Discriminating Diners Enjoy Hilton Head Island’s Many Epicurean Offerings

By:Marie McAden

Date:10/6/2015

If you’re one of those people who spends more time thinking about where you want to eat than what you want to do on your vacation, you’re going to love planning your trip to Hilton Head Island.

With more than 250 restaurants, this world-class beach resort offers visitors the opportunity to dine at an award-winning French bistro one night and a casual crab house the next. Haute cuisine or hot dogs, Hilton Head has it.

As classics go, Old Fort Pub has been setting the standard for fine dining since it opened in 1973. The waterfront restaurant earns AAA’s Four Diamond rating year after year for its Southern-inspired American cuisine and breathtaking sunset views. Be sure to make it up to the widow’s walk on the restaurant’s rooftop for a Facebook-worthy selfie with beautiful Skull Creek as the backdrop.

Charlie’s L’etoile Verte is another Epicurean icon not to be missed. At this family-owned restaurant, the French-American carte du jour changes daily based on the freshest local seafood and produce available. Its extensive wine list is among the few in South Carolina to be awarded Wine Spectator’s coveted Best of Award of Excellence.

In recent years, the ever-growing popularity of farm-to-table cuisine, craft brews and boutique wines has brought a new generation of restaurants to the island.

With a focus on fun, these eateries offer a new millennium twist to the old eat-drink-and-be-merry convention. The classic Budweiser and burger has been upgraded to handcrafted spirits and fresh-from-the-fields fare.

A couple dozen Hilton Head Island restaurants now sport the “Fresh on the Menu” brand, a designation earned by chefs with menus featuring at least 25 percent “Certified South Carolina Grown” ingredients. At the peak of the season, as much as half the food these restaurants serve comes from South Carolina farms and rivers.

Neo, a hip little gastropub in Moss Creek Village, has quickly become a favorite with foodies looking for wild-caught seafood and organic farm-raised beef. Chef Russell Keane is so passionate about going local that 90 percent of the ingredients he uses in his kitchen comes from farmers and fishermen within 90 miles.

Down the road, Chef David Vincent Young is whipping up authentic Lowcountry-flavored dishes that have been part of his Gullah heritage for more than 175 years. At the colorful and casual Burnin' Down South, named after his cookbook, you can feast on his "Good as Grandma’s Shrimp Gumbo" or "Swamp Sampler," featuring blackened alligator and popcorn shrimp. His mouthwatering menu also includes a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan specials.

Ruby Lee’s, located on a little-traveled road at the north end of the island, offers a different sort of local flavor. The “sports, blues and soul food” restaurant features a menu inspired by its native islander namesake, whose silhouette greets visitors at the door. Ruby Lee’s daughter Deborah Govan and her husband, Martin, do all the cooking, preparing some of the family matriarch’s best-loved dishes, including fall-off-the-bone oxtails served over rice and collard greens.

You don’t have to be a gastronome to appreciate Poseidon, an expansive waterfront restaurant with a covered patio and rooftop bar in Shelter Cove Towne Centre. Billed as a “destination experience,” it serves up coast-to-coast cuisine with a panoramic view of Broad Creek.

Here, coastal isn’t limited to the Carolinas. At Poseidon’s The World is Your Oyster Bar, you’ll typically find five different half-shell varieties from the Northwest’s Fanny Bays to clams pulled out of the waters around Hog Island, Virginia. The entrée selection is just as varied, with everything from a New England casserole to a San Francisco seafood stew.

The brainchild of longtime Hilton Head restaurateur Steve Carb, Poseidon is part of the SERG Restaurant Group, which includes such popular dining spots as One Hot Mama’s American Grille, Skull Creek Boathouse and Frankie Bones, a stylish '60s-era restaurant and lounge straight out of New York City’s Little Italy.

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