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Tasty cheap eats

Some of my favorite meals have been at fancy, fine dining restaurants where they charge you for everything that comes to the table. It's a necessary evil that, sometimes, you have to absorb the cost if you are trying to impress clients or celebrating your anniversary.

But what about a random weeknight when you just want good food? You want to wear your flip-flops and don't want to take out a second mortgage to cover the meal. Let's throw the adage that "you get what you pay for" out the window for a moment and find some great deals on great food. After all, this is what the Myrtle Beach area does best, and I've rounded up a few on the North end that won't put too much of a dent in your wallet.

I'm often asked where the best deal on the beach is. I answer, hands down, that it's at 39th Avenue Sushi, Bar and Grille, 3809 U.S. 17 S., North Myrtle Beach. Most are baffled by the lack of hesitation, but there are valid reasons for it being a no-brainer.

39th Avenue offers a pound of crab legs for $6.95 any day of the week before 10 p.m. No, that's not a typo. Even better is that they are some of the best I've had in Myrtle Beach. I'm not a fan of overcooked shellfish, and I'm sure I'm not alone. After eating there at least once a week recently, I can tell you that the chef at 39th Avenue cooks these crab legs perfectly every time. The meat slides out of the shell effortlessly. Well, almost.

If you're not t a crab leg fan, then hit the place on Wednesday when happy hour prices are in effect all night long. Fresh sushi rolls for $3 to $5, fried shrimp baskets are $5 and, of course, plenty of drink choices. $4.50 Grand Marnier is my favorite specially priced beverage at 39th Avenue. For the prices and the quality of food and drinks, this place tops my list for tasty cheap eats.

If you are more in the mood to sit back and relax with a nice view, Joe's Bar and Grill, at 810 Conway Street, North Myrtle Beach is the place to grab an early meal. Get there before 6 p.m. and take a stab at the Early Bird Menu. I know, I know. I'm not that old either, but the prices and the food are worth eating a little early.

While many places throw the dregs of the menu on their early deals, Joe's does just the opposite. Joe's $4 Shrimp Cocktail or Stuffed Mushrooms will start you off right every time. For $12.95, you can have a fine slice of prime rib or, a Lowcountry favorite, shrimp and grits. Both come with a salad, so it equates to a three-course feast for less than $20.

The real icing on the cake, so to speak, is the service at Joe's. It was relaxed, on point and professional for the early bird crowd. Ask for Kramer if you stop by to see Joe and the gang. He'll take great care of you and he really helped bolt the superb all around experience at Joe's into the top of my list.

Long-time local favorite and, certainly, no secret, is the O.D. Arcade and Lounge in the classic shagging section of North Myrtle Beach, at 100 South Ocean Boulevard. Don't let the "arcade" part deter you as the food is done right. To the extent that none of the burgers or steaks are ever frozen, the shrimp and chicken is hand-breaded and the service is spot on. The motto is fresh and fast around here. The folks at O.D. Arcade and Lounge believe in this so much that they pick up some items daily so they don't have to freeze too much.

Every Thursday, the lounge offers 35-cent tacos and $2 margaritas from 4-8 p.m. A beef hard shell taco with lettuce, cheese and tomato for less than two quarters is a steal.

The real catch, so to speak, at O.D. is the Fish Fry lunch on Fridays. Hand-breaded flounder, French fries, hush puppies, cole slaw and a non-alcoholic drink for $6.95 from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. is one of those classic South Carolina meals that won't break the bank. Be prepared as this is a local hot spot on Fridays, so if you are in a crunch for time, it may not be for you. The crowds are worth the wait though as the fish is fresh and the price is more than right.

Tough economic times call for tough measures. However, your food doesn't have to suffer when you eat out. There are plenty of places that are cooking right and still serving at low prices. Granted you may have to eat a little earlier or wait in a line for seating, but these are choices that are worth the wait and sacrifice. Enjoy eating local and saving money along the way.

Cheers!

Kevin Hoover, a local foodie, is engaged in the endless pursuit of the perfect cocktail and dining experience. Check out his blog at lushlifeonline.com.

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