Let’s get this out of the way first: The Backstage Cafe is quite a haul from Myrtle Beach.
That said, the 45-minute drive — less if you’re staying on the South end of town — is well worth the trip to experience one of the most interesting combinations of food and music that our area has to offer.
Located at 816 Front St. in the heart of historic downtown Georgetown, the seemingly small restaurant and bar utilizes its unique environment — wedged in between two old buildings — to create an atmosphere that feels like an urban escape from its small town surroundings.
Though the interior is barely more than 15 feet wide, the place is deceptively large. Extending through the checkered tile of the entryway is a small bar and kitchen area which is brightly decorated bar area with art all around.
Beyond that, a newly-opened patio provides plenty of seating and features a small square stage at the far end. Adding to the big-city feel the walls of the patio are exposed brick from the surrounding buildings adorned with cool red mood lighting which helps set the mood for an awesome low-key evening.
Have a dog
Given the restaurant’s look, the menu isn’t exactly what you’d expect, filled with a selection of hot dogs, chips and other simple dishes. However, a closer examination of the options will lead you to a number of interesting combinations.
Keeping with the place’s musical theme, many of the quarter-pound all-beef dogs are named after famous musicians. While the plain hot dog takes on the name of a famous folk songwriter (James Taylor), others have a bit more flavor such as the frank with blue cheese slaw and chili (BB King), the one with chili, onions, chees and fritos (Nirvana) and a dog with jalapenos and spicy mustard (Red Hot Chili Peppers).
In addition to the wieners, the menu offers some other savory treats including a little Mexican flair with dishes such as rice & beans, tacos, burritos, house-made salsa and a special burrito-in-a-cup concoction called the Cup of Love.
And though the food may more that satisfy many which enter its doors, the Backstage Cafe’s main attraction is its music. From the sign on the front, which denotes it as a “live music” venue to the painted portraits of musicians inside and all the way to the stage setup of the far end of the patio, this place oozes potential to be a great spot for listening to tunes.
With a setup more suited to solos and duos than a full band, the bar draws a lot of acoustic and folk players both from the Grand Strand and Charleston, as well as some touring musicians which stop through occasionally after having played at well-known music haven Awendaw Green — just 30-plus miles south of town.
But if laid back acoustics isn’t your thing, don’t write off the venue just yet. They also host a variety of Rock, Blues, Alternative and even Pop music.
During our visit, we caught a duo called Folk by Association who were playing their first show at the Backstage.
The ladies, Karen Krajacic and Jill Cowen, were on tour from Vermont and in town visiting their friend, Georgetown restaurateur Tara Tracy.
They played a set of mostly original material filled with great vocal harmonies that flowed together so smoothly, it was no surprise to find that they’d been playing together for more than a decade.
“I love it here. They’ve been really great to us,” said Krajacic. “There’s some places you go where you feel like your just a number passing through, but it’s evident that they really care about talent here and supporting that.”
Their music also featured some interesting instrumental twists which included Krajacic on banjo at times and Cowen switching between a Mandolin and a Fisher Price xylophone — a silly, yet entertaining accompaniment.
In addition to the enjoyable sounds coming from the stage, another encouraging aspect of the Backstage musical experience was the turnout — at least 50 attentive fans turned out on a Thursday evening.
It’s this sort of following, developed within just a few months of its opening that makes the venue so special.
“There was nobody playing live music down here and this is why Brad [Freeman, Backstage Cafe owner] did this, because he wanted to bring music back to Georgetown,” said Tracy, co-owner and chef at nearby Limpin’ Janes.
Fellow patron Dustin Ashenfelder, a fingerstyle folk/bluegrass guitar player who will play his first show at the cafe in June 24, aimed to sum up the Backstage experience.
“It’s a chill place to relax and hear some great music and for people down here [in Georgetown] another alternative that is a little bit more high class than other places down this way,” he said.