5 Nov 2018
Sample the exquisite food scene of paradise on earth.
Hilton Head Island has long forged a reputation as a playground for the rich and powerful. Yes, there are plenty of opportunities for those of us whose champagne and caviar dreams tend to clash with a beer and barbecue budget but for those living the high life, Hilton Head is a home away from home. And if there’s one thing you can say for the fabulously wealthy, they tend to eat well.
As such, restaurants on the island have grown accustomed to servicing a fairly discerning clientele of travelers who have dined out in some of the world’s most exclusive restaurants, who expect nothing less than excellence. And even for those of us who can’t trot the globe chasing five-star restaurants, that has created a culinary scene unlike anything else in the southeast.
So the next time you really want to treat yourself to a world-class meal, culinary nirvana is just a short day trip away. Here are restaurants you need to try while you’re on the island.
Charlie’s L’etoille Verte
Founder Charlie Golson may have stepped back from the kitchen somewhat in recent years, but the island’s iconic “green star” continues to shine bright in the care of executive chef Josh Castillo and Golson’s daughter Margaret, who still curates the celebrated wine collection. The menu is subject to seasonality and changes daily, but you’ll likely find the Flounder Meuniere on there. Lightly breaded with exquisitely subtle flavors, this is a mouth-watering constant on a menu that changes with the tides.
The Sage Room
Owner and founder Matt Jording has long hung his hat on his ability to reinvent a menu. As such it’s hard to point to any one item as a “signature dish,” although there are a few contenders like the Snow Pea Martini or the House Filet with its flamboyant garnish or a rosemary skewered shrimp. The visual alone makes it Instagram gold. Perhaps the most sought-after item in the restaurant is one of the seats along the open kitchen, where you can watch the mastery of great chefs at work.
Skull Creek Dockside
One of the most exciting new restaurants on the island, this sprawling oceanfront restaurant shares an outdoor bar and open-air courtyard with sister restaurant Skull Creek Boathouse. While you’d imagine a place right on the water built to resemble a classic river house would offer strictly seafood, there’s a little bit of everything on the menu. Authentic southern smoke elevates their pulled pork and BBQ ribs, while their flatbread pizzas delight with crispiness and inspired flavors. Even so, seafood is king. Go for the Seafood Tower and try it all, and be sure to wash it down with their private label Beach Blonde Ale from River Dog Brewing.
Old Fort Pub
The island’s only AAA Four-Diamond Restaurant, Old Fort Pub’s signature cuisine is matched only by the stunning Skull Creek views it offers. Chef Kynif Rogers has infused some new blood into the traditional restaurant, experiment with new flavors that push the boundaries of the Southern-inspired cuisine. While the seafood is first-rate (the GM is an avid fisherman and catches much of it himself), the most exciting new development at Old Fort Pub is the beef program, with free-range wild-fed beef being aged on site to mouth-watering perfection.
BY: BARRY KAUFMAN