For many, a trip to Hilton Head Island or Bluffton isn’t complete without a stop at one of the region’s many landmark restaurants. Here are 18 places loved by both locals and visitors from all over the world.
Salty Dog Café
Simply put, this is the island’s premier iconic restaurant. There’s a reason why you can find Salty Dog T-Shirts from Africa to Alaska – people come from all points of the globe to sample the delicious seafood, get their picture taken with Jake, and soak in the waterfront views.
Signe's Heaven Bound Bakery and Cafe
Set far away from the main thoroughfares of the island amid the light industrial parks of Arrow Road, Signee’s should not have succeeded. The fact that Signe’s has not only kept going since 1972, but continues to rack up awards and accolades, shows that location doesn’t matter when you whip up baked goods that are nothing short of heavenly.
The phrase “Hilton Head’s Best-Kept Secret” was basically invented for The Sea Shack. The seafood has always been incredible, the “help yourself” tub of beers and ice water has always set the stage for a brilliantly laid-back atmosphere, and the long lines have always been the price you pay for sharing the best-kept secret with a thousand or so friends.
The Tiki Hut
Just off Coligny Beach Park is an island institution that nearly every die-hard local can point to as the place they decided they were calling Hilton Head Island home. With an appetizing array of frozen drinks, wraparound views of Coligny Beach, and endless action on the volleyball courts, this is the place locals become visitors and vice-versa.
The first name in Italian cuisine on Hilton Head Island, Michael Anthony’s hits the sweet spot between authenticity, accessibility and sophistication. They know their wine, they know their Italian food and they’ll even share their knowledge with the famed cooking classes.
The Crazy Crab
Its two locations will get you coming and going, whether it’s at the North End’s location on the banks of Jarvis Creek or the South End’s location in the heart of Harbour Town. Both benefit from a loyal following of locals and visitors, pristine views of their respective waterways, and a mouth-watering menu of seafood favorites.
Palmetto Bay Sunrise Café
Consistent winners in nearly every restaurant awards pool on the island, Palmetto Bay Sunrise Café delivers the goods with a breakfast menu that does the classics and does them right, and a lunch menu that offers more than its share of tasty surprises. If there’s a better place to enjoy sunrise, a cup of joe and an omelet… come to think of it, there isn’t.
Marley's Island Grille
On an island full of seafood restaurants and fine dining, Marley’s dared to be different, bringing the intriguing flavors of the Caribbean to the island and serving them up with a side of festive ocean ambience. That dare paid off, and Marley’s Island Grille became an island institution.
Steaks and Harley Davidson Motorcycles might seem like an odd pairing, especially in a quiet building on a tranquil lagoon. Somehow, at Alexander’s it works, and has worked since 1977. Most likely, it’s because the Harleys on display here are priceless antiques, and the steaks on the offing here are no ordinary steaks, but perfectly seared and seasoned slices of paradise.
Hilton Head Ice Cream
The secret to Hilton Head Ice Cream, so the legend goes, is the salt air that winds up whipped into every homemade batch of artisanal ice cream. Whether that’s true or not, it’s hard to argue that Hilton Head Ice Cream makes some of the tastiest ice cream in the world, all from its recently renovated New Orleans Rd. storefront.
The French Quarter has found a home at the south end’s Kenny B’s, where the gumbo and jambalaya pull you in with authentic Big Easy flavor, and the Bourbon Street atmosphere keeps the party going. If you’re looking for N’Awlins, you’ve found it.
Squat & Gobble
A true Bluffton institution, the Squat & Gobble was already famous when B-Town was just a speed trap on the road from Hilton Head to Savannah. It maintains its legacy with that same old Bluffton eccentricity and a menu running the gamut from breakfast favorites like grits and waffles to authentic Greek cuisine (include amazing gyros) and everything in between.
Set on a real working farm, Cahill’s Market is a step back in time right down to the display case full of glass Ne-Hi bottles. Produce right from the farm compliments a menu of down-home favorites including some of the best fried chicken you’ll find on this planet. Farm-to-table before it was trendy, Cahill’s Market has earned its stature as a Bluffton institution.
A well-deserved Bluffton legend for its Sunday brunch, Walnuts has spent the last ten years under owner and Chef John Briody spreading out beyond the breakfast crowd. The dinner menu has proven very popular, helping make Walnuts an all-day treat.
The Cottage’s amazing location right in the heart of Bluffton along Calhoun Street brings you in. A wide array of delicious baked goods and Panini sandwiches brings you back. Offering the chance to take your lunch right on Calhoun Street, with all the entrancing people watching that entails, The Cottage tops its location with a varied menu that makes it one of Bluffton’s must-visit restaurants.
With a huge wine selection and some of the most inspired small plate menu items on the island, WiseGuys has earned its spot at the top of the list of place to see and be seen. Social butterflies, you have found your landing pad.
It’s hard to classify the cuisine at Frankie Bones as anything other than “cool.” The décor is inspired by the timeless cool of the Rat Pack and all their trendsetting ilk, and that same devotion to style can be found in the menu. Whether a simple pasta dish, a steak or any of the various seafood creations, everything on the menu at Frankie Bones stands out in its own stylish way.
Old-world expertise and a slavish dedication to getting the tiniest of details perfect make the baked goods at The French Bakery and Courtyard Café to die for, but it’s not all baked goods here. The delectable selection of quiches, tantalizing sandwiches and lush salads round out a true culinary experience.