Setting the Table
Carolina Tavern recently moved into the former Hooters restaurant by Inlet Square Mall in Murrells Inlet, and it is a smash hit with locals who are packing the house for the food, live music, tap tables and a convivial atmosphere.
If you were ever in it as Hooters, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the decor transformation. A long bar is a popular gathering spot for locals, and several tables and booths provide cozy seating for dedicated diners. The booths have their own televisions with satellite service, and many more TVs are scattered around.
Suspended hurricane lamps are an appropriate choice to accent natural wood furnishings. Extremely popular furniture pieces are "Tap Tables" with Bud Light, Miller Lite and Yuengling taps built into them, and customers help themselves. A meter measures how much beer is consumed, and the price is the same as regular draft prices. Whether you drink half a beer or 10 beers, that's what you pay for.
Tap Table reservations are accepted, but if no one reserves them they're up for grabs on a first-come, first served basis.
Down the Hatch
I've eaten here three times already, and loved the food and drinks on each visit. The kitchen manager is Todd Roth, a longtime local chef who is also a well-known local blues musician of the group My Buddy Todd, and so far he has grand-slammed it home with an appealing menu that's well executed.
On my most recent trip, the Mr. ordered Buffalo Chicken Dip from the appetizer list. I'm not fan of Buffalo wings, but this cheesy dip loaded with shredded chicken breast is masterful. It's not too spicy and is served with flatbread triangles.
A few other appetizers ($5.50-$7) include house-made Twisted Pretzel Dippers, Barbecue Chicken Nachos and Ale Gravy Cheese Fries that contains beer, as do many other Carolina Tavern recipes.
Whether you like wings ($7.50 for nine; $59 for 100) as a starter or entree, there are 20 flavors from which to choose and they have crispy non-battered exteriors. A friend and I loved the juicy Beer Rub wings; a few other flavors are Lemon Pepper, Teriyaki Cajun and Chipotle Honey.
Entrees range from sandwiches and burgers to hearty entrees ($7.50-$15.50), and the ones I've tried and heartily enjoyed include Cedar Plank Salmon (delectable seared mustard/brown sugar crust), The Inlet Hot Brown (open faced with fried turkey, bacon, cheese sauce, sliced tomato), Pulled Pork Barbecue (satisfyingly large chunks) Beer Can Chicken (flavorful, moist) and tender ribs with sweet/savory Tavern Classic barbecue sauce. Other rib flavorings are Tavern Rub, Tavern Gold, Chipotle Honey and Honey Barbecue.
The Fried Turkey Club sandwich is made with fresh turkey breast fried in-house, Barbecue Smoked Sausage is served on a soft potato roll, and The Big Pig is overflowing with pulled pork, bacon, baked ham, smoked sausage and Cheddar sauce.
Burger choices include the Fried Pickle Burger, Turkey Burger, Barrel Burger (chicken fingers and wing sauce are involved), and The Tavern Burger with a pile of toppings including onion rings and barbecue sauce. Tavern Flats are a cross between quesadillas and panini, and fillings include Buffalo Chicken, Philly cheese steak and Shrimp Scampi.
A few other entrees are Corned Beef Brisket with Creole Mustard, Hand Cut Ribeye, Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and Beer Battered Fish & Chips. Many entrees come with a trip to the salad bar or a side (slaw, mashed potatoes, veggie of the day, house-cut fries, sweet potato tots and sweet/smoky/meaty Tavern Beans).
There's an $8 lunch special from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when diners eat all they want from a cold salad bar and a hot bar. Choices change, but normally the hot bar has at least two varieties of wings, soup, pulled pork and side dishes. The salad bar features Romaine lettuce, crumbled blue cheese, fresh tomatoes, sunflower seeds, chopped hard-boiled egg, freshly made dressings and more.
Other draft beer selections include Blue Moon, Shocktop Raspberry Wheat, Guinness, Rogue Dead Guy, Skullcoast IPA, RJRockers Son of a Peach, Flying Dog Doggie Style, New Belgium Fat Tire and PBR. Carolina Tavern also serves wines and has a wide variety of cocktail and specialty drink choices including the yummalicious 140-calorie Skinny Mojito with Bacardi Superior Rum, Milagro Agave Nectar, lime juice, mint leaves and club soda.
Happy hour is from 4-7 p.m. daily with 50 cents discount on domestic beer bottles, $1 discounted domestic drafts and $1 discount on house liquors.
Carolina Tavern is at 852 Mall Dr. in Murrells Inlet, and the number is 947-0708. It's open daily from 11 a.m. until at least midnight.
Becky Billingsley serves up fresh news daily at MyrtleBeachRestaurantNews.com.