From the outside, you might not think much has changed since the days of revealing tops and skimpy orange shorts, but once you enter its evident there’s a brand-new feel to this bar. The freshly-painted interior is bright and open with a natural feel that includes lots of wood paneling, exposed ducts and a tin roof.
There are plenty of TVs around the bar, with at least a dozen hanging on the walls, not to mention a row of booths which each have their own personal boob tube. The night I attended many folks happened to be glued to these sets, hooting and hollering while cheering on the USC Gamecocks as they took down Virginia in a thrilling 13-inning affair to advance to the College World Series finals.
The bar itself is long and nicely stocked with liquor, a dozen beers on tap — including choices such as Shock Top Raspberry, R.J. Rocker’s Son of a Peach and Flying Dog Pale — and an attentive bar staff. Other notable furnishings include the buffet/salad bar off to one side as you enter the bar (read our sister site Myrtle Beach Restaurant News for the full scoop on the food) and something we’d never seen before — a DraftMaster.
What, you ask is a DraftMaster? It’s a round table — the bar has two — that seats eight people and is equipped with two draft taps in the center.
Drawing from the dual kegs hidden underneath (Bud Light & Yuengling in one, Miller Lite & Yunegling in the other), the table pours drinks from the taps and shows exactly how much it has poured on a digital pint readout measuring down to the tenth of an ounce. According to staff, laws only allow for 16 pints at a time to be purchased for each table, but after a pause and reload you and your friends are free to buy as much as you like.
The crowd was a nice mix of a younger bar crowd and some older folks enjoying their dinners while sipping on pitchers of beer. It wasn’t exactly what you’d call an attentive audience, as the music mostly played as background sound, save for a dozen of so folks posted up along the front table to see Wide Open do their thing.
This was my first time seeing Wide Open, a new south end rock band which consists of Eric Heinemann (vocals/harmonica), Steven Diaz (guitar), Peter Dilallo (bass) and Norton Johnson (drums).
My first impressions weren’t so good. The band rolled through some servicable covers of songs such as “Eyes Like That” by Jack Johnson, “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz and “3 AM” by Matchbox 20, but with a well-worn setlist like that it was going to take a lot to impress.
Things took a turn for the better though when Heinemann pulled out his harmonica for a soulful version of Mellancamp’ “Ain’t That America” and then moved into some songs I didn’t recognize. What I first mistook for some obscure Marshall Tucker Band or Black Crowes material actually turned out to be Wide Open’s own original songs, which suddenly helped turn my impression of the group from ho-hum to quite intrigued.
Though, I didn’t get a chance to stick around for the entire night, the band did pick up the pace after a short break with some more rootsy original material and an electrified second set (the first was mostly acoustic) that made me interested to find out more.
See the video interview with Wide Open here.
Overall, The Carolina Tavern exceeded the expectations set by its nondescript name with a nice atmosphere, a couple unique features and a band that was more than meets the ear. While the music is definitely secondary to the food, beer & sports...it always good to find another place willing to bring in a live band to add to the atmosphere.
P.S. If you do happen to stop through Carolina Tavern make sure and say hi to well-known local Blues musician Todd Roth (aka My Buddy Todd) who runs the kitchen there.
You can find Carolina Tavern on Facebook or at http://www.thecarolinatavern.com/