7/13/2012

Original Benjamin's Calabash: Myrtle Beach, SC

So we have been to Myrtle beach several times and it is hard not to notice the plethora of "calabash" seafood buffet joints. I'm not typically a buffet-lover, but this time around we had my brother and his family in town and my preferences went out the window. They decided on the Original Benjamin's because is it supposedly the original calabash joint and the best in the area.

We had 4 small children with us (6 and under) so we decided to head out early thinking we'd beat the crowds. We got there sometime around 4:30 p.m. and already we had to park in the overflow parking lot. I was slightly nervous that this may be an all-evening event. They have an old pirate at the door greeting people and they give little mardi gras type bead necklaces to all of the kids. Kind of a fun touch for the little ones. Inside as you wait in line, there is a huge replica of the Queen Elizabeth II which is somewhat interesting to check out. Once you make your way through the initial hallway they take your info and hand you a buzzer. Yes...we were already on a wait at 4:30 in the afternoon mid-week. But, they do have a bar just for those waiting and they also have a huge children's area downstairs where they can play and dress up like sailors and swab the deck of a small boat and do puzzles and read books about the ocean and fish and sailors, etc. It's a nice way to keep them occupied.

Our wait was only about 15 minutes, and I was shocked it was so short considering the amount of people in that joint. Then again, we did get a coupon signed by our hotel's concierge that not only saved us $2 per person (regular price is $30 each), but also gave us VIP seating. I believe the party behind us waited nearly 45 minutes and was probably not seated as close to the buffet as we were. The place is huge and there are multi-levels and numerous rooms...all of which feed into one large central buffet area. One huge problem...for the hundreds of people they service...there is only ONE bathroom. And the women's bathroom that I, as a mom, typically frequent several times throughout the course of a dinner, only had 5 stalls. There were a couple trips that I waited in line (out the door into the buffet area) for nearly 15 minutes. Crazy!!!

Anyway...on to the food. There were several areas in the buffet room, one line being the calabash line with your lightly breaded and fried items. There was a main entree line with a pasta bar, beef roast, soups and more. There were lines with side dishes and a salad bar and a dessert line also. The lines got really quite long at some point and there were things I wanted to check out or try but simply didn't bother because I didn't want to wait 15 minutes to get it. In fact, the only reason I got any crab legs was because my awesome husband grabbed me 2 extra claws while I was waiting in line with daughter #2 at the bathroom for 15 minutes. I never did make it through the calabash line. I had looked all over the salad bar for fruit for my kids as that is the one thing I know they will eat. All they had was a canned tropical mix which didn't go over well. Ironically when things were winding down for us and we went through the dessert line...I happened to spot the cantaloupe, grapes and watermelon. Nice. Not sure why those things are considered dessert, but I was completely disappointed I hadn't known they were there sooner.

For those who like buffets, this place is a dream come true. They have so many foods to offer it is almost overwhelming. It is not the place for those who dislike crowds, those who have bladder control issues (see comments about bathrooms) and also not for those who are dining with small, impatient children. Don't get me wrong...they try to please the little ones. But, from start to finish, I believe our calabash adventure was nearly 3 hours long. By the end of it...everyone was in meltdown-mode. The food was OK...but it was buffet food. By that I mean mass produced quickly without care for quality or detail. That kind of thing just doesn't do it for me. I will say the nice thing about it being such a busy place is that things are always hot and always being replenished which is more than I can say for other buffet joints.

Let's face it...when in Myrtle Beach...calabash is something you need to try at least once. I wasn't necessarily unimpressed with Benjamin's (well, except for the fact that their handicapped parking spots outnumber the bathroom stalls) but I'm not much for buffets to begin with. They do a great job making people comfortable...even while they wait for a table. They have numerous options for food so everyone can find what they like. The staff are friendly and helpful. And they do their best to accommodate the mass amounts of people they feed as quickly as possible.

My recommendation: try it...at least once. Just be sure that when you go...you A) get a coupon from your hotel that specifies VIP seating and you B) are not in a hurry or an impatient mood! It will take some time and you will need to wait in lines. But hey...good things come to those who wait, right?




Original Benjamin's Calabash on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

  1. I'm really unsure why anyone would fall into such a tourist trap and think they have experienced Calabash Seafood....I mean, c'mon 30.00 for a mass produced buffet. Drive a little bit up Highway 17 toward NC until you see highway 179 off to the right. Follow that road into Calabash and then turn right on River Road. Go to the end. Pick one of those restaurants (our favorite is Dockside, although I also found Capt. Nance's good, too). You'll eat for less and have a good meal. BEWARE, there are some buffets in Calabash NC also- avoid them like the plague.

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  2. I ask myself the same question after my visit, but I guess that is what you do when you have visitors in town and for their first visit to the beach and on vacation. I was just along for the ride and wrote about it. I thank you for the tip on the short drive as I will be back in town in August and look forward to visiting the "REAL" calabash. Please let me know what ones to stay away from.

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  3. I've found with places like Benjamin's timing is the key - get there before the rush. The key with the other ones is just knowing where they are - thanks for the heads up! I have found there are a ton of great local restaurants just a little off the main strip - that’s a goal now on every Myrtle Beach vacation, finding the good spots the locals go to. Thanks Guys!

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