If you've never tasted fresh local oysters from the South Carolina coast, you're missing a savory, salty treat that's served by the bucket or in blue speckled roasting pans at Myrtle Beach area restaurants.
In either case, you get about two to three-and-a-half dozen oysters in a typical batch. Many people share a roast as an appetizer, or order a whole one as an entree.
Local South Carolina oysters do not look like the single select oysters such as you'd get if you ordered Oysters Rockefeller. The local variety is Cluster Oysters, and the name comes from how the oysters clump together in clusters. Some look like oyster condos with a big one in the middle and several small oysters stuck around it.
When you're shucking a Cluster Oyster, don't stop until you're sure you've reached the middle, because often the biggest and juiciest prize is tucked away at the cluster's core. Cluster oysters have notoriously jagged edges, so placing a rag of some sort in the hand that holds the oyster during shucking is a good precaution against cuts.
Your server might ask you how you want your oysters cooked. Some diners like them cooked dry, so the oysters are firm and there is no "oyster liquor," or juice, left in the shells. Others prefer them juicy and jiggly and savor every drop of the oyster liquor. If you're not sure what you'd prefer, order them medium.
Normal condiments that come with a roast are hot sauce, lemon and cocktail sauce. Some people like to put the oyster on a Saltine cracker and add a couple drops of hot sauce before relishing the treat. Melted butter is also nice to dip your oysters in before popping the salty morsels in your mouth.
Big E's Seafood & Barbeque, 1250 S.C. 9 E., Longs, 843-399-3399.
Locals who live west of the waterway swear by the oysters at Big E's.
Bimini's Oyster Bar & Seafood Cafe, 930 Lake Arrowhead Rd., Myrtle Beach, 843-449-5549.
Much great seafood and finger foods are on the menu at Bimini's, but they're known for Oyster Roasts.
Boom Boom's Raw Bar, 1407 13th Ave. N., North Myrtle Beach, 843-427-7304.
The kitchen cooks the delectable clusters just right. Boom Boom's is a great spend-the-evening party spot with its deck overlooking Vereen's Marina and the Intracoastal Waterway, and they have live music.
Crab Catcher's on the Waterfront, 4474 Waterfront Ave., Little River, 843-280-2025.
The restaurant is on the second story of this ramshackle building overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, and the seafood sandwiches are yummy.
Creek Ratz, 4065 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet, 843-357-2891.
If the weather is temperate, most people enjoy sitting on the waterfront patio to enjoy sandwiches and raw bar seafood.
Gulfstream Cafe, 1536 S. Waccamaw Dr., Garden City, 843-651-8808.
There is hardly a better place to catch a sunset in the entire Grand Strand, because this beautiful and spacious restaurant is at the south end of Waccamaw Drive on Garden City Beach and faces the inlet, toward the west. The setting sun over the inlet is magical. Oyster Roasts are not on the menu, but here's an insider's tip: Call ahead before you visit, and they'll steam a batch for you for $15.
Hot Fish Club, 4911 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet, 843-357-9175.
The Hot Fish Club has a gorgeous setting on the west bank of Murrells Inlet with a large lawn, children's playground and incredible view. A nicely appointed restaurant and bar are in the main building, and outside is a roomy gazebo where some legendary parties have taken place. You can eat inside or at the gazebo, where after 9 p.m. there's often live music.
This home-spun restaurant in downtown Conway serves a lot of great food from a popular lunch buffet to salads and seafood baskets.
Mr. Fish Seafood Restaurant, 3401 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, 843-492-3474.
Located in the heart of Myrtle Beach, Mr. Fish (Ted Hammerman) and his daughter, Sheina Hammerman, serve a variety of seafood, including sushi.
Nance's Creekfront Restaurant, 4883 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet, 843-651-2696.
Located on the waterfront in picturesque Murrells Inlet, Nance's has its own oyster beds.
Steven's Oyster Roast, 3912 Sea Mountain Highway, Little River, 843-399-3508.
Those looking for an authentic rustic oyster-eating experience should check out Steven's, which is all about the food instead of the decor. They're known for Calabash-style (fried and crispy) seafood and their oysters.