These restaurant reviews are in chronological order from our trip last week (August 14, 2010-August 21, 2010). I have also thrown in a review of Ripley's Aquarium which we also visited. Now keep in mind, that Josh and I don't eat seafood, which is really big down there, so I have no first hand knowledge about that. I'm putting the links at the end of this post because I'm lazy and I don't feel like making a linky for every single one lol.
Angelo's Steak and Pasta
Ok, this place is rated pretty high on trip advisor and we went to the early bird dinner ($11 from 4-6, I believe), so we figured it would be a good bet for our first night. And for all intents and purposes it was pretty good. I (and the kids, though they were free) had the buffet. However, due to the kids attitudes (after being trapped in the car for 13 hrs) I didn't really get to enjoy very much of the food except some of the Italian sausage and pasta which was really good. The buffet is not very big at all (10 items-ish, not including sauces) and it isn't a serve yourself type of deal. There is someone up there and you ask them for what you want, which I found very odd. I mean it's nice, because there aren't a bunch of ppl up there sneezing on your food, but it was like I was asking permission to eat something I already bought. IDK, it was probably just me, but I thought it was strange. Josh had a steak and even though they tout having the "best steak in the universe", he says it was nothing special. Just a steak with not much flavor (though it was very tender and cooked properly). Another thing to mention is that the kids, while their dinners were free, their milks were $2.50 each (I guess they have to make their money somewhere). So for 1 early bird buffet, 1 steak, 1 beer, 3 kids milks and tip (they included it which I CANNOT STAND because we always tip 20% so they end up shorting themselves, and it said that they do it for groups of 10 or more and we only had 9, all with separate bills, so I guess we just looked cheap or something lol) it was $43. One of the cheapest meals we had and I would give it probably 3-4 stars
In my opinion, this was the second best meal we ate. I easily could have gone here 3 or 4 times that week and had something different each time. First of all, after 5 o'clock they have a DJ outside to entertain the crowd that is waiting which is really nice and makes it seem to go faster. The place has a very cool ambiance and the kids were staring at all the fish and stuff hanging up on the ceiling. They start you off with hush puppies and honey butter (I could have made a meal out of these, and Jack practically did). The buffet has anything you could think of including prime rib. Now, I know what you're thinking, buffet prime rib...umm no thanks. But it was very tender and juicy (they give you the au jus) and it was equally as good as a prime rib dinner I ordered from a steak place later in the week. Also there are plenty of other meat and side options and there is any kind of sea food you could want (mostly fried, but lots of it wasn't) and the kids almost ate them out of fruit (4 PLATES EACH!). I tried crab for the first time (not a fan of the texture, but at least I can say I tried it, now and it did taste very fresh). I got a margarita at every dinner except for Angelo's and this one was the best. You could really taste the alcohol in it (a lot of places try to skimp thinking you wont notice b/c it's a mixed drink). Also our waiter was very nice and kept the plates and drinks coming and the restrooms were very clean (oh and when we were walking in a man was coming out of the mens room with toilet paper stuck to his shoe. I was sure that only happened in movies! lol). Each adult buffet was $25, the girls were $5 each and Jack was free. So for dinner for everyone, 1 beer, 1 margarita and not including tip, it was $72. And I could easily give them 5 stars.
Latitude 22/River City Cafe (the one at surfside beach)
Ok, there was a bit of confusion about this place in the beginning because up until this summer (or maybe even part of this summer) this was Latitude 22 (Caribbean food etc). However when we got there we were told that it is now River City Cafe (which is why we passed it...twice). We reluctantly decided to stay even though it was obviously just burgers and fries. It is beach front and you can eat outside overlooking the beach, if you want, which is nice. The tables/chairs/walls/floors are covered with customer graffiti and peanut shells. It has a definite beach-side lunch feel and the waitress said that's their really busy time. I had the BBQ bacon cheeseburger and it was huge and really good (though, the general consensus was that the burgers were overdone, we like a little pink and some juice to run down your chin lol). Each meal comes with tons of hand cut fries (think fair fries). We got all three of the kids their own meals (1 chicken, 1 hot dog and 1 grilled cheese), Josh and I got burgers, 1 beer and 1 margarita (prob 2nd best all week) and the bill was only $38 before tip. The food came fast, everyone left full and happy and it was obviously cheap. There was a bit of disappointment in the beginning, but if you know what kind of place it is before you go there, it is worthy of 4 stars, FOR WHAT IT IS. Not fancy or pretentious just burgers and sandwiches and fries in a casual, beachfront atmosphere. Oh and also, our waitress was really great too.
After we left River City, we took the kids to
We had to wait in line just to get tickets to get into the place. I sort of thought it would be less busy at night when most people are at dinner, but IDK, maybe it's better during the day? Anyway, while waiting in line, the girls had to pee (of course). They actually let us in to pee, which was really nice. I'm sure if we were dishonest, we could have just stayed and they never would have known. So I was glad they saw that it was an emergency and not a con lol. The restrooms were nice (however you have to go down 3 ramps just to get there :-P). Once in there we realized that you CAN bring strollers in (a lot of aquariums wont let you) so Josh went BACK out to the car to get Jacks stroller (what a good daddy). Right after we got there, we sort of ended up in this dive show (rainbow rock?) and that was pretty cool. They only have a few of them a day, so I guess we just got lucky and happened to be there right when it started. Then we went and looked around. We all really enjoyed it because we like animals and stuff like that. The girls LOVED walking through the shark tunnel (it's really long too so you don't feel gypped). The one thing that we weren't able to even see was the new exhibit they have called "lethal weapons" or something like that. It was PACKED and originally we thought it was a line, but no. It's just 500 ppl crammed into a tiny room and never moving. I thought I lost the kids about 15 times b/c it's impossible to even move in there alone, let alone holding 2 little girls hands. We ended up leaving that room and I know Josh was disappointed in that. I'm sure it's cool, but you just can't even see the tanks and stuff. It was $50 for all of us (Jack was free, the girls were $4 each and we were $19 EACH!, which I think is probably how they make their money, since the kids can't come in alone lol). Speaking of making money, my only REAL complaint on the place is that you are not allowed to leave without going through the gift shop. I mean, I'm no idiot, I get it, they are trying to get you to give in to your kids and buy some stupid $15 stuffed animal they don't need. And trust me, I'm no push-over, I know how to say no to my kids (unlike some people). But the point is, why should I have to put a sour end to a perfectly lovely visit to the aquarium? Everything was fine and dandy until I had to say "no you don't need that" 100 times in a row for the last 5 minutes trying get through the gift shop maze just to get out of the place (it's not even a straight shot, you have to practically go around every single thing in the store). For this reason alone, I would not recommend this place to families with small children. Sorry, but until they can make the gift shop optional, we will not be back. I don't appreciate being hustled, it just left a bad taste in my mouth.
I have heard lots of good things about this place and we were surprised by the decent prices when we looked at the menu. We didn't have to wait to be seated (but this was the case with everywhere we went because we usually got there by 5 so the kids could be eating at their normal dinnertime). I got a half rack of ribs and a margarita. Josh got the "drunken ribeye" and beer, we got all three of the kids a macaroni and cheese dinner (BIG mistake, b/c it's HUGE and comes with fries. talk about carbo-loading. how about a vegetable or some applesauce?) The waiter was good. The ribs were fine. The steak was fine. My mother in-law said her chicken was dry. IDK but we just left kinda feeling like we could have had a better steak dinner at Texas Roadhouse in our town in Ohio. I'm sure that for the locals, it's good, but for us, it seemed like a waste of time when we're only there for a week. I cannot remember exactly how much that dinner was, but I think it was about $85 which was fine since we took home the equivelant of a box of macaroni and cheese and an entire loaf of bread lol. I would say probably 3-4 stars for tourists, and a solid 4 for locals.
OK, again we were here at what is considered early bird dinner so the menu is smaller and the portions are smaller. I got the 10 oz prime rib and a margarita, Josh got the 20 OZ(!!!!) prime rib (he had to ask b/c it's on the regular menu only) and beer and we split one child's pizza dinner (like the size of a personal pan pizza and it came with fries and he gave us some bread sticks too) between all three of the kids. The desserts looked soooo good and I probably easily could have taken one home, but resisted since I had just had prime rib lol. I would say that the prime rib was really good, probably 4 stars, (however, only equally good when compared to Crabby Mikes because all of the flavor was in the au jus instead of on the meat itself). It was cooked really well (we both ordered med rare and they were both "still kickin", as we say). When the bill came it was $75. They did include tip, but we added another $5 just because it's one of those family owned places his family has been going to forever and the service was pretty good. All around, I'd give it 4 1/2 stars.
Bennetts Calabash Buffet (the one at 9701 N. Kings Hwy)
One big meh. In my opinion this was cruise food. In other words, food made for masses of people that doesn't need to be good, it just has to fill up their stomachs and get them out the door. It was fine, I guess but the add says "120 items" and I'm just wondering if that's counting each and every fried shrimp or what, because there was definitely NOT 120 items. A LOT of the food tasted like KFC. Like the mac & cheese and the seasoning on the breading. It just was...meh. Nothing special at all. In my opinion it was a waste of time. I got the kids chicken tenders and I could hardly cut them with the fork and knife. I did have 2 slices of prime rib because that was actually pretty descent and had some flavor (though no spoon to get any of the au jus???). The T-Bone steaks looked about as hard as rocks so I didn't touch them and I mostly just ate the prime rib and the hush puppies. I forgot to ask anyone that ate the seafood how it was, so **Linda if you had any, feel free to comment on that. Also, the floors were sticky and my margarita was just one big giant shot of tequila (maybe they were trying to liquor me up so I wouldn't notice the food...) Here's the kicker, the buffet is $27 PER PERSON and the kids were $6 each, I think. So total was about $75. For that kind of money, I would expect something MUCH better than that. I would say that 3 stars is MORE than generous and they only get that because the prime rib was decent and I'd rather have all liquor than none at all ;-)
Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse
This is a place that we had heard of through my parents. They go every year to Myrtle Beach and sort of accidentally went here last year. When they walked in, they asked how much it was, because it looked so nice, and were shocked to hear "$35 per person". They decided they'd go somewhere else but as they were leaving the hostess stopped them and said "what can we do to make you stay". They said, "well it's not that, it's just a little more than we had planned to spend tonight". The owner/manager came out and told them, he'd give them 10% off their meal if they'd stay because "our policy is to not let anyone leave before they've tried the food". So they stayed. And they came home just RAVING about it, so we had always planned on going. We were elated to find out that children under 6 are free. (however, in my opinion they should also have a reduced price for children 7-12 because we would never be able to bring the kids when they are over 6). The waiter explained how it worked when we got seated and he said "see if the kids will eat what we have, but if they wont we have food for the small children too. I got them each a plate of the side dishes that were up there and they did eat some of it because they are used to eating a lot of veggies and stuff. But jack just wasn't happy with polenta, mashed potatoes and vegetable salad. Before I could even ask the waiter for some kids food, he just appeared, with plates of mac & cheese, chicken tenders and french fries. It was like magic and I loved it. lol. After Josh and I were done with our side dishes they came and gave us new clean plates and we flipped over our coaster to the green side, which means you are ready for the meat service to start. And oh.em.gee did it ever start! It was amazing. I could hardly keep up with all of the different "gauchos" with all of these different meats on skewers and they'd ask you if you'd like some and they just slice it off onto your plate. Oh my goodness, it was easily the best meal I've ever eaten in my life (and that's saying a lot because I'm a foodie and I'm hard to please when it comes to food). I don't know what the seasoning is that they use but it is soooo delicious. And the meat is sooooo tender and cooked perfectly it just cut like butter. My favorite was the garlic beef, oh and the filet mignon. But the bacon wrapped chicken and bacon wrapped steak medalions were also amazing. Oh who am I kidding, it was ALL amazing! I was actually glad that I hadn't liked very much of the side dishes on the buffet, because I was already stuffed by the end. It was hard because the food was sooo good and you just want to keep eating, but you can't. We did also, get desserts and brought them home. My chocolate mousse cake was just amazing!! Josh's turtle cheesecake met an untimely demise in the cooler on the way back to Ohio. It was rescued, but still wasn't all that great. I think there was just a LOT of cheesecake and not much crust/topping so the ratio wasn't right. SO, for 2 dinners, 1 margarita, 1 beer and 2 desserts, before tip, it was $105 and WELL worth it. Now, I'm just not sure what we'll do if we go back when the kids are older lol. Oh and the strangest thing is, it's owned by the same people that own T-Bonz, but we had two totally different experiences. Anyway, Rioz is an easy 5 stars. The only time I would NOT recommend it is if you are a picky eater who also doesn't like much meat or if all of your kids are in the 7-12 range and don't eat very much.