Dining out in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, can be both a blessing and a challenge – a blessing because there are so many award-winning restaurants to choose from, and a challenge because, well, there are so many award-winning restaurants to choose from. The good news is there are no wrong answers; it's all a matter of taste.
The easy part is enjoying all the wonderful culinary options available, but the difficulty comes in trying to decide which of the Grand Strand's more than 1,700 restaurants to dine at during your vacation stay. In fact, you could eat three meals a day for more than a year and half without visiting the same Grand Strand restaurant twice. But for those who can't get away with taking that much time off to tour every restaurant in the Myrtle Beach area, there's a one-night alternative to do the next best thing.
The 34th Annual Taste of the Town will take place Oct. 17 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, which is just over 1.5 miles from Bay View on the Boardwalk in downtown Myrtle Beach. More than 50 area restaurants, bars and bakeries will put their best dishes forward to compete for awards in the food, drink and dessert categories. But the real winners are the thousands of patrons who attend this event every year to enjoy some great grub, dance to live music, and hang with friends new and old.
The full list of 2017’s participating restaurants has not yet been released, but each year Taste of the Town features an impressive lineup of establishments and dishes. The chefs keep their creations close to the apron in hopes of getting the edge on the competition – and wowing both judges and patrons with small-plate samples that highlight their restaurants' menus. Bay View on the Boardwalk guests can get a taste of the Grand Strand dining scene in one central and festive place.
For those attending the Taste of the Town fundraiser for the St. Andrew Catholic School for the first time, here are a few pointers for enjoying the event:
* Pre-Game Preparation: While it's physically impossible to sample every dish at Taste of the Town, you can maximize your experience by simply timing your trip right. Have a light breakfast or lunch to be ready for an early dinner, and beat the rush by going when the doors open at 4 p.m. – before the lines get too long. Some night owls wait to go later at night, when things drop off before the 10 p.m. closing time, but then you run the risk of missing out on the more popular dishes. You can also save some time and money by purchasing advance tickets online or at local outlets. Tickets are $5 in advance and $6 at the door, but you won't have to stand in line if you already have tickets in hand – you can use that extra buck for another food ticket.
* Meal Planning: It's tempting to simply follow your nose from booth to booth for some random tastings, but Taste of the Town offers the rare chance to check out restaurants you've visited before and love, as well as those you have never heard of before. Scan the free program you get at the door to read the list of participating restaurants, and mark the ones you want to check out on the map so you can budget your tickets wisely. Be sure to stock up on $1 food tickets when you enter so you don't have to go back for seconds, and don't forget to bring your ID if you plan to drink alcohol. Taste of the Town is a stickler on beer and wine sales.
* Divide and Devour: Covering the entire Myrtle Beach Convention Center is unrealistic, but there is strength in numbers. Join forces with family and friends to gather samples, then meet back at a table being held by one member of your party to share dishes. Use your program to score which restaurants and dishes you want to vote for in the People's Choice Award categories for best entree, dessert and booth decorations. The beer garden is a good spot for the grown-ups, while those with kids can keep them occupied in the Kid’s Zone play area. Also, if your little ones are picky eaters, Taste of the Town also offers the basics – like pizza, chicken nuggets and ice cream.
* Post-Game Recovery: Most people leave Taste of the Town in a food-induced haze, so you might want to call a cab or an Uber to get back to Bay View on the Boardwalk. Once inside, kick back and relax in your oceanfront room or on your private balcony overlooking the beach, and make a mental note about which restaurants you want to add to your Myrtle Beach dining list. It's a great way to take your taste buds for a mini-vacation to a culinary paradise.