Shortly after Lynn and I started going together in 1998, we decided to take our first trip to Myrtle Beach together.
I had just moved here from Kentucky, and although I am a bonafide beach bum, as the front vanity plate on my car indicates, I had never been to Myrtle Beach.
In typical Bobo fashion, I made no reservations and had no idea where we were staying when we got there. We just rolled the dice and took off down the highway.
Ignoring Lynn’s advice to take the shorter route down I-26, I took I-40 to Wilmington, N.C., and Carolina Beach. Back then I liked to drive all night so as not to waste any valuable daylight at the beach, and because my karma was good at the time, we hit Carolina Beach just in time to see the sun rise over the water.
After reaching the end of the line on I-40, we turned south on Route 17 toward Myrtle Beach, stopping at every little beach down along the way to sightsee.
Upon crossing the South Carolina state line, we discovered that hotel rooms were scarce because our maiden voyage to Myrtle Beach also happened to coincided with what the locals affectionately refer to as Black Biker Week.
Twenty years ago we found ourselves trapped in traffic by thousands of bikers carrying half naked women of all shapes and sizes on the back of their hogs — their exposed rear ends glistening in the sunlight. Welcome to Myrtle Beach.
Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, was with us that day, and we lucked into the only oceanfront room on the Grand Strand thanks to a last minute cancellation at the Ocean Drive Beach and Golf Resort in North Myrtle Beach.
As it turned out, this was an ideal location for our needs, and the ODBGR became our regular beach venue for more than a decade.
When I go to the beach, I want to park my car, and I don’t want to get back into that car until it’s time to go home. That’s why the ODBGR was so perfect. It’s at the intersection of Ocean Drive and Main Street, and everything we needed was within walking distance.
Right next door to the hotel is one of those beach front arcades that sells burgers and ice cream as well as canned beer and frozen cocktails. When you get too hot, just step into that cool vintage arcade filled with 1980s quarter-eaters; enjoy a cold beverage; and play a game or two of Galaga, Defender, Double Dragon, or Out Run, a driving game that I crushed every time.
Located within a block of the hotel on Main Street were two beach stores; a hot dog/ice cream stand; Duffy’s Bar and Seafood, where I once ate 49 raw oysters in one sitting; and my favorite all purpose beach eatery, Giorgio’s.
In fact, the first beach meal Lynn and I shared together was takeout pizza from Giorgio’s.
The first time I walked into Giorgio’s, a guy about my age was taking orders, and an old man was working in the kitchen. I deduced that they are father and son.
I especially remembered the young guy because he closely resembled a good friend of mine from college, except the Giorgio’s guy had long hair.
For the next 20 years, leading up to our most recent beach visit last week, it’s always been those same two guys. Usually the young guy works the counter and the old man is in the kitchen, as it was last week.
The only difference last week was the young guy had cut his hair. I say young, but he’s probably 40-something by now.
Just assume I wouldn’t keep going there year after year if the food wasn’t great. That will save me a lot of time and space describing each gastrological experience in grueling detail.
If you go there, try the House Special pizza. I also recommend their lasagna, spaghetti, gyros and subs. They don’t skimp on ingredients. Skimping on ingredients will cost you my business permanently. No second chances.
What I also like about this place is its unintentional throwback decor. Giorgio’s has been family-owned since 1975, and I’d say they’ve had the same dining room booths that entire time.
It reminds me of the old Jack-in-the-Box restaurants we had in my hometown in the 1970s or a drive-in movie snack bar. I barely fit in those booths 20 years ago, when I was much more svelte than today. Squeezing into one of those booths last week, I felt like a kinked water hose, a condition that was exacerbated by eating half a large House Special pizza.
There’s a reason I can’t tell you much about these guys. They’re all business. Give me your order. Give me your money. Kindly move on the to the pickup window.
On the few occasions when I’ve tried to make small talk with the younger guy, he politely shoots me a look saying, “Dude, I’m very, very busy. Kindly move on to the pickup window.”
I respect that because it’s a look I too tend to shoot at someone once or twice every day.
I’ve always been a creature of habit, but even more so in my old age.
When I visit my parents up north, we always go thrifting in Southeast Wisconsin, eat pizza at the same joint in Lake Geneva, and catch a Brewers game at Miller Stadium.
When I go to Nashville, I always walk the entire strip from Broadway to Printer’s Alley and back, enjoying a libation at every dive along the way that doesn’t have a cover charge.
When I visit Smoky Mountains National Park, I always stop at the casino in Cherokee and gorge myself at the wonderful buffet.
And when I go to the beach, I always stop at least once to eat at Giorgio’s, even since we moved from staying at the the ODBGR to beachfront camping at a place off Kings Road.
That’s why it was a relief to walk into Giorgio’s last week and see the same fellows still in charge. It’s like a time capsule.
The quality of their food hasn’t dropped one iota in the nearly two decades I’ve been going there.
Nothing there has changed.
When I gave the younger guy my order, apparently he sensed I was going to attempt small talk. He shot me the look, and I kindly moved on to the pickup window.
Jeff Bobo covers Hawkins County for the Times-News. Email him at [email protected]