Monday, August 6, 2007

Seafood Capital of the World

First, a hearty thanks to Barry over at Enrevanche for the occasional post to They Rode On while I was busy enjoying a Saturday night stock car race, NC beaches, barbeque, and too much deep-fried seafood and hand-dipped Mayfield ice cream in "the seafood capital of the world."

Since this blog purports to claim food as an occasional topic, let me offer a few suggestions to anyone lucky enough to visit Calabash, NC, in the near future. After years of spending a week at Sunset Beach, about five miles up the coast from Calabash, I've tried most of the restaurants in town at least once. Every regular visitor to Calabash has a personal favorite. Dad's is The Seafood Hut, on the left after you make the turn at the light and head toward the dock. They have great seafood there, but last time I went (admittedly a few years ago), they only took cash, and I don't tend to travel with a lot of that, so we opt for Dockside instead.

Everyone has his or her own standard to judge a seafood house by, so here's what my family likes about Dockside, and you can judge from there. First, great service. (As our waitress came by the table the first time, carrying a tray of food to another table, she smilingly said, "I'll be right with ya'll." I could write a paragraph about why that mattered, but if you need the paragraph, you won't get it anyway.) Awesome, hot, plentiful hushpuppies. One family member's favorite is the deviled crab and another's is the shrimp and fish and clam chowder. My wife and I split the deluxe platter because we love all of the above and oysters and scallops, and we still have more food than we can eat. All hot, all fresh, all great.

Need a break from seafood, or allergic to it? Then try Tony's Pizza, on the right, just past The Seafood Hut, but before you get to Dockside. If we're down for the week, we'll hit Tony's at least once.

After dinner, there's only one place in Calabash that people in the know go for ice cream: The Back Porch. Once upon a time, it was in a tiny little building that really was more porch than building. But a few years ago, it moved to a location just across Beach Drive from Callahan's. For at least the decade that we've been visiting, Vivian has been hand-dipping Mayfield ice cream (my new personal favorite is Extreme Moose Tracks), and making true southern sundaes complete with wet nuts. If you don't know what wet nuts are, you are not a NC native. (Hint: to make some for yourself, take a mason jar, fill it with walnuts, then pour in Aunt Jemima Pancake Syrup to the top, put a lid on, let it sit for a week, then try that as a topping for your favorite ice cream.) A few years ago, a rival "creamery" moved in within spitting distance of the old porch. I can't comment on that other place except second-hand, and none of that has been good, bless their hearts. Go to the Back Porch.

Before you do though, you'll need to let that hefty helping of artery-hardening, deep-fried seafood settle, so if you're like our family, you'll need to spend an hour or so wandering around in Callahan's, across the street. Buy a t-shirt, pick up some new beach jewelry. If you leave with less than a pound of fudge, you're not trying. But, for heaven's sake, do not buy a hermit crab, unless your plan is to name it Willy and take it back to the ocean and set it free the very next day. You get lots of Karma points for that.