Posts Tagged ‘Grits’

Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s – Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 by virginia


Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s is a restaurant in Hilton Head that I’ve wanted to try for years, but it’s got a reputation for being hard to get into. The daily hours vary depending on whether Dye is catering a party elsewhere. We were finally able to snag a reservation last year and I was thrilled to be able to taste home-style Gullah cuisine for the first time. Per wikipedia, the Gullah are descendents of African slaves who reside in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia. The cuisine reflects a blend of these African and Southern roots, and so it is a bit different from the usual Lowcountry fare we’ve eaten before in terms of flavors.

The menu isn’t very long and is pretty straightforward. We ordered a few appetizers to share, and we indulged on the complimentary cornbread with sugar cane syrup on the side. The cornbread was deliciously moist and didn’t even need the syrup or extra butter that came with it.

Cornbread with cane syrup

Cornbread with cane syrup

We got a few orders of the shrimp devil eggs, which were deviled eggs with shrimp mixed into the mashed yolks. These were well seasoned, not too heavy or mayo-y, and made for a nice bite to start.

Shrimp devil eggs

Shrimp devil eggs

The seafood hush puppies were fantastic. They were served to us piping hot, and had a delicately crisp outer shell. There was a mixture of crab and shrimp on the inside, and these were surprisingly light, not too dense. The hush puppies came with a homemade tartar sauce, and they were one of our favorite dishes of the night.

Seafood hush puppies

Seafood hush puppies

We also got steamed shrimp, which were bathed in a garlic butter and served with cocktail sauce. The shrimp were cooked just right so that they were tender and plump. Simple, yet tasty.

Steamed shrimp

Steamed shrimp

Lastly, we all shared a crab cake plate as part of our appetizers. The crab cakes were two big patties bursting with blue crab meat and very little filler, aside from a few veggies and seasonings. Since this was technically a dinner plate, it came with our choice of two sides. We opted for collard greens, which were more rustic in flavor than the typical collard greens we’ve tasted before, allowing the slight bitterness of the greens to shine through. We also chose the mac n’ cheese, which was baked and on the dry side, though had decent cheese flavor.

Crab cakes with collard greens and macaroni and cheese

Crab cakes with collard greens and mac n’ cheese

For our main course, Josh and I split the country fried chicken and the smothered shrimp and grits. The fried chicken came with a breast, thigh, drumstick, and wing (half a chicken) and was nicely crisp on the outside, not the least bit greasy. The meat was tender and juicy, and everything was well seasoned. We had a choice of two sides and opted for more collard greens, plus lima beans, which were savory in flavor and buttery in texture.

Country fried chicken with collard greens and butter beans

Fried chicken with collard greens and lima beans

The smothered shrimp and grits were covered in a rich brown gravy and came with bacon and smoked sausage on the side. While I liked that you could crumble in the bacon yourself, thus ensuring that it stayed crispy, there was too much gravy on the plate. I get that it’s supposed to be smothered, but the grits were totally lost in the sea of thick gravy. The shrimp were also overcooked, rendering them tough and chewy. It was too bad, because I like the flavors of the dish, but it got to be overwhelming very quickly.

Smothered shrimp and grits

Smothered shrimp and grits

Overall, we were generally pleased with our meal at Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s. Everything is homemade, and you can see the thought and care put in every dish. The only miss of the evening for us was the smothered shrimp and grits, but everything else was fantastic, especially the appetizers. The hush puppies, the crab cakes, and the fried chicken were our favorites f the evening. The food and the ambiance are nothing fancy, but that’s part of the charm. Dye herself was in the kitchen and came out to speak with us several times. She’s pretty straightforward and no nonsense, but you can tell she’s passionate about her cooking and about sharing Gullah food with newbies like us. Her niece, who was about 12, was our server for the evening, and she was extremely polite and efficient. J took a particular liking to her and wouldn’t eat unless she was around, which we all thought was pretty adorable. It’s definitely a place worth checking out, if you can get a reservation!

Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s
840 William Hilton Pkwy.
Hilton Head Island, SC

Red Fish Grill – New Orleans

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 by virginia


The Red Fish Grill, a Ralph Brennan restaurant, was recommended to us by a friend of a friend. After we gorged on five dozen oysters at Luke Restaurant during happy hour, we were feeling pretty full and unmotivated to do anything too wild. We walked around the French Quarter for a while, listened to some live music while standing around on Bourbon Street, and then tried to pop into the Red Fish Grill for a late dinner. It was still pretty hopping in there, but the vibe was still casual and low key, so we put our names down, took another loop around the Quarter, and then settled at the bar with some Abita beers to wait for our table.

Fortunately we weren’t waiting there for too long before our number popped up, and after we settled our tab, we moved over to the main dining area. It’s a tall, airy space with large Alexander Calder-esque fish mobiles hanging from the ceilings. After debating for a while on what to order (the menu choices are actually a bit limited), we tore into the crusty french bread that was cleverly served in a white paper bag. The bread was wonderful, with a crispy crust that shattered nicely and an airy, chewy interior.

Crusty french bread

Crusty french bread

Josh had his eye on the BBQ blue crab claws so we split an order for our appetizer. His inspiration was the crab claws Provencale that we had at Arnaud’s during our last trip. While we were disappointed with our overall meal at Arnaud’s, Josh loved those buttery, garlicky claws with a dash of Pernod that paired so well with the crab flavor. Sadly, these were nothing like those  claws. Part of the issue was that we misunderstood what New Orleans style barbecue means, which does not refer to grilled or smoked, but rather, cooked in a sauce comprised mostly of butter, Worcestershire sauce, and creole seasoning. We didn’t know that at the time, and so we were a bit perplexed when we received breaded crab claws that had either been fried or baked, sitting in a bowl of  brownish sauce that tasted mostly of butter and unidentifiable seasonings. We didn’t love the sauce, which didn’t have a lot of discernible flavor, and the crab meat got a bit lost under the breading. My favorite part of the dish was cheddar scallion biscuit on the side, which hard and dense but softened up when soaked into the buttery sauce, and had a nice cheesy taste. I was not a fan of this appetizer in general, and although Josh didn’t dislike it as much as I did, he conceded that it didn’t compare to Arnaud’s crab claws.

BBQ blue crab claws with

BBQ crab claws with cheddar-scallion drop biscuits

Our confusion regarding New Orleans style barbecue also translated into our entree order of BBQ shrimp and grits. While this time the shrimp did seem like it had been grilled, the dish was covered in the same brownish barbecue sauce as the crab claws. However, in this case, the sauce worked. The buttery sauce acted as a gravy and bound the shrimp with the cream cheese grits underneath. The shrimp were well seasoned, and I appreciated that they kept the heads on, which is my favorite part. On the downside, I was surprised to see that the fried green tomatoes had been cut up and were mixed in with the shrimp and sauce, as they got a bit lost in the mix.

BBQ Gulf shrimp and grits with fried green tomatoes

BBQ Gulf shrimp and grits with fried green tomatoes

For our other entree, we picked the black drum, a local fish. It was grilled and served with bacon braised brussels sprouts, roasted portobella mushrooms, and a charred tomato lobster beurre blanc. The drum was very meaty though mild tasting. The sauce prevented it from getting dry, but I didn’t detect much lobster flavor. I was also surprised and disappointed to see only two and half brussels sprouts on the plate, and they didn’t taste much like bacon. The mushrooms were a nice accompaniment though and added a bit of bulk to the dish.

Wood grilled black drum with brussels sprouts and portobella mushrooms

Wood grilled black drum with brussels sprouts and portobella mushrooms

Josh surprised me by ordering dessert at the start of our meal, since we weren’t that hungry to begin with, and we’re generally not dessert people. He got the double chocolate bread pudding, which needs to be ordered in advance rather than at the end of the meal because it takes 20 minutes to prepare. I think he was inspired to order bread pudding because we both had been dreaming about the creole bread pudding souffle with warm whiskey cream from Commander’s Palace that we ate on our previous trip. We had hoped to make it back there this time around for their incredible lunch specials and 25 cent martinis but ultimately decided that it would probably be too upscale for J to enjoy. This bread pudding was very different in that it was chocolate based, not vanilla, but it was still pretty delicious in its own right. The middle of the bread pudding was soft and fluffy, similar to chocolate souffle, while the edges were crispier and chewier. Although we didn’t ask for it with ice cream, it was brought to us a la mode with vanilla ice cream on top. We were a bit annoyed that they charged us more for that when we didn’t order it, but the ice cream was a good addition and helped to cut through the richness of the chocolate. White and dark chocolate ganache was poured over the top table-side, making it a truly decadent and chocolatey experience.

Double chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream

Double chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and white and dark chocolate ganache

Overall, I was slightly disappointed with our meal at the Red Fish Grill. I think I was just expecting a bit more, and the food was really sort of meh; not bad, not great. The restaurant has received a lot of accolades, and it was recommended to us by a local, so perhaps my expectations were set too high. Even though our appetizer and entrees were properly prepared and nicely presented, none of the dishes wowed us with flavor. There was just a slight chain restaurant vibe to everything, which made the prices a bit of a shock. There was only one seafood entree under $20 (catfish and shrimp creole at $18), with the rest ranging from $25-$33. Appetizers were a bit more reasonable at $7-$9 for soups and salads and $9-$10 for starters. A dozen raw oysters was $15. Portions were decent but not huge. I was also a bit surprised by how limited the menu was. There were only six seafood entree choices, plus one chicken and one steak entree. It’s definitely a fish-centric restaurant, so if you’re dining with people who are seafood-averse, they won’t have much to choose from. I did like the atmosphere though, casual and bustling, and I might hang out at the bar once in a while if I lived in New Orleans. As a visitor, however, I didn’t find the food very special, and it’s not someplace that I would plan on going back to the next time we’re in town. There are so many other places with better food at cheaper prices, and I just don’t think it’s worth it.

Red Fish Grill
115 Bourbon St.
New Orleans, LA

Hilton Head 2011 Day 3 – A Lowcountry Backyard

Sunday, September 18th, 2011 by virginia

I did do a little bit of research on Hilton Head restaurants before we went down, and one restaurant that I found was called A Lowcountry Backyard, which featured local lowcountry cuisine. My brother, sister-in-law, and nephew left that afternoon so we had a slightly smaller group for dinner, though there were still 12 of us. This restaurant also does not take reservations, though they said that if we called ahead they would put our names on the list and try to accommodate us. We arrived at the restaurant, they told us the wait wouldn’t be too bad, but we ended up waiting for over 45 minutes. The restaurant is on the smaller side so we had to stay outside. There’s a pretty garden with tables and chairs but the wait was uncomfortable because the mosquitoes were relentless.

We were bitten up and slightly annoyed by the time we sat down. Again, we had to split up into two tables because they didn’t have anything large enough for a group of our size. Josh and I sat with Jessica and Eric while the “adults” were squeezed into the other table. We started off with a round of local beers as we perused the menu. The menu wasn’t very long but there were lots of things that I wanted to try. We ended up getting a few appetizers to share. First up was the fried green tomato stack, which was pretty self explanatory. A few pieces of lightly breaded and fried green tomatoes were stacked together and served with pickles and ranch dressing on the side. The breading was well seasoned though slightly soggy. We could taste the sweet/sourness of the green tomatoes though, and overall we enjoyed the flavors of this dish.

Fried green tomato stack

We also shared the blue crab dip, which was lump crab meat blended with cheese to make a warm and creamy dip. I always thought that seafood and cheese shouldn’t go together, but the combination worked well in the dip. We could taste the sweet brininess of the crab meat while the cheese added a rich tang. The texture was smooth and creamy, with little lumps of crab. There was flat bread and tortilla chips on the side for dipping.

May River blue crab dip

Lastly, we got an order of pimento cheese with grilled flat bread and tortilla chips. I was curious about pimento cheese since it’s pretty popular in the south, but I hadn’t really ever tasted it by itself. Basically it’s a combination of cheddar cheese, mayo, and pimentos all blended together. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan. I found the spread to be too chunky and the texture was slightly off-putting for me. There would be little lumps of cheese and little clumps of mayo, and the flavors didn’t meld for me. We ended up passing the dish over to the “adult table”, where it was quickly gobbled up. The adults raved about the pimento cheese, preferring it over the blue crab dip that we liked. I guess it’s just a matter of personal taste!

Homemade lowcountry pimento cheese

For our entrees, Josh and I shared the shrimp and grits and the Bischick. The Bischick was a lightly breaded and pan fried piece of chicken breast served over a homemade biscuit and topped with lowcountry gravy. The chicken breast was thick, juicy, and tender, and the breading was well seasoned. The homemade biscuit wasn’t as salty or as buttery as the fast food biscuits that I’m used to, but it had a nice fluffy texture to it and stood up well with the chicken. The gravy was thick and creamy, adding seasoning and richness to the sandwich, though the amount was slightly overwhelming and I ended up scraping some of it off. I did enjoy the dish as a whole, as it was fun and flavorful.

The Bischick

The Bischick came with a choice of one side dish so I opted for macaroni and cheese. It was a very good version with lots of tangy, sharp cheese. The noodles were al dente, the sauce was creamy, and there was shredded cheese on top that added an extra punch of flavor.


Macaroni and cheese

The shrimp and grits were a combination of sauteed shrimp and sausage slices mixed with a creamy bacon sauce and served over grits. This dish definitely packed in a lot of flavor, though it was on the border of being just slightly too salty for my taste. But the shrimp was cooked perfectly so that they still had a light, bouncy texture. The bacon cream sauce was truly decadent, and the creamy grits had soaked up all the flavor of the other ingredients. It was a pretty heavy and rich dish so I was glad that we went halfsies, since I think it would be hard to polish off a full portion of this by yourself.

Shrimp & grits with sausage and bacon cream sauce

We also got an extra side dish of collard greens, which definitely helped to counteract the richness of our two entrees. The greens were just a little bitter with a slight tang to cut through the rich gravy on the Bischick and the creamy bacon sauce on the grits.

Collard greens

Jessica ordered the potato chip meatloaf for her entree, which was something I really wanted to try. She generously gave us tastes of her dish, and although I couldn’t taste the potato chips (which they use instead of breadcrumbs), the meatloaf itself was well seasoned and flavorful. They use a combination of ground pork and beef, and they grill slices in a skillet before serving so that there’s a nice outer crust while the inside has a softer texture. The meatloaf was glazed with a peach barbecue sauce that was sweet and tangy.

Potato chip meatloaf

Overall I really did enjoy the food at A Lowcountry Backyard but the wait for a table was kind of ridiculous, especially since we had called before we went and they said we should be ok. It seems unavoidable to wait because the restaurant doesn’t take actual reservations and the place is pretty small. The food was flavorful and well seasoned, though the preparation is simple. It’s definitely home-cooked food, hearty and comforting, but not refined or mind-blowing. Portions are big and prices are extremely reasonable. Perhaps that’s why the restaurant is so popular; I just wish they would take reservations. If you have the time and the patience – go. If not, you might not think it’s worth the wait.

A Lowcountry Backyard
32 Palmetto Bay Rd.
Hilton Head, SC