Joan and Myrtle

I like to travel. ALOT. I’ll go just about anywhere; and have (see: Northern Arkansas as proof).  So it was a complete pleasure to go on a mini-vacation with my dear friend, Beany to Myrtle Beach….in February. Start inserting Shag movie jokes now.

Nothing jokey about this view, though….

IMG_5108My friend and I stayed at the beautiful Marriott Grande Dunes; and absolutely loved it.

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The hotel was gorgeous, spacious with beautiful Adirondack chairs to take in the view….

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Of all this….photo (1)I really liked this place. Alot. And I really liked the food (of course).

IMG_5107Our first meal was lunch at the hotel poolside cafe and my first experience with SHE-CRAB soup.  South Carolina (and the low country) are known for their crab dishes. Remember this clever (not) foreshadowing? Holy moses, this was some incredible soup. Creamy, flavorful and rich. I am now She Crab soup addicted. What makes this She-Crab Soup is that its made with female crabs (duh) but the soup gets its distinctive orange color from the she-crab roe. YKOS, making you smarter (and maybe grossing you out).

While at the hotel, we also enjoyed spa treatments at the Hibiscus spa; and trust ME, their “Nirvana” package was just that. Almost two hours of a totally relaxing massage. I fell asleep and loved it. The spa itself was comfortable and spotless. They provided robes, shoes and full access to the pools, sauna and steam. The tea and snacks in the ladies’ lounge was the perfect waiting room sustenance.

Since it was the off-season, full days of beaching weren’t in the cards, so we  did a little local shopping, one such location was Joan Crosby’s Ladies’ Apparel.  Ladies, you MUST stop into Joan Crosby Shop when you’re in town. It’s a throwback to when Mad Men was a living, breathing reality.

Filled with clothing for mature audiences, there was still plenty of beautiful beachwear and swimwear for  younger demographics. Plus they had adorably fun pieces like swimcaps (darling!), tunics and wildly colorful jewelry. The clothing is a bit pricey ($40-$150 for tops/swimsuits) ; but everything is quality-made and sourced.

I bought a quite simply ADORABLE retro bathing suit that had…wait for it….shorts on it. I feel like I’m in an Italian movie from the 1960s…which is often the look I’m going for.

After squealing over our purchases, we headed out for dinner at the Collector’s Cafe.It doesn’t look like much from the outside; and truthfully, I thought it was just a cafe (ie coffee, sweets) but it is SO MUCH MORE.

Collector’s Cafe is part fine-dining, part-gallery, part-local food experience…but all awesome.

After taking a tour of the restaurant-gallery, all its rooms, nooks and crannies, we  were seated in the front dining room.  We ordered drinks; champagne for me, and this AMAZING cocktail for my friend. It had walnut syrup and candied walnuts in it; it was sweet and fabulous without being too cloying.

Whist enjoying our drinks, we nibbled on the bread plate with fresh pesto, hummus and garlic olive oil for dipping. I loved, loved, loved the pesto, so bright and fresh!

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I kept my entrée simple with the house salad and the “Sautéed Calamari, Crab & Shrimp with Grilled Bruschetta” Both were light, filling and excellently executed.

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My friend enjoyed the grilled asparagus and the crab cake; both were fabulous in texture, flavor and presentation.

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We kept things on the light side as we were gearing up for the big kahuna….homemade coconut cake. This was rich, creamy and coconutty. I loved every bite.IMG_5127

So, what does one do after a beautiful day in Myrtle Beach? Why go shag dancing, of course.  We were directed to Fat Harold’s, which is located in North Myrtle Beach (roughly a $30 cab from central Myrtle Beach). Shag dancing, and Carolina beach music is a vibrant part of the culture here and one we were happy to take part in.IMG_5130

Fat Harold’s boasted several large dance floors, a great DJ spinning ’60s beach music classics and people of all ages SHAG DANCING. I, of course ,could only think SHAG THE MOVIE, and wondered when Pudge would appear with Chip for the big Shag off.  You do not need to be stuck in the 60s or 60 years old to love this place.

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Oh hey, Harold….

A tip from me to you? Don’t leave without buying a “I got shagged at Fat Harold’s” t-shirt.
It is currently the anchor of my wardrobe.

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Kids shagging the night away….nothin’ dirty now

After our full Saturday, we decided to take it easy on Sunday and take a long walk on the beach (no cheesy personal ad reference intended) and ended up walking about 4 miles down the beautiful, empty beach.IMG_5157

Our walk wasn’t aimless, we were aiming for BRUNCH. After loving our She-Crab soup at the hotel; we decided to search for some of the city’s best crab dishes and we were told the Sea Captain’s House was the place to go.

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We were a bit under-dressed on Sunday afternoon, as the crowd mostly seemed to be of the “after-church” variety; and we were in our sneakers and leggings from the walk.

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But you know what erases that feeling of being under-dressed?
$4 Bloody Marys.

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That’s right, this magical ship of seafood delights had delicious, flavorful, spicy bloody mary’s for a mere $4 each. Happy.  While we sipped our bloody marys, we were brought a basket of piping hot fresh hush puppies and softened butter. Dayam….this East Coast girl didn’t know the joys of deep-frying cornmeal until then. These were crisp on the outside and soft and lightly sweet on the inside. Swoon.

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But I digress from the main event…we were there for CRAB and lots of it. I opted for the Crab Cakes and Cheese Grits.  In a word? Southern perfection. The crab cakes were all-crab (no filler) and the cheese grits were so tender and cheesy, I wanted to take them out behind the barn for a make-out session.

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Will you be my boyfriend?

My friend got the crab casserole, which was also a delicious mix of creamy eggs, crab and cheese. Her casserole came with this amazingly fresh and varied fruit salad, blackberries, grapefruit and melon, the perfect fresh companion to Crabtown we were enjoying.

If you can believe it….there was more crab to be had. Not one to miss a “house specialty” we opted for the Hot Crab Dip for dessert. (what? crab dessert is a thing). It was hot, cheesy, with tons of lump crab.  Divine.

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After our crab dessert, it was time for real dessert, and we ordered a piece of  Hummingbird cake to share. Another Southern specialty! A spice cake with pecans, pineapple and banana and covered in cream cheese icing. Mmmm, cream cheese icing.

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After eating every low-country item they had, we wandered into downtown Myrtle Beach, with a stop at the Piggly Wiggly of course.

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Again, this East Coast/Cincinnati girl has never been to a Piggly Wiggly and could not miss a chance to check one out. IMG_5188

Hmmm, Myrtle Beachians do like their pimento cheese….IMG_5190

And Piggly Wiggly brand sodas….IMG_5191

After leaving the Pig, we did a little strolling on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk and some tacky gift-shopping at the Gay Dolphin. Oh Myrtle Beach, you’re fun.IMG_5204

After buying a Myrtle Beach themed Christmas ornament (thanks Gay Dolphin!), we headed back to the hotel to grab our stuff and head to the airport.

We packed alot of eating and fun into a few days in Myrtle Beach – even in the off-season, it was fantastic.

I think Chip and Pudge would be proud.

IMG_5194Yes, that’s me sitting in a Piggly Wiggly shopping cart waving. For anyone who’s ever been on vacation with me; this picture should come as no surprise.

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