Murrells Inlet, S.C. — Casey Blake II and his crew from Drunken Jack’s took top honors for best decorations and best food during the first Murrells Inlet 2020 Taste of the Inlet.
But the real winner was the organization, which collected a hefty $12,000 for its efforts.
Sue Sledz and her volunteer crew should have known something was up when their initial goal of 500 presale tickets was met 10 days into the fundraising effort.
When all was tallied, 875 tickets were sold in advance and another 50 or so walk-ins gathered at Inlet Square Mall – many of them well in advance of the 6 p.m. opening – to sample what was billed as “heavy hors d’oeuvres and tapas-style” offerings from 30 area restaurants, caterers and retailers – Costco sponsored desserts and New South Brewery and Owens Liquors provided beer and wine.
“We started talking about this event in November 2011,” Sledz said in a written statement. “We believed it would be well received, but never in our wildest dreams did we expect the overwhelming response we received.”
The restaurants also got their feet wet, too. Drunken Jack’s offering of beef and a zesty scallop with a piquant sauce sold out and people were still in line.
Shrimp, blackened tuna and oyster dishes abounded, with each restaurant adding its own take. There even was a Southern take on a surf and turf – barbecue on a cracker topped with a shrimp and sauce.
“I’ve been to a lot of these ‘Tastes of’,” said Sandy Christiano of Murrells Inlet, “and this is one of the best.”
For Bernadette Kolbrand, who moved to Pawleys Island from Germany last week, the Taste of the Inlet offered a chance to get to know Garden City and Murrells Inlet restaurants. “I’m making a list,” she said.
Attendees also got an introduction to what will be the newest restaurant in the Inlet.
Mickey’s Tavern, which is under construction and has a tentative opening planned for April, joined its sibling, On the 1⁄2 Shell, with food offerings.
The booth decor included the architect’s plans for the restaurant.
“We’re looking forward to moving into the Inlet,” said Mike Foster, a partner in both restaurants.
Attendees also are looking forward to the next “Taste.” “I hope they do this every year,” said Ursula Conte, enjoying the Drunken Jack’s offering.
“We definitely have some talking and planning to do, but based on initial feedback that I heard it seems to be a definite do-over,” Sledz said.
About 900 people would agree with her. Besides, it would give 25 other restaurateurs a chance for some bragging rights, too. Joining Blake and Drunken Jack’s as award winners were Bliss, which was the No. 3 choice among diners and runner-up Inlet Affairs.
Taste attendees were given ballots to select their three favorite restaurants based on taste, presentation and creativity.
A pair of attendees gave a thumbs or foot up the Inlet Square, taking advantage of the music to do a little dancing after dinner.
“I just love the time I spend here,” said Fred Pugh, who turned the mall into a dance floor with partner Carolyn Bryant.
Pugh splits his time between Columbia and the Inlet.
As for the Murrells Inlet 2020 volunteers and staff, it’s a good bet that they are already looking forward to the next event.
“We welcome feedback,’ Sledz said. Just e-mail us at email@example.com.
By Anita Crone
For The Times
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