Brandon: “What do you want to eat tonight?”
If you’re from Southeastern North Carolina, you get it. Calabash isn’t just a place; it’s fried seafood. And not just any fried seafood – but the best fried seafood.
Trust me, that’s not an understatement. People from all over the country stop by the town dubbed the “Seafood Capital of the World” by a New York Times food editor to try the lightly breaded seafood for themselves.
When they roll into town, they discover that Calabash-style seafood is simple, reasonably priced, and served in more-than-you-can-eat-sized portions.
Once you’ve had Calabash seafood, nothing else will suffice. That’s what draws people back to the coastal town every summer. And the locals know it.
Brunswick County‘s tiny fishing village with a population of less than 2000 boasts more seafood restaurants than any other place of its size in America. These restaurants serve a whooping 1.25 million patrons each year.
So how did all of this get started? The roots of Calabash-style seafood can be traced back to “fish camps” that sprang up in the 1930s. Locals set up large kettles of grease under the massive oaks beside the docks and served fresh fried seafood to the returning fishermen.
A decade later, two sisters who ran competing fish camps opened restaurants near the dock: Coleman’s Original and Beck’s. Their brother solidified the family tradition in 1950 when he opened Ella’s.
From there, the popularity of Calabash-style seafood spread. Restaurants from Myrtle Beach up to Wilmington cash in on copying Calabash’s formula. It’s just not something you can duplicate, though.
There’s only one place to get genuine Calabash-style seafood – and that’s in Calabash.