“The most important thing to know about Myrtle Beach’s restaurants is that we’re not shipping in a bunch of fish,” chef Adam Kirby says. The co-owner of South Carolina Grand Strand favorites Rustic Table and Bistro 217 would know. At his restaurants, he’s often the one catching them. For Kirby, an Atlanta-born chef and experienced angler who became a local legend when he reeled in a record-breaking black drum in 2017 off the Georgetown jetties, sea-to-table isn’t a trendy idea. It’s his way of life. Everything, he says, revolves around what’s swimming.
“We have such a great variety of fish here,” he says. “Right now, the mahi-mahi has just shown up offshore. If the wind’s not blowing, you’re going offshore to catch that along with wahoo and yellowfin. And if it’s too windy, we’re going up Waccamaw River for flounder. A couple of weeks from now, the flounder will slow down; then we’ll be fishing for redfish and black drum.” Kirby traces the seasons through the ebb and flow of the Atlantic, allowing it to dictate his menus and how he spends his free time.
“I get two days off a week. One of these days is for fishing. And the other is for my farm, Lake Swamp Farm, where I grow a lot of our produce for the restaurants,” he says. His Johnsonville property bursts with the best of the state’s favorites. Right now that’s twenty-two acres of speckled butter beans, twelve acres of silver queen corn, three acres of okra, an acre of potatoes, a ton of watermelon. “Tonight we’re going to do a gochujang roasted potato with some squash blossoms, peas, and beets and throw in some local arugula, melt that in there, and put a nice piece of fish on top.”
It’s an all-in regionally grown or collected approach but not exclusive to Kirby. He says the Grand Strand culinary community has become enthusiastically locally sourced.
“We have a lot of great chefs here,” Kirby says, naming restaurants like Soho, Claw House, SeaBlue, and Chive Blossom. They’re places where establishing close relationships with the area’s best anglers and farmers shapes every element of fine dining. And Kirby says the culinary excellence continues to grow with evermore restaurants opening along the sixty-mile stretch of the Grand Strand.
“This is such a beautiful place to live, and we have everything,” Kirby says. “We have the entertainment in Myrtle Beach, and there are tons of fun things to do with the family, then there’s golf with some of the best courses in the nation right here, and of course, the beach,” he says. “Oh, and the best shrimp in the entire world. I’ve lived all over the country and never eaten better shrimp than right here.”
There he goes crowing about seafood again. But Kirby can’t help it. When it comes to Myrtle Beach’s extraordinary foodways, he’s a true believer.
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