Brunswick Islands Area
Calabash: Seafood Capital of the World
Sample local delicacies from more than a menu.
On North Carolina's southern coast is Calabash, the picturesque onetime fishing village that modestly calls itself the "Seafood Capital of the World." This tiny port shaded by large oaks has become synonymous with a style of cooking that involves corn meal battering and frying.
Calabash bills itself as the Seafood Capital of the World
Calabash, an Indian word for a type of gourd, has about one seafood restaurant per 10 residents. Arguments often ensue over who opened the first "fish camp" there: the Becks or the Colemans. In the 30s, both families already were holding outdoor oyster roasts. Both had moved inside by 1940 and had added the now-famous fried seafood to their repertoire.
A frequent diner at Coleman's during this era was entertainer Jimmy Durante. Lucy Coleman remembers he always jokingly called her Mrs. Calabash. Durante later began closing his shows by saying, "Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are."
The town's fame increased locally, and other restaurants opened to meet the increasing demand. By the 1960s, large crowds from nearby Myrtle Beach were flowing into the small community nightly to get a taste of Calabash.
Then, Calabash attracted national attention and restaurants across the South began advertising their Calabash-style seafood.
Calabash's original fish camp aesthetic is gone. Brightly lighted signs on newer restaurants with toney dishes like shrimp and linguini with wasabi ginger sauce have forever changed the town's character. Commercial development aside, the food is still great. And, pioneering restaurants like Beck's and Coleman's still serve up the Calabash-style seafood that earned the town its fame.
added: January 4, 2009
updated: September 3, 2012