Relaxed, Island-Inspired Cuisine is Fresh on the Menu at Marley’s Island Grille

Oh, to live the Island life! I was lucky enough to do this for many years and while there are countless islands in the world to choose from – Long Island, Greek Islands, Hawaiian Islands, The Island of Dr. Moreau (just checking to see if you’re paying attention!) there is no place I’d rather be than Hilton Head Island. Seasoned Hilton Head Island visitors and locals alike share a secret – that you can actually get a taste of many island destinations right here in Hilton Head Island. There are over 200 restaurants located in the area serving almost every type of cuisine – even one specializing in Caribbean/tropical cuisine, Marley’s Island Grille. I confess it is one of my very favorites in Hilton Head Island not only because of the exceptionally flavorful food but also for the wonderful drinks and relaxed atmosphere. I’ve never eaten at the famed Trader Vic’s but I could only hope that if I did, an evening there would be half as much fun as one spent with friends at Marley’s (locals shorten the restaurant name to simply ‘Marley’s”).

Yes, locals and visitors flock to Marley’s to enjoy the fun, light-hearted ambiance and award-winning cuisine. Best known for eclectic and innovative menu items with a tropical twist, Marley’s is open for lunch and dinner, with an ice cream ‘trading post’, serving homemade scoop ice cream, located just off the outside deck. (Note to self: perfect stop for an icy afternoon snack after a day at the beach!)

Foodies know that tropical foods can brighten a menu with color and flavor, but they can also fit in with a sustainable ethos. Even though flavors like island curries, exotic fruit drinks and cheek-reddening hot peppers come from faraway islands, chefs like Marley’s own Brad Blake can use those same concepts with local ingredients. Chef Brad’s kitchen is dedicated to serving up fresh ingredients, particularly seafood, from local sources and neighboring farms that grow their produce in South Carolina.

Yahoo for Wahoo! This hard fighting and delicious fish lives in deep waters off the Hilton Head Island coast.

With summer at the doorstep, Chef Brad tells me, “I use as much SC grown produce as possible and we always serve certified sustainable seafood. Mostly this is caught in very local waters. Soon we will have fresh local cobia (which is a surefire delicacy to the uninitiated), local striped and black bass, Wahoo, SC shrimp and we’re even hoping for a second late softshell crab season.” Brad also stocks many SC grown products in his pantry, including grits and honey. He adds, “We love using tasty SC tomatoes and berries too.” Marley’s is a member of the Fresh on the Menu program and supports the Certified SC Initiative.

Chef Brad’s cooking renders stylish interpretations of traditional Caribbean and Polynesian-inspired dishes such as Crispy Coco-Mac Shrimp, Sugar Cane Sea Scallops, Fish tacos, and kettle-steamed shellfish cooked in your choice of sauce: a traditional Latin Tomato Sofrito, an Island Curry with coconut milk, Mojo De Ajo and Old Bay & Antigua Ale. Daily specials tend to be more eclectic – such as the recent tempting offerings of Grilled Shrimp Sliders with Jamaican Relish and Wood-fire grilled local Wahoo topped with macadamia nuts, Mandarin oranges and Citrus butter.

Whoa, just hand me a frosty mojito and tell me the specials because I am ready to order! Luckily, again, for me I’ll be on island next week, taking in the sun, the fun, the good times and great food (and maybe a mojito) in Hilton Head Island!

Thanks to Chef Brad for his recipe for Wahoo!

Marley’s Wood Grilled Wahoo with Citrus Cream and Toasted Macadamia Nuts

Marley's Island Grille Fresh Wood Grilled Wahoo.

  • 2-8 ounce fresh local Wahoo steaks
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 Tbl. chopped shallots
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • salt pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped toasted macadamia nuts (for garnish)
  • ¼ cup mandarin oranges (for garnish)

Marinate Wahoo in ¼ cup of orange juice for 15 minutes. Salt and pepper, then grill to a medium rare-medium, preferably over wood or charcoal.

For the sauce, sweat the shallots to translucent, add remaining orange juice and reduce by 2/3. Add heavy cream and reduce until thick. Pour sauce over the Wahoo and top with nuts and oranges.