HOME > Chowhound > General South Archive >


Best Eats in Hilton Head?

I'm travelling to Hilton Head Island in the next few weeks and wanted to find the best restaurant in town -- ideally, not completely overrun by tourists. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. was there overnight last weekend; we had breakfast at a place called "stacks" that I thought was fair. Sad to say we just had pizza delivered for dinner as TS Barry got there the same time we did :(
    I wanted to stop at "squat and gobble" in bluffton to see what all the hoopla was about, but based on the name, my wife refused to go.

    1. here is a great comprehensive list of restaurants there: http://www.sallys-place.com/food/dini...

      i liked Redfish a lot

      1. I love Hilton Head and have visited a handfull of times. Other than the happy hours eating pounds of crab legs & drinking cold beer, the best meal I had was at the Old Fort Pub. Great atmosphere, service, and good food.


        4 Replies
          1. re: aphayes

            sorry for the delayed reply.

            there were a few spots with cheap crab legs @ happy hour

            the one I can remember best was Catch 22


          2. re: swsidejim

            I agree. Old Fort Pub is very good food with incredible ambience.

            1. re: samanella

              An after dinner walk around the grounds is quite relaxing, and the food & drinks were very good as well.

          3. From a 26 year islander (with a penchant for Italian food)

            MIchael Anthony's, Orleans Plaza. Dependable upscale food and wine in a comfortable setting. They never have to advertise.

            Mulberry Street Trattoria, just over the bridge, take the first right after the Moss Creek light. Joe is a fine cook and the place is worth the hype.

            Il Carpaccio, in Pineland Station. Another good Italian place that also does a good pizza.

            La Famiglia, near Palmetto Dunes. Tiny and nice. Pino also owns a gelateria in the village of Wexford.

            Non Italian:

            Spice, the Village at Wexford. Indian food in an atmosphere not found this side of Manhattan.

            Charlie's Etiole Verte on New Orleans Road. Excellent food in extremely comfortable surroundings.

            1 Reply
            1. re: DaleJ

              We hit the Squat and Gobble last fall--it was great--nothing fancy, but a good deal--very down-home!

              Our favorites are:

              Michael Anthony's: last summer at there twice in one week.
              Sea Grass Grill: former staff from Charlie's Etiole Verte and in the old location--great quality food--nothing fancy and amazing service.
              Alligator Grille--surprisingly good sushi

              I might try Mulberry Street Trattoria this year--it sounds interesting!

            2. As a Hilton Head homeowner for over 10 years, my absolute favorite is Alexander's in Palmetto Dunes. It is just consistently delicious! Kingfisher is also quite good. Juleps I really enjoy as well as Truffles. Michael Anthony's is absolutely delicious as well!

              1. I currently live in Bluffton (over the bridge from HHI). I love Truffles too. There's one in Bluffton and on the island. The chicken pot pie is delicious. I also really like the key lime pie. I also second Mulberry Street. On the island, Charlies is great. I've never had a bad meal there. The potatoes they serve with every meal are so good. Dessert is yummy there too. We never know what to do about wine. Just ask your server to ask Charlie what he thinks would be good in your price range and they'll help you out. They're really friendly. What about the Boathouse? I've only been for drinks and appetizers, but it's always packed with locals and the view is nice. I also like the Sea Shack, but I haven't been there in a while. I don't know if they've gotten to popular since Rachael Ray went there on $40 a Day. Sante Fe Cafe is also really good. They serve Southwest type food...big portions. The roof-top bar is really nice. They have an excellent appetizer--some kind of queso dip that they serve with tortillas--yummy. Their sangria was so-so. Marley's has better sangria, but it can be touristy. They have great seafood though.

                3 Replies
                1. re: elwoh

                  No one ever mentions The Studio -- on Pope in a strip mall close to the Sea Shack. The best meals we had last year and we went twice. Live music, paintings, and not overrun by anyone, tourists or not. Good wine list with fair markup and fun martinis. Really really good food -- main courses around $25 ave.

                  A HHI native whose wife is a killer cook goes to Sage Room when he doesn't dine in. Expensive.

                  Alligator Grill does have surprisingly good sushi, and we got two for one during a long rainy afternoon happy hour at the bar.

                  1. re: birgator

                    I've never been to The Studio or Alligator Grill, so I can't comment on those. Sage Room is really good. I've only been once for a meal and once for drinks, but it is a meal I remember. One of my coworkers/best friend works there as well as some other people I know. I really liked their gazpacho and their crab cakes. I'm not typically a fan of crab cakes, but these were yummy. If you like martinis, my friend who works the bar some nights makes a good dirty martini (if you like blue cheese, ask for a blue cheese olive). I don't really like martinis, but I thought it was pretty good. My friends who love martinis say it's awesome. I do have to agree that Sage Room is expensive though.

                  2. re: elwoh

                    I just returned fron Hilton Head last week (July 14th, 07) and had THE ABSOLUTE Best Sangria at Marleys...was great...anyone out there know what they put in theirs besides red wine? Would love to find out.

                  3. I am going to Hilton Head next week on business and was checking out this thread for recs for myself and my group from New York City. I was wondering if any of these restaurants mentioned serve some type of typical HH cusine? What is the best place to go for that?

                    Coming from nyc I want to stay away from Italian, ethnic eats, and try the best local cuisine. Any recs that you have would be greatly appreciated.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: wlark

                      Hmm...it's hard to say what typical HHI cuisine is because HHI is made up of mostly transplants from other parts of the country, especially the North. Most of the dining is made for the tourist industry and the food and prices reflect that. I guess I'd have to say you need to look for some good seafood, which, IMO, is hard to find here. Sea Shack is pretty good but has gotten a bit touristy every since it was featured on $40 a Day on the Food Network. Locals still eat there though. I believe most of the seafood there is caught by the owner. We used to eat Captains Seafood, but they've changed locations in the last few years. It's in a much more touristy area (Coligne area). Someone else may be able to tell you if the quality is still good. They used to have a fish market attached, so it was a fairly sure bet that the fish was fresh. I don't think they have that anymore though. Steer clear of Hudson's. I went one time because everyone said it was a Hilton Head institution. It was nothing spectacular, the service was poor, and the prices were inflated because all of the tourists go there. The same holds true for Old Oyster Factory. I never eat in Sea Pines, but some people say the restaurants in there are good. There is a newer place in Pineland Station (I don't know the name of it) that serves traditional Southern and maybe some Gullah-type food. The lady who opened it used to be the cafeteria manager at the local middle school where I teach. I've never been to the restaurant, but I've had her catered food and it's so good. She makes great barbecued chicken and some kind of rice dish that's a little bit spicy with little bits of shrimp in it. I can' t wait to make it down to her restaurant. If you venture to Bluffton for any meals, the Downtown Deli in Bluffton is great for lunch (they close at 3:00). It's mainly a breakfast and sandwhich place. The Wharf Street is a turkey wrap with vidalia onion dressing and it's great. They also have great "Bluffton Caviar" (a salad made with black beans, corn, jalapenos, and some other peppers). They also have a good barbecue (some call it pulled pork) sandwhich with cole slaw called the Alljoy. All of their sandwich names come from local spots.

                      1. re: elwoh

                        I hate to say it but I entirely disagree with you elwoh. I really enjoy both Old Oyster Factory and Hudson's. Sure, it's nothing fancy, and the "fancier" dishes don't taste nearly as good as the simple seafood dishes, but the freshness comes across quite clearly. I'm a Bostonian, so I am very picky about freshness in my seafood and neither Old Oyster Factory nor Hudson's have ever disappointed me. Are they my favorite restaurants, no, not at all, but I consistently enjoy my meals there.

                        1. re: Boston Foodie

                          Maybe I've just been on bad times. At both Hudson's and Old Oyster, it's been the service and prices that have ruined the experiences for me, especially at Old Oyster. I've been several times and I always have felt like they're rushing us out the door so that they can get more people in. On more than one occassion, someone in my party has ordered something and 10-15 minutes later, the server has come back and said that they were out of the food. I feel like that's something they should let you know upfront. We're often left with empty glasses on the table. The views are nice, the food is okay, but the prices are a little high and service has been lacking on the times I've been. I haven't been back in the last year. Maybe it's improved. As I said, I've only been to Hudson's once. In my experience, it wasn't outstanding and the service was poor. I just think that there are some better choices for fresh seafood at reasonable prices. I think Sea Shack (for lunch) and Captains Seafood have, in the past, had good simple seafood and good service. What about the Boathouse? I've only been for drinks, but the menu looked good.

                        2. re: elwoh

                          I totally agree with you about Hudsons elwoh! We went there 4 years ago because it had been recommended and I was completely disappointed. Found the food to be average and was completely turned off with the big heaping portion of steamed broccoli-all the yummy veggies out there and great ways to have them--skip Hudsons!

                        3. re: wlark

                          For local food and flavor I would definitely recommend Pepper's Porch in Blufton. It's a series of connected outside screened porches underneath shade trees and you eat at picnic tables. Steamed crabs, shrimp, hushpuppies, corn, fried green tomatoes, etc. There's usually a band playing under the trees. Simple food an a fabulous lowcountry atmosphere.
                          Pepper's Porch
                          1255 May River Road
                          Bluffton, SC 29910
                          (843) 757-2295

                          1. re: wlark

                            wlark -

                            My family and I taken our vacation in HH the last few years. All of the food has gone down hill since we first went 8 years ago. However CJ's in Sea Pines is still fab and has some "local food" it is also nice and where I would go with people from work. (A little more upscale) I've never eaten at Hudsons, but we eat at Charlies next door and Hudson's always looks hopping with great music (but lots of kids when we were there I took a walk and they even had a clown.) Charlie's Crab is also on the upscale end and has pretty good food. I haven't had a bad meal until the last time I was there (last week) my fish came out dry. The rest of the meal was great with corn bread and great hours de vours. And if you are looking for good BBQ the best is the Smoke House hands down. A very casual Hamburger at the Salty Dog is also a treat. Be careful if you wander toward the ocean - the jelly fish are out of control. There are thousands, everytime we were in someone got stung around us. Enjoy your trip

                          2. The whole island is pretty much overrun with tourists, particularly ones from Ohio, but that's another story for another time. Anyway, "Stacks" has become our go-to place for breakfast--the creme brulee french toast is fantastic, as are pancakes, waffles, and the usual suspects--big portions with an emphasis on quality. Sea Shack is good for "local-caught run-down shanty" vibe, but tourists go there as well as everywhere on HHI. Hemingway's is my favorite dinner place, with classy but subdued interior, complented by great seafood, steak, and chowders. I wish I could remember what we really liked there, but loss of short-term memory prohibits me from being a worthy critic!

                            Marley's is a fun, island/tiki themed local chain (same group that owns Hemingway's--but they do it very well) "macadamia-encrusted snapper with plantains" kind of menu. The one thing I do remember about Marley's is their fabulous Mojitos--great bar! http://www.marleysislandgrille.com/

                            Be sure to pick up a pizza from Giuseppi's--as they are very good. http://www.giuseppispizza.com/

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: silvercat

                              funny as an ex-ohioan who always vacations there. you're right. everyone's from ohio. the quality of places definitely depends on season. many are MUCH better in the fall or spring so that may be why some like hudson's, etc and typical touristy place and others think they are overrated. i liked alligator grille but haven't been since they moved but wouldn't be surprised if they still have good sushi. second redfish (as i posted in an earlier thread) have eaten there many times and have never been disappointed and the wine shop is great too. have only been to captain's seafood once since it moved and while it was fine it did lose some of the divey charm. there's a great brunch i think at the hotel in palmetto dunes. marley's isn't profound but it is fun.

                              1. re: silvercat

                                Absolutley agree about being overun by Ohioans..lol..I am one..they have taken over the Salty Dog in the evening...requesting all kinds of repeated, overplayed music to an extremely talented musician who can't play any of his good stuff because of all the same old requests. Makes the Ohioans look like they don't know good music...lol....oh well..still can't beat those gorgeous beaches!

                              2. Suprisingly, HH has very few great restaurants. Most places cater to tourists and thus the service is usually poor and the food mediocre. That said, I would suggest Charley's Crab, Redfish & I had a decent meal at Alligator Grille several years ago but haven't been back since the fire. Please, steer clear of Marley's (tourist trap) and I had an overpriced mediocre meal at Alexander's last summer and wouldn't return there. Good luck!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  I agree with you about Charleys Crab-we ate there 7/14 the last night before coming home-had an outstanding meal. The best we had the whole week we were there and the prices were comparable to The Old Oyster Factory, but better menu choices. Also for a cheaper meal out NYC Pizza was very good too. Not a fancy place but the pizza was excellent.

                                2. Wow - I'm surprised by the endorsements of Charlie's Crab. It's very pretty, but I've been there a few times and the food has been mediocre at best. The last time I went (and believe me, it is the last time) I had a dish that consisted of pasta that someone had thrown a can of stewed tomatoes on - bad, bad, bad. The chef should have been embarrased to send it out of the kitchen - and I told him so. After tasting it, he agreed with me.

                                  My favorite restaurant in the area is Sigler's in Bluffton. Consistently excellent food and very reasonable prices. The fact that it's packed every night throughout the year is the best testament to this. Otherwise, if you want great seafood in a nice atmosphere, I would recommend going farther afield. Go north to Port Royal or Beaufort. In Port Royal you have Bateaux - truly fine dining - and the 11th St. Dockside (which is kind of 1950's looking in decor, but has incredibly good and fresh fish), or the Saltus River Grille in Beaufort (where they have an entire oyster menu, if that's what you crave).