If you plan on trying them all, then ask for an around the world beer card. If you make it through 20 then you get a T-shirt, and if you get to 40 then you can get a personalized mug. (Just don't try to do it all in one night.)
Main Street Musings: "They make us feel like family when we come in." -Ron Westgate and Patty Westgate, North Myrtle Beach.
Check it out: Open 11:30 a.m. - 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday. For more information, call 281-2325 or visit www.theinternationalcafenmb.com.
Deckerz, 90 Hillside Drive South
It doesn't have a Main Street address, but Deckerz is right there on the main drag never the less. Buckeye fans are probably already familiar with Deckerz, which stakes its claim as North Myrtle Beach's only Ohio State bar. However, even non-Buckeye fans can still come up, watch a game and have a good time. Inside you'll find the smoky barroom filled with Ohio State banners, fan paraphernalia, pictures of patrons in revelry, surfboards and neon lighted palm trees. Daily regulars, locals, tourists and snowbirds all gather in the bar or on one of the three outdoor decks for an easy-going good time.
There are daily food specials and drinks specials so you can munch on some grub and toss back a few drinks without having to break the bank. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday you can grab a $1 domestic bottle, and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. you can get happy hour specials such as $2.75 well drinks or $1.75 drafts. Every day, there's $2 shots and $10 pitchers of Long Island Ice Tea. There's also a happy hour from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. daily for half-priced appetizers. Deckerz also offers free food, including tacos and peel-and-eat shrimp for their patrons on some days, as well. Just be a good sport and buy a drink or two.
Deckerz offers a full calender of events and entertainment, with live bands, karaoke, a pool league, a dart board and Golden Tee, so there should always be something to keep you out of trouble. There are also five flat panels with NFL Ticket and the ESPN Game Plan for sports fans, and of course, if Ohio State is playing, you know where to be.
Main Street Musings: "They're friendly and the owners are really nice. I like Ricky T. He plays here every Sunday." -Mark Mottler, Sanford, N.C.
Check it out: Open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more information call 280-1200 or visit www.deckerznmb.com.
Duffy's Seafood Shack, 202 Main Street
As the name implies, the inside of Duffy's Seafood Shack looks like a shack, with tin walls covered in fish netting, plastic fish and coconut gorilla heads. Folding tables and chairs filled with crab leg-cracking customers occupy the main dining room and to the rear is a cozy little bar with a couple of TVs where you can belly up, have a drink, and feed your face with fish.
Happy hour at Duffy's is for the raw bar. From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. there's $.35 shrimp, $7.95 crab legs and 60-cent oysters and clams. All day every day you can get the very popular pitcher of Rum Runner, which is served in a fishbowl for $12.75 or a cup for $3.75, and a draft beer will run you about $3. Be sure to ask the bartender for one of the daily drinks specials, too. For a delicious tummy ache, try one of the adult ice cream drinks.
For the most part, you'll find tourists, snowbirds and convention-goers filling up the dining room and hanging around the small bar, which can get a little crowded in the summertime. If you are a local fan of Duffy's then check out the spot's Web site to become a Duff-e club member to receive free gifts and coupons. Enjoy the lowcountry feel while you eat and enjoy an ice cold drink, then you can even buy a T-shirt to remember your experience.
Main Street Musings: "Duffy's is a perfect spot to throw on lounging clothes and enjoy a fun, relaxing night with good Southern food." -Amber Strickland, Myrtle Beach
Check it out: Open 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday (winter hours). For more information call 281-9840 or visit www.duffyst.com
Spanish Galleon, 100 North Ocean Blvd.
Spanish Galleon may be a little quiet at the moment, but just around the corner is the deejay throw-down, Mardi Gras and then spring break, where it will be wall-to-wall with bodies enjoying one of the few ocean-side dance clubs in North Myrtle Beach. Even though it may not be reaching its full potential of insanity for the next couple of weeks, you can still enjoy a cold drink and some good music spun by the in-house deejay.
Walking in on the top level gives you the vista of the whole bar as soon as you enter, and it does in fact make you feel like you've made a grand entrance. All along the interior, the walls are painted with murals of dancers, trains, butterflies and lounge lizards in action. There's enough neon to make you see spots and four golden go-go cages for those extra wild nights. If the night is not so wild then play a game of pool or pinball with your friends.
The Spanish Galleon is housed in the Ocean Drive Beach and Golf Resort, so very often hotel guests will wander down for a game of pool or a drink along with many other area tourists. During the summer months, club goers from across the Grand Strand head over to check out the festivities. Not only known for being a wild place to party, the Galleon also boasts a state-of-the-art sound system and video mixer. Three different bars are available so you should never be out of reach from your next beverage.
Main Street Musings: "Big area, fun place to dance with good music. One of the only places to dance right off the beach." -Jim Thomas, Myrtle Beach
Check it out: Open Fridays and Saturdays. Hours vary depending on special events. For more information visit www.spanishgalleonbeachclub.com.
Robert Rodgers, for Weekly Surge