Posts Tagged ‘Hilton Head’

Plantation Cafe & Deli – Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 by virginia

DSC_3362

After lamenting the lack of good she crab soup over the course of our week in Hilton Head, we asked around whenever we had the opportunity to talk with locals, and the general consensus seemed to be that the best she crab soup on the island could be found at the Plantation Cafe & Deli. It’s a diner-like cafe that’s only open for breakfast and lunch, and there are two locations on the island – one on the north end and one on the south. We wound up going to the northern location on the morning that we were heading home from Hilton Head.

The menu is huge, as you would expect at any diner. There were lots of eggs and assorted breakfast items available, as well as numerous sandwiches and salads. We started with a bowl of the famous she crab soup.

She crab soup

She crab soup

Chock full of crab, thick, creamy, and rich, this really was the she crab soup of our dreams. The crab flavor was very pronounced, and it had a bit of a pepper kick to it that wasn’t overwhelming. A bowl was pretty filling though, so we were glad to have shared it, though I was craving more when we finished.

I don’t usually go for breakfast items at a diner, but a few of the breakfast dishes were calling out to me. I ended up sharing the crab cakes benedict and Elle’s southern breakfast with Josh. The crab cakes benedict featured poached eggs stacked on top of two decent-sized crab cakes and a toasted english muffin. The crab cakes had a good amount of meat in them, not a lot of filler, though they were on the mushy side rather than light and crisp. Still, it was a nice combination in terms of a runny egg on top of flavorful crab and a crunchy english muffin. We got the hollandaise sauce on the side and dipped lightly (I hate it when my eggs benedict are drowning in sauce). We had a choice of home fries or grits, and since the southern breakfast came with grits, we opted for home fries. They were shredded potatoes that were nicely browned and well seasoned on the outside, soft in the middle. We also had a choice of fresh fruit or hot cinnamon apples, and of course we went with the apples. They were like apple pie filling, though not as soft, but warm and comforting.

Crab cakes benedict with homes fries and hot cinnamon apples

Crab cakes benedict with hot cinnamon apples and home fries

Elle’s southern breakfast featured a big bowl of grits topped with three fried green tomatoes, two eggs any style (we opted for over easy), two sausage patties, and a choice of a buttermilk biscuit or toast (biscuit, of course). The fried green tomatoes were crispy on the outside and juicy and tart on the inside, but they seemed to be lacking something – more seasoning, some sauce, anything. It seemed odd that they were in the bowl of grits, so we just moved them off to the plate and doused them in salt and hot sauce, which made a big difference. The grits were buttery and creamy, and we tossed a little hot sauce in there as well for a nice kick. I’m not a fan of sausage patties in general (too many bad fast food breakfasts growing up!) but these had a nice browned crust on the outside and were milder in the flavor, which I preferred. The biscuit was fluffy and just plain yummy.

Elle's southern breakfast - fried green tomatoes, grits, eggs, biscuit, sausage

Elle’s southern breakfast – fried green tomatoes, grits, eggs, biscuit, sausage

Overall, we were pretty impressed with the food at the Plantation Cafe & Deli. It’s a cute diner that serves large portions at reasonable prices. The she crab soup was amazing (I would go back just to eat another bowl of it), and the ambiance is casual and friendly. It’s a great spot to grab a filling breakfast or lunch, and I hope that we can find the time to make it there again this year.

Plantation Cafe & Deli
96 Mathews Dr.
Hilton Head, SC

The Sea Shack – Hilton Head, SC

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 by virginia

DSC_3266

The Sea Shack is great little place on the island that I finally got to try two years ago. It’s a no frills joint where the specialty is – you guessed it – seafood. You order at the counter in front and then they call your name when your food is ready. Although we usually make sandwiches for lunch and eat by the pool every day, now we try to make a special trip to the Sea Shack once a year. It takes a bit of planning since they’re only open for lunch until 3 pm (they do serve dinner from 5-9 pm), and Josh and his dad don’t usually get back from golfing until about 2 pm.

The menu is surprisingly extensive but basic. You can pretty much get whatever seafood they have either fried, grilled, or blackened. The Shark Attack combo lets you try the most amount of items, though you can also get combo platters with 2 or 3 items of your choice. The Shark Attack comes with fried fish,¬† shrimp, scallops, oysters, and crab cake. It also includes hush puppies and your choice of two sides. We opted for mac n’ cheese and the veggie of the day, which was stewed okra and tomatoes. The seafood is fried on the spot when you order so you can be sure it’ll come out piping hot and crispy. Everything tastes fresh, and the oysters are big enough that you can taste their brininess through the breading. The crab cake is also excellent, not too heavy on the filler.

Shark Attack combo

Shark Attack combo

The okra on that day was delicious, not at all slimy, but crisp and bright. I wish I could eat okra more often! The mac n’ cheese can be a little mushy but there’s lots of cheese mixed in. And the hush puppies are great, light and fluffy on the inside.

Hush puppies, mac n' cheese, stewed okra and tomatoes

Hush puppies, mac n’ cheese, stewed okra and tomatoes

Since we already had a big plate of fried food, we decided to try out the jerk grouper. I asked them at the counter which they would recommend – jerk or blackened – and they said they make their jerk seasoning in house. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of the seasonings they used. There was something in it that had a floral quality that I didn’t like, though Josh didn’t seem to mind it. The grouper was also a bit overcooked, rendering it a little tough and chewy. I’ll skip this dish the next time, and go for something blackened. For our sides, we chose french fries (standard, but crispy) and sweet potato cornbread, which tasted a bit like pumpkin pie and was very dense but moist.

Jerk grouper, french fries, sweet potato cornbread, hush puppies

Jerk grouper, french fries, sweet potato cornbread, hush puppies

Overall, I think if you want to eat fried seafood, the Sea Shack is the place to go. Everything is prepared fresh, so that it’s not sitting out under heat lamps getting soggy. The restaurant has seats on the inside but it’s a pretty small place so it does fill up quickly. We tend to go later than normal lunch hour when it’s not as crowded, but it’s still tough to find tables together for our big group. There is also seating outside. Most sandwiches/platters will run you about $10-$15, but you get a pretty big portion of food and the quality merits the price tag. It’s definitely worth checking out.

The Sea Shack
6B Executive Park Rd.
Hilton Head, SC

Nick’s Steak and Seafood – Hilton Head, SC

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 by virginia

Nick’s Steak and Seafood is the sort of generic seafood restaurant that you’ll find all over Hilton Head. We’ve eaten there before, many many years ago, and now we know why we didn’t go back. What lured us in this time was the all you can eat snow crab legs, in which several people in our party partook. But our meal got off to a bad start when Josh asked our server what fish was local, and the response was, “Umm..nothing?” I guess we have to give points for honesty!

Nevertheless, I started with a bowl of she crab soup, which I hoped would be somewhat local, given that it’s a lowcountry specialty. The soup I got was very creamy and not much else. There wasn’t any discernible crab flavor, and it was actually incredibly greasy on top. It was so bad that I sent it back, something I generally never do, because I was convinced they had given me the wrong soup, or had forgotten to stir it before they served it to me. The she crab soup other people at our table received didn’t look anything like mine, and theirs at least had some crab in it. I got back pretty much the same bowl though, and our server said it was just a new batch of soup. I don’t know what that meant, but it wasn’t a good bowl of soup.

She crab soup

She crab soup

Rather than do all you can eat crab, Josh and I shared two pounds of snow crab legs (I think it was about $25 for two pounds and $35 for all you can eat) and the captain’s platter. The snow crab legs were steamed and were just ok. They didn’t seem super fresh in the sense that the shells didn’t have a good snap to them and the meat got stuck inside. When snow crab legs are prepared nicely, we can easily extract the meat whole. They tasted fine though. We also got to pick a potato side (we opted for fries), and it came with the vegetable of the day (green beans).

Steamed snow crab legs

Steamed snow crab legs

We chose the fried version of the captain’s platter, which featured tilapia, shrimp, and scallops. The tilapia was pretty mushy, both inside and out, and the scallops tasted a tad fishy. The shrimp were the best part of the plate, with relatively big pieces that weren’t too overcooked. It also came with a choice of potato (we picked fries again) and the house vegetable.

Captain's platter with fried shrimp, tilapia, and scallops

Captain’s platter with fried shrimp, tilapia, and scallops

Overall, we thought the food at Nick’s was pretty disappointing. From start to finish, our food was pretty poorly executed and bland in flavor. The only thing I could really see coming here for is the bar, as they had decent beers on tap and a Steelers theme going on. But it’s far from a dining destination, and I doubt that we’ll be making a return visit any time soon.

Nick’s Steak and Seafood
9 Park Lane
Hilton Head Island, SC

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

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 by virginia

DSC_2930

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

ELA’s Blu Water Grille – Hilton Head, SC

Friday, August 1st, 2014 by virginia

DSC_2696

Since our annual Hilton Head trip is fast approaching, I better catch up on last year’s restaurant excursions! ELA’s Blu Water Grille was a new restaurant for us last year (in 2013). It’s right on the water at Shelter Cove and has amazing views of the harbor. We were such a large group that they gave us a private room on the third level that had big windows on three sides, and we arrived just in time to watch the gorgeous sunset.

Sunset in Shelter Cove

Sunset in Shelter Cove

The meal started off with baskets of hush puppies and garlic bread. The hush puppies were a tad dense, but whenever we got freshly fried batches, they were pretty delicious, especially slathered with butter. The garlic bread was lackluster in comparison, with not enough garlic flavor and a poor crust, so we mostly focused our attention on the hush puppies.

Basket of hush puppies

Basket of hush puppies

The menu looked incredible, with seafood obviously being the star, and we had a hard time choosing what to eat. Josh and I ended up ordering a crab cake for our appetizer, and we also got a few orders of fried green tomatoes to share with the table. The crab cake was a pretty decent size for an appetizer portion, and there was definitely a lot of crab in the cake with not much filler. It had a nice crispy crust on the outside, and the crab was fresh tasting and flaky inside. I was intrigued by the accompanying key lime aioli, but it didn’t really have much key lime flavor to it. I also wish there was a bit more of it, as I think some sauce always help to prevent a crab cake from being too dry. Nevertheless, it was a good crab cake and well prepared.

Crab cake

Crab cake with key lime aioli

The fried green tomatoes were also nicely prepared, with a light, crispy coating. They were served with a zingy creole sauce that added flavor and seasoning but didn’t overwhelm the slight tartness of the tomatoes.

Fried green tomatoes

Fried green tomatoes

The entrees, however, were nowhere near the same level of execution as the appetizers. Josh and I shared the scallops and the grouper. The scallops had a beautiful sear on top and were cooked correctly, but they were over-seasoned. I have a pretty high salt threshold and this was maxing out my limit. The accompanying crab risotto with truffle butter, which is what inspired me to order the dish to begin with, suffered from the opposite problem – under-seasoning – and tasted neither of crab nor of truffle. It was just muddy in both flavor and texture, although I would get whiffs of truffle oil here and there, but not the fragrant earthiness that I was seeking. The risotto itself was oddly lumpy and wet, like bad oatmeal or rice pudding, not toothsome or creamy.

Scallops

Pan seared diver scallops with crab risotto

Even so, the scallop dish fared better than the grouper, which, despite its lovely presentation, was cold, dried out, and totally bland. The lobster butter noted on the menu, which certainly would have helped, was virtually non-existent. All of the fish we had on the table suffered from the same poor execution.

Pan roasted grouper

Pan roasted grouper

My mom, who loves lobster and bacon, had to order the lobster carbonara. The menu I think was a bit misleading, as it described the dish as “1 1/2 lb steamed lobster over creamy fettuccine”, and she definitely did not receive a whole 1 1/2 pound lobster. The head was there, which is her favorite part, but it was for show only – the innards were completely removed. The claws were there, already out of the shell, but the rest of the legs and body were missing, including the coveted knuckle meat. At least the tail was there, cleaned up and ready to eat. I guess at a nice restaurant such as ELA’s, people aren’t really expecting to break out a lobster bib and crack their way through an entire lobster, but the amount of meat seemed a bit paltry to me when you’re advertising the weight of the lobster on the menu. And I get that a lot of people don’t like lobster roe or tomalley, but keeping some of that in the dish would have helped it tremendously, taste-wise, as the carbonara itself was devoid of any flavor. I don’t know how they managed to snuff out the bacon in the dish, but they did. The sauce on the noodles was pasty, unseasoned, and just plain terrible.

Lobster carbonara

Lobster carbonara

Up until this point, the meal had been wonderful. We were enjoying the view, the lovely room, the great service, and the tasty appetizers. Once we got the entrees, however, our dinner definitely went downhill from there. All the plates were beautifully presented and pleasing to the eye, but definitely not to the palate. We were pretty stunned by the poor execution and the lack of flavor in the dishes. We had been rooting for ELA’s to be our new go-to restaurant, and things looked promising at first. The restaurant has a lot going for it, and ambiance-wise, it’s great for a celebratory night out or a special occasion. But the entrees – I still can’t get over how bad they were. They were definitely hard to swallow, especially given the prices. The restaurant is on the expensive side, with appetizers ranging from $7-$15 and entrees primarily between $30-$35. Sadly, I’m not sure it’s a place we’ll revisit, although I’m tempted to give it another shot just because there was so much potential. The execution issues could have been because we were such a large group. We had friends dining there at the same exact time and they raved about their food – but they were a table of 4, not 14. Still, a restaurant of this caliber should be able to handle the volume, so it’s a hard call. We’re definitely running out of restaurants to try in Hilton Head!

ELA’s Blu Water Grille
1 Shelter Cove Ln.
Hilton Head Island, SC

Robert Irvine’s eat! – Hilton Head, SC

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 by virginia

DSC_2148

This year’s trip to Hilton Head was especially exciting because it was Baby J’s first time there (outside of my belly at least). We were excited to take her to the pool and beach and watch her play around. Sadly, she did not take like a fish to water. While she loves her bathtub and inflatable kiddie pool, she did not like the salt water, sand, or the bright Hilton Head sun. It was a struggle to get her slathered from head to toe in sunscreen (she also refused to wear a hat), and trying to wrangle a squirmy, greased up baby into a bathing suit is no easy feat. By the time we got her from the room to the pool, she was already tired and cranky, and being in the water didn’t help. We tried various floatation devices – rings, tubes, life vests – and nothing made her happy. Oh well. There’s always next year!

On the upside, J was great by the time dinner rolled around each day. She usually had a long, restful nap by the pool in the early afternoon and woke up refreshed for meals out. On the first night, we decided to try Robert Irvine’s eat! restaurant. Josh’s parents had eaten there before and enjoyed it, and we were curious because we knew of Chef Irvine from the Food Network but didn’t know much about his food.

The menu is split into two main sections – tapas and entrees. There are also various salads and sides available. Since the rest of our large group wasn’t due to arrive until the next day, we were able to take advantage of the tapas format and share a few of the small plates to start. The gnocchi with short rib bolognese was delicious, with chewy yet tender rounds of gnocchi and a rich, meaty sauce.

Gnocchi with short rib bolognese, pinenuts, and charred lemon oil

Gnocchi with short rib bolognese, pinenuts, and charred lemon oil

The fried green tomatoes, on the other hand, were a disappointment. They were heavily coated in a tempura-like batter that was soggy and flavorless. Clumps of surprisingly bland feta cheese were sandwiched between the tomato slices, which also did not help textural issues, and the only thing I could taste was the balsamic vinegar drizzled about.

Fried green tomatoes with brown butter, feta cheese, and balsamic

Fried green tomatoes with brown butter, feta cheese, and balsamic

It was pretty dark in the restaurant so I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the rest of our tapas. The she crab bisque, a Hilton Head staple, had a nice creamy consistency and a relatively good amount of crab flavor but was way too peppery. The pepper really hit the back of our throats and had us coughing a bit, which wasn’t a pleasant feeling. The coconut crusted Carolina shrimp was well executed with a nice and crispy crust, and the accompanying orange jalapeno marmalade was sticky and sweet, but it was sort of a pedestrian dish.

For our entrees, Josh and I shared the pork chop and the blackened snapper. The pork chop was massive and packed a lot of flavor as well, likely because it had been brined. The meat had a nice crust to it and was tender on the inside, and the accompanying sweet potato and corn hash, green tomato peach chutney, and red eye gravy added a nice balance of salty, sour, savory, and sweet.

Fennel brined pork chop with sweet potato and corn hash, green tomato peach chutney, and red eye gravy

Fennel brined pork chop with sweet potato and corn hash, green tomato peach chutney, and red eye gravy

The blackened snapper was surprisingly on the blander side. It was served with grits, red pepper and goat cheese coulis, and a balsamic reduction. The dish just needed more seasoning, as the individual components were cooked well but needed more pizazz.

Blackened snapper and grits with bay shrimp, tomato harvati grits, red pepper goat cheese coulis, and balsamic reduction

Blackened snapper and grits with bay shrimp, tomato harvati grits, red pepper goat cheese coulis, and balsamic reduction

We saw Tabasco ice cream as part of a dessert so of course we had to satisfy our curiosity. It was served alongside sweet potato bread pudding, and while it was an interesting combination (the ice cream did actually have some Tabasco flavor), it’s probably not something I would eat again. The bread pudding itself had potential but half of it was burned, which was a bit of a turnoff. We also tried an apple crisp that was nothing extraordinary.

Overall, Josh and I both thought that eat! was a bit of a miss. There were some hits, like the pork chop, which was the best dish of the evening, and the gnocchi with short rib bolognese, but the rest of the dishes were just so-so for varying reasons. Some were execution issues (the fried green tomatoes, the bread pudding), and others were seasoning issues (the bisque had too much and the snapper had too little). The meal as a whole was just inconsistent. It’s a pretty popular restaurant though, particularly on Tuesdays when tapas are half off. Usually, most of the small plates are in the $7-$10 range and entrees are on the pricier side at $25-$35. The only two entrees below $20 are a burger ($16) and fried chicken ($19). Our search for more go-to restaurants in Hilton Head continues (so far Red Fish has become our favorite place, and One Hot Mama’s has merited a repeat visit).

Robert Irvine’s eat!
1000 William Hilton Pkwy.
Hilton Head, SC

Bistro Mezzaluna – Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 by virginia

bistromezzaluna

Whenever Josh and I are away on vacation, we prefer to eat the local cuisine rather than at places where we could find similar food at home. In Hilton Head, that usually means low country cuisine, seafood, barbecue, or Southern style food. Sometimes, though, usually towards the end of the week, we crave a little bit of comfort food. For us, that typically means Italian food. However, we haven’t found an Italian restaurant in Hilton Head yet that we really love (we’ve tried Michael Anthony’s and Antonio’s, among others in the past). Bistro Mezzaluna was a new place for us.

I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry that evening so I passed on an appetizer. Josh ordered the caesar salad, which looked really good. Unfortunately, there were raw eggs in the dressing so I wasn’t able to try it. Josh enjoyed it though, and said it wasn’t overdressed.

Caesar salad

Caesar salad

For his main course, Josh had chicken parm, which is usually our Italian restaurant barometer. It was a decent sized portion of chicken, though I wished it was pounded a little bit thinner. But if you prefer thick cut chicken parm, this was the way to go. It wasn’t overly cheesy, but had the right amount of mozzarella melted on top. It was served with penne pasta and a pretty solid red sauce that was sweet and tangy.

Chicken parmiagiana with penne pasta

Chicken parm with penne pasta

I ordered the linguini bolognese, which was unusual in that it included both ground meat and meatballs. The menu said it was ground veal, and it was served in a light pink sauce. The meatballs and the meat sauce were both pretty coarse, and slightly tough. I also wish there was more tomato sauce in the dish, as the pink sauce was pretty thin and runny, so there was nothing binding the meat and the pasta together. The linguini was nicely al dente though.

Linguini bolognese with meatballs

Linguini bolognese with meatballs

Overall we thought that Bistro Mezzaluna was a fairly solid red sauce Italian restaurant. The menu offers all of our standard favorite Italian dishes, though there wasn’t anything in particular that excited or wowed us. Prices are reasonable, with most apps and salads under $10, chicken and pasta under $20, and seafood and veal mostly under $25. The restaurant was spacious and pretty accommodating for our large group, though we still had to split up into two tables. It’s a place we could take or leave – if we went back, I’d be fine with that, and if not, I wouldn’t be upset.

Bistro Mezzaluna
55 New Orleans Rd. Ste 106
Hilton Head, SC

Sea Grass Grille – Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 by virginia

Seagrassgrille

The Sea Grass Grille was a new restaurant for all of us, and it seems to get great reviews online. The restaurant has a definite seafood focus, though there are options for meat lovers as well. The meal got off to a good start with a basket of crusty baguette slices and some delicious herbed biscuits.

Slices of baguette and herbed biscuits

Slices of baguette and herbed biscuits

Josh and I both ordered the she crab soup for our first course. It was the only she crab soup we had that week, and it was pretty good. The soup was creamy and rich, not too thick, with a decent amount of crab flavor.

She crab soup

She crab soup

For my main course, I ordered the special of the day, monkfish with a mushroom cream sauce. The fish itself was well prepared, lightly coated and pan seared. The allure for me was the mushroom cream sauce though, which I think was finished with truffle oil because it had the wonderful aroma and earthiness of truffles. It was a pretty heavy dish for a hot summer day, but I didn’t mind.

Monkfish with mushroom cream sauce

Monkfish with mushroom cream sauce

Josh ordered the grouper piccata, which looked beautiful on the plate with a golden brown crust on the outside, but looks were deceptive. The fish itself was a bit soggy, and the caper/lemon/butter/white wine sauce completely overwhelmed the flavor of the fish. It wasn’t a bad dish, in that it tasted ok, but it wasn’t a combination that made a whole lot of sense to us.

Grouper piccata sauteed with lemon, butter, white wine and capers

Grouper piccata sauteed with lemon, butter, white wine and capers

For dessert, we ordered the key lime pie and the peach cobbler to share for the whole table. The key lime pie had a good amount of tartness to it, not too sweet. The filling was smooth and custardy, which I liked. Instead of a graham cracker crust, it had an oreo cookie crust, which I thought was a bit unusual. I love oreos, but I think I prefer a graham cracker crust with my key lime pie. There was also a caramel sauce drizzled over the top that was a bit out of place – I don’t think it was needed, and detracted a bit from the tasty key lime filling. Whipped cream would have been a better complement.

Key lime pie

Key lime pie

The peach cobbler was the special dessert of the day. It had a flaky top crust and the filling was sweet and soft. It was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that melted quickly over the hot cobbler. Not bad, not great.

Peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream

Peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream

Overall, we were a bit underwhelmed by the food at the Sea Grass Grille. Nothing was bad, but everything was just ok. I was a bit surprised to see that all of our main courses featured the same exact sides – broccoli, string beans, carrots, and a potato gratin. Sadly, the common sides just reminded me of bad banquet food – mushy, bland, ordinary. I’m more excited by restaurants that tailor the sides for each entree, depending on the protein, sauce, etc. It’s also on the pricier side, with appetizers generally in the $8-$10 range and entrees in the $20-$30 range, so I expected a bit more from the preparations. It’s not a place I see ourselves going back to.

Sea Grass Grille
807 William Hilton Pkwy #1000
Hilton Head, SC

Skull Creek Boathouse – Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 by virginia

skullcreek

Skull Creek Boathouse was a new Hilton Head restaurant for me and Josh, although we’ve eaten at other restaurants run by the same group (One Hot Mama’s, Giuseppi’s Pizza & Pasta). We had to wait a while to be seated due to the large size of our party, and we still ended up splitting up into two tables, though they were side by side.

The menu is pretty huge, but given that the restaurant is right on the water, we decided to stick with mainly seafood. For our table, we shared an order of the Boathouse Sampler, which came with coconut shrimp, deviled crab balls, calamari, and hush puppies. There was a good amount of food in the sampler, which made it easy for us to taste most things. My favorites were the crab balls, which weren’t spicy but had a decent amount of crab flavor to it, and the hush puppies, which we liberally dipped into the accompanying honey butter. Everything on the platter is fried though, which is kind of hard to mess up. To their credit, everything was hot, crispy, and not overly greasy.

Sampler

Boathouse Sampler – coconut shrimp, deviled crab balls, calamari, and hush puppies

Josh also wanted an order of fried pickle chips, which were served with a spicy ranch dressing for dipping. These were pretty good – briny, crunchy, and the breading on the outside didn’t overwhelm the pickle chip on the inside.

Fried pickle chips

Fried pickle chips

For whatever reason, I really wanted soup that night even though it was 90+ degrees outside. I’ll blame pregnancy cravings. Nevertheless, the SCB seafood chowder was worth tasting, so I was glad that I ordered it. It was like New England clam chowder, but with crab, shrimp, fish, scallops, and potatoes. The seafood was chopped up into small pieces so it was a bit hard to discern what was what, but it still had a pleasant seafood flavor. The soup wasn’t as thick or heavy as regular clam chowder, but it was still creamy and rich, with a buttery finish.

SCB Chowder

SCB seafood chowder

The chowder and tastes from the sampler platter were more than enough food for me, so I was pretty full by the time our main courses arrived. I ordered the Royal Seafood Sampler, which let me try three different dishes – coco seared sea scallops, a “salt and vinegar” crab cake, and stuffed jumbo shrimp. It was a lot of food, and I barely made a dent in the plate, but I liked being able to taste so many different things. The scallops had a tropical flavor to them, as they were topped with coconut butter and pineapple salsa. They had a nice brown sear on each side but I think they sat for a little while and wound up being a little chewy on the outside rather than crispy. The crab cake didn’t have too much salt and vinegar flavor, but there was a good amount of crab and little filler. The stuffed shrimp were my least favorite, as the deviled crab stuffing was too heavy and the shrimp were overcooked. I wound up packing up most of my plate in a doggie bag and eating it for lunch the next day.

Royal seafood platter

Royal seafood sampler – coco seared sea scallops, a “salt and vinegar” crab cake, and stuffed jumbo shrimp

Josh ordered the Seafood Extravaganza, which is basically a seafood boil with shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, snow crab legs, sausage, potatoes, and corn. There was a decent amount of seafood, but it must’ve been sitting in the pot for a while because it was all slightly overcooked and a bit soggy. The shellfish was chewy, and there wasn’t enough spices in the broth to liven up the dish. It’s too bad, because the seafood itself seemed relatively fresh, it just wasn’t well prepared.

Seafood extravaganza -

Seafood extravaganza – shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, snow crab legs, sausage, potatoes, and corn

Overall I had a mixed impression of the Skull Creek Boathouse. The food was decent, but nothing earth shattering. I don’t think that’s what they’re aiming for though. It has a bit of a chain restaurant vibe to it, but I liked the casualness of the place. The restaurant was pretty bustling, with lots of families and other big groups dining. The vast menu makes it easy to dine out with lots of people with different tastes – there’s something for everyone. Even though the main focus seems to be seafood, they do have steaks and other meats available. Prices go from low to high, depending on what you order. Appetizers are generally just¬† below the $10 mark (minus the sampler platter), and entrees can range from about $15-$35. They also have some good beers on tap and pretty reasonably priced wines and cocktails. Is it a must-go dining destination? No, I don’t think so. But it’s good for groups and the food is passable. It’s a place I can see coming back to for a few drinks and sharing some snacks.

Skull Creek Boathouse
397 Squire Pope Road
Hilton Head, SC

CQs – Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 by virginia

The summer is upon us in full swing, and our annual trip to Hilton Head will be coming up soon. I realize now that I still haven’t posted about last year’s restaurants, and so I have limited time to remedy the situation before we head back down there again. Following our delightful roadfood trip to South Carolina last year (the trip home, on the other hand, was not so great), we spent a full week basking in the hot Hilton Head sun. Dinners out were a bit hectic with our large group, but we managed. We tried a mix of new (for us) and old restaurants last year.

cq

One of the “old” restaurants was CQs, a place we used to love. Traditionally, it was the restaurant we would always go to on our very first night in Hilton Head each year, but gradually, the food began to disappoint and we stopped going altogether. Last year, we heard that the food had improved greatly and decided to go back to check it out, for old time’s sake.

The menu reads very well, with lots of low country dishes and local seafood. Josh and I shared the shrimp bisque and the crispy glazed pork belly to start. The pork belly was glazed with barbecue sauce and served with roasted peaches on a bed of grits. The belly was beautifully cooked, caramelized on the outside, and melted in our mouths. The sweet peaches complemented the salty pork belly, and with the grits, it was a great combination of flavors and textures.

Crispy glazed pork belly with smoky barbecue and roasted South Carolina peaches

Crispy glazed pork belly with smoky barbecue and roasted South Carolina peaches

The shrimp bisque, however, was a huge disappointment. There was virtually no shrimp flavor; it almost tasted like canned tomato soup to me. The pimento crostini floating in the middle added absolutely nothing to the soup. I took a few spoonfuls and then passed the rest back to Josh, who didn’t love it but didn’t hate it as much as I did.

Shrimp bisque with pimento crostini

Shrimp bisque with pimento crostini

For the main course, Josh and I ordered the pan roasted Carolina rainbow trout and the grilled pork chop. The trout was nicely cooked, with a cornmeal dusted crust on the outside. It was served with a zucchini pancake that was a bit bland and chewy, and some sweet corn kernels and salty bacon pieces. There was a peach compote on top, similar to the roasted peaches on the pork belly. It was a decent dish but lacked pizazz.

Pan roasted Carolina rainbow trout with zucchini cakes, roasted corn, house bacon, and peach compote

Pan roasted Carolina rainbow trout with zucchini cakes, roasted corn, house bacon, and peach compote

After the delicious pork belly, I was looking forward to the grilled “prime” pork chop (their quotes, not mine). It came out looking wonderful, with a perfect diamond grill mark pattern seared onto the outside of the meat. The inside was a completely different story; it was extremely rare in the middle. Normally I don’t mind my pork slightly pink, but this was much rarer than that. And considering that I was almost eight months pregnant at the time, I was a bit alarmed about eating barely cooked pork. We alerted the waiter, who was apologetic and took the plate back to the kitchen. He returned a little while later, with the same exact plate, and the same exact pork in the same exact position that I had left it. The goat cheese napoleon and sauteed peppers and sausage on the side that I had picked at were also just as I left them, fork marks and all. The edges of the pork seemed a bit more cooked this time around, but when I cut through it again, it was the same level of rareness in the middle. I don’t know what was done with the plate when it was returned to the kitchen, maybe it was stuck in the microwave for a few seconds, but whatever they did, they certainly didn’t check it to see if it was more well done the this time around.

Char grilled "prime" pork chop with pepperade, sausage, snap beans, and goat cheese napoleon

Char grilled “prime” pork chop with pepperade, sausage, snap beans, and goat cheese napoleon

By that point, everyone else had finished eating and I didn’t feel like sending the pork back a second time, so I just left it. No one commented about it when they cleared my plate. Since Josh and I had shared trout dish, we weren’t starving, but I was pretty unhappy with how the incident was handled. It certainly left a bad impression for us, and the rest of the food fell short as well. With the exception of the pork belly appetizer, we weren’t excited or impressed by any of the dishes we sampled. The prices are also on the higher side, with appetizers averaging around $10 and entrees in the $25-$30 range. After this experience, I doubt we will go back. It’s too bad because the restaurant itself is quite lovely, and there’s a lot of history behind it. But none of that is enough to get past the so-so meals that we’ve had there.

CQs
140 Lighthouse Rd,
Hilton Head, SC