Driving South for the first time, where to eat?
The first week of March my Best Beloved and our teens (13 and 16) will embark on our first road trip south of the Mason Dixon line. We're going at least as far as Myrtle Beach and hopefully to Charleston and Savannah as well.
We're on a budget so the less frills the better but we will splurge at least once or twice. We're not picky and love to try new stuff. I'd like the kids to see what real BBQ is like, you'd die if you saw what passes for Q in Montreal, Canada and three out of four of us love seafood.
So, where would you eat?
edited to add: They're picking me up in NYC (we have that one covered) and we're probably driving the long way around through Delaware and Maryland over to Virginia Beach and down the coast. My son is a huge Ripley's fan so we have to hit those on the way down. We're in it for the adventure so a bit of backroading is cool. Going home we'll be more direct and cut through DC.
Whatever you do, please don't make Myrtle Beach your most southern/final stop! At that point you're so close to Charleston and Savannah you owe it to yourself to keep driving...you've driven so far by that point what is another two hours (to Charleston).
Myrtle Beach will not give you a taste as to what South Carolina (and the southern United States) is about. That is a tourist/vacation town and is not charming in the least. I do my best to avoid Myrtle Beach.
Skip that area and make plans for Charleston. An hour and a half south of there is Beaufort, SC. Take a drive and tour the historic downtown. Not that much to do, but the beauty is breathtaking...there are also some good restaurants there. Another hour south of Beaufort is Savannah, GA. That would make a much better trip than stopping in Myrtle Beach...believe me...it's a whole 'nother world from Charleston to Savannah.
We're absolutely planning on going at least as far as Charleston-- we were there last Spring without the kids and loved it. They really want to do the touristy stuff in Myrtle Beach so we sort of have to pay it a visit. *I* want to see Savannah!
I'm sorry if this isn't allowed but any thoughts on what area has the best beachcombing? I know it will be too cold to swim but the 16y/o collects shells.
I hate making such categorical statements, but here goes:
If there were one place I'd recommend a non-Southerner eat in the ENTIRE South, it would be Mrs. Wilkes in Savannah, GA. It's Southern food served family style, and the recipes/experience is the most true to form to the old Southern family get-togethers we would have over the holidays decades ago. When you're seated, all the food is already spread out over the table in serving bowls, and you pass them around the table. I have lived in the South for 20+ years and have never had better Southern style "comfort food" in a restaurant, anywhere.
The line will be long - we're talking upwards of an hour to get in (since the place has only 10 tables or so (seating 6-10 people at a table). They're only open 11-2 p.m. weekdays. But...it's totally totally worth it.
Now, since you all love seafood, Charleston is really the place to get that. Charleston is in my opinion one of the best foodie towns in the country (I'd put it #6 on the list behind NYC, SF, Chicago, Vegas, and New Orleans), so you can really follow your nose there through the historic section to get good lowcountry cuisine (which is basically French-continental-influenced with a lot of seafood/Southern elements). Restaurants like FIG, SNOB, Old Village Post House, Trattoria Lucca, Cru Cafe (for lunch), Carolina's, High Cotton, Circa 1886 are heavy hitters when it comes to praise. More upmarket - Charleston Grill is one of the best restaurants in the Southeast.
BUT, if you're looking for casual seafood, you're bound to be tricked if you just look for the long lines. 80% will cater to tourists and cut corners with sourcing local seafood products (think Sysco truck suppliers). My favorite seafood restaurant in the South, however, is The Wreck just across the bridge from Charleston in Mt. Pleasant. http://www.wreckrc.com/ It's a hole-in-the-wall from the front but has a nice charming but totally casual setting on Shem Creek once you walk through the kitchen. The oysters, scallops, and shrimp are heaven.
As for BBQ, I recommend you do a search for Eastern NC BBQ on this forum. Also, check out the NC Barbeque Society Trail for best bets. http://www.ncbbqsociety.com/bbqmap/tr... . If you must stay close to the Interstate, Parker's in Wilson is fine for the experience. Or, if you're really pressed for time, just stop at a Smithfield's BBQ and Chicken - it's a chain but it isn't bad (I think there's one at exit 20-something in Lumberton, NC).
For SC BBQ, the best three in the eastern half of the state are McCabe's in Manning, SC, Sweatman's BBQ in Holly Hill, SC, and Scott's Variety Store in Hemingway, SC. I think there's pretty strong consensus regarding that. The latter may be favorably situated on your route to Myrtle Beach. Just make sure to call for hours first for any of these. I know Sweatman's is only open 2 days per week. Good BBQ places can be like that.
mikeh knows his stuff; believe him.
on a somewhat different note, you're going to be driving along somewhere down here and y'all are gonna get hungry. Instead of getting off the interstate and hitting the first fast food place y'all can agree on, go another mile or two into that nearby small town and find downtown, and preferably the courthouse square. There should be a country cooking meat and three kind of place right on or just off the square where everyone local that works downtown eats, and it is there that you have the best chance of tucking into the best southern fried chicken, chicken livers, or porkchops or any of a half-dozen other entrees with your choice of butterbeans, field peas, okra and tomatoes, turnip greens, a side salad or cole slaw, and cornbread, all followed up with a slice of sweet potato or pecan pie. I tell you what....
Mellybean, Here are some threads that might be helpful although some might be redundant.
Here are some outside links.
Also, you can go to Southern Living and search the various towns for tips.
The Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel is a fun place for stretching the legs. Beaufort, South Carolina is a beautiful quintessentially Southern town that I hope you won't miss. It is near Savannah and Hilton Head.
I expect you will get a lot of responses now that you have edited your query. I hope you enjoy your trip!
Mellybean, I meant to pass along this New York Times link too. The article is a few years old now but it is still current and the restaurant recommendations are all good. I live in Lewes and always like the opportunity to encourage people to visit! Good luck.