Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends

Best Restaurants in Hilton Head, SC

by Monty Preiser

All Area Codes are (843)

About 7 years ago, a 25-mile stretch of 4-lane highway opened between I-95 and Hilton Head Island. It ran through largely undeveloped country and was a fast alternative to the side roads that had been used for Island access. As might have been expected, civilization and growth came to, and enveloped, this highway, and it is now surrounded by businesses and new home developments, while traffic lights slow everything down. The small town of Bluffton, just off Hilton Head Island, has experienced a population boom, and, with it, seen the opening of many restaurants, some of which are pretty good.  While these establishments are close to Hilton Head (some less than a mile away from the Island boundary), most are not special enough to cause diners on Hilton Head to fight the traffic necessary to get there. Thus, we limit our reviews to the Island restaurants.

One of the better references available on the Island is the free “Restaurant Guide,” available at almost all groceries and major stopping places. HOWEVER, you must be careful to only use this publication (which is not comprehensive) for menus, maps, and hours of operation. You should pretty much ignore the subjective paragraphs and articles written by the editors/publishers as they evaluate almost every restaurant on the Island as excellent (remember, the magazine is earning revenue from each advertiser and apparently has decided not to be critical in even the slightest way). Unfortunately, then, too much of the subjective information is not credible.



Preiser’s Top 10 (in alphabetical order):
-Alfred’s

-CQ’s
-Catch 22
-Kwizen
-Michael Anthony’s
-Old Fort Pub
-Red Fish
-Sage Room
-The Studio
-Sunset Grille
         plus
-Street Meet for fabulous “dogs”
 

ALEXANDER'S SEAFOOD
PALMETTO DUNES PLANTATION
785-4999


This Island standard boasts one of the best technical chefs on the Island, and its food reflects his abilities. The property is pretty, the wine list is a real plus, and the cost of dining is competitive. Though Alexander’s advertises itself as a seafood restaurant, the meats (not the evening’s best buy, however), are beautifully prepared as well. Try the walnut sea scallops; the shrimp and grits; or, for the health conscious that evening, enjoy a grilled fish. The wine list has earned a Wine Spectator "Award of Excellence." 

Many would give Alexander’s an “A,” but there has always been something hard to explain that keeps it just under that rating for us when we compare it to the competition.

Food rating: B+            Overall Rating: B+

ALFRED’S RESTAURANT
PLANTATION CENTER   (just south of Palmetto Dunes)

785-4999

There are few chefs around that are better than European trained Alfred Kettering, now showing off his charming and new intimate dining room, as well as a dining bar overlooking the kitchen where Alfred oversees the creation of his fabulous dishes. Not only is the food here superbly prepared, but it is unique in many ways due to Alfred’s German background, and his ability to unify that often heavy food with lighter American ingredients.

You would do yourself a disservice not to have someone at your table order Wienerschnitzel a la Holstein (with fried eggs) and the roasted duckling, both served with spatzle and red cabbage – some of the best you will ever find.  But the panko encrusted pork chop and Chilean sea bass are close seconds in quality and popularity. Alfred’s has a well thought out wine list, and the front of the house is overseen by the legendary and incomparable Guillermo. This is one of the five on the Island you should not miss for a fine dinner.

Food Rating: A+              Overall Rating: A+  

 

ALLIGATOR GRILLE
PARK PLAZA OUTSIDE SEA PINES MAIN GATE
842-4888


Alligator Grille serves winning dishes such as roasted duck spring rolls, shrimp tempura lollipops, crab and brie wontons, steaks, fish, and sushi. And while the restaurant is not attempting to serve innovative cuisine, we like their attention to both the healthy preparation of all entrees, and to the successful wine list, which has now achieved an “Award of Excellence” from the Wine Spectator. With friendly service, well made drinks, and enticing desserts, Alligator Grille is now the best for fine dining in the area just outside the Sea Pines gate.

Food Rating: B            Overall Rating: B



AMIGOS CAFÉ y CANTINA
CIRCLE CENTER ON POPE
785-8226


To some extent, Amigos is the usual Mexican restaurant in a shopping center. However, there is a pleasant twist. The kitchen here actually pays some attention to the health desires of so many of today's diners, and, just to prove that it can be done, still creates some tasty food. The charbroiled chicken in soft corn tortilla, the veggie taco, and the skinless chicken breast grilled with cilantro and topped with low fat sour cream are worth a try. But if you are splurging, you may not want to miss the low country oyster taco or shrimp with Spanish rice. Don't expect much in the way of service here. Of course, traditional dishes are offered as well.

Food Rating: B- to C+             Overall Rating: C


ANTONIO'S
VILLAGE AT WEXFORD
842-5505


The ambiance at Antonio’s, with its original Italian art and seductive piano (call for the entertainment schedule), is wonderfully inviting. Many a night have we sipped wine, enjoyed an h'ors deuvre or two in the bar, and let the music take over without ever getting as far as the dining room.

Antonio’s often refers to itself as a Tuscan restaurant, but more accurately can be called northern Italian with American influences – something necessary to sustain business on this Island. The core menu is not what you might recall in previous years – it is now comprised only of the usual dishes one would find in the better northern Italian houses in this country rather than anything daring (we still enjoy the gnocchi with crab, shrimp, and wild mushrooms; and the veal saltimbocca). We do miss what once was the restaurant’s individuality. Nevertheless, the kitchen and management will work with you, and this is a nice place to concentrate on wine/food pairings. The restaurant has garnered a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

Food Rating: B+             Overall Rating: B+

AQUA
10 NORTH FOREST BEACH DR.
341-3331


This lovely oceanfront restaurant has come of age and might well be the best of Hilton Head’s so called seafood restaurants, especially if you are looking for ambiance. While some other fine dining kitchens on the Island prepare better fish, they usually are more limited in selections. At Aqua, Chef Eric Seaglund has combined good flavors (sometimes Asian influenced) with an award winning wine list and pretty view to make this an attractive place to dine.

The most inviting dishes include a sushi-grade Yellow Fin Mahi-Mahi with country ham scallion sauce and white cheddar grits; an Asian salmon with Wasabi peanut encrusted, lime teriyaki reduction, ginger rice and steamed vegetables; and the firecracker Kobe beef served carpaccio style with cucumbers kimchee and sweet and spicy soy sauce. You can also order from a fresh catch list and have your fish prepared as you wish. The drawback here (more important to some than others, we grant you) is average service and an unfamiliarity of most of the servers with how the dishes are prepared and should be paired.
Food Rating: B+            Overall Rating: B+


AUNT CHILADAS
69 POPE AVENUE
785-7700


Though it began as a Mexican restaurant serving Mexican standards, Aunt Chiladas has branched out to offer certain Italian dishes, seafood, and American fare. Some of the specialty dishes can be quite good (try the d. r. burrito, which comes stuffed with spaghetti and meatballs or sausage), and all portions are super sized. The margaritas are wonderful, good beer is available, and the service is friendly. This is a relatively easy place to have lunch or dinner if one desires, and is often crowded due to its popularity. Aunt Chiladas is mostly frequented in the evenings by the younger crowd.

Food Rating: B             Overall Rating: B


BISTRO MEZZALUNA
55 NEW ORLEANS RD.
842-5011


Serving more than passable fresh bistro fare based on Italian recipe (such as shrimp scampi, chicken marsala, veal osso bucco, and various pastas), this cute restaurant continues to strive for solid food at good values. The wine list is average, but you will find something to match the offerings here if you are not too particular.

Food Rating: B-             Overall Rating: C+

BLACK MARLIN BAYSIDE GRILL
86 HELMSMAN WAY (PALMETTO BAY MARINA)
785-4950


You might have known this at one time as Hemmingway’s, but it seems the author’s estate didn’t care for that and caused a name change. But other than a few tweaks to the menu, all else is much the same. This large restaurant will remind you in ambiance of Key West (where “Papa” in fact spent so much of his time), and caters to visitors looking for an “Island” experience. The menu here has fortunately improved its focus and is now primarily a seafood oriented experience. There are also the usual steaks, pork, and chicken. Unfortunately, the food lacks authenticity and balance. Wines at Black Marlin are sort of second fiddle, perhaps because so much of its clientele prefers Island drinks and beer. As a matter of fact, the outside bar is fun and inviting. So a stop here is OK for appetizers or drinks, but after many years the kitchen still needs to improve on its entrees and more major dishes.

Food Rating: C                         Overall Rating: C+


BOATHOUSE II
397 SQUIRE POPE RD.
681-3663


Boathouse II is a “happening” and the ultimate in casual dining on Hilton Head. Sit outside in good weather, or, when cold or rainy, choose between the enclosed boathouse and the lodge room with fireplace. Regardless of your location, you will relax to live music, gaze at beautiful views over the marsh, and enjoy well-prepared burgers, steaks, chicken, salads, sandwiches (good BBQ), and southern fare such as shrimp and stone ground grits with tasso ham and onion gravy. The Sunday brunch (try our favorite: crab meat blended with herbs and spices on top of poached eggs on English muffins with hollandaise) with a variety of Bloody Marys is one of the Island's treats, as is the creative wine list. If you are on a boat, by the way, pull right on up.

Food Rating: B+             Overall Rating: A-

BONEFISH GRILLE
890 WILLIAM HILTON PARKWAY
341-3772

The usual chain (over-rated in our opinion) preparing reasonably priced, sometimes tasty, but frequently uninspired dishes. Nevertheless, it is always crowded, a mystery to us with all the unique and interesting places to dine on the Island.

Food Rating: B-            Overall Rating: C+


BRICK OVEN CAFÉ
PARK PLAZA - NEAR SEA PINES CIRCLE
686-2233


One of the Island's few places with a late night menu, Brick Oven offers an eclectic mix of low country fare (the usual shrimp and grits and a nice meatloaf in shallot gravy), encrusted (read fried) seafoods, and pizzas. We recommend dining here if you simply want something of substance after 10:00, or live on that area of the Island and are looking for adequate pizza.

Food Rating: B-                         Overall Rating: C-


BRITISH OPEN PUB
VILLAGE AT WEXFORD
686-6736


Not much has changed here over the years, and that’s a good thing. If you want a semi-British experience with lots of golf overtones, this is the place to find it. The pub serves excellent beers, as well as traditional British Isles dishes such as Scotch eggs, fish and chips, Shepherd's pie, and bangers and mash. There are also more traditional pub preparations available all day such as hamburgers, crab cakes, etc. For dinner the menu expands, and you can enjoy a well prepared Angus steak, lobster pot pie, or seafood platter. We like the British Pub for a casual meal with nice people and good prices. .

Food rating: B             Overall Rating: B

 

CQ'S
HARBOUR TOWN
671-2779

As is apparent from our review below of Michael Anthony’s, we believe that to be the unquestioned best restaurant on Hilton Head.  That does not mean, of course, that others are not excellent. In fact, there are five or six that, in our opinion, vie for the honored title of "runner up." The cuisine of each is different, yet wonderful in its own manner. CQ’s is right up there.

Combining most of the elements we look for in a full dining experience, CQ's, located in easy to find romantic Harbour Town, is itself harbored in a beautifully restored inn. The restaurant offers professional management, friendly and thoughtful service, a wine and food knowledgeable staff, a creative menu, fine cuisine, a cozy bar area, that certain feeling best described as warmth and ambiance, and an outstanding wine list (receiving the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence). Granted, it may not be the Island's star in each of these categories, but few places rank as high in so many. Presently the chef is Eric Sayers, one of the best at his craft we have ever known. With Eric, it does not matter what is on the menu - it is all a culinary highlight. We have adopted as favorites more dishes prepared by him than we can count. So taking the confluence of all these factors, CQ’s is a not to be missed experience. By the way, you won't mind spending a bit more here than at most places on Hilton Head.

Food Rating: A+ (while Eric Sayers is there)                        Overall Rating: A+

CAFÉ ST. TROPEZ
SOUTH ISLAND SQUARE
785-7425

The present owners are well schooled chefs who have cooked in some of Europe’s best
known restaurants. We like the fact that they are able and willing to select some of the Island’s freshest foods, and then know what to do with them.
We also enjoyed the newly decorated room, and the understated yet professional service the evening we were there. As for the cuisine, the Dover Sole was classic, and hurrahs are quickly given to the chefs for starring Alaskan salmon rather than Atlantic or farmed. Other entrees were more average. Appetizers were fine (try the escargot with pernod crab cakes), and the homemade desserts rival the best on Hilton Head – leave it to a French restaurant to claim that honor. The wine list seems to be a work in progress, and could be better. We think in an establishment such as this it should be.
Food Rating: B+ to A-            Overall Rating: B+

 

CATCH 22
ORLEANS PLAZA OFF NEW ORLEANS RD.
785-6261


Catch 22 used to be under-the-radar, but now it is a place to visit for those in the know. It offers both ambiance (even without a water view to help) and excellent food. The combination raw bar/alcohol bar sets the pace for the charming front room. The servers are attractive, friendly, and professional throughout the establishment. The wine list has some fine selections. The chef is skilled at preparing the dishes on the menu. You can order full or half portions of many dishes. And, while not inexpensive, the price is fair. For what more can you ask? Our jumbo crab cocktail was full of fresh crab; the shrimp were large and not soggy; the pan seared scallops, a treat in themselves, came with mushroom filled ravioli, onions, goat cheese, and spinach; and the tuna au poivre was a steak in disguise (but much healthier). A delight all around. Enjoy this one.

Food Rating: A             Overall Rating: A


CHARLIE'S CRAB
GUMTREE and SQUIRE POPE RD.
342-9066


A favorite of locals and tourists alike, Charlie's Crab is an attractive restaurant that serves well prepared and enticing fish dishes. You can choose from a variety of appetizers that include a nicely prepared Oysters Rockefeller, as well as excellent fried calamari. Six or seven varieties of fresh fish can be prepared by broiling, sautéing, blackening, or char grilling. Specialties and classics such as fried seafood platters, lobsters, salmon, veal shank, seafood over pasta, and trout are also enticing. Drawbacks?  Prices are not cheap, and the service is not always consistent.

Food Rating: B+            Overall Rating: B


CHARLIE'S L'ETOILE VERTE
8 NEW ORLEANS RD.
785-9277

This restaurant, as pretty as any on Hilton Head, specializes in excellent preparation of all fish, but the land side is well represented and served without apologies. The wines here are selected with care, and the lovely bar can create the most difficult of cocktails. The menu is handwritten daily, reflecting the freshness of the ingredients. We highly suggest the flounder meuniere, Carolina trout, or wild Copper River salmon.

Our primary complaint not heeded in many years) about Charlie's remains the same as always – the service. There simply is not have enough help, and the wait staff that is there needs to be better trained in all areas to bring the establishment to the level of the finest dining.

Food Rating: A-                         Overall Rating: B


CRANE'S TAVERN and SEAFOOD
26 NEW ORLEANS ROAD
341-2333


We enjoy the cozy bar area in this top of the line steakhouse and seafood tavern. Not only are the USDA Prime steaks well prepared, but Crane’s offers outstanding barbecued duck and impressive baked oysters. While we give a special nod to these dishes,  that should not detract from the balance of the fine food prepared here, especially the southern catfish and shrimp medley. This is one of the restaurants on Hilton Head where the owner cares about wine and offers a fabulous wine list – in fact, it competes for the Island's best. Negatives? The service is not always on top of its game and you can feel crowded at times. And smoking is permitted at the bar after 9:30, which can be a problem for late diners with delicate noses. But the positives far outweigh these occasional inconveniences.

Food Rating: A-                         Overall Rating: B+

 

EAT!
VILLAGE AT WEXFORD
785-4850

When we visit a winery, it is off-putting for the staff to tell us how wonderful every wine is and assure us we will love everything. We prefer to make our own judgments on both these issues. Besides, if one thinks everything is great, it is likely his or her taste is not too discerning. That may have been our primary problem with Eat!, the newest in fine dining on the Island. From the owner (in definitively strong terms), to the chef (in a self assured manner that precluded our opinions), to the server (who had been trained – or not – in the ways of her superiors), we were so often told how good things would be that we began to hope the food would come without further comment. We know everyone was trying to be helpful to us (and themselves), but experienced diners usually want to make up their own minds.

And you know what? The food is quite good – some of it superb. We feasted on corn meal encrusted oysters, fried green tomatoes, seared Diver scallops, and a sate of swordfish and salmon for appetizers. The tomatoes were a touch thick and the oysters a gram salty, but all in all, these provided for a delicious first course.

Entrees were perhaps even better, with a brilliant lamb shank (could be the best in recent memory), and a duck that (after being re-fired to bring it up to the ordered temperature) was quite succulent. The management, as well as the Hilton Head restaurant guide we referred to in our preamble to the actual reviews, both touted an “extensive wine list.” It is not so. Nor is it particularly well thought out. Our maitre d’ told us they were still selling some of the wines in the inventory from the previous owner, and that they were working to upgrade the list. But that is not much of an excuse when you advertise your wine excellence and have already been open over 7 months. Fortunately, Eat! presently has a policy of no corkage fee if you bring something you like. You may have to do that for a while if you are a wine lover who prefers something that will compliment the wonderful dishes being put out here. To the credit of its owners, we think the restaurant understands that as well.

Food Rating: A-                        Overall Rating: B

FLAVORS
81 POPE AVE. # 12A
785-3115


Nice concept – flavors from around the world. Nice people. To us, just above average food, something that is not so surprising when you consider the chef is specializing in nothing and trying to be all things to all people. It rarely works that way. Our hope is that sometime soon the menu will be pared down to include only the chef’s best dishes.

Food Rating: C+             Overall Rating: C


FLORA’S ITALIAN CAFÉ
841 WILLIAM HILTON PARKWAY (SOUTH ISLAND SQUARE)
842-8200


Reminiscent of New York Italian fare (not surprising – the owners are from New Jersey), Flora’s offers fine, though not spectacular, pasta and veal dishes (we have not tried it, but hear the French Onion soup is worth the trip). Service is inconsistent, and there is an attitude from some in the front of the house that the restaurant does you a favor to serve you. But if the right staff is on duty, dining can be a fun and satisfying experience. Our favorite dish might be an appetizer – the eggplant rolled with cheese, baked in a tasty tomato sauce, and topped with fresh mozzarella.

Food Rating: B                         Overall Rating: B-

FRANKIE BONES
1301 MAIN ST.
682-4455


We have to admit we really like the ambiance of this over the top tribute to the big city restaurants of the late 50’s and early 60’s. As Sinatra and his generation of singers croon in the background, the crowd here is enjoying comfort food that, while no longer the talk of the Island, can still be very satisfying. Bacon wrapped shrimp, pizza, spaghetti, rigatoni, veal chops, fried and grilled seafood – Frankie Bones has plenty to choose from. But you can’t go without ordering the mouth watering excellent lobster mac and cheese. And once you’ve done that, you might as well finish with s’mores, NY style cheesecake, or a root beer float.

Servers here are fun, and the wine list offers a wide variety at good prices. But even as much as we love wine, since the spirits and martinis are as good as any on Hilton Head, we are often attracted in that direction at Frankie’s.

Food Rating: B+             Overall Rating: B+

GIUSEPPIS
32 B SHELTER COVE LANE
785-4144


Clearly in the top two on the Island as far as pizza (and we refer to the restaurant at the above address only), Giuseppi's serves it all, from the traditional pizza, to white pizza, to chicken with roasted red pepper pizza. They offer original style or stuffed. They offer a wide variety of fresh toppings. They offer quality that makes one feel as if s/he was eating the best pizza on the streets of New York, though the owners of this establishment come from Pittsburgh. And they offer the not to be missed "Weggie", their own fabulous rendition of a calzone. Giuseppi's has a large salad menu, including garden salads, Caesar salads, tuna salads, etc., as well as a good variety of sandwiches and pastas. This is a perfect restaurant for pizza, and a great place to bring the kids for lunch or dinner.

Food Rating: A                         Overall Rating: A-

 

GRUBY'S NEW YORK DELI
890 WILLIAM HILTON PARKWAY
842-9111

Would you think you could find a deli in Hilton Head where some dishes and meats almost compare to delis in New York or South Florida? Well, come on in to Gruby’s, where portions may have shrunk a little due to the economy and health concerns, but the quality of the food is still excellent. Do reserve your time to savor their delicious corned beef on rye with New York style cole slaw. The menu looks like a mini Carnegie Deli menu with a number of the same type sandwiches.

Service has become professional and pleasant, a nice thing to see, especially on an early Sunday morning. If you are lucky Denise will wait on you. This is not New York, of course, but for an authentic deli experience, Gruby's is the only one on Hilton Head. Fortunately, it is quite good.

Food Rating: B+            Overall Rating: B+

 

HINCHEY'S CHICAGO BAR AND GRILL
BEACH MARINA (NEAR COLIGNY CIRCLE)
686-5959


Despite a menu that might throw you off, Hinchey's is a typical shore front bistro with service, food, and atmosphere geared toward the masses that visit the beaches. The food is actually a step up from most of the restaurants in its category, and if we are in the area we don't hesitate to stop here for a barbecue, burger, or Chicago strip steak. As the name implies, Chicago is the theme inside (tapes of Chicago TV, memorabilia, etc.). A fun spot, and “home” to Notre Dame fans.

Food Rating: B             Overall Rating: B


HINOKI
ORLEANS PLAZA OFF NEW ORLEANS RD.
785-9800


The prettiest Japanese restaurant/sushi bar on the Island, Hinoki is designed to offer a relaxing lunch or dinner with tableside service, where you can enjoy sushi or order from the Island's most extensive and authentic Japanese menu. Cold appetizers may include tuna sashimi three ways (spicy, carpaccio, Dijon), thinly sliced seared filet mignon, or sliced octopus with wasabi tobiko. Hot starters include various tempuras, edamame, dumplings, and a number of broiled fishes. Of course, for entrees there are traditional noodle dishes as well as numerous combinations of fish and beef served stir-fried, broiled, grilled, fried, or as part of soups and/or stews. We recommend accompanying your meal here with a nice cold sake or beer.

Food Rating: A-                         Overall Rating: A-


HUDSON 'S ON THE DOCKS
1 HUDSON RD.
681-2772


To be fair, this long time Island seafood house is liked by many locals (including some whose palates we greatly respect) and veteran tourists. We, on the other hand, are not in love with most of the food we have tasted, are disappointed in a motif that seems never to have changed, and long for a bit more efficient service. The menu is certainly enticing in words, and the ambiance on the docks is great on a tourist island. But if you go, order accordingly. Try a few small things first to see if this one is for you, especially the shrimp brought right to the dockside.

Food Rating: C            Shrimp Rating: B+            Overall Rating: C+

 

HUGO’S AT WEXFORD
VILLAGE AT WEXFORD 785-4846


Hugo’s has thrived at a location that was without a successful restaurant for a while. Now, the Village is teeming with places to dine, and Hugo’s seems to have found a home. Here is a room from another generation which serves steak, pecan chicken, prime rib, Caesar salad, fried shrimp, and the like. All are good, but you can find this kitchen in a hundred towns. Early bird special are well received here.
Food Rating: B-            Overall Rating: B-

IL CARPACCIO
430 PINELAND STATION
342-9949


A model of consistency over the years, Il Carpaccio serves Italian food from all regions of the country. You will find veal topped with eggplant, tomatoes, and white wine sauce representing the north; pasta with shallots, mushrooms, sausage, and Madeira sauce from the Tuscan area; and the more familiar southern section checking in with a thin, crusty pizza. You won't find elegance, but Il Carpaccio isn't striving for it. You will, however, be comfortable, dine on food that ranges from good to excellent, and be treated well. The hot appetizers were the stars here the night we visited. The wine list needs improvement. All in all we enjoy this establishment, with our only problem being the lack of uniformity in the excellence of the cuisine. As mentioned above, some of it can be quite wonderful, but you just don't know which it might be.

Food Rating: B to A-                          Overall Rating: B to B+

IT’S GREEK TO ME
1G NEW ORLEANS RD.  and  11 Lagoon Rd.
341-3556  and 842-4033


These are solid Greek restaurants with little atmosphere, but with lots of heart and large portions. The menus list mostly the classics you expect, and all are prepared well. Our only complaint is an over use of olive oil by some of the cooks.

Food Rating: B                         Overall Rating: B-



JUMP & PHIL'S
HILTON HEAD PLAZA (NEAR GREENWOOD CIRCLE)
785-9070

You will discover Islanders of all ages having a good time at this locally owned bar/bistro with surprisingly good food. Jump & Phil's succeeds because it accomplishes its exact goal - to provide a friendly place where you can find great hamburgers, fish and chips, prime rib, lobster, ribs, and other typical pub preparations prepared atypically well. It's a late night hang out for the young at heart, but fun all the time. Great prices, too.

Food Rating: B                         Overall Rating: B

JUST PASTA
COLIGNY PLAZA
686-3900

A wonderful concept. Just Pasta does best when it is what it says - a restaurant that allows you to choose from a wide variety of pastas, and then select from numerous sauces, meatballs, sausages, etc... We like it a lot. Though the restaurant offers a wider menu of classics like lasagna and veal piccatta, plus soups and subs, and even specialties like seafood fra diavlo, these dishes need to be tuned up a notch.

Food Rating: B+ (pasta)             C+ (rest of menu)             Overall Rating: B

 

KENNY B'S FRENCH QUARTER CAFÉ
BI-LO CENTER (OFF POPE AVENUE)
785-3315


Hoping things had changed for the better here, we recently visited and were impressed with the inside ambiance and the charming woman behind the counter. So it was so far so good. But we are sorry to say this is where that ended.

Kenny B’s is billed as a New Orleans Style restaurant with low country influence. Some of the menu offerings are, in fact, reminiscent of the Crescent City, but too many use the same or incorrect ingredients, and so have no individuality or authenticity.  Other dishes are without balance. Our gumbo ya-ya was still too salty to eat, and the crawfish etoufee had no taste at all. The corn bread, half loaf of bread (why not French baguettes in a New Orleans place?), and the corn were all cafeteria like. Some of the tables outside were covered with cigarette ashes.

Food Rating: D+             Overall Rating: D+


KINGFISHER SEAFOOD AND STEAK
SHELTER COVE TO THE RIGHT OF NEPTUNE’S STATUE
785-4442


Kingfisher is a long time favorite of tourists for casual dining, and a choice of locals for its entertainment, which is varied and often well done. With a menu that is mostly as you would expect at a tourist destination (prime rib, fried seafood, ribs, etc.), we have no problem relaxing at this attractive establishment when we want some music and fresh seafood prepared as we request. It isn't gourmet, though the chef is well trained, and the service, while friendly, lacks style. Still, you will probably enjoy your time here.

Food Rating: B-                         Overall Rating: B


KURAMA
9 PALMETTO BAY RD.
785-4955

This wildly successful sushi and steak house may be the most crowded restaurant on the Island, day in and day out. It offers fresh sushi and a limited grilled fish menu at each of the two sushi bars, as well as huge (and well prepared) dinners at the traditional Teppanyaki tables. We always love to watch a skilled chef at Japanese steakhouses, and most at Kurama fit the bill. The excellent food is a real bonus. The only problem here is that because of the crowds, you might have a bit of a wait, and usually the service is quite slow. But this allows you to meet your dining companions and strike up new friendships. This is a fun place offering good prices all the time, and some fabulous specials.

Food Rating: B+                         Overall Rating: B

KWIZEN
PARK PLAZA
842-3727

In each dish we sampled here, we thought we could identify an extra spice or an addition of a condiment that made the food special. Some of our selections included butternut squash, sweet potato, and white cheddar cakes with roasted tomato vinaigrette and saffron infused oil; crispy quail drizzled with raspberry coulis; fried green tomato and lump crab salad with lemon aioli and truffle scented greens; Amaretto pan seared Carolina trout with Vidalia flavored rice; and lemon scented black sea bass with an apricot glaze served over swiss chard, tasso ham, pistachio, and smoked gouda grits. But the menu could be totally different when you are there as it changes seasonally. Nevertheless, everything was so well prepared that we would only expect excellence in all things. Ambiance is warm, and the room bustles with anticipation. We are ready to go back right now. But there will be time.

Food Rating: A+                         Overall Rating: A

LITTLE VENICE
SHELTER COVE HARBOUR
785-3300


Little Venice is a very traditional Italian restaurant serving routine dishes such as veal marsala, veal piccatta, grouper with olive oil, and different pastas with seafood or meats. The food is average to good, and the wine list is likewise. What Little Venice does have going for it is an attractive view of the harbor at Shelter Cove - a nice place to visit and relax in the early evening hours. This is an excellent restaurant for the kids, and the prices are quite reasonable. On some evenings there is entertainment in the square just in front of the restaurant.

Food Rating: B-                         Overall Rating: B

MARLEYS ISLAND GRILLE
35 OFFICE PARK RD. (PARK PLAZA)
686-5800


With a style that is quasi-Caribbean, and food that is fresh and flavorful due to the wood-fired hickory grill and the deft use of spices, Marleys has carved a niche for itself among a broad clientele. Take all of that and add a nice wine list, a rum bar, well made martinis, and an attractive room, and you have the elements of a very nice evening.

Consider at least the whole wood grilled fish of the day; the delicious spicy tuna sashimi (more like a tartar); the butternut squash soup; the sesame seared yellowfin tuna; the sugar cane scallops; and the Cuban style steak in lime, garlic, cilantro, and cumin. But the menu is vast (with so many choices we can't see how the chef can prepare them all well, though what we recommended above were expertly served), so you will have no trouble finding something you desire. The service is quite efficient and very pleasant, but the ever-present crowd slows things down.

Food Rating: B+                         Overall Rating: B+

 

MAY 5TH GRILL & CANTINA
21 OFFICE PARK RD.
ST. 105  SAPELO BLDG.
686-5629

Here you have the option of patio dining or in an unusually attractive room. The young owners and their Mom have done all they can at May 5th to make you feel at home. But the star here is the fresh and authentic food, prepared to order, and prepared expertly. Our choices in evaluating the restaurant were the ceviche (wonderfully citrusy and invigorating) and Enchiladas Verdes (chicken stuffed tortillas topped with the house tomato sauce, sour cream, and onions – wow says it best). The beer selections were plentiful and good accompaniments to not only our plates that day, but to what we are betting is fabulous food as described throughout the menu.

Food Rating: A                        Overall Rating: A

 

MELLOW MUSHROOM
PARK PLAZA
686-2474


If you grew up in the Atlanta area in the late 60's or early 70's, you will remember the Mellow Mushroom with its name that reflected the counter-culture of the day. Well, the child has grown up, branched out, and now offers pizzas, hoagies, salads, and calzones. We admire the many variations available, especially those with a health conscious bent, such as the mega-veggie pizza (sun dried tomatoes, spinach, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, feta, banana peppers, artichoke hearts) and the grilled tofu or grilled tempeh hoagies (the latter with balsamic vinaigrette, grilled onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and sprouts).

Of course, the more traditional pizzas and hoagies are here, too, and you can accompany them with one of about two dozen interesting beers on tap. Mellow Mushroom doesn't offer the best tasting pizza and hoagies on the Island, but it's still perfect for kids, pre and post movie meals, and a great beer experience.

Food Rating: B                         Overall Rating: B

 

MICHAEL ANTHONY'S
37 NEW ORLEANS RD.
785-6272


After 9 years we still don’t have to alter this review very much.

Put succinctly, Michael Anthony's is the best restaurant on Hilton Head. Beautifully run on the business side by Tony Fazzini, offering exquisite food from partner Michael Cirafesi, and presenting its best face in the front of the house with G.M. Jill Boyd and manager Chris Miller, this establishment has put it all together. While we used to believe there were other restaurants on the Island that might someday rival Michael Anthony’s, that no longer seems to be so, and as of now Michael Anthony’s is still the only restaurant that can compete nationally on all levels. They simply have paid attention to every facet of the industry and “gotten it done.”  For example, you hear from many on the Island that people are transitory and service can never be top notch. This establishment proves that if you pay, train, and treat your staff right, service can equal that of the nation’s best rooms.

There are many factors that set Michael Anthony's apart from not only most restaurants on Hilton Head, but anywhere. The owners are all daily (and nightly) involved with each aspect of dining, including customer relations. They have dedicated themselves to perfection and keeping abreast with the best new culinary techniques and wines, even when it means closing the restaurant so primary personnel can learn in Napa and Europe. They take the time to hire intelligent, attractive, and professional staff. And they insist that all food and ingredients pass Chef Michael's trained and talented eye.

Without overstating our case, we can say that almost every dish is, or approaches, perfection. The menu changes, but hopefully you can find scallops, duck, gnocchi (perhaps the best we have tasted anywhere), or veal available on the evening you visit. But don't hesitate to order whatever is offered. The wine list is outstanding and well thought out (ask for the Captain’s List as well). The bar often remains crowded late into the evening as diners sip good wine by the glass and enjoy the terrific atmosphere. Make this your first stop for dining on Hilton Head, but call ahead for two reasons. One, reservations are often difficult to obtain, and two, the restaurant sponsors many special events of culinary and wine interest.

Food Rating: A+                         Overall Rating: A+

 

NEW YORK CITY PIZZA
HERITAGE PLAZA ON 4TH AVENUE
842-2227


New York City Pizza offers excellent pizza (we think one of the two best on the Island) and fair southern Italian fare. Unfortunately, the restaurant itself is usually hot (in the traditional sense, meaning temperature), and lacks any sort of ambiance. Service is mixed. We suggest you take the pizza home. This is a beer and soft drink place.

Pizza Rating: A-             Other Food Rating: B                         Overall Rating: C

OCEAN GRILL
1 SHELTER COVE LANE
SHELTER COVE HARBOR 785-3030


A place that, despite the efforts of the usually excellent Lowrey Group, has not hit its mark. All the trappings are there – well trained chef, experienced management, access to wines and wine advice, and a great view, but something is missing. We think it is the timing throughout.

Food Rating: B-                        Overall Rating: B-

 

OLD FORT PUB
HILTON HEAD PLANTATION
681-2386

Old Fort Pub is arguably the most elegant restaurant on Hilton Head. While always ranking in the upper echelon as far as cuisine, HOW good it is at any time depends on what chef the Lowrey group has assigned there at the moment. Regardless of the chef, however, Old Fort always exudes the class and creativity of all the Lowrey restaurants. If you don't order wine anywhere else, at least do so here, as the wine list is a perennial award winner, this year being again recognized with the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.

The “Pub” features some of the best Contemporary American/low country inspired food on the Island. As with so many restaurants on Hilton Head, seafood is important here, but there is something about the classic and cozy atmosphere that seems to make us want to search out some of the other dishes and enjoy a big bottle of red wine. However, should you desire lighter food and lighter wine, they are there for you as well. The present chef is the highly regarded Keith Josefiak, who is in fact a master at his craft. Check out the pumpkin risotto, the duck breast, the wild salmon, and something you really can’t find done well anywhere else on the Island – bouillabaisse (this one with some Collards and tasso ham). Old Fort is consistently in our top 10, as well as in most everyone else’s too.

Food Rating: A                         Overall Rating:    A


OLD OYSTER FACTORY
MARSHLAND RD. 1.1 MILES OFF MATTHEWS DR.
681-6040

Not just a seafood restaurant, Old Oyster Factory prepares the entire realm of a Continental menu and does it all well. Added bonuses are a beautiful water view and a wine list that offers over 50 wines by the glass and has received an Award of Excellence from The Wine Spectator.

We don’t need to recommend anything in particular because all the dishes are uniformly well prepared and tasty. Be aware, however, that this is not your average seafood restaurant price-wise. It is more of a fine dining restaurant that specializes in seafood, and, thus, your bill may reflect that. Our major problem at the Oyster Factory is that it does not accept reservations. The question becomes, then, whether it is so good that a wait, or the possibility of a wait, is worth the time to go. To me, the answer is “no.” It is good, yes, but not THAT good. I do hasten to add that I am probably in the minority since there always seems to be a crowd (and, correspondingly, a wait).

Food Rating: A-                         Overall Rating: B+

PALMETTO BAY SUNRISE CAFÉ
PALMETTO BAY MARINA
686-3232


Open from 6:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., Sunrise Café is deservedly crowded with lots of locals, as well as the visitors lucky enough to have made the discovery. All the food is fresh and well prepared. Breakfasts include the traditional pancakes, French toast, and eggs, but also feature quiche de jour, eggs Benedict, shrimp hash, frog legs, and handmade crab cakes. For lunch the options are sandwiches of all kinds, flounder or tilapia prepared variously, and truly wonderful salads.

Food Rating: A-                         Overall Rating: A-


RED FISH
8 ARCHER RD.
686-3388

There is probably no more versatile restaurant on Hilton Head than Red Fish. Here you may buy one of the best lunches in town (now overseen by one of our favorite chefs – Melissa Cochran), truly enjoy a dinner that features wonderful preparation with "Cuban/Caribbean” or Asian flares, purchase wine from the 1,300 bottle retail shop in the bar (there is no better wine selection on the Island), and just have a good time with friendly people and some of the best service on the Island (ask for Tabatha).

We like dining in the bar room surrounded by all the wine for sale, but the other dining areas are fine as well. Red Fish permits you to buy retail off the wall if you like (recommended for the wine knowledgeable) and drink the selection with your meal for a small corkage charge. This would be great even if the lobster mac and cheese, filet mignon, seared tuna, black bean soup, Latin ribs, fried oysters, and seafood dishes weren't so good. There is a lot of energy here. Red Fish is in the top ten of our places to recommend.

Food Rating: A             Overall Rating: A

REILLY’S
PORT ROYAL PLAZA  and  SEA PINES CIRCLE
681-4153 and 842-4414


Reilly's is almost a semi Irish Pub and bar offering the traditional Irish foods (Shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, etc.), as well as the usual American lunches. They have a good selection of American and imported beers, friendly service, and usually a lively crowd. All the food is good, though this is not the place to eat if one is searching for any kind of healthy fare. The restaurants are just not geared for it. On the other hand, they are fun and worth the trip (we just wish they had some authentic live Irish music except on St. Patty’s day).

Food Rating: B-                         Overall Rating: B

 

RUAN THAI
811 WILLIAM HILTON PARKWAY

785-8575

While the menu is comprised of many of the usual Thai dishes, the dishes themselves are far from usual. Everything is advertised as being fresh and completely made in house. And if you believe the locals who dine here, Ruan Thai is doing everything correctly. This is not an inexpensive Thai house, which is OK by us when the food is special and portions of fair size are the norm. Service and wine availability are a little better than average (which is “good” for most Thai places, quite frankly). Few cuisines are as flavorful and healthy as Thai. If you have not tried it, this is a good place to learn.

Food Rating: A-            Overall rating: B


SAGE ROOM
13 HERITAGE PLAZA
785-5352

Owner/Chef Matt Jordan has another of the Island’s top 10 restaurants, and it seems to keep improving. Sage Room offers fine cuisine in an upscale atmosphere, and is frequented by those “in the know” on the Island, including many in the food and beverage industry.

The wine list borders on superb, and the service is first rate. As for the food, it rivals most any on the Island, and Matt changes his menu periodically. We can highly recommend the roasted pork tenderloin with blue cheese cream sauce; the butternut squash soup (in season); the braised beef short ribs; and the delicious Colorado lamb with a wild mushroom demi glace. Two thumbs up, as they say, for each dish, as each exhibits that little extra "something" that is the signature of an excellent chef. This is a fun and attractive place.

Food Rating: A+                         Overall Rating: A


SAN MIGUELS
SHELTER COVE HARBOUR
842-4555


Located in beautiful Shelter Cove, San Miguels offers more sophisticated dishes and service than most of its competitors. The restaurant is blessed by its location and by being able to have an outside bar. It also serves some of the best margaritas on the Island. Prices are very reasonable, so this becomes a very nice place to spend some relaxing time.

Food Rating: B                         Overall Rating: B


SANTA FE CAFE
700 PLANTATION CENTER
785-3838

Regretfuly, we were not able to dine here during our last trip. We have been assured there are differences, and all to the good, so we look forward to getting there and sharing our experience as soon as possible.
You can always visit and tell us what you think, of course.

 

SEA GRASS GRILL
807 WILLIAM HILTON PARKWAY
785-9990

This quaint room set with low country beach themes offers a more varied menu than you might recall. Not as heavy on seafood as in the past, you can still find a few fresh fish entrees each night. But now the land and the fowl are better represented. The wine list is interesting and offers some excellent selections. This is a solid, if not spectacular, restaurant, but a little more 21st Century imagination would go a long way. Note: Sea Grass advertises that it is Celiac friendly.

Food Rating: B                         Overall Rating: B

 

THE SEA SHACK
EXECUTIVE PARK RD.   (OFF POPE AVE.)
785-2464

A place known and frequented primarily by the locals, this little restaurant actually does resemble a New England shack. But who cares, when all sorts of fresh fish are available and you can choose to have it grilled, blackened, or fried? There are no pretensions here. You order at the counter as you read the menu off a board, and then sit at an old table and wait for your food. The fried oyster sandwich, the fish based soups, and the grilled grouper were true winners, but the crowd makes it clear that everything is top notch. Large portions, and inexpensive, too. On an Island where the best seafood is usually in the finer restaurants, this is a good find.

Food Rating: A-                         Overall Rating: A-

 

SHRIMP MICHAEL’S
PORT ROYAL PLAZA
342-6842

The chef/owner was an integral part of The Sage Room for many years, so Shrimp Michael’s has no excuse to be anything but outstanding. Our first visit was in between the crowded times of lunch and dinner, and we found pleasant and efficient service, even if our waiter was not as knowledgeable about the food as one might expect.

However, everything else made up for that small and correctable criticism. The restaurant is casually attractive with its seafood motif, and, as the title of the establishment suggests, offers lots of seafood and shellfish prepared in many ways, including how you might direct. We cannot complete this review, however, without recommending a destination dish – the baked oysters. We like to think we know them well, and the Rockefeller and the Bienville here are not only scrumptious, but one of the dishes available at both lunch and dinner.  Yes, we savored the Ahi BLT too, but the ability to create dishes such as these baked oysters, and do it properly, is a real skill. The beer and wine lists, we are happy to say, do justice to the menu.

Food Rating: A+                        Overall Rating: A-

  

SKILLETS COLIGNY PLAZA
785-3131


If you have not been on the Island for a while, Skillets is no longer just the quaint breakfast place that served hearty food as the sun came up. It is now a lovely full service restaurant (7 a.m. – 9 p.m.) that has expanded its menu. Included are home style dinners such as fried beer batter fish and meat loaf; and more classic dishes such as a stuffed chicken breast, broiled sea bass, crab cakes, and sautéed calves liver. Service is still inconsistent, and the wine list is, unfortunately, not good at all. We continue to hope management will step up to the plate on both these issues.

Of course, the incomparable breakfasts still make anyone’s mouth water. Try the “Kitchen Sink” (a layer of pancakes ringed with home fries, sausage, bacon, and topped with poached eggs), the “Beach” (blended home fries, chopped bacon, diced ham, onions, and mushrooms in a blanket of sausage gravy topped with poached eggs), or more traditional dishes such as French toast, Belgian waffles, blintzes, and omelets. You must have breakfast here at least once a trip (and then plan a 10 mile bike ride).

Food Rating: Breakfast A+             Dinner B             Overall Rating: B+

THE SMOKEHOUSE BAR & HOUSE OF BBQ
102 POPE AVENUE
842-4227


Smokehouse provides outstanding BBQ dishes. We are not a big fan of ribs, but suggest you don't leave Hilton Head without trying these. They are the best. Also sample the pulled pork, sliced or pulled brisket, chicken, and/or lots of other appropriate entrees and sides. Enjoy the different spiced BBQ sauces, but don't miss a unique mustard/BBQ preparation. You might find the best hamburger on the Island here as well. Smokehouse is a great place for the kids, for a family meal, for wondering in off the Coligny beach, or for some fun at the bar. It's casual and its prices are gentle.

Food Rating: A-                         Overall Rating: B+

 

STELLINI
15 POPE AVENUE
AT EXECUTIVE PARK
785-7006


Stellini serves traditional Italian fare, and most of the food is well prepared. The dining room is intimate and attractive, and the wine list is better than most on the Island. The mozzarella in corozza, the crabmeat ravioli, and the shrimp scampi are delicious appetizers. Different types of pastas are served with a variety of red or white sauce. The veal seemed to be better than the poultry, though both are prepared five ways and are quite good. The seafood was enticing in description and did not disappoint.. Our favorite is the grouper Piccata. This is an under-appreciated establishment which rarely gets attention when people inquire as to where to dine. We think that really should change. Service is friendly – maybe a bit too. It should be more professional.

Food Rating: B+  to  A-                        Overall Rating: B

 

STREET MEET AMERICAN TAVERN
PORT ROYAL PLAZA
842-2570

If you lived near an old fashioned hot dog joint that offered the best dogs you had tasted in years, wouldn’t you go all the time? It would be hard to keep us away. Well, Street Meet is no joint. It is a cleverly thought out themed restaurant that has Island locals (and visitors who seek it out) abuzz.

Decorated as an early century tavern, the food represents what you might have found100 years ago in many cities across the country. Service is quick and the place can be crowded. And the only way to really let you know what to expect is to set out some of what is on the menu. We are sure you will want to give it a try.
Hot Dogs: choice of Hoffman’s natural casing German frank, a skinless all beef Angus, or a white dog with veal and pork.
Toppings: Homemade chili, coleslaw, sauerkraut, onions, relish, jalapenos.
Burgers: topped with slaw, fries, and fried egg; or cheddar, salsa, and sour cream.
Appetizers: fried smelts; soft pretzel with crab and shrimp dip; slider skewer
Sandwiches: soft shell crab; fried turkey, smashed potatoes, swiss cheese and gravy; gyro

Street Meet also offers more traditional entrees, soups, salads, and gourmet soft drinks, not to mention a full bar, fair wines, great beers, and, to finish all this, a deep fried twinkie for dessert.

Food Rating: A-   Hot Dogs: A+            Overall Rating: A-

THE STUDIO
20 POPE AVE.@ EXECUTIVE PARK RD.
785-6000



What is the saying? Our kingdom for a place with exciting food, gentle music, diverting art, and charming ambiance? Well, maybe not exactly, but we found the restaurant anyway. Owned by long time (and still young) Island stalwarts Paul (Chef) and Lunonia (artist and front of the house) Colella, The Studio is a recommended evening for those looking for romance, soft entertainment, or just good dining.

Great thought has been given to making the diner’s evening special. The front room is candle-lit and lovely, while the back room is brighter. Yet, both areas contain numerous art pieces to enjoy, and often pretty Lunonia or another artist is painting as you dine. A full bar is offered, including an extensive martini list and well put together wine list with a minimum mark-up. Service is friendly and prices are fair. So what’s left? Delicious food presented beautifully and sparked by a touch of innovation. Paul changes his ingredients periodically, but they always surround superb venison, duck, and beef. On the menu recently were also sea scallops, a rack of lamb, and a candidate for Island best soup – the crab and Vidalia onion bisque. These days Paul also uses some Asian fusion and influences – so popular with Americans. We are always surprised at the large portions and the continued quality of this intimate room, but, in a phrase, this is the way to savor dinner.

Food Rating: A+                         Overall Rating: A+

 

SUNSET GRILLE
43 JENKINS RD.
689-6744


Here and there we say we have found a hidden gem, but Sunset Grille, owned and run by Hugh and Linda Lockman, truly qualifies. They finally have started advertising in one publication, but Sunset has always been highly frequented by those in the know, even though this charming place with one of the Island's great views is located within a kind of upscale trailer park. Ignore that, and go. I venture to say that nowhere on the planet will you find a better Bloody Mary, as Hugh uses his own smoked poblano pepper sauce and a secret ingredient. Incredible. And the food is certainly not a let-down in any manner whatsoever. In fact, it is better than ever.

You always begin with fresh biscuits (of varying flavors), and there are three of four specials - nice creations using beef, fish, and whatever else the owners decide on that day. It is hard to turn down the smoked seafood platter (enough for two -- lots of on premises smoked fish with onions, capers, eggs, and herb Dijon and smoked pepper sauces); the crispy fried quail with smoked tomato cream sauce; or the best salmon in town (served over grits). But these are often rivaled by dishes such as a 16 oz. roasted veal chop with homemade orange and poblano chutney; a perfect duck breast over black fig, shallot, and port reduction; or a huge burger stuffed with either white cheddar or blue cheese. Salads are excellent.

Three "words" of caution. Hugh and Linda have been in this location, which is in a combination marina and trailer park, for many years. Word 1: When you see it you might at first think you should leave. Don't. You will miss something special. Word 2: Parking can be tricky. You can first look for parking near the restaurant at the marina. If no luck, there is plenty on the road just outside the park entry (about a two minute walk - that's all). And Word 3: The restaurant is up about 20 stairs and there is no elevator or ramp. The building and fixtures (not the restaurant itself) are just too old and there would be no where to put them. So you can't blame the establishment, but if you cannot get up the stairs, you can't visit them either.

Sunset is open for lunch most days, as well as Sunday brunch (where the menu changes a bit to include more usual brunch items, even though each has a twist). Service is professional and friendly. The view at sunset is unparalleled. Hugh's wine list is up to date and very creative, and he likes to chat about it. Prices are as good, or better, than any restaurant in this class. All in all, this is one of the 4 - 5 on the Island you shouldn't miss if possible.

Food Rating: A+ Overall Rating: A+

(No reduction in grade for accessibility problems as there is nothing that can be done about it)

 

TAPAS
11 NORTHRIDGE PLAZA
681-8590


As one might imagine, this not so Spanish restaurant serves small portions of a variety of foods each evening (the menu changes frequently), and almost every plate is priced at between $8.99 and $10.99. One builds his or her dinner by choosing from the offerings to complement each other and make a complete meal. The best choices from our recent visit: pork apple jack (pecan encrusted with brandied peach sauce); sourmash chicken with bourbon, country ham, and onions; she crab soup; black bean taquito rolls; and Greek shrimp. We have always held that a small restaurant on a small Island cannot do justice to the many dishes from so many backgrounds that are offered on the menu, and thus we have always been a little disappointed in the majority of dishes here. The sauces are often too overpowering and the meats usually overcooked. After many years of trying this establishment our opinion has not changed. Nevertheless, some of the food is quite tasty, if not spectacular, and the atmosphere is fun. The wine list at Tapas is better than average by the bottle, though only fair by the glass.

Food Rating: B-                         Overall Rating: B

 

TRUFFLES CAFÉ
8 Executive Park Rd. and 71 Lighthouse Rd.
785-3663 and 671-6136

Sometimes people who own restaurants tell us we did not give them high enough grades, get angry, and do nothing about it other than to grouse. Not so with the owners of Truffles, who presented cogent arguments and proof as to how they had improved their already quite good establishments. We were impressed with their dedication (an asset of paramount importance in the restaurant business), and after dining at both restaurants recently, and viewing the up to date menus and wine lists, we have responded accordingly by giving both locations our high recommendation.

The Executive Park location is newer and sports a décor a bit more to our liking than the room at Sea Pines, and at present has servers who are a little more polished than Sea Pines, but both rooms are charming and fit their settings. The menus are similar and the management is proud of its fresh seafood and diverse selections. In fact, it is quite an accomplishment to prepare soups, burgers, pastas, fish, meat, salads, etc. and do so many so well. Our best advice is to order those dishes that are simpler in nature (that’s kind of the “in” thing anyway), which lets the natural flavors of the carefully chosen foods shine through. As for the wines, well, we have seen the new one that will be available any day, and it shows what careful buying can do. It is an excellent list featuring some dynamite producers. Something for everyone at Truffles.

Food Ratings: Executive Park: A Sea Pines: A-
Overall Ratings: Executive Park: A Sea Pines: B+




TWO ELEVEN PARK WINE BAR AND BISTRO
211 PARK PLAZA
686-5212


Though Two Eleven is still one of the best wine finds in Hilton Head, we bemoan the change from fine dining to more of a bistro atmosphere. Patrons now enjoy dishes such as grilled lamb lollipops, pizza, cedar plank salmon, and sautéed tilapia, but these offerings cannot match the excellence of the former chef’s cuisine. Of course, the new menu is less expensive.  

What makes this restaurant unique, however, is the wine bar, wine list, and total energy. In season, Two Eleven offers approximately 75 wines by the glass, and, out of season, approximately 40. The wine list itself is beautifully put together with a terrific selection of chardonnays, cabernets, champagnes, red zinfandels, pinot noirs, and other varieties of white wines. When we were there recently, the bar was crowded with friendly people who know the Island, just like always.

Food Rating: B                         Overall Rating: B

 

UP THE CREEK PUB
18 SIMMONS RD.  (JUST OFF MARSHLAND NEAR THE CROSS ISLAND X-WAY)
681-3625

For selfish reasons it is almost a shame to give Up the Creek too much exposure because we like being able to get in without the crowd that will be forming soon. The place is just too good to remain even semi-anonymous.

Located on the docks, it isn’t fancy, but exudes a beach comber sort of Island ambiance. The food is, on the outside, pub oriented, but the owner and manager make sure every dish has a little something special. The steamed oysters are huge and you open them yourself. Usually simple potato salad has a touch of bacon. Sauces and condiments are of high quality and often blended. The burger is probably the Island’s best (order two – everyone else will want part of yours). And the fried seafood has a lightly spiced breading that enhances each bite. As beer is clearly the preferred accompaniment to this food, sample from those available on draught, or order by the bottle. Lost of good selections. All in all, a real find.

Food Rating: A                        Overall Rating: A

 

WATERFRONT CAFE LIGHTHOUSE AT HARBOR TOWN
671-3399


Wine list: Very good.  View: Excellent   Food: Touristy.  Over-rated.  ‘Nuff said.

Food Rating: C-             Overall Rating: C-

 

WILD WING CAFÉ
72 POPE AVENUE AT CIRCLE CENTER
785-9464


This is listed solely for the wings. Yes, there is an extensive menu of sandwiches, ribs, burgers, and the like, but while they are fine, they are nothing special. On the other hand, the wings are not only terrific, there are OVER 30 types from which to choose. Of course, accompany these wings with a beer from a darn good list. This is fun all around.

Wing Rating: A+             Other Food Rating: B-            Overall Rating: B

YUMMY HOUSE
2 SOUTH WOOD PARK
, SUITE A
681-5888


Do you hate the name? Get over it because finally the Island has some top of the line Chinese food. But more than that, Yummy also offers excellent Japanese dishes plus a fine sushi bar. We loved our egg roll, spring roll, garlic shrimp, and scallop Teriyaki with mushrooms. The menu is not extensive, but perhaps that allows the chefs to concentrate on fewer dishes and do a wonderful job. While we usually do not like Chinese buffets because we prefer our Chinese food ultra fresh, at Yummy there is such a crowd for the buffet that it is always being replenished, and so the food is, in fact, fresh. Bravo. Now if they would only re-think the name.

Food Rating: A-                         Overall Rating: A-




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Along with his wife Sara, Monty's (Nightlawyer12@aol.com) weekly wine articles are published by Wine on Line International and by Sallys-Place, and are taken electronically by many in the wine industry. The Preisers are wine columnists for the Boca News, and are contributors to various magazines and newsletters throughout the country. They judge the annual Hilton Head Winefest and Monty is the founder of the Hilton Head chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food. Sara and Monty are also founders of Creative Professional Programs, Inc., a company specializing on a world wide basis in the education of business professionals in conjunction with learning about, and enjoying, fine wine and dining. In March of this year the Preisers published The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, the only comprehensive guide to wineries and restaurants in the Napa Valley.



Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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