Did you know that Hilton Head Island boasts over 200 restaurants? That is a stomach full for most anyone and if you’re a foodie of the indecisive ilk, making the best choice may be tough given all the awesome Island eateries. Luckily, Alice Reid of Savor the Lowcountryhas created, with assistance of some of the Island’s best and brightest chefs and restaurateurs, a foodalicious tour that will satisfy with scrumptious noshing for the foodie in you.
Alice meets the group at the Coligny Beach Park, which is located adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and across the street from the Coligny Plaza. After a quick check-in, Alice tells the story of the “discovery” of the Island by European explorers and then we are off to do some tasty exploring of our own at Daniel’s Restaurant & Lounge located in the Coligny Beach Market.
We were presented with a table of the best hummus I’ve ever eaten (seriously!) and Daniel’s signature lamb kabobs, both indicative of this restaurant’s Middle Eastern influenced fusion cuisine. Chef Michael Oliver was on hand to answer any questions and announce the restaurant is developing a steakhouse menu featuring their own locally-raised, grass-fed beef.
Before we made our way across to the next restaurant, Bomboara’s Grille & Chill Bar, Alice continued to regale us with accounts of Hilton Head Island’s past, adding historical perspective to the tour. At Bombora’s Grille we were treated to a 4-course tasting including Mulligatawny Stew, a unique Lowcountry-inspired specialty, shrimp and grits and a pulled pork slider. Although Bombora’s opened just over a year ago, they have won people’s choice awards for their barbeque at local cook-offs and festivals. They also offer a nice selection of draft beers using their unique “perfect pour” beer tap. Once our courses had settled we were off to our next foodie stop, a locals’ favorite – Market Street Café.
Market Street Café is a place I have frequented over the past twenty-five years and I confess they make a mean (and by that I mean great!) Souvlakia and fabulous homemade potato salad. For as exotic as Daniel’s and even Bombora’s Grille may be, Market Street is like coming home. That is if your home has fantastic pizza, wraps and Greek-inspired specialties like Pastitsio in a comfortable setting where you can usually hear the crashing of the Atlantic as you dine outside on the patio. During the tour we were greeted by Carolyn Baltz, one of the Market Street owners, as she served us their satisfying garlic pita bread with Tsatsiki Sauce and slices of spinach pizza – a “white” pizza with feta cheese and mushrooms.
As we relaxed at cozy Market Street, Alice added more interesting tidbits about the contemporary history of the Island before heading to our fourth stop, Vine, conveniently located just down the breezeway from Market Street. Vine opened late last year (2011) and has become one of the best-kept “secret” fine dining experiences on the Island. During our tour we were served wonderful, fresh bruchetta chocked full of locally grown heirloom tomatoes, herbs and some of the best olive oil that has ever passed my lips. The owner and co-chef at Vine, Steve Hamile, hails from Hawaii and brings an extensive wine list (and knowledge) into this restaurant having owned restaurants on the West Coast. Along with Chef Oliver Allain, who plays classical guitar after 10 pm on Thursday nights, there is a significant and creative fine dining experience to be had at Vine.
To top off our tour Alice gave us valuable wine drinking tips before we strolled over to our final tour stop – just about 200 yards away at Sweet Carolina Cupcakes. Begun by Holly Slayton in 2008, this bakery specializing in cupcakes (but offering whoopee pies, wedding cakes and various sweets) is a family operated business that utilizes local ingredients whenever possible to concoct wonderful cupcake treats. On the day of my tour, choices included Sweet Carolina, Salted Caramel, Neapolitan, Pink Lemonade, Coconut Snowball and about half a dozen other tantalizing flavors.
Once we reached dessert nirvana at Sweet Carolina Cupcakes it was time to say my farewell to the foodie tour and exchange goodbyes with the new friends I’d made during the afternoon – a Mother and her daughters from Connecticut, who have been frequent Island visitors for many years and an extended family of mother, father and adult son and his wife hailing from Maryland, thoroughly enjoying their first Lowcountry vacation.
And of course, Alice Reid, who after almost 3 hours was just as energetic and cheerfully helpful as she was the first 10 minutes, winding up the tour and getting us all back in the right direction toward our hotels, villas and homes. And while the amazing cuisine was the certainly the star of this tour, Alice’s inclusion of fascinating local lore, stories and facts about the Island, added a wonderful dimension to this foodie’s first “foodie” tour!