Seafood houses and many restaurants sell each day's local catch: tuna, wahoo, mahimahi, mackerel, sand dabs, scallops, shrimp, or blue crabs. Raw bars serve oysters and clams on the half shell. For years, the coast has been a magnet for highly trained chefs, and emerging talents are constantly raising the bar with creative preparations and diversified menu options. Seafood dishes—broiled, fried, grilled, or steamed—are listed alongside globally inspired entrées fusing Asian, European, and Latin flavors with traditional Southern ingredients, such as black-eyed peas. On the negative side, restaurants in beach areas often close in winter and may have to hire new chefs and staff for the high season, leading to quality that can vary from year to year.

Expect up to hour-long waits, sometimes longer, at many restaurants during summer and festival periods. Many places don't accept reservations. Restaurant hours are frequently reduced in winter, and some restaurants in remote beach communities close for several months. Casual dress is acceptable in most restaurants.

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