Goodnight Mrs. Calabash

In 1982, on our way from Atlantic Beach, NC to Disney World, FL we stopped in Calabash, NC for some of their famous seafood. The only memorable thing about the place wasn’t the seafood. It was the wheel about to come off our travel trailer and the two guys AAA sent to repair it, Joe and Moe. That I remember their names is one of those enigmas of life.

Calabash is reputed to have a unique style of cooking and all along the coastline of Carolina restaurants tout serving Calabash “style” seafood. In my opinion it is just deep-fried creatures that hopefully came form local waters and otherwise, not all that remarkable.

Recently, my wife and I drove the coast between Holden Beach, NC and North Myrtle Beach, SC stopping on the way back to give Calabash a second try. A woman at a SC gas station recommended the original fish house, Coleman’s but she assured me all the restaurants were, “good.” We had no problem finding the place but a sign on the door proclaimed they were only open Thursday through Saturday. Unfortunately it was Wednesday.

So, back in the van and up the street to a restaurant that definitely was open for business. A small place with take-out windows and an inside dining room, calling itself, Calabash Seafood Hut. There was a waiting line out front so we made the typical tourist assumption that, “the food must be good.” You know, that’s just not how one should judge where to eat because ninety-nine people out of a hundred simply can be wrong.

A friend once told me that he didn’t normally eat in restaurants advertising they cooked homemade or home style food. He figured that if food made at home was so good, why go elsewhere to eat?

We shared a meal of fried shrimp, fried, oysters, fried flounder, fried French fries, and fried Cole slaw (just kidding). Scoring it was simple, it was all edible but nothing exceptional. I almost forgot to mention the fried hush-puppies but they really don’t deserve mention. Saying I’ve never met glob of fried corn meal I didn’t like is no longer true.

By the way, local legend claims the founder of Coleman’s Seafood was the woman Jimmy Durante had in mind when he famously began ending his radio and TV shows with the line, “Good night Mrs, Calabash, where ever you are.” Supposedly he and his band once stopped at Coleman’s while on tour and Durante liked the owner so much he promised to make her famous. Sometime later he began using the line but never divulged the true identity of Mrs. Calabash.

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