Thanks to the droves of visitors that come during vacation season, Hilton Head Island and nearby Bluffton have more than 300 restaurants to choose from. Here is the skinny on recently opened establishments.
New Restaurants on Hilton Head
Gusto Ristorante To Open At Fresh Market Plaza
Gusto Ristorante is a new Northern Italian restaurant opening at the Fresh Market Plaza on Hilton Head Island. The executive chef and owner, Giancarlo Balestra, and his wife Nancy are planning to bring the vibrant flavors of his native hometown of Rome, Italy to Hilton Head. The couple who met and fell in love in Rome 28 years ago discovered their shared passion for food and adventure and have since owned and operated restaurants in Aspen, Colorado, Winter Park, Florida and Saratoga Springs, New York.
They fell in love with Hilton Head while visiting the island serendipitously at the moment the former 843 restaurant location became available. They also happened to be staying at the Marriott Resort in room #843! They decided to jump into this new exciting culinary adventure, hence the name Gusto, which means flavor and taste in Italian but also means a zest and enthusiasm for a delicious taste of life.
The restaurant will have a full bar, extensive wine list and will offer al fresco dining on their garden patio. The Italian born chef’s menu will stay true to his roots with classic Roman dishes but will include other regional favorites as well.
Gusto Ristorante is scheduled to open in March 2018. Please call ahead for opening date prior to arrival. 890 William Hilton Parkway (Fresh Market Plaza) 843-802-2424 www.gustohiltonhead.com.
Calhoun Street Tavern: The place to be for the Derby
Restaurateurs James Groetzinger and brothers Joey Rinaldi and Jon Rinaldi opened Calhoun Street Tavern on Old Town Bluffton’s Promenade in September of 2016, right before Hurricane Matthew.
“A tough time to open,” recalls Groetzinger. “Our Chef Laety Heist is from France and has a classic culinary background. She has been with us since day one. There are a lot of French and European influences in Lowcountry cooking which is what we’re doing – she’s super passionate and a good leader. Chef Darren Macioszek was our consulting chef for about a year before opening. He and I worked on developing our Southern sporting theme, with a race day vibe - a derby day vibe- along with the menu, kitchen design, and recipes.”
Their chef-driven “Bill of Fare” of Southern plates offers classic Lowcountry food with an intimate, inviting ambiance which exudes the feeling of being old (in a good way) – as though the room has been there for centuries. “Our most popular appetizer is our waffle and goat cheese - our version of a Southern-style cheese plate. We make a house pepper jelly and then we take the hot cornmeal waffle and spread the goat cheese and pepper jelly on it.” says Groetzinger.
The outside bar and patio showcase The Clover Club. “We call it our speakeasy under the stars. It’s where we do live music and serve our bourbon and dark spirit-based cocktails. Come try their waffle and goat cheese, or some of their other delicious fare any day of the week. But be sure to be there when Calhoun’s Street Tavern will celebrate the Kentucky Derby (also known as the fastest two minutes in sports) on the first Saturday in May. Celebrate the Churchill Downs festivities in style right here in the Lowcountry.
River Root Farms
Chef Matt Valentino of The Pearl Kitchen and Bar in Old Town Bluffton has launched River Root Farms which grows microgreens which will be available at the Bluffton Farmers Market. Manager Christel Valentino, his wife, oversees the marketing and retail selling. Microgreens are young seedlings of vegetables and herbs harvested in what is known as their “true leaf” stage. Once any lettuce, salad green or herb develops its first leaves after the cotyledon stage, they can be harvested as microgreens. He launched the company based on a demand from chefs and the community. Visit River Root Farms on Facebook and Instagram.
Darren Clarke’s Tavern: The Lowcountry’s Emerald Isle
Born in Northern Ireland, golfer Darren Clarke won the British Open in 2011 and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2012 by the Queen. He currently plays on the European Tour and has taken up a new vocation of restaurateur, opening Darren Clarke’s Tavern in June. He worked with the Dublin-based Irish Pub Company, along with McNally Design International, which designed and built the interior then shipped the materials to the island to be installed. Managing Partner Michael Doyle explains the restaurant concept came about over espresso martinis in New York City. Doyle is a seasoned veteran in the restaurant industry and now oversees the sprawling 200-seat tavern which serves dinner seven days a week.
Their authentic tavern-based menu includes Steak & Guinness Pie and Captain Clarke’s Fish & Chips, along with classics like French onion soup, steak tartare, and shrimp cocktail. “We created two restaurants in one: the steakhouse being the influence of Smith and Wollensky.” says Doyle. “The response has been very positive. It’s great everybody from the different neighborhoods knows each other when they walk into the dining room. The bar is the heart of a tavern.”
8 Executive Park Road, 843-341-3002 www.darrenclarkestavern.com open every day 5-10 pm, happy hour Monday-Friday 4-6 pm.
FISH Seafood & Raw Bar
FISH Seafood & Raw Bar presents an exciting new dining experience on Hilton Head Island. Opened by seasoned Island restaurateurs, JR and Leslie Richardson, they start by placing a premium on sourcing local seafood and preparing it lightly with deep respect for regional foodways and for Lowcountry culinary history. They complete it with an incrediably knowledgable staff and beautiful decor. Chefs Lee Lucier and Mike Oliver have created the dock-to-table menu using a gourmet approach to seafood preparation styles that have defined the Lowcountry for many generations.
Be sure to try one of their signature dishes which include blackend snapper, shrimp and grits and Lowcountry boil. For those who prefer land-based food try the seared rib eye, and brick chicken or their BBQ pork or for lighter fare, they offer a wide variety of sandwiches and salads. Save room for dessert! Their peach cobbler is delicious and the name of their Chocolate Ridiculous Cake says it all. Enjoy $24.99 All You Can Eat Crab Legs every Wednesday (price subject to change), and Monday-Thursday buy one entree get one entree for 1/2 price. Monday-Saturday happy hour from 4-6pm featuring $3 house wine, select beers, and well drinks, as well as, .50 cent wings, and $3 off all appetizers.
The restaurant features several different dining and lounging areas. Their raw bar makes up the centerpiece of the spacious dining room. The restaurant also features 3 bars, an outdoor lounge and dining area next to the Coligny Plaza lagoon, and 60 square feet of big-screen HDTVs for football season. Serving lunch and dinner 7 days a week, Coligny Plaza, 1 North Forest Beach, 843-342-3474, www.gofishhhi.com.
Located just steps from Coligny Beach, Thai Ocean is a sister restaurant to the long time, local favorite, Ruan Thai Cuisine. Offering many traditional Thai dishes along with a few delightful surprises, this new restaurant promises to become a favorite among locals and visitors alike. You will find traditional items like curry and Tom Yum Soup, but also a thai spin on fried calamari served with a chili lime sauce and thai style slaw. Each dish is made to order so you can request your preferred spice level. Each dish is more beautiful than the next, and they taste as good as they looks.
You can dine inside or out on their deck. Take out and children’s menu are available.
Serving lunch and dinner 7 days a week, Beach Market Plaza, 2 North Forest Beach, 843-715-8956.