MYRTLE BEACH- As the date of our much anticipated first vacation in Myrtle Beach drew near I reached out to the Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.visitMyrtleBeach.com) for some dining suggestions.

There are approximately 1,700 full-service restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area and it’s no surprise that seafood is one of the primary cuisines. Murrells Inlet is nicknamed “the seafood capital of South Carolina” and Calabash-style restaurants are popular in the Northern Strand, as well as Carolina Coastal Cuisine. Visitors will also find a range of other cuisines to satisfy their appetites, including steak, ribs, barbecue, home-style cooking, international fare and regional specialties.

Besides the Cypress Room at the Island Vista Resort (www.islandvista.com), where we stayed, I strongly recommend two spots for unforgettable culinary experiences: Thoroughbreds Chophouse (www.thoroughbredsrestaurant.com) and the Aspen Grille (www. Aspen-grille.com).

We liked what we heard about Thoroughbreds Chophouse at 9706 N. Kings Hwy and secured a reservation. Since opening in 1988, this has become widely known as one of the locals’ favorite fine dining restaurants after being recognized year-after-year in the categories of most romantic and best fine-dining by the locals. General Manager David Amend and his staff pride themselves in serving only the finest beef and ultra-fresh seafood.

Mrytle

Thoroughbreds Chophouse lived up to its reputation as a favourite restaurant for Myrtle Beach residents

The menu’s course options are neatly arranged to fit with the restaurant’s name, beginning with The Starting Gate. It features some salads, escargot, tuna sashimi, shrimp cocktail, colossal crab cake, duck tenderloins, fried calamari, chilled and hot seafood samplers, blackened lollipop lamb chops and sea scallop ramekin (jumbo sea scallops baked with bell peppers and scallions in a crispy golden brown cake.) The latter represented the best form of sea scallops I have ever tasted.

Next is the Clubhouse turn, French onion soup or prime rib potato and mushroom soup. The Belmont Steaks –filet mignon, different cuts of steak, prime rib or pork chops – are served with a house salad and your choice of mashed potatoes or vegetable du jour. The Chateaubriand Bouquetiere at $76 per couple appears to be the house favorite. A slow-roasted and specially seasoned beef tenderloin, carved and flamed tableside by your server it is accompanied by creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, house mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus. Our server was Joshua Amend, the brother of David and quite good at what he does.

Caesar salads are prepared tableside by your server and made for two. The full list of sides includes caramelized onions, creamed spinach, burgundy sautéed mushrooms, sautéed asparagus, cold water lobster tail, shrimp scampi, crab cakes or shrimp. Seabiscuit offers the likes of tuna, breaded and baked grouper, salmon provencal, colossal crab cakes and a bouillabaisse (fresh catch, jumbo shrimp, mussels, calamari and crab in a fennel lobster broth). Then there is the Preakness, featuring veal, chicken Dijon, calf’s liver, Cuban congri, Australian rack of lamb, a 12 hour short rib and pan-seared duck breast. I opted for the latter, something not many restaurants offer. It was cooked to perfection and cut like butter.

Myrtle

Thoroughbred’s meal courses begin with
The Starting Gate, then The Clubhouse Turn,
Belmont Steaks and Preakness

The Home Stretch offers a terrific dessert selection: the triple crown of chocolate, grand marnier crème brûlée, apple spice cake, the Kentucky Derby pie, New York style cheesecake, key lime pie, flaming bananas foster, a wide selection of martinis and other drinks. We shared the Triple Crown and the key lime pie – both excellent choices. I must say that this was a true dining experience and a place I would strongly recommend. For reservations call 843-497-2636

The Aspen Grille (www. Aspen-grille.com), located at 5101 North Kings Highway and owned by Chef Curry Martin, is another must stop on the dining circuit. Martin says that when he decided to open his own restaurant he knew he wanted to offer something different from the usual dining experience in Myrtle Beach – something with a sophisticated, yet simple and absolutely fresh menu and a place where people could sit and relax in a warm and comfortable environment and enjoy each other’s company over a nice meal and a glass of wine. This is a place where music and conversation fill the air. Aspen Grille is the perfect place for a quiet night out for two or a lively group event. We enjoyed our dinner experience immensely.

Dishes here are based on traditional Southern cuisine, with Chef Martin’s own personal twist. The menu changes seasonally and offers simple, but flavorful dishes with ingredients sourced from the best local suppliers. You can pair any dish with a wine from a hand-selected list to create an exceptional meal.

Appetizer options include escargot, fried North Carolina oysters, local shrimp risotto, sautéed angus beef steak tips, seared yellow fin tuna, warm goat cheese crostinis, fried green tomatoes, cold water oysters or the superb pan seared jumbo lump crab cake, which was on special on the night we were there. You can select from the soup du jour or enjoy French onion and there are a variety of salads to choose from.

The chef`s selections include the 10 ounce bone-in duroc pork chop, the Cedar Springs domestic lamb rack, local pan seared flounder and shrimp, market fresh fish, pan roasted Ashley Farms duck breast, pan roasted Springer Mountain Farm`s chicken breast, shrimp and grits, filet mignon, angus beef New York strip and ribeye, seared New Bedford sea scallops and the braised black angus short ribs. The latter three were our choices and they were each spectacular – the short ribs cutting like butter and the steak cooked to perfection.

You can add a lobster tail to your meal or a variety of sides such as Brussel sprouts, rice, creamy cheddar grits, and fresh asparagus, and house cut fries, mushroom risotto, roasted potatoes. sautéed mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, spinach and Yukon mashed potatoes. Desserts include apple crumble, mixed berry bread pudding, chocolate chip brownie sundae, vanilla bean crème brûlée, peach crumble or flourless chocolate cake. We shared the latter two and they were amazing, particularly the former.

Our server was the very charming Dee Shook. She shared with us the specials, one of which was a pan seared jumbo lump crab cake, and went over the menu selections in great detail. Call 843-449-9191 for reservations or email info@aspen-grille.com.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca. Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com/travel and on Twitter and Instagram @mikecohencsl.