Eb & Flo’s, Bald Head Island
What to expect: Eb & Flo’s gets everything right, including the screened-in deck, the relaxed ambience, and especially the steamed seafood. The wine list may not be native to the seaside-shack genre, but it's a welcome touch nonetheless.
Check it out: 17 Keelson Row; 910/457-7217
Calabash Seafood Hut, Calabash
What to expect: In a legendary seafood town, this modest building hardly stands out―but the food does―shrimp, scallops, fish, and clam chowder. (“Calabash-style” generally means fried food lightly battered.)
Check it out: 1125 River Road; 910/579-6723
Jordan’s House of Seafood and Oyster Bar, Emerald Isle
What to expect: This plain concrete-block building turns out delicious broiled seafood, especially shrimp and scallops.
Check it out: 8106 Emerald Drive; 252/354-5722
The Giggling Mackerel Seafood Grille, Ocean Isle Beach
What to expect: It’s everything you’d expect in a seafood dive―boisterous atmosphere and loads of menu choices featuring the ubiquitous fried-with-fries basket. For healthier fare, try a local fish, lightly seasoned and grilled, and substitute a baked potato
Check it out: 65 Causeway Drive (under the bridge); 910/575-0902 or gigglingmackerel.com
Big Oak Drive-In and Bar-B-Q, Salter Path
What to expect: Strictly carry-out. Get the shrimp burger: fried shrimp, tartar sauce, coleslaw, and ketchup.
Check it out: 1167 Salter Path Road; 252/247-2588 or bigoakdrivein.com
Provision Company, Southport
What to expect: Dockside dining without walls. Great steamed shrimp, friendly atmosphere.
Check it out: 130 Yacht Basin Drive; 910/457-0654 or provisioncompany.com
The Raw Bar, Wrightsville Beach
What to expect: Sample fried fish, clams, crab, oysters, shrimp, and more, all so lightly battered they’re often mistaken for broiled.
Check it out: 13 East Salisbury Street; 910/256-2974
Ollie’s Seafood Restaurant, Beaufort
What to expect: Spicy steamed shrimp, crab cake sandwich, and Shrimp Burger in Paradise.
Check it out: 71 Sea Island Parkway; 843/525-6333
Steamer Oyster & Steakhouse, Beaufort
What to expect: Start with the seafood bisque. Also sample the local favorite Frogmore stew―not really a stew but rather steamed shrimp, sausage, potatoes, and corn on the cob.
Check it out: 168 Sea Island Parkway (on Lady’s Island); 843/522-0210
Pepper’s Porch, Bluffton
What to expect: Start with the “can’t choose platter” of bacon-wrapped scallops, deviled eggs, fried pickles, and fried green tomatoes. Then sample the shrimp and grits cooked in brown bacon gravy.
Check it out: 1255 May River Road; 843/757-2295 or peppersporch.org
Whaley’s at Edisto Beach, Edisto Beach
What to expect: This old filling station serves to-die-for fresh local shrimp on cheesy grits. Other divine offerings include crab cakes, pan-seared mahi mahi, and linguine with clam sauce.
Check it out: 2801 Myrtle Street; 843/869-2161
Bowens Island, near Folly Beach
What to expect: This legendary wreck of a place with great fried shrimp and, in season, roasted oysters, has reopened after a 2006 fire. Those nice, new walls are just begging to be covered with graffiti.
Check it out: 1870 Bowens Island Road; 843/795-2757 or bowensislandrestaurant.com
The Sea Shack, Hilton Head Island
What to expect: Wonderful fried seafood cooked to order and served hot. The crab cake doesn’t thrill us, but we love everything else―especially a creamy chowder called Seafood Stir-A-Bout.
Check it out: 6 Pope Avenue, Executive Park Road; 843/785-2464
The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene, Mount Pleasant
What to expect: You may get lost looking for the place, but the fried seafood is worth it.
Check it out: 106 Haddrell Street; 843/884-0052 or wreckrc.com
Orobosa’s Lowcountry Café, Pawleys Island
What to expect: While this dive’s atmosphere is casual, the crab cakes and other offerings will please the most sophisticated palates. At lunch, enjoy gourmet food on a budget. Prices double when the sun goes down, and dinner crowds make reservations a must.
Check it out: 85 North Causeway Road; 843/235-3464
The Shrimp Shack, St. Helena Island
What to expect: All the shrimp dishes are great, but you gotta get the shrimp burger.
Check it out: 1929 Sea Island Parkway; 843/838-2962
Russell’s Seafood Grill Raw Bar, South Murrells Inlet
What to expect: Oyster stew, then broiled seafood, then Key lime pie. Just-right meal.
Check it out: 4906 Business Highway 17; 843/651-0553
Updated May 2009