A slew of seafood restaurants beckon you off U.S. 17 on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. These are the places where we stop when we're out cruising for coastal cuisine.


Here's a quick word association quiz: We say "Pawleys Island." You'd say "hammocks," right? You'd also be correct saying "great seafood." This South Carolina coastal town is better known for its hand-woven hammocks, but you'd be missing out if you didn't save some serious time for taking in these terrific restaurants.

Louis's at Pawleys/The Fish Camp Bar
Louis's has the location: smack-dab in the middle of the Pawleys Island Hammock Shops Village--a cottage-like collection of little galleries and such. Way-cool decor with brightly colored original art lights up the warm wood tones here. Chef/owner/

Lowcountry cuisine legend Louis Osteen moved back to the promised land of Pawleys from Charleston, South Carolina, to reopen the old place last spring. Good for him. And good for us too.

We get to enjoy such treats as the definitive dish of shrimp and grits--an essential item in the education of a Southerner. However, I fell in love with the baby flounder with sweet-onion jam and "pound cake" potatoes. This baby was huge--both in flavor and size. I'd hate to see the mama. (No way she'd fit on a plate either.) To finish, go for the Perfect Lemon Cheesecake (that's what it's called on the menu), and that is no brag--just fact. 10880 Ocean Highway (in the Hammocks Shops Village); (843) 237-8757. Entrées: $17-$30.

Frank's Restaurant and Bar
This place remains a favorite. In an area where big neon signs cajole you, it's nice to know that low-key, Lowcountry style and fabulous food still have a place. There are actually two restaurants here, but they have separate menus, chefs, and kitchens. Frank's Restaurant and Bar has indoor seating only; Frank's Outback (no relation to the ersatz Aussie chain restaurant) features both inside and outside seating under a canopy of trees.

I've never dined at Frank's Outback because I've never been able to resist the indoor restaurant. There are plenty of delicious reasons. One is the pan-fried grouper with shrimp and Dijon mustard-three peppercorn cream sauce. Executive chef Pierce Culliton tried taking it off the menu, but too many locals protested. Note to Pierce: Don't take the crab cake appetizer with whole-grain mustard cream sauce off the menu either. You must also keep the mixed baby greens topped with raspberry vinaigrette, pecans, and dry blue cheese. That is especially fabulous when it's paired with a glass of Rodney Strong Merlot. For dessert, crack the top of the simply elegant, just-sweet-enough crème brûlée. 10434 Ocean Highway; call (843) 237-3030, or visit www.franksandoutback.com. Entrées: $19.95-$26.95.

Litchfield Plantation
You don't have to be a guest staying at this secluded country inn to enjoy dinner, but it helps the mood. The setting is fabulous: an elegantly preserved rice plantation with a quarter-mile allée of 200-year-old live oaks leading up to the 250-year-old mansion.

Their Carriage House Club, set in a one-story, brick building near the main house, drips with posh--almost to the point of stuffiness and pretense. But I'm spellbound by the dramatic full-length windows, for they reveal a marvelous view of the moss-draped, tree-shaded outdoors.

You wonder if something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich here would be the best you've ever had, given the location. Taking enchantment into account, the she-crab soup was thick and rich but a tad heavy on the aged sherry. Much more pleasing was the Pawleys Island crab cake, served with lobster-tarragon sauce. For the main course, I chose oven-roasted duck breast with blueberries and port reduction sauce. My dessert selection: the bourbon pecan pie. It was every bit as good and rich as it sounds. It's important to make reservations here. Kings River Road; (843) 237-9322 or 1-800-869-1410. Entrées: $23-$28.50.

This article is from the May 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.