Food for thought
Story By Kennedy Gott
Hilton Head Island, Bluffton and Beaufort are great places to visit, live and grab a bite to eat. There are some iconic restaurants that have stood the test of time in Beaufort County and are loved by locals and tourists alike. Whether it is your first time here or you’ve been living in the Lowcountry for decades, these places have had their doors open to welcome and serve you.
Hilton Head Island
Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks
Local since 1967
What makes it iconic: Hudson’s is a business built on oysters. J.B. Hudson Sr. started a thriving family business, an oyster factory, in 1912. It since has became a local landmark, a tradition and a widely known source of the freshest seafood. In 1975 Brian and Gloria Carmines purchased Hudson’s, and a new family tradition began.
Try this: Steamed Combo
Local since 1973
What makes it iconic: CQ’s was the first building built in Harbour Town in 1970 and was designed and used by the late architect and sculptor Ralph Ballentine as his personal art studio. The restaurant was named after the original owner’s son, Courtenay Quentin. The restaurant is extremely popular with locals and visitors who considered CQ’s their regular gathering spot.
Try this: Seared Ahi Tuna
Plantation Cafe & Deli
Local since 1974
What makes it iconic: Hilton Head Island’s oldest Southern-style breakfast and lunch restaurant. Originally a pantry store, its owners moved next door to open the restaurant 49 years ago. Since then Plantation Cafe has been serving up traditional dishes.
Try this: Country Blue Plate
Local since 1970s
What makes it iconic: Located next to the iconic lighthouse, Quarterdeck features a bar and dining area on the first floor and a rooftop oyster bar with 270-degree views of Harbour Town. It is a fresh, yet historic, vision that was born within Sea Pines.
Try this: Fresh oysters
Local since 1982
What makes it iconic: When Tom and Diane Reilley started a small neighborhood pub on the south end of the island, it soon became a destination and favorite gathering place for locals. The first Hilton Head Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade and The Reilley’s Invitational Golf Tournament were born here in 1983 and continue to this day.
Try this: Blackened Fish Tacos
Alexander’s Restaurant & Wine Bar
Local since 1977
What makes it iconic: Alexander’s has been a popular dining scene on Hilton Head Island for 46 years, serving its customers upscale, seasonally inspired, locally sourced seafood and cuisine that has made a long-lasting impression.
Try this: Joyce Farms Half Chicken
Old Oyster Factory
Local since 1989
What makes it iconic: The Old Oyster Factory was built on the site of an oyster cannery, where oysters were brought to a one-story concrete building located directly under the restaurant. Now family owned fishing boats can still be seen continuing the tradition while you enjoy fine dining.
Try this: Cabernet-Braised Short Rib
Local since 1984
What makes it iconic: The Crazy Crab provides spectacular waterfront dining experiences at its two locations at each end of Hilton Head Island. The menu is derived from Lowcountry recipes, and each entree is prepared to order. Not only does it provide good food, it provides entertainment for the whole family and a perfect view of breathtaking Lowcountry sunsets.
Try this: Seafood Pot
Charlie’s Coastal Bistro
Local since 1982
What makes it iconic: After a long stint in the fast-paced hotel kitchens of Washington D.C., Charlie Golson moved back home in the 80s and opened an iconic one-room French bistro on Hilton Head. The restaurant has grown over the years, but it has remained steadfast in offering fresh local seafood and ingredients with a menu that is handwritten daily.
Try this: Flounder Sautéed Meunière
Salty Dog Cafe
Local since 1987
What makes it iconic: For many visitors, a trip to Hilton Head isn’t complete without a stop at this iconic cafe at South Beach Marina. Choose to sit inside and explore Jake’s Gallery or dine waterside on the docks while enjoying picture-perfect views. There isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Try this: Jake’s Lowcountry Boil
The Sea Shack
Local since 1998
What makes it iconic: The Sea Shack is an unpretentious, blue-walled Hilton Head Island eatery where simple seafood plates are ordered at the counter. During the summer months, the line stretches out the door and across the parking lot. The restaurant was featured on Rachael Ray’s TV show “$40 per Day.”
Try this: Oyster Po Boy
Local since 1974
What makes it iconic: Located on U.S. 278 near Singleton Beach, Harold’s has been an iconic Hilton Head Island restaurant for decades, serving up made-to-order comfort foods and signature burgers in a no-frills, cash-only diner setting. The rowdy staff makes eating at Harold’s a memorably experience.
Try this: The Big “H” Burger
Local since 1983
What makes it iconic: Truffles prides itself on creating a warm and inviting atmosphere that feels like home to its patrons. The restaurant boasts a perfect blend of fine dining and a laid-back ambiance, making it a beloved neighborhood staple. With locations in Sea Pines and Bluffton, Truffles has become a go-to destination for locals seeking an exceptional dining experience.
Try this: Chicken Pot Pie
Squat N’ Gobble
Local since 1960s
What makes it iconic: Located in Old Town Bluffton, Squat N’ Gobble is a landmark for locals and tourists. With its Greek owner’s origins, it is the oldest, continuously operating family-owned restaurant in Bluffton that has evolved over the years but kept that same family feel.
Try this: Greek Platter
Local since 1918
What makes it iconic: The Cahill family has been working its 200-acre farm off May River Road for generations. Back in the 1940s, it was a hot spot for grits, cornmeal and moonshine. Today, the “Chicken Kitchen” is a hot spot for home-cooked, Southern-style meals.
Try this: Fried chicken
Panini’s on the Waterfront
Local since 2004
What makes it iconic: Panini’s on the Waterfront’s rich building history is what makes this restaurant one of Beaufort County’s iconic choices. It was a Bank of Beaufort branch from 1919 to 1926, then The Breeze Movie Theatre in 1947, a men’s clothing store, and then The Bank Bar & Grill. It became the home of Panini’s 19 years ago when it started serving the delicious food it does today.
Try this: Mac & Cheese with Pesto Shrimp
Local since 1986
What makes it iconic: Plums combines coastal cuisine, classic food and fresh ingredients for its iconic dishes. The waterfront location of the kitchen and oyster bar in downtown Beaufort and Lowcountry atmosphere have made this a local favorite for many years.
Try this: Shrimp & Grits
The Shrimp Shack
Local since 1978
What makes it iconic: This family-owned restaurant has been one place that Lowcountry visitors stop for a fast meal. It has maintained its local and iconic feel with porch seating and shack-like appearance that has welcomed customers for many years like they’re family.
Try this: Shrimp Burger