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Gut Guide 2010

We all have to eat, right?

While the crappy economy has taken its toll on the local restaurant scene, we are still blessed with an abundance of dining out options in the Myrtle Beach area, especially compared to other metropolises our size.

And eating out is still considered a form of entertainment for many of us along the 60-mile stretch of the Grand Strand - despite tightened purse strings.

We've got fancy options, down-home options, ethnic options, fast food options, seafood options and landlubber options.

Since its inception, our Gut Reaction restaurant review has attempted to encapsulate these many places on their terms - i.e. we don't judge a mom-and-pop barbecue joint as if it's supposed to be a 5-star luxury steakhouse, or vice versa.

Over the course of the last 12 months, each week, we've published a Gut Reaction review in the pages of Surge, to hopefully, give readers an idea of what the place looks, feels - and most importantly - tastes like. So, that's quite a bit of eatin' - a task admirably handled by correspondents Becky Billingsley and Ashley Morris.

This article represents a culmination of those writers' work in 2010, boiled down to bite-sized, easy-to-digest capsules - a Gut Guide, if you will.

But there is a twist - with Christmas and New Year's Eve/ Day on the near horizon (Christmas Day is Saturday, for the calendar impaired), we have also provided updated information on each establishment's holiday hours (when available), in case you're burned out from being in the kitchen, too frazzled from holiday shopping, and/or too busy actually making a living and would like someone else to do the cooking for you, because we know some folks like to dine out, especially on Christmas Eve, and also you might be looking ahead for a New Year's Eve dinner spot. And there are a handful of places open on Christmas Day, too, in case you need a break from the in-laws or a backup plan in the event your yuletide meal winds up like "A Christmas Story" disaster.

Also, we broke the guide down geographically - North, South, West and Central. Yes, East is missing, because that would severely limit our geography to pier-top eateries (not that there aren't some good ones) and casino boats.

So without further ado, here is the 2010 Weekly Surge Gut Guide - a perusal of the local area's culinary offerings that we sampled this year that should make Santa wish for more than milk and cookies on his plate.

CENTRAL

Baja Grill & Bar

The menu wasn't extensive when we visited, but full of pleasantly spicy choices such as house-made Jalapeno Poppers served with Chipotle Ranch dressing; Seared Tuna Salad with tomato, avocado, red onion and mango; the Green Chili Burger with chipotle mayo; and fries smothered with chili and cheese.

Rice bowls featured blackened or grilled chicken, shrimp or fish; or grilled or glazed veggies or steak. In addition to the protein (or just veggies) the bowls were filled with cilantro lime rice, black beans and pico de gallo. Other entrees included: Fish Tacos, Chile Rellenos, Soft Tacos (a friend gave these high marks), Smothered Burrito, Quesadilla and Chimichanga, along with vegetarian options.

Prices when we visited were reasonable. Entrees at $7-$9, bowls for $6.50-$7, appetizers for $3-$7. The most expensive item on the menu was the Seared Tuna Salad for $12.

FIND IT | Baja Grill & Bar is at 504 16th Ave. N. in Myrtle Beach, and the number is 213-1551.

The kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and the bar is open later.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Regular operating hours of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. will be observed Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve; closed Christmas Day.

Bay Naturals

Former Atlanta Bread Co. spot by Stein Mart off 76th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, provides organic and low-fat meals - and a variety of smoothies, such as the Full of Fruit Classic, which has a base of apple juice, soymilk, almond milk or rice milk with organic bananas, strawberries, pineapple and blueberries.

Popular meals include half a chicken or tuna sandwich with a cup of soup or with a house salad ($5.50-$7.50). For the chicken salad you get a choice of curry or dill, and other sandwich choices ($2.50-$8) included grilled tofu, hummus, eggless egg salad, breakfast burrito, pimento cheese, veggie dog, a BLT made with soy bacon, cheese quesadilla, veggie burger and veggie chicken burger.

Soups change; the day I visited there were Black-eyed Pea and Lentil, Vegan Minestrone, Chicken and Cornbread, Veggie Chili and Vegan Curried Butternut Squash with Apple. It was the best squash soup I've ever eaten with an exceedingly fresh flavor and velvety texture.

The house Organic Mixed Green Salad ($5.25) was a verdant rainbow with a gorgeous garden of ingredients including red leaf, mixed greens, carrot curls, tomatoes, red onion and clover sprouts.

You can fill in the corners of your appetite with organic juices such as the $5 Purple Dinosaur with carrot, apple, beet, lemon and ginger; or sides such as Beet Slaw, Guacamole, Salsa and Chips, Vegan Red Bliss Potato Salad or Cucumber Quinoa Salad.

FIND IT | Bay Naturals is at 7611 N. Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, and the number is 448-0011. It's open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Christmas Eve the kitchen is open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the store is open until 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day; regular hours of 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

B.B.

Bingy's

Charlene Rice is the chef, who learned to cook from her mother while growing up in Ochos Rios, and her specialty is Oxtail, ($9, comes with two sides) served in delectable rich brown sauce with a slight kiss of sweetness over fluffy and flavorful rice where the grains are delectably firm and separate. We sampled the Jerk Chicken ($6, two sides), which had a crispy, flavorful and slightly charred crust that kept the juicy meat from falling right off the bones. The Curry Goat was also delish. Other menu items include: Jerk Pork, Beef Patties ($1.75 apiece or two for $3), Beef Stew ($6, two sides) Vegetable Patties, Jerk Chicken Patties, Jerk Chicken Wings, and Jerk Chicken can also come on a salad ($6). American sandwiches such as Fish, Fried Chicken, Cheeseburger and Hot Dogs are available. Side dishes include: Rice & Peas and Fried Plantain, Mac & Cheese, creamy Potato Salad and sweet little mini Corn Muffins, caramelized Plantain, from-scratch Rum Cake. In addition to Pepsi products Bingy's stocks Ginger Beer, Mango Papaya Juice, Ting (grapefruit soda) and Vita Malt (tastes awful, but Chef Rice says fans swear by its healthful properties).

FIND IT | Bingy's is at 4989 Socastee Blvd., Myrtle Beach. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to close Mondays through Saturdays, and the number is 293-2481.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open regular hours on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve; closed Christmas Day.

B.B.

Dirty Don's Oyster Bar & Grill on the Boardwalk

Dirty Don's newest oceanfront locale sports a cool breeze view of the Atlantic and entertainment from the new Myrtle Beach oceanfront boardwalk.

The words "oyster bar" in a restaurant name almost signifies an obligation for patrons to partake in steamed or raw shellfish. We sampled a Yuengling draft ($2.50 at happy hour) and a basket of Linda's Clams ($5.95, half-dozen) served with drawn butter, dozen oysters (35 cents each at happy hour), and handmade Shrimp Fritters ($5.50, were tasty and distinctive), similar in appearance to hushpuppies with the flavorful, fried batter rolled into bits of shrimp. We also ate a delectably messy Seafood Pizza ($8.50), big enough for two to share, baked on a pita and served in a deep-dish pie plate, layered with dill sauce, cream cheese, hunks of sweet scallops and shrimp, chopped tomatoes and melted provolone. But misfires included a burnt-to-crisp crab cake sandwich ($8) and chicken salad sandwich ($7.25) which crumbled out of the roll without any sort of mayo or sauce to meld the ingredients together.

FIND IT | Dirty Don's Oyster Bar & Grill is on the Boardwalk at 904 N. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach. Winter hours are noon until around dusk daily. For additional info, call 213-1632.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Ashley Morris, for Weekly Surge

Hamburger International

New venture in the diner-style building that has housed waffle joints, and a curious Mexican/Japanese hibachi mix, the simple menu features: Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Chili Cheeseburger and Bacon Cheeseburger, and they come in small and large sizes for $3.59-$5.49. Crinkle cut fries are an extra $1.15 while thin tobacco string onion rings cost an additional $1.25. We ordered a small Bacon Cheeseburger, and it had two patties and four bacon strips. You can add a variety of toppings, including A-1 Steak Sauce. The burger was well seasoned, plump, juicy and almost too much for one sitting.

The brief menu also lists a BLT, Chicken Sandwich, Flounder Sandwich and Club Sandwich. Fried flounder and shrimp were available in $8 baskets that come with slaw, fries and hush puppies, while the Chicken Finger Basket for $7.65 had fries and slaw.

The menu finished with a trio of salads (house, chef, grilled chicken) for $2.50-$5.45, chili, soup of the day, chicken fingers, hot wings ($7 for 10) and chili cheese fries. Children can choose from chicken fingers, grilled cheese or a $2 burger.

FIND IT | Hamburger International is at 4765 U.S. 17 Bypass S. in Myrtle Beach, and the number is 293-4994. It's open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

B.B.

Little Brazil

Most of the food choices at Little Brazil when we visited were on a buffet, including Potato Salad containing green beans, corn and diced sweet potatoes; Chicken Salad with carrots, corn and peas; and a lettuce salad.

On the hot side were garlic-flavored Jasmine Rice, Pinto Beans, Black Beans, Chicken and Potato Stew, Fried Pork Ribs, Beef Brisket and Shank braised in tomato broth, Fried Yucca, Fried Plantain, Fish, Yucca and Beef Soup. The yucca is the thickener, and tender shreds of slow-cooked beef add robust savoriness.

There is usually an Italian specialty on the line, such as Chicken Cacciatore, or perhaps even a Russian dish such as Beef Stroganoff.

The collards weren't like what Southerners are used to. Garlic, salt and pepper are the main Brazilian food flavorings, so these pan-sautéed collards were pleasantly garlicky.

The buffet when we visited cost $9 weekdays for lunch and $10 at dinner and on weekends.

You could also get tall glasses of freshly squeezed juices here such as papaya and passion fruit for $2.50. We sampled the cashew juice, which did not taste at all like we expected; it's a light and sweet drink with just a hint of nuttiness. Natural juice milkshakes went for $3, and the chef recommended the avocado milkshake.

Desserts were $3 each and included classic Crème Brule, Flan, Passion fruit Mousse and Pave.

FIND IT | Little Brazil is at 405 Broadway St. in Myrtle Beach, and the number is 712-2343. It's open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; the lounge remains open until 2 a.m.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open for regular hours on Christmas Eve; closed Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

B.B.

Phillips Seafood

Crabs, crabs, crabs, crabs...and more crabs.

This place is all about crabs, from appetizers of Crab and Spinach Dip and Steamed Crab Claws, to the original Phillips Famous Crab Cake, the Jumbo Crab Cake (you'll wonder how it holds together), Chesapeake Crab Cakes, or Crab Imperial that can be placed atop any steak, chicken or fish entree.

But there's more to munch on besides superior crab in this seafood house, and when we visited there was a new sushi and raw bar offering four kinds of rolls (California, Spicy Tuna, Philadelphia, Crab), plus Shrimp Cocktail and Iced Middle Neck Clams on the half shell.

Soup and salad combinations were available, along with entrees from Fish Tacos ($8) and a Half Pound Black Angus Burger ($8) to Fried Seafood Platters ($23) and Blackened Chicken Alfredo ($16). Between those extremes were Broiled Seafood Platters ($23), Crab-stuffed Flounder ($20), grilled or broiled Salmon ($19), Flounder ($18), Tuna ($19) and Mahi Mahi ($18), Whole Maine Lobster (market price), Steamed Snow Crab Legs ($20 for 1 1/2 pounds), Shrimp Scampi ($18), Grilled Chicken Breasts ($16) and Filet Mignon ($22).

The desserts included Bread Pudding, Cupcakes, Key Lime Tarts, Pound Cake, Apple Pie, Cookies and Brownies made from scratch in-house.

FIND IT | Phillips Seafood is at 1807 21st Ave. N. in Myrtle Beach, and the number is 626-2722. It opens at 4 p.m. daily

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed for the season.

B.B.

Red Robin

Gourmet Burger

Reinvented at the former site of the Smokey Bones barbecue joint, Red Robin is family-friendly (with a full-service bar area) and serves a variety of burgers.

We sampled the classic Gold margarita ($5.99) and glass of Bud Light ($3.49). Kids' Grilled Cheesewich came with Bottomless Steak Fries for $3.99 (options also included apple slices, mandarin oranges, baby carrots and ranch, melon, steamed broccoli or a side salad if you want to avoid fries).

We noshed on the Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger (can't go wrong with a burger touting the restaurant's name, either) at $8.79. Toppings included lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, mayo, Red's pickle relish and American cheese (or cheddar, Swiss, Bleu, Provolone or pepper-jack). That tower, combined with a thick burger kissed inside with pink in preparation, made for one scrumptious sandwich. Also sampled: old-fashioned Patty Melt, layered in caramelized onions and Swiss cheese between two slices of toasted rye ($7.99), and Guacamole Bacon Burger ($9.79), prepared with a touch of pink inside and smothered with Red Robin's homemade zesty guacamole, three strips of hickory-smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo.

We noted other interesting burger alternatives, such as the Chicken Burgers, Grilled Salmon Burger, Crispy Fish Burgers, Grilled Turkey Burger and The Garden Burger, along with oodles of salads, pasta, dinner baskets, wraps and plenty of starters.

FIND IT | Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is at 218 N. Retail Court, Coastal Grand Mall, Myrtle Beach. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For additional info, call 626-2920 or visit www.redrobin.com.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve. Closed Christmas Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

-A.M.

Remedies Sports Bar & Grill

It's a Backgate sports bar that's gotten a major makeover in recent years, including the menu.

First there was lunch, and a long list of sandwiches for $5 or less. I tried a Roast Beef Melt, which was served on Texas Toast and filled with a thick layer of thinly sliced medium-rare beef, sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese.

At Happy Hour there were 16 appetizers for $4. I tried Buffalo Chicken Tenders, Coconut Shrimp, Bangin' Shrimp and Chicken Potstickers, which are dumplings served with sesame dipping sauce. Of course Remedies served burgers; with eight choices. Subs and wraps included Sausage & Peppers with Onions, Chicken Philly and Shrimp Po' Boy, along with salads accompanied by French Onion Soup or Texas Chili topped with cheese and served with tortillas.

Other entrees on the dinner menu included Meatloaf Dinner ($8), Prime Rib, Smothered Chicken, Shrimp Parmesan and Butterflied Fried Shrimp. Pizza and wings rounded out the choices, such as Bruschetta Pie pizza or Philly Cheese Steak pizza, or Sriracha or Hotiyaki wings.

FIND IT | Remedies Sports Bar & Grill is at 4803 U.S. 17 Bypass S., Myrtle Beach. It's open from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The number is 293-4833.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open Christmas Eve until 11 p.m.; Christmas Day from 6 p.m.-6 a.m.; and closed New Year's Eve for a private party.

-B.B.

Shiver Me Pinchers

Inside, the former Schlotsky's Deli building shell also combines multiple personalities, tackling the sport bar atmosphere with NFL posters, a huge bar and flat panel TV; an entertainment stage/pool table corner, plus a couple video games; and a Maryland-inspired seafood menu. Steamed blue crabs, soft-shell crabs, snow crab legs, crab cakes and homemade creamy-crab soups anchored the menu. Even a crab ball creation rolled in Japanese breadcrumbs surfaced amidst the standard bar munchies appetizers. We sampled a crab cake sandwich with chips ($8.95), and the pound of steamed snow crab legs with drawn butter ($10.95). The leg clusters, sprawled in a basket, were steamed to perfection, meaty and delicious. The Hurricane Fries ($3.50), a basket of thick-cut fries was dusted with Old Bay and drizzled with a petal sauce kicking with horseradish, took the cake. Kids' options included basket of chicken fingers and fries ($3.50), along with a lidded cup of pink lemonade.

FIND IT | Shiver Me Pinchers is at 812 S. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday late, daily. 11 p.m. Sunday at noon. For additional info, call 213-1056 or visit Facebook at www.facebook.com/shivermepinchers.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Regular hours Christmas Eve. Open at 4 p.m. Christmas Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, with comedy show on New Year's Eve at 9 p.m.

A.M.

Wet Willie's

This place specializes in an array of daiquiris (a.k.a. adult slushies) is a rainbow-hued sight to behold. A few flavors include White Russian, Mango, Chocolate Thunder, Sour Green Apple, Strawberry, Pina Colada and Sex on the Beach. A non-alcoholic Weak Willie was available when we visited, along with the strongest drink on the menu named Call a Cab; it contains 190 proof grain alcohol and rum.

Finger foods included Buffalo, Barbecue and Thai Sweet Chili Wings, but we tried the Tequila Wings and think they were outrageously delicious. They were a little messy, but the grilled flavor and sassy sauce were excellent. Other starters ($4-$8) included chicken tenders, fried mozzarella, nachos and quesadillas. For light eaters ($3-$7) there were a couple of salads, Pineapple Slaw and Gumbo with chicken, rice and Andouille sausage.

Sandwiches ($5-$8) included a Drunken Chicken featuring a grilled breast slathered in the Tequila sauce used on the wings; a Texas Hold 'em Porker Sandwich; Willie's Cheese Steak; Nathan's Famous Hot Dog; and the Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wrap, and five burger choices ($8-$9).

FIND IT | Wet Willie's (www.wetwillies.com) is next to King Kong Sushi at 1306 Celebrity Circle at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach. It's open daily for lunch and dinner, and the number is 448-5653.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Christmas Eve and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. New Year's Eve; closed Christmas Day.

B.B.

PierView Restaurant

Menu featured local flavor - literally, with names such as The Conway Club sandwich ($8) - with ham, turkey, apple wood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese and sharp Cheddar; Georgetown Grouper Reuben with orecchiette, matchstick carrots, red bell peppers and pesto; and Calabash Crab cakes.

Dinner entrees ($14-$30) included Seafood Platters; Pan-seared Grouper with Creole crayfish cream; Seafood Pasta where shrimp and mussels are sautéed with tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms then tossed in roasted garlic broth; Bone-in Rib eye topped with tobacco onions; and Socastee Shrimp and Grits with jumbo shrimp, pepper jack cheese grits, country ham and redeye gravy.

At the PierView Bar upstairs, all the items were $8 apiece or two for $15, including Surfside Shrimp; Brunswick Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp served with red barbecue sauce; and the delightfully different Murrells Inlet Mix sandwich with pulled pork, glazed ham, salami, dill pickles and spicy mustard. Other items on the bar menu included Waccamaw Wings, Horry Hot Dog and Second Avenue Sliders (one hamburger, one crab) served with slaw and pickled onion.

FIND IT | PierView Restaurant and PierView Bar are oceanfront at 2nd Avenue South in Myrtle Beach. The restaurant is closed for the season, but the bar cranks up at 10 a.m. and closes at midnight. For more information or reservations call 445-PIER (7437) or visit secondavenuepier.com.

HOLIDAY HOURS | PierView Restaurant is closed for the season. PierView Bar has a new winter menu and will be closed Christmas Eve; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Christmas Day; open at 11 a.m. New Year's Eve and staying open until the partying is finished.

B.B.

NORTH

Eddie's Italian Café

Eddie Sprouse and his wife, Renee Sprouse, established the first Eddie's Cafe in 1996 off S.C. 9 west of Little River and the Sprouses are back in the game with Eddie's Italian Cafe just a short distance west of the original location in Longs.

The choice of Italian recipes ($8-$10) is simple, and they're made from scratch. There's Spaghetti with extra thick noodles and two tender handball-size meatballs; Chicken or Eggplant Parmesan; Chicken Alfredo; or Sausage with Peppers. They're available at lunch or dinner and come with salad and bread.

There's also an Antipasto Salad for $7 that features ham, pepperoni, salami, provolone and mozzarella pinwheels on a bed of lettuce.

But much of the menu is American fare, such as Wings (mild, medium, teriyaki, garlic Parmesan, spicy garlic, teri-hot, hot and fire-hot), Crab-stuffed Mushrooms topped with provolone, Beer-Battered Onion Rings, hand-patted Bacon Cheeseburger, Grilled Ham and Cheese, Clam Chowder and Chef Salad.

A specialty of the house is French Onion Soup that Sprouse makes from scratch and serves in a cheese-crusted crock for $4.50 as well as house-made Chili that goes well with a Grilled Cheese on a chilly day.

Hoagies are served on fresh D'Annunzio rolls, and choices include Steak and Chicken Hoagies with sautéed mushrooms, peppers and provolone cheese; Meatball and Sausage Hoagies; a Hot Italian Hoagie with ham, salami, pepperoni, crushed red pepper and more; and the Veggie Hoagie with grilled mushrooms, onions, peppers, provolone and tomatoes. The Stacked Steak sandwich is piled with onions, mushrooms, peppers, American cheese, provolone and tomatoes; while the Giovanni features ground beef, onions, peppers and provolone.

FIND IT | Eddie's Italian Cafe is at 82 Cloverleaf Dr., in the Bingo Plaza shopping center off S.C. 9 in Longs. Delivery is offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. by calling 399-6564. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

B.B.

Flying Fish Public Market & Grill

Flying Fish, created by the TBonz Restaurant Group, landed in the former site of The Crab House, with peaceful views of the Intracoastal Waterway and Barefoot Resort rising on the opposite bank. Two dining room floors and ultra-high ceilings make the restaurant almost feel like an entertainment venue. The massive oval-shaped bar and lounge area boasts a huge flat-panel and a counter that doubles as front row seats to the fish counter/open kitchen and all the fish-flying action.

What we had: Liberty's Raspberry Wheat beer ($4) and a glass of Beringer White Zinfandel. The Flying Fish Specialty ($36.95), a steamed spread of king crab and snow crab legs, jumbo shrimp, crawfish, mussels, corn-on-the-cob and red-skinned potatoes accompanied by saucers of freshly drawn butter and cocktail sauce and a metal bucket for the empty shells. My 3-year-old shoveled down his fish sticks, hushpuppies and fries ($4.95), so there was barely a peep heard from him, which I thought deserved two scoops of vanilla ice cream ($2.25) for dessert.

Flying Fish's menu changes up quite often because of the ever-revolving fresh catches; when we visited the seafood spotlights were triple-tail, yellowfin tuna, tilapia, Atlantic mahi-mahi, Atlantic salmon and swordfish.

FIND IT | Flying Fish Public Market & Grill is at Barefoot Landing, 4744 U.S. 17 South, North Myrtle Beach. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For additional info, call 663-3474 or visit www.tbonz.com.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Christmas Eve. Closed Christmas Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

A.M.

The Shack

Cherry Grove breakfast and lunch spot serves egg plates, pancakes, waffles and three-egg omelets to early risers, and if you're watching your cholesterol, you can have your omelet made with Egg Beaters for an extra $1.

For lunch the featured item when we visited was Momma Todd's Lunch Special, which was offered Mondays through Fridays, featuring one meat and two sides for $5.75; one meat and three sides for $6.75; or a three-vegetable plate for $5.50.

More lunch items included a Shack Shrimp appetizer where fried shrimp were coated in a so-called "zesty" sauce; Hurricane Cheese Fries garnished with bacon; Sea Lovers Basket ($8) with flounder, shrimp or deviled crab; and the Workin' Man's Lunch with a hamburger steak, fries and onion rings.

Sandwiches ($4.50-$5.75) included Tuna Salad, Chicken Salad, chopped Low Tide BBQ, Crab Cake, Flounder, or the Shack Burger on a toasted Kaiser roll. For $5 you could order a house salad, and then for an extra $2-$4 top it with shrimp, grilled chicken, tuna salad or chicken salad.

Beer and wine by the glass served every day except Sunday.

FIND IT | The Shack is at 1128 Sea Mountain Highway in the Cherry Grove section of North Myrtle Beach, and hours are from 7 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m. daily. Breakfast is served until 10:45 a.m. except on Saturdays, when it is available until 3 p.m. Call 663-36336.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Regular hours Dec. 26, and then starting Dec. 27 and through New Year's Eve, The Shack will have extended hours, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

B.B.

Ultimate

California Pizza Game Zone

The mega building at the Galleria that most recently housed the fine dining confines of Umi Pacific Grille - sea-blue drapes and soft lighting - has been doused in fun colors and all the whirrs and whistles of an arcade at the transformed Ultimate California Pizza (UCP) Game Zone, a return of sorts to the site's roots as a Chuck E. Cheese's.

Drinks included ($1.99 each), a sweet tea ($1.99) and a Yuengling draft ($2).

We sampled the Hummus Dip appetizer ($5.99) with garlic pita triangles, fresh broccoli spears and celery. From filet mignon to smoked gouda cheese and marinated Portobello mushrooms, UCP has created a colossal combination of topping choices. We settled on a medium-sized pizza (12 inches and eight slices) on hand-tossed Italian white crust that we split in half toppings-wise, with plain cheese on one side and the San Diego on the other (for the more adult palate), which was $11.24. Our San Diego Polynesian-style half was layered with slices of chipped teriyaki chicken, roasted red peppers, Swiss and mozzarella cheeses, bacon and pineapple. Full of robust flavors, this was a pie to die for.

After-dinner treats consisted of air hockey, mini basketball hoops and several video games.

FIND IT | Ultimate California Pizza Game Zone is at the Galleria Shopping Center at 959 Lake Arrowhead Road, Myrtle Beach. Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. For additional info, call 449-1160 or visit www.divinedininggroup.com.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Regular hours New Year's Eve and Day.

A.M.

SOUTH

Anthony's Pizza

& Pan Pasta

A fun part of dining at Anthony's is checking out all the memorabilia on the walls in the L-shape space. Just about every collectible hobby is covered, from sports and old movies to farm implements and vintage toys.

For our entrees we had Shrimp Alfredo ($14.75) and Eggplant Parmesan ($12.95). My dish had four thick eggplant slices cooked perfectly with a delicately crispy breading and smothered in creamy melted mozzarella. It came with a side of pasta and marinara, with a choice of what pasta shape you prefer. The add-on values just kept coming; I also received a basket of warm crispy/soft Italian bread and a house salad. If you want to go a little more casual than an entrée, Anthony's had loads of choices, including Pepperoni or Italian Sausage Rolls, Broccoli Bites, Wings, Garlic Knots, or a $10.95 appetizer sampler with five choices.

There were also pizzas such as Steak Tip Pizza with red onions, Strombolis, Subs and more entrees such as Lasagna, Pasta Primavera and Shrimp Scampi.

FIND IT | Anthony's Pizza and Pan Pasta is at the intersection of U.S. 17 Bypass and Glenns Bay Road in Surfside Beach. The old Anthony's phone number has been replaced with a new one: 215-5500. Hours are 4-9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As of press time management wasn't sure if the restaurant would be open or closed on New Year's Eve.

B.B.

Backfinz

Maryland Crab House

Maryland-style crab house moved from Murrells Inlet north to Garden City Beach, in former site of Boca Grille.

Appetizer choices included a 6-ounce crab cake for $13; Maryland-style Steamed Shrimp ($11 for half a pound); and Cheese Sticks for $6, Crab Dip ($11).

Double order of crab cakes, where you get two 6-ounce cakes and two sides, were $26. The side choices were house salad, fries, slaw, hushpuppies, applesauce or the vegetable of the day. Choose how you want the crab cakes cooks: broiled or fried.

All the Maryland steamed crabs you care to eat were $30 per person. We ordered six large crabs (small and medium are also options) for $4 apiece.

Other options included Soft Shell Crabs ($18 for two), Maryland-style Crab Soup ($3.25/cup, $5.25/bowl) and Cream of Crab Soup ($5.25-$7.25). Several chicken dishes were also on the menu such as the Chicken Corsi Sandwich topped with cheese, spices and lump crab meat ($12); and a Chicken Chesapeake entree ($20) topped with crab. A Crab Cake Sandwich was $15, while Shrimp Salad on a sub roll was $13.

Smoking is allowed at the bar.

FIND IT | Backfinz is at 2132 U.S. 17 Business in Garden City Beach. Hours are 4-9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 357-3069 or visit www.backfinz.com.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve; from 3-6 p.m. on Christmas Day anyone who doesn't have family in the area and wants to share a holiday meal can bring a covered dish to share for a potluck dinner. There'll be a cash bar.

B.B.

The Beaver Bar at County Line

The Beaver Bar, which branched out less than a half-mile south to its new location (former site of Ghost Ship Restaurant), had a fun, casual curb appeal dressed for one big party: Dozens of worn, wooden rocking chairs circling a chiminea and lining the front porch (which boasts another long layout of iron café tables and chairs), plus strings of orange lights clinging to the rusted metal roofline that tops this huge building that looks a lot like an old backyard garage.

Inside, the party continued, with the bar taking up the main room and two side rooms boasting pool tables and the latest in bar video games.

We sampled a good range of Beaver Bar goodies, starting with a fried pickles appetizer basket ($4.49) and a dozen steamed oysters ($7.95); a Rueben sandwich packed with plenty of corned beef and sauerkraut and served with hot Beaver Chips (homemade, seasoned potato chips) and a cup of cold pasta salad ($5.49); hand-patted cheeseburger topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato and onions for $5.49.

Unfortunately, the butterbean sandwich was not available when we visited.

But the Beaver Bar was running an unbeatable special on crab legs (several clusters and hushpuppies for $10.95), and the presentation was impressive and the sweet crab meat seemed even sweeter than usual. Came with homemade cole slaw - crisp, yet creamy.

FIND IT | The Beaver Bar at County Line is at 3534 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. For additional info, call 651-3838.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Regular hours on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. No specified times for Christmas Day at press time.

A.M.

Big Ass Sandwich Co. and Saloon

The interior was a work-in-progress when we visited, but the airbrushed art of Michael Tisdale added a lot of character to the space.

The focus was on the crazy-good sandwiches, made from flat bread, a sort of a cross between pizza crust and pita, rolled, twirled and then grilled to browned perfection. Many sandwich fillings were offered, including house-cooked pork butts, fried turkey, ham, barbecue beef brisket and top sirloin.

Order a steak and cheese, and the cook cut thin slices off a big raw top sirloin, sautéd it with peppers and onions, topped it with a choice of cheeses, and put that on the flatbread. On top of the meat and cheese he placed freshly fried hand-cut French fries, and on top of the fries he put his special mild oil-and-vinegar Bud Lite Beer Slaw. The bread is folded in half over the fillings to make a half-moon, secured closed with toothpicks, cut in half, wrapped in butcher paper and served.

It tastes absolutely fabulous, but that isn't the amazing part. What's incredible is that Cheese Steak sandwich was $6.95 and most menu items were less than $8.

Also available was a bowl of that chili topped with cheese and onions; a What's Up Dog where the hot dog is wrapped in dough, deep fried and served with cheese sauce; personal-size Big Ass Style Pizza; Chicken Fingers made from fresh chicken breasts; hand-breaded Fried Mozzarella; and Big Ass Salads served in Big Ass Bread Bowls.

Smoking was allowed at Big Ass Sandwich Co., so if you're worried about someone lighting up while you're trying to enjoy a sandwich, there's always carry-out.

FIND IT | Big Ass Sandwich Co. & Saloon is at 4378 U.S. 17 Business in Murrells Inlet, catty-corner from River City Café. Look for the barber shop sign. It's open starting at 11 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and the number is 651-1000.

HOLIDAY HOURS | It has been closed a couple of months for remodeling, but it reopened on Dec. 17. On Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve it will be open for regular business hours starting at 11 a.m.; closed Christmas Day.

B.B.

Bliss Restaurant and Reel Bar

Both the lunch and dinner menus feature wild game and local seafood such as Gator Ribs with Tennessee Peach Barbecue Sauce; a trio of fresh Fish Tacos; Buffalo Sliders and Stuffed Buffalo Meatloaf; Mini Oyster Po' Boys; Seafood Quesadilla; Shrimp and Smoked Cheddar Grit Cake; Citrus Scented Crab Cakes; and Crab Crusted Grouper.

Duck Confit Spring Rolls, came with a sweet fig compote that perfectly offset the tender duck and slightly salty seasonings on julienne-cut vegetables.

She-Crab Soup and Chili are always available and salads are choice and creative, including the Spinach and Berry Salad with house-made Honey Orange dressing and praline candy-coated pecans.

For lunch, sandwiches are $8-$9; entrees $12-$14, including Pan Seared Flounder that was vertically presented on prosciutto hash and haricot verts with dark buttery beurre noire, and topped with a frilly cap of micro greens.

At night sandwiches were removed from the menu, and more appetizers ($5-$9) such as Coriander Dusted Sea Scallops were added along with luxurious-sounding entrees ($15-$26) including Roasted Garlic Marinated Rib eye and Braised Short Ribs with Parmesan and herb polenta, simmered root vegetables and slow-cooked burgundy braisage.

Desserts were $5 each and include house-made choices such as Caramel Apple Pie and Vanilla Bean Crème Brule.

FIND IT | Bliss Restaurant, The Reel Bar and Inlet Sports Lodge are at 4600 U.S. 17 Business in Murrells Inlet, and it's open from 6-10 a.m., 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. daily. The Reel Bar is open until midnight, with food served until 10 p.m. The restaurant's number is 282-6737 or (877) 585-9360, Ext. 2000.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open for regular operating hours Christmas Eve; the Reel Bar stays open until midnight with food available until 10 p.m. Closed Christmas Day, and on New Year's Eve there's a reservation-only multiple-course dinner for $65 per person with seatings at 6 and 8 p.m.

B.B.

Blue Crab

Shabby chic by design, Blue Crab, another culinary creation by Divine Dining Group, is reminiscent of a rustic seafood shack with pleasant alfresco dining alternatives including a front screened-in dining porch surrounded by an outdoor deck dotted with tables and umbrellas. Another outdoor amenity towering near the front-right corner of Blue Crab was a fenced-in wooden playground, a magnificent maze of tunnels, stairs, rope swings and slides. The menu showcases seafood, of course - from starters and soups to sandwiches, salads and entrees. We went with Blue Crab's Bangin' Shrimp appetizer tossed in sweet Thai chili aioli. Eight shrimp were saucy, scrumptious and on the spicy side, but at $7.95, I was hoping for more bang for my buck. We also sample the Shrimp Scampi entrée special ($16), shrimp swimming in white whine, garlic sauce and Parmesan cheese, and two sides: coleslaw and onion rings, and the fresh catch of the night: Mahi Mahi, requested lightly blackened ($17.95), with asparagus and hushpuppies. Even the $1 can of Pabst Blue Ribbon tasted exceptionally well.

Kids' fare included cheeseburger and tater tots dinner ($4.95).

FIND IT | Blue Crab is at 9448 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island. Hours are 11 a.m.-until, daily. For additional info, call 979-2722 or visit www.divinedininggroup.com

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

A.M.

Bove Restaurant & Bar

There is a subdued elegance caressed into the feeling and food at Bove. Gold and metallic appointments meld with cozy leather booths and dark wood tables. The main dining room was filling up fast during our visit, as Wednesday was half-price entrée night for locals.

What we had: the tempting Seared Sea Scallops (normally $26; tonight, $13), plump scallops paired with the most palatable, blissful blend of smoked bacon, braised bok choy, grilled fingerling potatoes and sweet potato butter, the flavors heightened further by a glass of Will Hill Chardonnay ($7); 8-ounce Angus Filet (normally $26; tonight, $13), dressed with a Madeira mushroom sauce and skirted with homemade mashed potatoes and seasoned collards.

Menu also included enticing Italian pastas such as the Shrimp & Lobster Fra Diavlo over risotto.

FIND IT | Bove Restaurant & Bar is at 11359 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island. Hours are 5-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For additional info, call 237-7200 or visit www.bovesc.com.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve and Day. A.M.

Cecil's Italian Grill

The former building that housed Benjamin's Bagels has been restored into a quaint café courtyard, front ice cream parlor and cozy little Italian restaurant, by local TV personality Cecil Chandler. You can't miss the bright signage illuminated with Chandler's caricature along U.S.17 in Surfside Beach.

Our dinners came with a basket bundled with warm, sliced sourdough bread with garlic butter. as well as a house salad.

We sampled Fettuccini Alfredo with grilled chicken ($9.99, plus $2.59 for chicken or shrimp) and Eggplant Parmigiana ($10.99).A few of the eggplants' edges were a little crispy-burnt, but in general, the texture and flavors of the eggplant, melted mozzarella, penne and marinara were pleasant.

It's a family-friendly ambiance, paired with good food, perhaps piggybacked from Chandler's familiar face each week on TV in kitchens along the Grand Strand, that may make Cecil's Italian Grill a hit hotspot.

FIND IT | Cecil's Italian Grill is at 531 U.S. 17, Surfside Beach. Hours are 4-10 p.m. daily. For additional info, call 839-4800.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open Christmas Eve, but no specified closing time. Closed Christmas Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve. New Year's Day hours were not set at press time. A.M.

Charleston Café

In May 2009 new owners Billy Cheezem and Anita Cheezem and their daughter, Brayer Surratt, reopened the landmark pink restaurant, restoring the ambiance late owner David Heckman created, and Surratt has a laid-back and welcoming demeanor that is endearing her to Heckman's fans. If you're in a hurry, for $7.50 you may have a cup of the soup du jour with the chef's choice of half a sandwich; or add $1.50 and you also get a side dish. We split an appetizer of house-made Pimento Cheese ($6) that was served warm. It doesn't contain too much pimento; the flavor is mellow. The spread is served with crispy warm pita chips that are almost as good as the cheese. A few other appetizers ($5.50-$8.50) included Pecan Crusted Chicken Fingers, Fried Green Tomatoes with goat cheese and roasted red pepper strips, and Crab and Shrimp Dip. I've had the Warm Wilted Spinach Salad with Andouille sausage, mushrooms, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, and love it. There's also a Salad Sampler that looks interesting where you can get up to four small portions of house-made tuna, chicken, seafood or fruit salad on a bed of greens. We also could have opted for a sandwich ($7-$9, comes with a side) such as French Dip au jus, Fried Green BLT, Po' Boy, Pimento Cheeseburger, Portobello Sandwich or Fried Turkey Sandwich. But we could not resist the lure of the entrees ($7-$11). I tried the Seafood Souffle with shrimp, crab, spinach and green onion. The souffle didn't rise very high, but it was tasty and full of seafood. The Hollandaise sauce on top was exceedingly light and fluffy and not too lemony. For dinner a few more appetizers ($5.50-$11) are added such as Steak Quesadilla and Tomato and Artichoke Risotto.

FIND IT | Upstairs in the Tree House Lounge, there is a special $5-$9.50 menu with pasta, seafood and succulent finger foods. Charleston Cafe is at 815 Surfside Dr. in Surfside Beach, and operating hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4-10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The number is 238-2200.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; open regular hours on New Year's Eve.

B.B.

Chelsea Jo's

This is the new location of Chelsea Jo's, which was further down the road south, in the building now occupied by Saltwater Creek Cafe.

We ordered a round during happy hour (4-7 p.m.): two domestic drafts ($1.50 each) and a glass of wine ($3.50). We also took advantage of the $3 appetizer happy hour special and ordered a basket of Deep-Fried Pickle Spears and Dynamite Shrimp.

Chelsea Jo's Tuesday dinner special when we visited was a Half-price Hamburger (or Cheeseburger) for $3.25 with a side of fries. The price may have been thrifty, but Chelsea Jo's didn't trim any meaty corners with this thick, juicy burger.

We also had: Hot Meat Loaf Sandwich ($6.95), an artistic tower of two thick slices of white bread topped with a hunk of meat loaf, topped with a ball of mashed potatoes, topped with a garnish of French-fried onions - all drizzled in brown gravy; 8-ounce Sirloin Steak ($9.95), paired with a baked potato loaded with butter and sour cream (or you could choose smashed or French fries) and green beans. Prepared perfectly medium, the steak was tender and delicious, sprinkled with seasonings and pepper.

FIND IT | Chelsea Jo's is at 3010 U.S. 17 Business South, Garden City Beach. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily. The Dirty Banana Bar next door is open late. For additional info, call 357-2799.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Regular hours New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

A.M.

Cozmic Charleyz

The specialty of the house is the hot dog chili on the Coney Dogs. Chili isn't the only dog topping here. Other Space Dogs ($1.65-$2.95) include the Gut Buster with bacon, chili and Cheese Whiz; Down South with chili, slaw, mustard and onions; Gotham with sauerkraut and mustard; Windy City with tomato, pickles, relish, mustard, onions, peppers and celery salt on a poppy seed bun; and South of the Border with chili, nacho cheese and jalapenos. Sausage Dog lovers get their fixes on soft fresh rolls baked at local Benjamin's Bakery, and they're heaped with grilled onions and bell peppers.

Other offerings included: Outta This World Phillyz ($5.65-$7.95), Big Bang Burgerz, Nachos, Chili Cheese Fries and Beer Battered Onion Rings, and daily sandwich combo specials, such as Cheesy Chicken Enchilada topped with freshly fried tortilla strips and sour cream for $4.45.

The gazebo is also a fine place to stop for ice cream treats (waffle or sugar cones, sundaes, cups, floats, "Galactic" shakes), Italian Ice and Hawaiian Shaved Ice. They're $2.75-$4.25, or more depending on how many toppings you want.

FIND IT | Cozmic Charleyz is at 3040 U.S. 17 Business S. in Garden City Beach, across from Texas Roadhouse and beside Nico's Italian Restaurant. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and the number is 357-7307.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Christmas Eve, closed Christmas Day and open for regular hours on New Year's Eve (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

B.B.

Gershon's NY Deli

A lunchtime visit to Gershon's NY Deli (in the space that housed Moe's Southwest Grill) reinvigorated deli dreams. Daily specials were a-plenty, including split pea soup and one sandwich with chopped liver. In fact, chopped liver, alongside roast beef, sliced egg or turkey as a sandwich or as a side dish with crackers or bread.

We sampled a Triple Decker club sandwich on wheat toast stacked with roast beef, bacon, lettuce, tomato, all smeared with Russian dressing ($8.75). The roast beef was rare, thin and delicious. The side cucumber salad was refreshing, doused with vinegar and tossed with fresh-ground pepper and onions. .

Also tried selection from "Gershon's Combination Sandwiches," the corned beef and pastrami topped with coleslaw and Russian dressing on marble rye ($8.25), with pickle and side of fresh-cut sweet potato fries. Kid-friendly options included grilled cheese and fries with a pink lemonade ($3.95). Beverages included the somewhat rare Dr. Brown's cream- and black cherry-flavored soda ($1.59).

FIND IT | Gershon's NY Deli is at 3140 U.S. 17 Business, Garden City Beach. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For additional info, call 357-DELI (3354).

HOLIDAY HOURS | Regular hours Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

A.M.

Greg's Cabana Bar & Grill

Neighborhood spot in Garden City Beach known for its hamburgers (and Sunday afternoon football crowds). Each burger contains a half-pound of meat cooked to whatever temperature you like, including Cheeseburger in Paradise, which is, according to the menu, "Char-broiled and topped with melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mayo. Served on a toasted Kaiser roll.".

The bun is supreme. The brand is Piantedosi, which is made near Boston, and it's a soft honey egg bread. The combination of toasted soft bun, juicy hand-patted char-grilled burger and an abundance of high-quality toppings was definitely worth $7, and the price includes fries.

Regular menu items included nachos, fresh fried potato chips, chicken sandwiches, B.L.T., grilled ham and Swiss, and the Boca Reuben. There were also a few salads, including a grilled chicken salad, and a $10 Pittsburgh-style steak and cheese with, "Fresh cut strips of marinated steak atop a bed of fresh greens. Covered in French fries, Italian dressing and a layer of melted Cheddar cheese."

FIND IT | Greg's Cabana Bar & Grill is at 2800 U.S. 17 Business in Garden City Beach, and the number is 651-1836. It's open daily starting at 11 a.m.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open regular operating hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve starting at 11 a.m.

B.B.

Habaneros Mexican Restaurant

Habaneros just screams "Fiesta!" from a few blocks south of the Hammock Shops, with colorful signage and a massive front deck anchored by a Tiki bar, and plenty of seating indoors, too.

On the menu when we visited for lunch: 14 combos for less than $6 - and not served through a drive-thru window.

The lunch special ordered during our visit, normally $5.75, Special Lunch No. 4 was $3.75 and included a hot plate (really, it was extremely hot to touch) piled with helpings of Spanish rice, refried beans and an enchilada stuffed with your choice of beef or chicken and cheese. We also had Special No. 3, a chile rellenos (an Anaheim pepper stuffed with ground beef and cheese), soft chicken taco, refried beans and guacamole salad - fresh guacamole scooped onto a bed of lettuce and quartered tomatoes ($5.75); and Special No. 6, a cheese quesadilla, beef burrito and guacamole salad ($5.75).

We settled for a couple of pink lemonades and a Diet Coke ($1.80 each) at lunch, but vow to sample one of the $2.75 margaritas on the rocks next time.

FIND IT | Habaneros Mexican Restaurant is at 1151 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. For additional info, call 235-9595.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Closed New Year's Day.

A.M.

The Mayor's House

Inside, like any house, there are several divided rooms; we sat at a linen tablecloth table in the dining room close to the bar area. A few other tables nearby were filled with older couples on double dates and I could hear laughter and clinking plates and glasses coming

What we had: four-course early bird specials for $14.95 (appetizer, salad, entrée, dessert; available 5-6:30 p.m.) - Shrimp Rémoulade, cold, creamy baby shrimp scooped into a tall pudding glass laden with a bottom layer of lettuce, an appetizer of thick slices of the Mayor's Portobello Fries - lightly battered and accompanied by a zesty, creamy sauce, and warm rolls slathered with the Mayor's own spiced apple butter; Shrimp and Sausage Alfredo entrée, and Chicken and Shrimp ala Vodka.

To wash it down: A glass of Beringer white zin ($5), a pear martini ($5.95), and a Strawberry Freeze ($2.95) frozen drink off the children's menu.

We managed to finish off a slice of apple pie topped with whipped cream and two cups of lime sherbet.

FIND IT | The Mayor's House is at 13089 Ocean Highway, Litchfield Beach. Hours are 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For additional info, call 237-9082 or visit www.themayorshouserestaurant.com.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open 5-9 p.m. Christmas Eve and 1-7 p.m. Christmas Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

A.M.

Nico's of N.Y.

Like a Hawaiian Tropic beauty pageant contestant in the middle of pale Pennsylvania spring breakers, the little white cottage that houses Nico's of N.Y. stands out as an eye-catcher between a Laundromat, neighboring mini-golf courses and empty parking lots along U.S. 17 Business in Garden City Beach.

What we had: an antipasti of Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Prosciutto ($10.25), drizzled with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil); a cheese calzone ($6.50), a huge, baked dough pod stuffed with mozzarella and ricotta, served with a side of marinara for dipping; Chicken and Pepperoni Lasagna ($13.95), a delicious variant to the usual ground-beef-and-cheese standby; Lobster-Stuffed Ravioli in Pink Sauce ($17.50), which was rich and creamy - a nice balance of powers in the sweet lobster meat, fresh noodles and sauce.

We were also served a family-style bowl of peas seasoned with bacon to share, which was a nice, unexpected dinner addition. And the complimentary basket of warm garlic knots was to-die-for.

FIND IT | Nico's of NY Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria is at 3030 U.S. 17 Business, Garden City Beach. Hours are 3-9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 3-10 p.m. Saturday. For additional info, call 651-1528.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Open 4-8 p.m. Christmas Eve. Closed Christmas Day. Open 5-10 p.m. New Year's Eve and 2-7 p.m. New Year's Day.

A.M.

New York Diner

New York Diner, along the outskirts (north end) of Inlet Square Mall in Murrells Inlet, had a major fire last year, but rebuilt and reopened this year.

After we ordered a round of sweet teas (total of $3.50), we had fish 'n' chips, which happened to be one of the day's specials for $6.95, the "soup of the day," Egg Drop Florentine, and paired it with one of Turkey and Swiss Panini with sundried tomatoes and sauce ($7.95). The soup was a hot and delicious blend of broth and spinach leaves. The pressed Panini arrived sans sauce, so asked for some mayo because it was a bit dry.

The food at New York Diner, by diner standards, was good. And the menu explores an endless amount of creative options. Service here was a highlight, too - perky and helpful, which was a perk (instantly bringing to-go cups of sweet tea was perfect).

FIND IT | New York Diner is at 920 Inlet Square Drive, Murrells Inlet. Hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily. For additional info, call 651-0280.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Regular hours for holidays.

A.M.

O'Keefe's Irish Pub

What we had: a cup of the Irish Stew ($2.95), a hearty blend of cubed beef, carrots, onions and Irish potatoes in a Guinness broth; hot corned beef sandwich ($7.95), home-cooked, thinly sliced and stacked high with a smear of hot pub mustard on marble rye; Shepherd's Pie ($8.95) served in a large ceramic crock, with layers of seasoned ground beef, homemade mashed potatoes, sweet peas, Guinness gravy and cheddar. The fresh baked Irish soda bread with raisins was a nice touch, too, served on the side.

Non-Irish fare included O'Keefe's Famous Steak and Cheese Philly sandwich ($8), an overstuffed white hoagie roll of chipped steak, mozzarella cheese, seasoned lettuce, tomato chunks, onions, and sweet and banana peppers. And for the wee one, O'Keefe's graciously halved an appetizer of four chicken tenders down to two (originally $7.95; for us, $2.95) with a cup of barbecue dipping sauce, plus threw in a handful of homemade chips. Nicely done and much appreciated.

FIND IT | O'Keefe's Irish Pub is at 834 Inlet Square Drive, Murrells Inlet. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. For additional info, call 651-7211 or visit www.okeefespub.net.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Regular hours on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Closed on Christmas Day. A.M.

Pacino's Mediterranean Grille

Swing open the door to Pacino's, tucked at the end of a small strip mall in Garden City Beach, and you'll get a pungent whiff of garlic, fresh-baked bread and melted mozzarella.

Drinks for our party included a bottle of Bud Light ($3), two glasses of house white wine ($5 each) and a Styrofoam cup of Vitamin D milk ($2).

The refreshing thing about Pacino's extensive menu is that it's not only a classic tour of Italy, but it spotlights daytrips to the Mediterranean, too, with items such as hummus, Baba Ghanouj, Stuffed Grape Leaves and Tabbouleh.

Our trio of dinner salads arrived next, drizzled in the tangy house dressing blend of balsamic vinaigrette. A mini-loaf of warm bread was swaddled in a linen-lined basket, each slice was dipped in the small plate swimming with extra virgin olive oil, pinches of fresh garlic and spices.

Items sampled: Chicken Parmesan ($15), one platter of a chicken cutlet breaded with Italian bread crumbs, sautéed in olive oil and smothered with mozzarella cheese, and the other platter piled high with pasta and marinara; Fettuccine Alfredo ($13); Beef Shawarma ($17), thinly sliced beef and chunks of tomato marinated in seven spices and olive oil, baked and served with a large dollop of hummus with pita bread triangles.

FIND IT | Pacino's Mediterranean Grille is at 3101 U.S. 17 Business S., Garden City Beach. Hours are 4:30-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For additional info, call 651-0532.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve. Closed New Year's Day.

A.M.

Prosser's Bar-B-Que

It's the home cooking and all of those kitchen/home aromas, the warm, homey atmosphere and the heartfelt attention from servers that just makes you feel like you're home. Prosser's ain't white linen fine dining, but this combination is priceless.

Most homemade food offerings are daily standards, with the occasional surprise visit of various fried fish. Although staff is constantly keeping food replenished and in order.

If you're not a fan of home-cooked Southern specialties, then Prosser's is not the place for you. (But the least you can do is make your own fresh salad at the final section of the buffet.) We chose from chicken and gravy, rice, chicken bog, shrimp and rice, collard greens, corn, green beans, baked mac and cheese, fried chicken, fried shrimp, fried flounder, fried grouper, homemade biscuits, hushpuppies, grilled chicken, pulled pork barbecue and more. For dessert, there's banana pudding and peach cobbler. This is all-you-can-eat for ... $7.

Favorites: the battered fish, which is light, flakey and delicious and, of course, the barbecue, which is melt-in-your-mouth. Squirt a little mustard-vinegar sauce blend onto your pile of pork and it's mind-blowing.

FIND IT | Prosser's Bar-B-Que is at 3750 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet. Hours for breakfast are 6:30-10 a.m. daily, for lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, and for dinner 4-8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. For additional info, call 357-6146.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve through Dec. 27. Regular hours on New Year's Eve. Tentatively open on New Year's Day.

A.M.

Thai Palms Restaurant

Very minimalist decor, with whispers of color in Thai-inspired artwork, orchids on the booths and one long linen-draped table and pots of exotic greenery.

Our drink order: a glass of Thai Iced Coffee ($1.50), an espresso dark, yet deliciously sweet sans sugar or cream - packed pep.

We chose: Pad Thai ($5.95), authentic ribbons of Thai noodles tossed with tender nibbles of chicken (shrimp is also available), the ivory platter was garnished with pinches of thin bamboo shoots, a lime slice and chopped chives; Pad Broccoli ($6.95), a shallow bowl bursting with stir-fried chicken (beef or shrimp are options, too), broccoli, mushrooms, green peppers and red onions in an oyster sauce.

Appetizers included skewered chicken or shrimp satays marinated in coconut cream.

One downfall of a surprise was that the restaurant only accepted cash; no debit or credit cards, but accepted local checks on this visit.

FIND IT | Thai Palms Restaurant is at 3803 Socastee Blvd., Myrtle Beach. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch Tuesday through Friday and 5-9 p.m. for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. For additional info or takeout, call 293-0483.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as New Year's Eve. No exact time set for New Year's Eve at press time.

- A.M.

The Village Café

A comfortable corner spot, The Village Cafe, has new owners since we visited and re-opened Dec. 18. It's practically hidden behind the convenience store that clogs up the corner of Surfside Drive and U.S. 17 Business in Surfside Beach.

When we visited, we brunched, sampling a hunk of vegetable quiche, baked with mushrooms, spinach, sweet red peppers and cheese, with a choice of two sides: fresh fruit and pasta salad ($5.95). The pasta salad spirals were sauced with vinaigrette perfectly and the fresh fruit medley was a beautiful presentation of watermelon triangles, banana slices, blueberries and strawberries.

We also chose the shrimp salad paired with two sides: a fresh garden salad and fruit ($6.95).

The menu also featured Hot Lunch Plates at $5.95, from which you could choose pork chops, roast turkey and stuffing, fried chicken, grilled chicken breast, meat loaf, chicken tenders, fish & chips, open-faced turkey or roast beef sandwich, hamburger steak and country fried steak, plus two sides and a chef's dessert.

FIND IT | The Village Cafe is at 828 Surfside Drive, Surfside Beach. New operating hours are 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. There is a new phone number, too: 238-CAFE.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; open New Year's Eve.

A.M.

WEST

Carolina Skillet

It's fast-food-like fare, with more upscale flair than the usual franchise suspects. The ambiance is warm, clean and contemporary, with tawny texture-painted and exposed brick walls, rough-hewn hardwood floors and abstract wall art. In the open kitchen, burgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches are prepared fresh on the griddle by a short order cook.

We sampled combo No. 3, the Carolina Burger - two thick burger patties smothered with American cheese, chili, and slices of hickory-smoked bacon - and a side of thick fries ($6.89); personalized with some nutritious veggies (tomato and lettuce) and a slathering of mayo, was absolutely delicious.

Also on the menu: The Heart Stopper, which is not only topped with bacon, but a fried egg (in case you skipped breakfast); combo No. 9, the Chants Crispy Chicken Club, a crispy chicken filet layered with Swiss cheese, hickory-smoked bacon, mayo, lettuce and tomato ($7.49), and a heaping side of fries.

For some more change, you can flavor your fries with Cajun seasoning, cheese, bacon, chili or jalapeños. Breakfast at Carolina Skillet featured egg sandwiches, biscuit, bagel and burrito mixes, as well as full platters - from pancakes and French toast to omelets and eggs.

FIND IT | Carolina Skillet is at 1129 Third Ave., Conway. Hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday (open until 8 p.m. Thursday). For additional info, call 488-0577 or visit www.carolinaskillet.com.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Regular hours on New Year's Eve. Closed New Year's Day.

A.M.

Red White and Blue Roadside Grill

Former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride and his family puts his restaurant experience to the test in this space that used to be a Jimmy's Japanese Hibachi.

When we visited, nothing on the breakfast menu was more than $3.85, including plates featuring two scrambled eggs, hominy grits, Texas toast and a choice of bacon, country ham or sausage. A Biscuit-n-Southern Gravy was $1.29, a BLT was $2.29, and the RWB Egg Snack (scrambled egg, grits and toast) was $1.49.

For lunch, the menu featured burgers ($2.19-$3.69 for a Double Cheeseburger) and sandwiches such as Grilled Cheese, Fire-grilled Chicken, Southern Mustard Barbecue and Fire-grilled Rib eye Steak ($1.19-$5.99).

We sampled a Red White and Blue Plate Special, choosing the Meatloaf, Mac & Cheese and Mashed Potatoes & Gravy. It also came with a slice of white bread. The meatloaf, we agreed, was some of the best we've ever tasted. It was a little loose and wasn't the prettiest meatloaf you ever saw, but it was moist and flavorful and absolutely delicious.

Dinner entrees ran $8-$13 and included Seasoned Rib eye, Baby Back Ribs, the Carolina Chicken Plate and Shrimp & Grits.

Portion sizes here were just right.

FIND IT | Operating hours are 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 5-9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Red White and Blue Roadside Grill is at 2635 Main St. in Conway, and the number is 488-0488.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; open regular hours on New Year's Eve.

B.B.

The Roost

Inside the location that used to be Brickhouse Pizza, an homage to feathered friends in the community continues, with Coastal Carolina University and University of South Carolina memorabilia plastered on the walls. We observed a scattering of red-hot tables, a few video games and a karaoke sound system in the corner taking up the majority of the floor plan, with a casual bar and takeout counter lined up along the back.

We ordered a Diet Pepsi, lemonade ($1.89 each) and sweet tea ($1.50), the bowl of kid's spaghetti with meatballs ($4.95), which was big enough for two adults, and The Best Philly Cheese Steak (8-inch for $6.25) at The Roost lived up to its name. Thinly shaved beef was deliciously grilled with mushrooms, onions, banana peppers, green peppers and melted provolone cheese - and bursting out of the toasted bun.

We also sampled The Swan (8-inch for $6.25), a hot sub packed with teriyaki sauce-smothered chopped chicken breast and mushrooms.

A former pizzeria, this spot still serves plenty of pies, although we didn't try the pizza on this visit.

FIND IT | The Roost is at 101-A Prather Park Drive, Myrtle Beach. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1-10 p.m. Saturday. For additional info, call 236-5121.

HOLIDAY HOURS | Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Open on New Year's Eve-until. New Year's Day hours were not set at press time.

A.M.

Editor's Note: The menu items and pricing reflect when we visited each establishment and are subject to change.

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