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
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
FARM opened in Old Town Bluffton at 1301 May River Road in October of 2016. Partner and Executive Chef Brandon Carter bases the menu on locally sourced and homegrown veggies, thoughtfully raised meats, and “cultural traditions from around the world.”
The menu changes at least weekly, depending on what’s in season, and they are able to accommodate gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diets. Partner Ryan Williamson grows much of the restaurant’s produce on nearby Williamson Lowcountry Farms, his family farm which borders Palmetto Bluff. Many of their purveyors are local, including Rainwater Mushrooms, May River Oyster Company, Root Baking Company, River Dog Brewing Company, Bulrush Gin, and several farmers that frequent the farmers market down the street. Open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday. Sunday night is different: FARM only offers three tacos, along with creative sides! One meat, one seafood, and one veggie.
Dinner reservations are recommended for tables, including the chef’s counter, bar seating, community table and patio seating.
1301 May River Road. 843-707-2041, www.farmbluffton.com.
Rockfish Seafood and Steak at Bomboras
Bomboras Grille has been renamed “Rockfish Seafood & Steak @ Bomboras” to coincide with the Whitehead family bringing on a new chef and a newly expanded menu. Chef Ken Wisneski started working in kitchens at restaurants in waterfront resort areas of Boston’s South Shore and Martha’s Vineyard. Later recruited to New Orleans, he worked with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse at the critically acclaimed ‘Nola’ restaurant, fostering his love for Southern fare. Rockfish’s newly expanded dinner menu offers premium seafood – Ahi tuna, halibut, salmon, triggerfish, shrimp and scallops - and classic Southern favorites side dishes like sweet potato fries and red rice and beans.
“And for the land lovers, we have New York Strip, rack of New Zealand lamb, osso bucco, and chicken prepared several ways,” says Chef Wisneski, who has a knack for adding a global twist to brighten up the flavors. He was recently invited to be a guest chef in Augusta at the Champions Retreat Golf Club during the Masters Tournament. This experience, and a friend who is also a local chef, greatly contributed to his interest in moving to Hilton Head Island.
Serving lunch daily from 11:30 am - 4 pm, and dinner served daily 4pm-until. 5 Lagoon Road, South end,
The Original 46 Gastropub
Traditionally, pubs were places to drink and the food was something to serve so that the clients could continue to indulge in more of the same. Coined in the 1990s, the term ‘gastropub’ is a pub where more upscale food is served. Owner John Kelm II opened his 125-seat Original 46 Gastropub in April of 2017. “I’ve been involved in three restaurants locally and I have always wanted to showcase craft beer and bourbons. We have over 130 bourbons. Our culinary team is very hands-on and creative. What we are doing is taking pub food and putting a lot of love into it with better ingredients and taking it to the next level. But the thing that makes it really special is that we have a fantastic staff.” says Kelm.
Enjoy shared plates: smoked wings, deviled eggs, pimiento cheese, vegan tacos, and perfectly dressed burgers from the classic “naked burger” to a burger with foie gras. Pub favorites include fish and chips, striped bass, and “lobstah” mac - “lobster” pronounced with a Maine accent. “We’ve added shared plates, cheese curds, and tomato bisque to the fall menu. We’ve introduced bangers and mash which has been well received. Our steaks rotate with bone-in, ribeye and pub steaks.” adds Kelm.
The pub features hand-crafted cocktails and a wine list that pairs well menu items. Their Friday Night Beer Flights draw large crowds. The desserts are all made in house. The peach cobbler is baked in an 8” cast-iron pie skillet and served à la mode which is perfect for two.
Open for dinner Monday–Saturday starting at 4. Offering happy hour and early bird dining. Weekly live music. 68 Bluffton Road, Bluffton; 843-757-4646.
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.
El Nuevo Vallarta Mexican Bar & Grill
This family-owned authentic Mexican restaurant opened in January and is now open seven days a week. The décor is colorful with Mexican artwork and festive hats adorning the walls. El Nuevo Vallarta Mexican Bar & Grill serves up a seafood cocktail of shrimp and other seafood topped with cucumber, pico de gallo and the restaurant’s secret sauce which is a popular appetizer. For lunch, pork carnitas, fish tacos, quesadillas and sizzling fajitas with choices of steak, pork or chicken are more than ample portions for dinner. A tasty breakfast is served on the weekends of chilaquiles, corn tortillas served with red or green sauce stuffed with a choice of eggs and chicken, or beef Mexican cream and cheese or the Vallarta Breakfast, served with a medley of potatoes, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, cheese eggs and grilled chorizo, a traditional Mexican sausage with a kick.
The spacious, open dining room with over 300-seat capacity, is a great venue for special occasions and large enough to accommodate large parties and there is also a private dining room. The restaurant offers live entertainment in season and on the weekends. Check the restaurant’s Facebook page for entertainment schedule.
11:00 am – 10:00 pm 7 days a week. Breakfast served on the weekends. Bar stays open until 11:00 pm
16 Kitties Landing Road. Bluffton. 843-706-9338. www.elnuevovallartabluffton.com.
Twisted European Bakery - Bluffton
Stephanie Pisano’s grandfather owned a successful bakery in South Philadelphia and Chris Veneris and his father used to work for him 45 years ago. The Veneris family returned to Crete, Greek’s largest island, and opened first one, then two bakeries. Decades later, Chris and Stephanie, through a series of luck and happy coincidences, reconnected. The couple opened Twisted European Bakery in late September 2016 in Old Town Bluffton. The bakery specializes in making pastries, specialty breads, pretzel buns, fruit breads and pies, Greek specialties and savory lunch items from scratch. Leopold’s Ice Cream, a Savannah tradition since 1929, is served up and gluten-free choices are also available.
1253 May River Road. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 am - 5 pm and on Sunday from 9 am - 1 pm.
Alexander’s Restaurant & Wine Bar reopens this March with the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort family. Executive Chef Don Reinheardt, who has spent the last twenty years working in luxury hotels, resorts and clubs through the U.S. and the Caribbean, introduces a new menu using local ingredients with a strong emphasis on seafood while paying homage to Alexander’s original favorites.
Dinner is available from 5-10pm seven days a week. New restaurant features include a young adult menu and early dining from 5-5:45pm. Reservations are highly encouraged though walk-ins are welcome. Make your reservations by calling 843-785-4999 or visiting www.AlexandersRestaurant.com.
FISH Seafood & Raw Bar
Newly opened FISH Seafood & Raw Bar presents an exciting new dining experience on Hilton Head Island. 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.
Opened by seasoned Island restaurateurs, JR and Leslie Richardson, the staff at FISH Seafoord & Raw Bar can guide you to the perfect dish on their extensive menu. 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. Chef Lucier’s philosophy is to “turn back the clock and return to scratch cooking and to serve wholesome and good food.”
Be sure to try one of their signature dishes which include Blackend Snapper, Shrimp and Grits and Lowcountry Boil. There is truly something for everyone; for those who prefer land-based food try the seared rib eye, and brick chicken or their BBQ pork. If you are looking for lighter fare, they offer a wide variety of sandwiches and salads. Make sure to save room for dessert, their peach cobbler is delicious and the name of their Chocolate Ridiculous Cake says it all.
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, including the FISH Bowl for live entertainment and after- dinner cocktails.
Serving lunch and dinner 7 days a week, Coligny Plaza, 1 North Forest Beach, 843-342-3474, www.gofishhhi.com