As I travel around the Grand Strand, one of the questions I am often asked is, “What is the best Calabash restaurant?”
Answering was always tough for me since I had actually never been to one.
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Calabash is a way of cooking seafood that began in the small fishing village of Calabash, NC. The townspeople would show up at the docks to see what the fishermen caught, and they would have a big, communal seafood meal right there. Calabash-style cooking is coating very fresh seafood in cornmeal instead of flour or batter, usually with a peppery spice added. Then it is lightly and quickly fried.
Calabash seafood buffets as we know them on the Grand Strand often have a variety of foods, not limited to fish and seafood. Many include beef, chicken, and pasta as well as salad and soup. Some of them boast close to 200 choices. Think overeating.
So I grabbed a friend and finally bit the bullet and went to Original Benjamin’s on Restaurant Row. We were greeted at the door by a pirate and given beads to wear, which suggested this was going to be an experience. Our host gave us a tour around the vast food stations before showing us our table.
Where do you begin at an all-you-can-eat extravaganza?
Usually I would start with a salad or soup, but those crab legs were calling. Then it was on to several different varieties of seafood and fish and some vegetables.
There was no room in my stomach for the pasta or carving stations, so I will have to save that for the next trip. By the time we were finished, all my friend and I could manage for dessert was a cookie and some sorbet.
Original Benjamin’s is not just a restaurant, but an experience. No one rushes you and the energetic wait staff was always eager to replace our shells bowl or bring us whatever we needed.
Thanks to Marketing Manager Donna Rebello we were treated to a tour of the restaurant after dinner. The restaurant is shaped like a ship and each room has a nautical theme.
But the real thrill came when we were invited to meet Jimmy Frost, master model shipbuilder, who builds all ships displayed in the restaurant, including the Queen Elizabeth I and II. Frost builds them from models or just drawings and most of the ships take six months to two years to build. Frost told us that every day is Christmas for him because he gets to do what he loves.
So, what do I think about Calabash restaurants now? It may not be the kind of restaurant you can visit weekly unless you are disciplined about your food choices, but it is definitely a fun place to attend for a special occasion.
Until next week … enjoy all the Grand Strand has to offer.
Since July 2011, Sherrie has been living in North Myrtle Beach and sharing the best that the Grand Strand has to offer. From people to events, Grand Strand Happening is your source for everything fun from Little River to Murrells Inlet.