Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eating Your Way Through Hilton Head Island


When on vacation, everyone who is anyone (related to me) knows eating is the most important part. Can I get an 'amen'?

Here are a few of my personal Hilton Head Island eating recommendations:


1.Charlies L'etoile Verte. (translation: Charlie's Green Star) No idea why they only gave themselves a green star. Clearly they were being modest because we give them a gold star and four enthusiastic thumbs up! We went for lunch on Wednesday and tried to go for lunch again on Friday, but they were closed. This broke our hearts. No, really, it did. The lunch menu was quite impressive. Even more impressive was the food when it was delivered to our table. Amazing. The freshest of the fresh. They do not ignore a single detail at Charlie's. 

Sweet tea was right on the money, they brought fresh lovely bread to the table,  the mixed greens with a champagne vinagrette was fresh and lovely, the duck was perfect and the fish was yummy. The sides were prepared with so much love and attention to quality that I cleaned my plate. Garden fresh peas and carrots - this from a girl who understands 'garden fresh'.

Top this off with a price you will not believe. We could have paid at least this much for lunch at any casual dining chain. 

2. British Open Pub. I had the fish & chips because, duh! My husband had the shrimp & chips. We were both over the moon in ecstasy. The beer batter they make puffs up in grand style and the eats are delicious. Everything coming out of the kitchen looked great. The pictures on their site do not do them justice.

3. Bluffton Family Seafood. I know you have to go to Bluffton to eat here, but you want to do that anyway. Especially on Thursdays when they have the farmer's market. This place has only been open a few months, but they've been running the seafood factory for, like, ever. They know what they are doing. Let them fry you up a basket of your favorites. It will make you happy, I promise. It's small and nothing fancy, but it's worth the trip. Check out the big table in the bar, it's interesting.

4. Catch 22. This place is pretty much a Hilton Head Island staple. The food was amazing. My husband ordered ribs and I swear they were from a brontosauras! I have never seen ribs like them in my life. I only wish I had thought to take a picture, because really, there is no way to describe how big they were. They really should put a photo of them on their website. They were not only huge, but tender and delicious. We had a memorable meal. I'm sure we will be returning to Catch 22.

Hudson's: Another Hilton Head Island staple. Much more friendly than Old Oyster Factory, with better food. Anyone else I know who has been to both agrees.

Fuddruckers: Because every vacation should include one big honkin' burger just the way you want it.

Do not go:

Old Oyster Factory: Probably the most disappointing meal I've had on the island, ever. The wait was about two hours, even though lots of tables were never used. The food was blah at best, bad if we're being honest, and the cost for the ordeal was ridiculous. If you must go, don' t miss the mascarpone souffle. It could quite possibly save your night. I recommend taking it with you and eating it from the comfort of your hotel bed.

The Smokehouse: Maybe my least favorite place on the island. All around disappointing. The service had no love, it was beyond freezing cold inside, and the food took a long time, even though the place was practically empty. Adding insult to injury, I've had better barbecue pretty much anywhere else I've ever had barbecue besides the McRib. Maybe a place for the 'go get wasted' crowd. Definitely not a place for a good meal.

Michael Anthony's: No, no, no, no, no! Don't say I didn't warn you. If you go, it's your own darn fault! I had a tiny serving of the most bland gnocchis the world has ever seen, a disappointing Caesar salad, and an over-hyped dessert which left much to be desired. Skip it. No, really - you'll be better off at the Carrabba's chain restaurant, not that I'm jazzed about endorsing them. To top off the lousy skimpy meal, we had two separate tables full of local women who were their to drown their sorrows and talk about everybody they didn't like. They were there when we arrived and still at it two hours later. Take my word for it, this is not the experience they want you to think it will be.

Please share your experiences, good and bad, while eating your way around the island.

HIlton Oceanfront Resort: Hilton Head Island, SC


As usual, I used Priceline to bid on a resort on Hilton Head Island. This time my bid got me The Hilton Oceanfront resort. It's in the same plantation as the Marriott Resort & Spa. They are practically right next door. The Hilton Oceanfront is different than the other resorts we've stayed at on the island. Here's my view:

The lobby is smaller than the other resorts. The lobby (among other places) is a free wi-fi area.  The front desk staff is much more friendly than the Crowne Plaza but not as friendly as the Marriott. The Concierge, Will, is great. The bellmen are all great. You never have to go through this lobby to go to the pools or other outdoor areas, which is a plus to me. 

The room is pretty nice. It has a table with a couple of chairs, a larger than usual fridge for a hotel room, microwave, a few plates, mugs, bowls, and silverware. The bathroom is a bit awkward with door configurations rendering the outer area unusable since it's a tight pass-through to the actual bathroom, but it's nice to have two sinks and counters. In our King bed room there was also a desk with chair, two more chairs, plus a sofa bed. Adding up all the chairs in the room and you have 6 plus a three seat sofa. There was a good sized balcony with two chairs and a table inside, upping the possible seating to 11. No real complaints about the room at all. It has an iron & board, hair dryer, and safe. Two robes are provided as well. Coffee maker with decent coffee. The freezer section of the fridge doesn't keep things frozen. We learned this the hard way with Blue Bell ice cream turned to liquid.

My biggest complaint of the whole stay would be the housekeeper we had. One day of our stay we had a different lady because it was the regular housekeeper's day off. The regular housekeeper returned and the service she provided was just junky. The replacement should replace her permanently. She did the whole thing with love. The regular lady didn't clean a lot of stuff - sinks, floors, counters - all dirty when she was done. Replacement housekeeper had made everything perfect, left the towels all fancy-folded and put toiletries on the tray in an organized way. Regular housekeeper literally tossed the stuff on the tray all willy-nilly, left the same dirt on the floor our whole stay, left the same thing in the sink, threw out toiletries which were still half full, and in general had a nasty attitude when we saw her. She even kept leaving only decaf, even though my husband only drinks regular. I would have to go out in the halls and find other maids and trade after she did our room every day but one.

Room service is totally lackluster. We are usually big room service piggies, but this place left  much to be desired, even for us. If my husband says a chicken sandwich was too greasy to eat, it had to be bad.

The layout of this resort kind of wins me over. It's not as high-falutin' as Crowne Plaza or Marriott, but you go down the hall and go outside and you are at the pool. You are almost at the beach. If you want to go to the beach from your room in the Crowne Plaza you have to go through the lobby and walk through a maze of gorgeous to get out to it. I enjoyed the simplicity of being dressed for the beach and being practically there when we got outside. The balconies all allow for an ocean view. Ours was nearly the furthest from the ocean, so it wasn't a perfect view, but you could see it. It beats the views we've had at Crowne Plaza and Marriott. (I don't mention the Westin much because we only stayed there once for a couple of nights and I wasn't impressed. Sorry Westin lovers.)
The fancy restaurant on site was also disappointing to me. Not much on the menu and I felt like it was trying to hard to be 'fancy' and not trying hard enough to be delicious. The desserts were sad looking, so we passed. It just seemed like there was no love. 

The pool setup at Hilton Oceanfront Resort was pretty nice. Two pools, one for adults only, which was far away from the family pool. The water was like a lukewarm bath, which was good for me. There are also two jacuzzi tubs, although they were a maze-walk away from the pools.  The bartender at the pool area bar was unfriendly to the extreme, but reviews online all seem to agree about him, so I guess it's not very shocking. We kept our encounters with him to two. 

There is a little cafe/store downstairs which offers many types of drinks, a bunch of candy, some desserts, and things like microwave popcorn. The cafe serves you at little tables. Burgers and pizza, etc. We used the store part, but not the cafe. 

If you go through Priceline you can't use Hilton Honors at this property, which is the only oceanfront resort on the island with this policy. That said, internet is $9.99 a day per device unless you sit in the lobby or other free wi-fi areas. Parking was $9.00 or $10.00 a day with valet parking being an extra $3 per day. Valet parking doesn't seem as necessary in this resort as the others because it seems like parking is readily available, but don't take my word for it because we used the valet.  

You can't go wrong with any oceanfront resort at Hilton Head Island as far as I can tell.  They each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Go on and visit. Tell them I sent you!