The History of Lee's Inlet Kitchen
Chosen Top 10 South Carolina Seafood Restaurant
by Southern Living Magazine
It's tempting to load up on the hush puppies that arrive hot from the fryer the moment you sit down, but try to hold back. Wait for the seafood platters that will soon arrive...Read MoreSouthern Living Magazine
Lee's Inlet Kitchen is 70 years old! It's unheard of in this area for a restaurant to be operated by the same family in the same location for that long. In fact, Lee's is the only one of the original Murrells Inlet restaurants still being operated by the original family.
Pearl and Eford Lee, originally from Horry's Cool Springs area, moved to Murrells Inlet in the 1940's. Pearl worked at Garden City Grill as a waitress. Eford worked with the Army Corp of Engineers building the Intercoastal waterway and taking any odd jobs he could find, often searching out of state, to support his family of 5 children. The couple managed Lokey's cafe, later Wayside, then Charlie White's, before opening Lee's Inlet Kitchen in a converted country store. The small store had room for only 10 tables, and Pearl and Alzata Lee were the only 2 waitresses at opening.
Their son Bill later took over in the 60's and ran the restaurant until his mother's death in 1983. His oldest daughter Kelly, and her husband Dexter Dorman, took over and have been running the restaurant since then. The restaurant has been enlarged 6 times.
We have been lucky to "inherit" a lot of the staff that we have now. They are like family, and in fact, many are family: my great aunt Alzata Lee still works with us, as well as her daughter and 2 other cousins.
The nicest thing about the restaurant business is the people you work with and the customers you see year after year, many of which have been coming to Lee's from the beginning. We have people tell us all the time that they sat in a high chair here and now they bring their children in high chairs!
We know how hard my grandparents worked in the beginning to build up the business that we're grateful for today. Alzata tells us they were open every day except Christmas, and sat here many a night with no customers. A business card was found in the attic where they lived with their children before they could afford to build a house, and the hours on the card were 6am to 11pm! We are proud to use the same recipes that they did and prepare the seafood in the traditional Murrells Inlet style that people tell us they can't find anywhere else.