MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - When it comes to dining, your choices are endless in Myrtle Beach. But if you're celebrating a special occasion, or looking to push your gourmet palate, the only three-star rated restaurant along the Grand Strand has kept that rating since 1974, and the owner of The Library Restaurant says there's a good reason why.
"It's one thing to think you're good; it's another thing to have everyone tell you that you're great," remarked Shad Valesco, owner of The Library Restaurant.
That word of mouth has brought customers back to The Library Restaurant since the very beginning, nearly 40 years ago. As proof, Library owner since 2003, and a chef since 1993, Shad Valesco has an original menu from an original customer.
"She said she grabbed this menu off the table one of the first weeks when the restaurant first opened up, and she's in her 80s now," Valesco said.
And when it comes to success of this European restaurant, its all about the history and consistency of good service and cuisine. "One of my waiters has been here for 28 years."
Today, over 85 percent of the items from that original menu are being served, and much of the current menu is prepared table side.
"The style of cooking at the table has become an endangered species so to say. Sweetbreads prepared at the table, most restaurants don't even carry sweetbreads anymore, steak, stories go back, talking about a recipe that's over 50 years old," Valesco added.
Valesco said their popular plates include the broiled black grouper topped with claw crabmeat and finished with a champagne lobster creme. And the petit filet topped with a Parisian mushroom sauce and a lobster tail served with drawn butter.
Meanwhile, there's still the dress code: no ball caps or tank tops allowed. You'll still find the mahogany book cases, with books dating back to the 1800s.
"It was the public library temporarily while the library, Chapin Memorial was being built," Valesco stated.
The private dining room is still wall-to-wall with original wine case boxes that prove their age. They're still working out of the original, but you'll notice some contemporary adjustments like the remodeled bar and LED drink menus.
"We have some of the best cocktails on the beach, handmade hand squeezed," Valesco boasted.
He continues, "In my opinion, the difference between fine dining and casual food, is nothing is frozen; everything is fresh and you should be able to taste the difference. We get three to five deliveries a week, seafood deliveries three times a week, beef comes in one to two times a week.
"We are the only three star restaurant in the area since 1974. Forty years ago Myrtle Beach didn't have a lot of restaurants, let alone three star restaurants where people would stand in line and wait days to get into."
Valesco says The Library staff is overly attentive, but never obtrusive. "Reservations are a must. We have customers who spend two to four hours here and when they book a table, it's for the night."
"What is it that fuels your passion for this and what you have here?," WMBF News Anchor Michael Maely asked.
"The lack of seeing it everywhere else," Shad Valesco responded.
That originality amounts to 85 percent repeat business, according to Valesco, and it's worth every hour he puts in.
"I work everyday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. I take no days off, I just care about my customers more than I care about anything else. And you will not find many people who can say that. It's the glow in everyone's eyes when they get done having their dinner here. They're the ones that make me feel good."
The location at 1212 North Kings Highway may be understated. The owner says he's had plenty of offers to relocate and expand. but he says the tradition is too important.
If you want to check out The Library, reservations are required, and they serve dinner starting at 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.