From passion to plate
Story by Sheila Paz + Photography by Mike Ritterbeck
Bluffton, with its distinctive small-town allure, stands apart from sprawling urban centers known for their upscale culinary delights. Yet, the creative minds at CRUDO Bluffton have masterfully woven big-city sophistication into the heart of Bluffton, proving that challenges are merely stepping stones to innovation.
Bluffton, while charming, lacked the chic upscale raw bars akin to those in Savannah and Charleston. Spotting this void, owner Brian Behnke and chef Andrew Dykes envisioned such an establishment right at home – not just a restaurant, but an upscale sanctuary that celebrated the community through a selection of fresh, premium offerings. Their ambitions transcend mere dining; they aim to cultivate an unrushed, immersive experience, setting a new local standard for guests to relish and remember.
CRUDO truly embodies their vision. Set within a cozy, intimate space, it emphasizes a quality-driven experience over sheer volume. The compact kitchen, equipped with just a six-burner stove, an electric oven and a single low-temperature freezer, manages to deliver a meticulously curated menu. Rooted in the tastes of the Lowcountry, yet innovative with reinterpretations like their twist on the classic Oyster Rockefeller, CRUDO seamlessly merges local charm with urban sophistication, ensuring residents needn’t leave Beaufort County for a refined raw bar dining adventure.
Integral to the dining experience, Dykes is deeply committed to sourcing the freshest and most local ingredients. By partnering with eight regional vendors – Russo’s Seafood, Low Country Cups Oysters, Tuten Farms, Cahill’s, Penny Acre Farms, Blue Ridge Farms, 3 Sisters, and Hog Island – he infuses every dish with a touch of local authenticity. His philosophy is simple yet profound: “In this rich region, steeped in history, abundant farms and exceptional seafood, it only makes sense to embrace and showcase what’s right at our doorstep.”
Since opening, CRUDO has evolved into a canvas for Dykes, Behnke and their team, a place where their collective energy, drive and vision for CRUDO align harmoniously.
“The best part is to be able to wake up, come here and create the food that I want to make,” Dykes said. “I’ve always made everyone else’s food and now I get to make my food.”
From ocean to table
Dive into a bowl so vibrant, you’d swear the vegetables were just harvested and the tuna leaped onto your plate moments ago.
Tuna Poke Bowl
4 ounces No. 1 Big Eye Tuna (Russo’s recommended)
2 tablespoons garlic chili oil
1/2 avocado, peeled and pitted
2 ounces pickled red onions
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
6 ounces sushi-grade rice, cooked and cooled
2 ounces edamame beans, shelled
Drizzle of spicy mayo
Drizzle of eel sauce
1 ounce toasted sesame seeds
 In your preferred bowl, layer sushi-grade rice as the base.  Arrange tuna, avocado, pickled red onions, jalapeno and edamame beans artfully over the rice.  Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.  Drizzle the garlic chili oil,
spicy mayo and eel sauce to enhance flavors.
Rock ‘n’ roll on a plate
Experience a culinary concert as Chef Dykes’s rendition of the classic Oysters Rockefeller takes your taste buds on a thrilling ride from the very first morsel.
6 oysters, shucked (May River Farmed Singles or Lowcountry Cups recommended)
3 ounces white wine
2 ounces pork belly, small diced
1 ounce 75/25 soybean oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red onions, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup baby spinach
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground pepper
4 ounces parmigiano reggiano, large grated
2 ounces homemade bread crumbs
 Oyster prep: Heat oven to 500 degrees. After shucking the oysters, transfer them to a sauté pan over medium heat, ensuring to include the oyster liquor for intensified flavor. Once bubbling, pour in the white wine and cook the oysters for an additional 20-30 seconds until they’re plump and juicy. Return them to their shells and set aside.  Sauce creation: In a separate pan, warm the oil and sauté the diced pork belly over medium-high heat until crisp. Introduce the minced garlic and red onions, cooking until the onions are caramelized. Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine, allowing it to evaporate slightly. Stir in the heavy cream, baby spinach and cheese, cooking until the cheese is melted and the spinach is wilted. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Assembly and baking: Spoon the rich sauce over the oysters nestled in their shells. Transfer them to the heated oven, baking for approximately 5 minutes or until a golden crust forms on top.  Garnishing and serving: Arrange the baked oysters on a plate, garnishing with a sprinkle of fresh greens, additional cheese and a dusting of bread crumbs. Serve hot.