They call Murrells Inlet “The Seafood Capital of South Carolina,” and for good reason. The rich waters of the Lowcountry creeks and estuaries combined with the fishing fleets that sail out to deeper waters provide a perfect 1-2 punch for fresh local seafood.
The fishing and shrimping boats, the crab trappers and the oyster diggers literally deliver dinner to the local docks and directly through the kitchen doors of the many restaurants that call this small fishing community their home. Add a dash of Southern hospitality and a pinch of creative cuisine and this town is teeming with delicious seafood. Murrells Inlet also has lots of “landfood” offerings for a surf-and-turf feast.
Once every year, these award-winning restaurants gather to compete at the Taste of Inlet event to see which one serves the best local cuisine. On Jan. 25, more than 20 restaurants and hundreds of hungry patrons will take over Inlet Square Mall for some tasty competition in which everyone wins, especially seafood lovers with adventurous taste buds, and the beneficiary of the annual fundraiser – Murrells Inlet 2020.
Restaurants serve sample-sized portions of their best recipes and visitors purchase food and drink tickets for $1 each. Food items generally cost between two to four tickets, depending on the dish, but every bite is a bargain compared to the cost of dining out at a dozen restaurants in one night. It's a great way to get a taste of each establishment's cuisine to decide where you want to go out to eat in the future.
Among the participating restaurants in the 2015 event are Bliss, an upscale eatery featuring a creative menu; Bovines, a classic steakhouse amid a sea of seafood restaurants; Flo's Place, a Cajun cafe that serves seafood with a kick; Hot Fish Club, a seafood shack that lives up to its legendary name; Lee's Inlet Kitchen, one of the most famous and historic establishments in the Inlet; Murrells Inlet Smokehouse, where Southern BBQ and smoked seafood come together; On the Half Shell, famous for its fresh local oyster clusters; and Salt Water Cafe, which brings a taste of the sea to your table.
Of course, every booth is self-serve at Taste of the Inlet as diners stroll through isles of mouth-watering offerings. While restaurants keep their competitive dishes a closely guarded secret, you can count on plenty of shrimp, crab, oysters and fresh catches. The tapas-sized dishes are judged in various categories – best entrée, best soup, best dessert and even best booth decorations – all rated by a panel of judges and a people’s choice voting that allows you to vote for your favorites.
Among the past award-winning dishes are She-Crab Soup, Crab and Corn Chowder, Blackened Shrimp in a Creamy Creole Sauce, Oyster Rockefeller, Braised Beef Ribs, Mississippi Mud Pie and Tiramisu. There are also food items available for kids with pickier taste tubs, such as pizza, chicken fingers and ice cream. And there will be lots of soft drinks and alcoholic and beverages for the adults to choose from for only a few tickets.
Live music and roving entertainers, such as stilt-walkers and face-painters, will be on hand to add to the festive atmosphere. A couple of Murrells Inlet shops, the Lazy Gator and the Fuzzy Peach, will have wares on display for unique-gift shopping. Admission is $8 in advance and $12 at the door, and food and drinks tickets are for sale for $1 apiece. The event gets under way at 6:15 p.m. and runs through 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.murrellsinletsc.com.