Driving down Highway 501 with only 45 minutes left
of travel time, the promises of a small town with quaint eateries, friendly locals and charming shops can’t seem farther away. The only visible hope in sight is a pirate-themed dining joint located at “the beach.” However, if you dare to proceed, you will find the most glorious hidden gem, which I have designated “Pleasantville.”
The scenery quickly changed from highway strip malls to oak trees reaching their limbs over hidden side streets and a city center that seems nostalgic yet full of life. We drove through a couple blocks of town to finally discover our respite for the weekend, The Cypress Inn.
Where to Stay
After ringing the doorbell of The Cypress Inn, we were greeted by the innkeeper who gave us the tour of the chandelier lit entryway, two quaint living rooms, a dining room with freshly baked cookies, snacks and beverages and then eventually our room. Our spacious room, called the “Ferdinand Room,” was on the first floor overlooking the marina. It was outfitted with a queen size bed, two large windows, beautiful furniture, two plush robes and all toiletries just in case we forgot to pack an essential. Each morning, a spread of breakfast items was provided downstairs for guests to enjoy. The location, the amenities and the overall charm make The Cypress Inn the place to stay. For the active guest, the location is perfect to simply walk to any of the planned activities. However, the visitor looking for a relaxing weekend away can just as easily nestle in for a good read or entertaining movie from the many bookshelves in the library.
Where to Eat
For all of the charm and history to take in, Conway also has a vibrant dining scene.
Rivertown Roasters is the perfect place for a quick coffee and light bite. A small batch coffee roaster located right on Conway’s Main Street, Rivertown roasts their beans on site and to order. They pride themselves on providing coffee in the way it was meant to be enjoyed, fresh and full of natural flavor. The owners, Lee and Brenda, left the corporate world to provide something that gets lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life — a wonderful cup of coffee and good conversation.
The eclectic Crady’s specializes in lunch, brunch, catering and desserts — and it shows. They are known for their signature specialty personal quiches, and the crab and brie variety did not disappoint. To round out a perfect Sunday brunch, we enjoyed “Ms. Barbara’s Specialty Flavored Iced Tea” and “Crady’s Mozzarella Caprese” which was just as much beautiful as it was absolutely delicious. Their take on the caprese included fried green tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, house made pesto and a balsamic glaze.
The Trestle — a café, bakery and catering trio — is where much of the town can be found at lunchtime on a Saturday afternoon. Upon entering the front door, diners are greeted with the flurry of lunch chatter coupled with a 50s style diner interior and antiques stored on bookshelves running the length of the restaurant. Trestle is known for its chicken salad, and the hickory-smoked BLT is the most crisp and delicious of its kind.
Rivertown Bistro is a perfect blend of rustic elegance and creative yet comforting flavors. We slipped into our cozy booth on the second floor which showcased the interesting architecture and energy of the spot. The menu offers everything from crispy, fried oysters to sushi rolls to a pan roasted duck breast. We started with the artisanal cheese and meat board featuring Bresola, Garlic Sausage, Burrata, Maple Smoked Cheddar, Olive Oil toast, fig balsamic glaze, toasted pine nut brittle and pickled cherry peppers. We then shared the fried goat cheese salad — a decadent meal in itself — accompanied by candied orange, beets, carrots, mixed greens, orange cranberry vinaigrette and toasted pecans. I then ordered a special offered of Mahi Mahi, yellow stone ground grits and Brussels sprouts, while Alex, my husband, had a dish that looked both interesting and delicious — a lobster, shrimp and scallop au gratin over a fried zucchini boat with mashed potatoes.
The Crafty Rooster offers a casual option for dinner. We snagged a table toward the front of the restaurant and watched regulars pop in and out to visit with friends or just grab a beer from the bar. The menu features everything from wings and bar bites to deluxe hamburgers, sandwiches and salads with any topping imaginable. I enjoyed their classic “Crunch Fingers” dipped in the “ragin” sauce for a little extra kick, while Alex reveled in the “Chicken Bog” staple which included a mixture of shredded chicken, smoked sausage and rice, slow-cooked to perfection with their special blench of veggies and spices.
Overall, we felt like we ate our way through Conway. But honestly, that’s not a bad way to do it. Each restaurant has its own very distinct character, specialty flavor and personal touch.
What to Do
Waccamaw Outfitters offers guests pontoon tours down the beautiful Waccamaw River. Owner Matt Varnadore is as equally gracious as he is informative and fun and drove us into many hidden alcoves along the way, including to the famous “Trestle” that is still in use. He told us stories about how the floods have affected the river as well as where locals gather during the summers. A boat, kayak or sunset tour with Matt is a definite must-do during a trip to Conway.
The highly acclaimed Horry County Museum offers an abundance of historical artifacts impressive for a local museum in such a small town. From the military exhibits to the local natural history, the Native American influences to the agriculture and industry of times past, as well as the evolution of Horry County beaches through the years was fascinating to take in.
Encore Florals and Gifts is an absolutely beautiful and charming store, perfect for a little shopping spree and wine tasting. The historic Quattlebaum House is an entire 3,700-square-foot home turned retail space. Owner Jeff Hardwick and his sister, Julie Hardwick, greet each shopper with a glass of wine and made me instantly feel at home. The items in each room are arranged so I felt like I was finding hidden gems in my grandmother’s jewelry box. Almost each piece of furniture, artwork, candle or throw pillow is available for purchase. It’s an absolutely beautiful culmination of florals, interior pieces, gifts, wine and cheese. Let’s just say I left very happy with my chilled bottle of LaMarca and beautifully scented candle in hand.