Seafood and Spirits on Hilton Head Island
Rated “The #9 Best Island in the U.S.” in 2011 by Conde Nast Traveler, Hilton Head Island is famous for its family-friendly beaches, stunning views, and some of the finest fairways in the world. The island’s southern charm and tropical atmosphere have helped make Hilton Head one of my all-time favorite vacation destinations.
As far as I’m concerned, though, the Spanish-moss- covered trees and watercolor sunsets have nothing on the beauty of a fresh catch accompanied by a refreshing cocktail (or four) from one of Hilton Head’s show-stopping restaurants.
In all of my 18 years visiting Hilton Head thus far, I’ve never been disappointed with the island’s eclectic cuisine offerings and their knack for perfecting what seems like every type of seafood dish you can possibly think of. With that said, I’ve put together some of my favorite hot spots for crabs, cocktails, and just straight-up Hilton Head Island yumminess.
5) Pazzo Italian Cafe (807 William Hilton Parkway)
Holy wine list.
This intimately quaint-yet-hopping Italian restaurant has a selection of whites, reds, and rosés that goes on for days, which we all know is a staple with any homemade Italian meal. All entrées are prepared to perfection, whether you opt for a classic dish like veal alla saltimbocca or one of the bistro’s seafood specials (mussels and clams to die for, anyone?).
Perfect for a romantic date night, you have the option to dine al fresco on the patio or in the dimly lit café, where the aromas from the kitchen are so zesty you can taste them.
Before you decide which item on the menu suits your fancy, do yourself a favor and order a glass of vino and the Pazzo antipasti sampler. The sampler alone includes tomato bruschetta, fried mozzarella stuffed with basil, garlic, and herbs and fried calamari seasoned with sea salt. So.Damn.Good.
4) Steamer Seafood Company (1 N. Forest Beach Drive #28, Coligny Plaza)
First things first. I love the location of this yummy seafood joint in Coligny Plaza, where a large outdoor patio sits atop a pond with a beautiful fountain. Nightly live musicians sing Buffet, Springsteen, and Cash while diners crack open crab legs and dig into cold buckets of beer. If this hasn’t enticed you yet, read on.
With over 250 beers from around the world, you’ll experience a taste of culture without having to leave your cushy seat on the deck. If you opt not to have a brew, you can’t go wrong with one of the restaurant’s peach daiquiri specials, which literally taste like you’re sticking a straw into one of Georgia’s juiciest.
For an appetizer, corn fritters with sweet butter are a must-have, and if you’re not yet full from those and the cocktails, the Charleston shrimp and grits (the owner’s favorite) and honey-smoked salmon and sweet-pea bowtie pasta are both tasty enough to write home about.
3) The Quarterdeck (149 Lighthouse Road., Harbour Town)
One of the most notably scenic restaurants on the island, The Quarterdeck sits just below the famous red-and-white striped lighthouse overlooking the 18th green of Harbour Town Golf Links and the sparkling waters of Calibogue Sound (not to mention, there are some yachts the size of mansions docked in the marina—a fab sightseeing opportunity). The sunset view is like none you’ve ever seen, and the timely service is a blessing from above after catching a glimpse of the food on another’s table…trust me.
Pay homage to your waterfront view by ordering the harbourside punch— Jeremiah Weed sweet tea vodka, Captain Morgan spiced rum, and pineapple and orange juices. If you decide to indulge on this citrus tea twist, may I also suggest taking advantage of the Harbour Town shuttle. There’s a reason why the word “punch” is in the cocktail title.
I’ve also had many crab cakes in my day, but the massive meaty sandwiches from The Quarterdeck take the cake. Maryland better watch its back.
2) Skull Creek Boathouse and Marker 13 Buoy Bar (37 Squire Pope Road)
Named one of the Top 30 Outdoor Bars in America by Travel + Leisure Magazine, The Marker 13 Buoy Bar lived up to its title, and the food at Skull Creek Boathouse sure didn’t disappoint either. The bar offered over 100 wines, along with delicious signature concoctions like the slurricane (vodka, rum, gin, tequila, grenadine and pineapple juice) and the thin mint martini (alcohol + Girl Scout cookies = amazing). Overlooking the Intra-Coastal Waterway and Pinckney Island Wildlife Preserve, the Margaritaville-esque establishment sits just at the edge of the land—the absolute perfect spot to sit under a tiki hut and watch the sunset.
After scouring the menu for a millennium, we ordered as many entrees as possible (except for the Boathouse Chowder, which our animated waiter, Casey, so kindly mentioned was the name of his sub-par Fantasy Football team). The coco-seared sea scallops were bursting with flavor, as were the salt and vinegar crab cakes, stuffed jumbo shrimp, snow crab legs, and deviled crab balls. And I can’t forget about the restaurant’s indoor “Dry Bar,” which will whip up fresh sushi, sashimi, and oysters.
For a scenic, savory and fun night of cultural cuisine, head to the water. If they have as many loyal customers as they do unique seafood dishes, the Boathouse isn’t going anywhere.
1) The Crazy Crab (149 Lighthouse Rd., Harbour Town)
It’s impossible to visit Hilton Head Island without hearing rave reviews about Harbour Town’s most famous seafood shack, the Crazy Crab. This nautical-themed local favorite is known for succulent, meaty crab legs and their freshly made, crispy hushpuppies. (I’m not kidding you when I tell you that my twin sister looks forward to that warm basket of complimentary hushpuppies all year.) For a heartier starter, though, you can’t go wrong with the steamed shrimp or crabmeat-stuffed mushrooms.
Once you are able to pull yourself away from the ecstasy of the hushpuppies, it’s time for the good stuff. You simply can’t visit the Crazy Crab without getting their remarkable crab legs. My entire family opted for the Crazy Crab Boil, a giant pot of premium snow crab legs served with drawn butter, an ear of corn and a massive baked potato.
Not only will you try the sweetest, freshest, most tender crab meat that you’ve ever tasted, but the service is impeccable and the location is top-notch. Large bay windows provide patrons with a stunning view of the Harbour Town Sound, and the family-friendly atmosphere gives the restaurant a cozy, fun feel. They’ve even got a “Minnow’s Menu” for young tots who might not be so eager for to try creatures of the sea.
All in all, the Crazy Crab is a must when visiting the island. I give it an A+ in service, unique décor, and most of all, taste! Go ahead…take a crack at it.