Trip Report: Hilton Head
Tue, 06/2/09 12:23 PM
My father is retired and lives in Hilton Head, so I journey to the island a couple of times a year.
Finding anything resembling roadfood there is a challenge, as many of you know.
I went to Hilton Head this past weekend for my father's 95th birthday on May 30. As it turned out, he became very ill on Friday and had to be taken to the emergency room. His blood oxygen level was 60%. We thought he was going to die. They diagnosed blood clots in the lungs. Once they got him on oxygen, and started the anti-coagulants, he perked right up, and by Monday, he was in excellent shape (and seemed years younger).
Anyway, the plans we'd had went by the wayside. My brother and I kept our dining to the north end of the island (where we were also staying) to simplify things, with two exceptions. We nevertheless had some good, and one extraordinary, meals, which I wanted to share with you.
We had breakfast pastries on Saturday and Monday at the French Bakery and Cafe in Pineland Station. We've purchased baked good there before, and the bread is excellent. I'm happy to report the pastries are, too -- very authentic French "patisserie-style" pastry -- very light and flaky. My brother had the cinnamon twist, which is nothing like a "glazed donut"-style twist, but rather two cylinders of very airy pastry twisted together and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. I had a hazelnut vanilla danish one day, and a cherry turnover the other. Both were excellent as was, according to my brother, the coffee (I don't drink coffee). The breakfast pastries are very, very reasonably priced -- $1.80 to $3.00 each. There's pleasant seating inside the restaurant in a very Parisian atmosphere, as well as courtyard seating outside. They serve light lunches (sandwiches, quiche), too. Closed Sundays.
We had lunch on Saturday at the Sea Shack, on Executive Park Drive off Pope Avenue. We'd eaten there before, and I know many people are familiar with it, especially since Rachael Ray raved about it. I understand it gets very crowded at dinner, but it wasn't too busy at lunchtime. It is very simple and shack-like. You order at the counter and they bring the food to your table. My brother had a fried flounder platter; I had a combination platter with fried oysters and fried scallops. Sides that day included mac and cheese, onion rings, and something called "fisherman's rice," with lots of little pieces of assorted seafood in it. Everything was good -- not overwhelming outstanding, but good -- and reasonably priced.
For dinner, we went to Shrimp Michael's in Port Royal Plaza. This place is simply outstanding! We got there about 8:15 (after visiting hours concluded a the hospital), and there were only two other parties there. In the time it took to have dinner, only two other couples came in. I hope they are a lot busier in the early evening (they open for dinner at 5), because it would be a shame if this place closed. The atmosphere is very low key and pleasant, and you can come as you are. But the food is superb and beautifully presented. My brother had a seafood chowder that was some of the best we've ever had (yes, he let me have one taste), with huge chunks of fish -- it was almost a cream stew. He had the cobia special topped with crabmeat, which was just wonderful -- the sauce was some kind of a citrus sauce, very light and adding just enough acidity to cut the richness of the crab. I wasn't all that hungry because I was still getting over the Sea Shack lunch. There were two other evening specials: shrimp and grits, and crab and shrimp "pizza." I just didn't think I could eat all the shrimp and grits, so I opted for the pizza -- really a flatbread-style pizza. It was quite good, although I'm not sure I'd order it again. The meal came with a basket of "biscuits" that were more like round croissants, and an herb butter spread. For dessert, we had homemade peanut butter pie with homemade chocolate ice cream. The pie was almost like a cheesecake in consistency, with a graham cracker/brown sugar crust. This dessert was fantastic. We split one, and almost couldn't finish it. Again, the food is just great, service is attentive without being intrusive, the atmosphere is what I'd call "ironic maritime," and the prices are a steal for food of this quality. Dinner every night except Sunday, and lunch Mon-Fri.
On Sunday morning, we went to the Plantation Cafe & Deli for breakfast -- the one in Port Royal Plaza. They have a huge "diner-like" menu. I ordered two "homemade" biscuits and a side of bacon. Both were fine; my only criticism is that, instead of real butter, you get one of those Land O'Lakes butter "blends." My brother had the "cabin breakfast" with two scrambled eggs, shredded home fries, and an English muffin. The shredded home fries were like hash browns, very crusty and very good. It was busy at about 8:45 on a Sunday morning, but we didn't have to wait. They have a huge lunch menu including an assortment of "meat 'n' threes." I'd go back.
Our last big meal there was a late lunch on Sunday at Giuseppi's pizza in Shelter Cove. I've read many reviews that say it is the best pizza on Hilton Head. Maybe. The place is a Pittsburgh sports theme pizza and pasta joint. We had a coupon for two free toppings on any pizza, so we split a medium with mushrooms and meatballs, and each of us also had a side salad. I'm not a big fan of pizza with thick edges -- I like very thin, crisp crust -- but despite that, it was tasty. The sauce was good and not garlicky, the toppings were fresh. The mixed salad with crisp and fresh, although not especially memorable. I had the "homemade" Italian dressing on the side, and it was pretty good for this type of place. We went in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday and it was not at all crowded, but I gather it really packs them in, in the evenings.
One other place that we might have tried, has we known about it, was "Street Meet" in Port Royal Plaza, which I gather has a Cleveland, Ohio tavern theme and features a variety of hot dogs prepared in different regional styles. I noticed on the menu they also have fried smelt "fresh from Lake Erie." I love smelt, and would have tried it, had we gone there. We were both starving on Friday night after we left the emergency room around 11:30 p.m., and if we'd known Street Meet was open until 1 a.m., we probably would have tried it. On the Saturday we went to Shrimp Michael's, "Street Meet" was doing a land office business.
As I said, we've been going to Hilton Head for years, and have tried various places in Savannah and environs on various trips. We would have liked to venture farther afield this time, too -- to Beaufort, Port Royal, St. Helena's and/or Lady's Island -- but it just wasn't practical because of my father's condition. Maybe on a future trip.