Restaurants for Dinner
(2.5) Collectors Cafe – Recommendations and the quite interesting website for this restaurant had us particularly looking forward to dining there. Subsequently we were disappointed with the overall experience though that wasn't totally the fault of the restaurant. However, understandably, some might disagree with that contention because they believe an establishment should to a reasonable degree try to control the behavior of those patrons who are adversely affecting the other customers.
But before we dive into an explanation of the preceding, we want to note that for the first time visitor finding and accessing the restaurant can be a little confusing. Its address and the location diagram on their website lead one to think it's situated directly on North Kings Highway. It's not. Instead it's located in a block long row of shops with their own access "street" running immediately parallel to but separated from Kings Highway. Entrance to this row of buildings can only be gained by turning into either of the two avenues bounding the block. Yes, that was a little challenging since we weren't expecting such.
The layout of the interior of the restaurant is a little unusual also. Upon entering it appeared there was a somewhat narrow section leading straight back a good distance that included a bar and dining tables. To the left is the main, large dining room where our small reserved table for two near the back corner awaited.
As expected, we found very interesting dishes listed on the menu and had a bit of difficulty choosing among them because so many seemed appealing. We decided to share an appetizer that was described as being Cuban black bean cakes with fresh tomato jalapeno salsa, sour cream and guacamole. It was absolutely awful - loaded with grease and completely burned to a crisp. It was so burned on the outside the resulting hard shell tasted like what one might imagine charcoal would be. No self respecting Cuban would ever prepare or eat black bean cakes like that - not even a desperate one.
At the opposite extreme was Ed's entree of "hot Cajun spiced shrimp tossed with penne pasta and zucchini in a broth of tomatoes, white wine, jalapeno and cilantro". Spicy hot, hot, hot and good, good, good! Totally delicious. Did we mention it was spicy? Wonderfully so. Unfortunately, Sandra was uninspired and underwhelmed with her roasted rack of lamb with spinach, Feta, sun-dried tomato orzo and yogurt mint cucumber sauce. It was "OK" but certainly nothing exceptional.
However, apart from the horrible appetizer, the food really wasn't the problem. We should have suspected something wasn't going to be right when we first entered and could hear a dull roar coming from the large dining room. Once seated there it wasn't a dull roar, but rather a cacophony of very, very loud voices and laughter. In the central area of the room were three large, unrelated groups dining at long tables. The largest and loudest of all was one comprised of 10 - 12 people. These folk were just unbelievably crass and inconsiderate with the ones at either end shouting at one another to hold a conversation - not a few words exchanged, but a prolonged conversation. The din was unimaginable. Their non-local accents actually identified these people as likely being from a comparatively small geographic area of the U.S. which has a reputation, whether deserved or not, for folk being loud and rude. We'll leave it to your imagination where that might be.
On several occasions we complained to the waitress and her response was like a broken record every time: "Yes, it sure is noisy in here. That's because there are some large parties seated." Duh!
Was that the extent of our dissatisfaction with some of the obnoxious patrons of Collectors Cafe? Nope! Seated diagonally close by our table were the Drama King and Queen. Those two clearly wanted a nice place, perhaps to add to their sense of importance, at which to stage their theatrics. They basically were through eating (if in fact they did so) by the time we were first seated and departed only briefly before we did. One moment they would be leaning across their table holding hands, kissing and saying loving endearments, and the next there would be horrible, hurtful things spoken and lots of tears. As that scene changed back and forth repeatedly, occasionally one of them for emphasis would jump up and storm out of the dining room, but always to return and "make up." Some people's lives must be so devoid of anything meaningfully worthwhile that they resort to such soap opera nonsense to make themselves feel important. As best we could tell, one or perhaps both of this lovely couple were married to other people. The next time they stage such an event it would be helpful to the captive audience if they would hand out a background synopsis and brief biographic profiles of the key players, present and otherwise. By the way, we thought we ought to note this couple could use some serious help with their wardrobe. Both were inappropriately and, we might add cheaply, attired for the performance. In case you might be wondering, he appeared to be financially "challenged" and she proffered her credit card to cover the evening.
OK, readers, what responsibility if any does restaurant management have with respect to the conduct of their patrons?
Retrospectively we must have been in a state of shock and / or just way too tired from the day's activities to not have insisted we be relocated to the bar portion of the restaurant where it appeared to be much more quiet and the guests were conducting themselves in a civil manner. Also retrospectively we fear maybe we've been too generous with our 2 1/2 rating.
(2.5)Martinis Continental Dining and Piano Bar – Following the Fat Harold's Extravaganza we had Greg and Gina Moseley, and JD Cash and his friend Janet join us at Martinis as our guests. JD had recommended the restaurant and kindly organized the reservations before our trip. We later learned Greg and Gina also were previously familiar with this restaurant, but it was our first visit. JD had secured the perfect round table for us in the piano bar section. The restaurant is attractively decorated and has lots of "character and atmosphere" - that's meant in a quite positive sense. Generally, the wait staff as a whole were observed to be properly attired, polite and professional. We, however, believe our particular waiter screwed up big time and retrospectively (there's that hindsight thing again) wish we had (1) pursued the matter further and (2) not have provided our customarily generous tip.
All of the food around the table appeared to be high quality, well prepared and well presented, and potentially could have provided truly outstanding dining. That included our entrees of filet mignon and lamb chops, and the rib eyes and surf and turf (especially nice looking lobster tails) ordered by the others. The problem was every single dish was barely warm - they were more or less room temperature when served. JD remarked at the time that the entire order had probably been sitting way too long in the kitchen waiting upon our attendant to serve it and thinking back on the matter we would concur. Sandra took the waiter to task about her lamb chops and his offered solution was to reheat them. Sandra correctly observed that it was a no win situation. If they were sufficiently reheated they would become tough and "dried out." The waiter acknowledged she was right and offered no other alternatives. Our guests politely indicated they would be happy to make do with what was served, but we would have insisted otherwise if we hadn't known that redoing the meal would have thrown Greg and Gina even later on their drive home to Shalotte.
Our experience was a real pity and we hope is not indicative of what one might normally find at Martinis. If that one problem had not occurred we easily and in good conscience could have given this establishment a 4 rating - the highest thus far we've given any restaurant in Myrtle Beach.
On the bright side we had an absolutely wonderful time enjoying our guests and in that respect it most assuredly was a fun evening to remember. Among other things it was more than a little interesting to learn about and discuss the projects Greg Moseley, one of the Beach Music scene's brightest new stars, has in progress and planned. Exciting stuff. It was also obvious, as he had told us repeatedly in the past, that his wonderful wife Gina is hugely supportive and proud of his talent, and he relies upon her greatly for her excellent organizational skills. They're extremely personable, down-to-earth, nice people.
And of course there was never a chance of a dull moment with JD Cash and Janet there! By the way, JD was the first person to play publicly Greg's first song Carolina Tan. That happened at Club 2001. Yes indeed it was a fun evening.
(3.0) Cagney's Old Place – It probably just wouldn't be a proper trip for us if we didn't meet new people who are interesting, and that certainly happened this time around. Particularly notable on this one were Colleen and Brian, expatriates from Pennsylvania who relocated to Myrtle Beach about a year ago. Colleen had noted some of our comments on the internet and subsequently invited us to get together for drinks at Cagney's. We thought that was a splendid idea and in turn suggested we not only meet for drinks, but also do dinner.
We sat in the bar getting to know one another, sharing various observations about the transformation of Myrtle Beach over the years, its visitors these days and the people who actually decide to move from elsewhere to make the area their home. But we found as much as we liked Colleen and Brian and the rapport we shared, they can be difficult. No matter how much we insisted the most they would let us buy for them was drinks. There was no way we could convince them to let us cover dinner. As they say in the backwoods of these parts "guess they didn't like the color of our money." Don't you just hate it when you enjoy being generous and that happens? Oh well. Some of our readers actually know this couple and we must say if they've not already had the pleasure of doing so they should cajole Brian into sharing stories about his African safaris. Actually, apart from entertaining stories, both of them have any number of insightful observations worth hearing and contemplating.
We were enjoying chatting so much in the bar we were way beyond our reserved time for dinner when we finally presented ourselves to be seated. That didn't prove to be a problem because there were very few customers present which we found rather surprising, but it was a Monday evening and perhaps that had something to do with it. We were seated in an all glass solarium type section of the restaurant. It was somewhat dimly lit, but quite pleasant.
Ed swears it was the dim lighting which resulted in him picking up a small twice baked potato from beside his entree with his hand because he thought it was some sort of muffin. He quickly recognized his faux pas and subsequently consumed it using the proper utensils. Ed was particularly interested in having the baked scallops with parmesan dish we use to enjoy regularly at Cagney's twenty some years ago. The present day version was determined to be similar, but the sauce was quite thin compared to the rich, creamy one with which the scallops use to be accompanied. Still, it was very good. Sandra enjoyed her seafood casserole of back fin crabmeat, scallops, shrimp, and mushrooms in lemon, butter and parmesan, and thought it worth recommending.
We were very pleased with our experience at Cagney's and, no doubt, will be returning for future visits.
Other Dining Experiences
(4.0) Deckerz – We both had the barbecue sandwiches and extremely tasty fine cut french fries. We thought it was an excellent lunch which worked very well with the Coors Lights we were enjoying. We will definitely be doing that again on a subsequent trip.
It should be noted that though the portion sizes were perfect for us, it would be easy to imagine others finding the sandwiches to be on the small side, which indeed they are. In fact, they're about 1/2 the size that might be expected. So, if you're a big eater, order at least two of them. They really are delicious!
For those of you who might be wondering why we would give a more upscale restaurant like Cagney's 3 's and a basically a bar like Deckerz 4 's, we would suggest you read this brief explanation of our rating scale and the considerations related to it: Ratings.
(3.0) Margarita's Mexican Restaurant - Located at 9906 North Kings Highway. We were driving around exploring one morning when at about 11 am a torrential rain began falling and as we moved slowly along wondering where to take refuge we saw Margarita's. Hmmm - we had not enjoyed margaritas in Myrtle Beach since those many years in the past when it seemed we usually stopped once at the old Rosalinda's every trip. After sampling at least four each to be certain of our observations (wouldn't want to mislead our readers), we concluded the ones here were very acceptable, but not as good as those at Rosalinda's - mind you, we've never had one even in Mexico as good as those at our old haunt.
Immediately upon being served our first drinks a large bowl of tortilla chips was placed in front of us along with containers of two types of salsa - one mild and one hot, with the latter proving to be our decided favorite. After a while we studied the menu and then ordered a bowl of guacamole and a plate of Nachos with beans and beef. The beef quality was unusually good for this type of typical Mexican restaurant fare and the guacamole was just off the charts - loved that stuff. Altogether it was a lot of food, at least for us, and quite helpful in counteracting the liquid portion of our lunch. Throughout the time we were there the staff were very efficient, attentive and friendly.
If you visit this restaurant, which we do encourage, don't expect anything fancy. The decor and furnishings are best described as dumpy, but with character. Even the clear plastic margarita glasses with green cacti on the stems were tackily appropriate.
(2.5) Hoskins - This venerable restaurant has been in operation in the same location on Main Street in Ocean Drive forever - well, at least 50 years. Decades ago people could be seen lined up outside waiting for tables to become available and that's still the case today (no, not the same people). On this visit we must have been lucky because we were immediately seated at the only available table around 11:15 am. By the time we had finished the traditional line had formed.
Our experiences, including some of Ed's which go seriously way back, have always been that the food, though not especially remarkable, has always been reliably good. And the cost has always been reasonable. We found those virtues still to exist. We don't know if there was something about the timing of our visit which caused us to find most of the customers to be very senior citizens, but it made us feel downright young.
Ed indulged in the larger serving of fried shrimp which was found to be quite decent. The shrimp would have been even better if they had not been slightly overcooked and if more of the shell had been peeled away near the tail. The baked potato was nondescript, but the coleslaw from the salad bar was fabulous - that is fabulous if you like the variety that's sweet and this one also had bits of sweet pickle included. Sandra enjoyed a generous size serving of clam chowder with plenty of clam present. She did comment she would be inclined to "spice it up" quite a bit more.
Cafe Amalfi at the Hilton – We didn't dine at this restaurant this time and consequently have not assigned a rating. Ed did coffee and newspapers two mornings and had no complaints at all. The staff seem to have learned that he tips extremely well in such situations because he feels since he has occupied a table for an hour or so it's only appropriate.
The first visit as he sat immersed in the Myrtle Beach Sun News, Ed was surprised when he heard someone greet him by name and looked up to see a well attired young man extending his hand and introducing himself as Mark Wagner, Director of Restaurants for the Hilton. An interesting and enjoyable conversation ensued, and it was more than a little obvious Mark had read our prior travelogues. He was quite genuine with the apologies he volunteered for some of our less than desirable experiences at both the Amalfi and the Veranda Bar. He explained some of the changes that had been instituted and trusted they would address the matters we raised. He was disappointed that he could not entice us to join him for dinner at the Amalfi, but we were totally booked with prior commitments.
On another coffee morning Mark stopped by again and chatted for a while - he's a very likeable person. Ed was in fact impressed when he learned Mark attended Johnson & Wales - a very excellent and respected school for hospitality and culinary arts.