Summer sendoff packs a sizzle
The summer-closing festival along the Grand Strand is Labor Day weekend – the third annual Beach, Boogie & BBQ Festival, on Aug. 29-30. It will be held on the grounds of the former Air Force base, has no admission charge, and offers an array of activities.
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More than 60 teams will compete in the Barbeque Cooking Competition of South Carolina (ribs, chicken and whole hog/butt); the competition barbecue will be sold, with proceeds going to the Omar Shrine charity organization.
The International Federation of Competitive Eating's Barbeque Sandwich Eating Championship will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 30 (that Saturday).
There will be live music both days: Still Cruzin' Beach Band and John Michael Montgomery (both the evening of Aug. 29); Clay Brown and the Legend Band, and The Flashbacks Beach Band (the morning and afternoon, respectively, Aug. 30).
There will be fireworks shows both nights. Details: 843-916-7221; www.sunfunfestival.com/beachboogiebbq.
DINING NORTH MYRTLE BEACH
Empire Fire Mongolian Grill
The place: 4036 U.S. 17 S., North Myrtle Beach. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday. Details: 843-663-3808.
The taste: Though it may look like a typical Asian restaurant, Empire Fire goes a step beyond traditional restaurant and hibachi fare. The place boasts a cool concept – a Mongolian bar featuring a variety of meats and vegetables that you pick out yourself and present to the chefs to cook for you. I heaped my bowls – one for meat and one for veggies – with beef, bean sprouts, snow peas, broccoli and green peppers. Other veggie options included baby corn, carrots, several types of cabbage, mushrooms, celery, scallions, water chestnuts and squash. Meats included beef, chicken, lamb, ham, pork, shrimp, scallops and imitation crab meat.
Then there are the sauce options. A mixture of sauces creates the place's signature sauce, but you can ask for more of one or another. I went heavy on the spicy chili sauce and was pleased with the result. The vegetables were perfect – the snow peas still had crunch and the broccoli was soft, but not mushy. Our server brought us small bowls of fried rice to enjoy with the entree, but the dish was good on its own.
Empire Fire also has a sushi bar, a steak and ribs bar, a salad bar, a dessert section and ice cream by the scoop.
To drink: Beer, wine and soft drinks are available.
The price: Prices vary, but an all-you-can-eat dinner for an adult was $10.95, and lunch was $6.95. Mary Erskine, The Sun-News
PARTYING MYRTLE BEACH
The place: 1306 N. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach. Kitchen hours: 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Bar hours: 10 a.m.-closing daily. Details: 843-448-4314.
The vibe: Groups of people cluster around the bar inside or at tables outdoors at this pier in the heart of Myrtle Beach. Drink a cold one and grab a bite to eat while gazing down the Carolina coastline.
The crowd: Sandy, sun-kissed families and couples in beach attire take a load off. Tourists and locals take in the scenery with a stroll down the pier.
The drink/the taste: Choose from a variety of beer, wine and specialty drinks. Sixteen-ounce Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Yuengling drafts go for $2.75, and specialty draft is $3.50. Or you can opt for a $3 domestic or $3.75 premium bottle. Wine ranges from $5.50 to $8 per glass.
One specialty is the $6 Sex on the Pier (vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and Sprite).
Happy hour specials run from 4 to 6 p.m. daily and include $3.50 vodka and $2.50 Bud Light draft.
If you're in the mood for a snack, try the $4.50 seafood bisque or the signature $7 shark bites.
The sound: One-man band Robert Cooper performs in the bar area nightly.
Overheard: “Apparently, his pants caught on fire or something.”
Jessica Foster, The Sun-News